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Erick Morillo and the mystique of Ibiza

"...That’s why Ibiza will always be my home for as long as I live.”

Erick Morillo is one of those gifted DJ and producers where everything he touches turns to gold. A platinum-selling artist in his own right, he topped the charts globally with the 1993 smash I Like To Move It, best known to most of us as the tune from the Madagascar movies or, if you've really got a keen ear, the Chewits adverts in 2000 (remember the rollerblading dinosaur?). If the name doesn't ring a cathedral full of bells yet it's because Morillo has been dishing out dance classics under pseudonyms including Ministers De La Funk, Smooth Touch and Li'l Mo Ying Yang; tracks like Reach, Do What You Want and I Feel Love are all Morillo's handy work. When he's not remixing Whitney Houston and Basement Jaxx or collaborating with Puff Daddy, Morillo is running the renowned Subliminal Records label/empire – phew! “I think as far as this industry's concerned, I surpassed my expectations of what it was going to be," says Morillo of his legacy. “Even though I have been a DJ since I've been eleven years old, I never beyond my wildest dreams would think that my life would turn in to what it has turned in to. I have completely surpassed every bench mark that I have set for myself and now it's more like I'm just having fun with it.”

Growing up in Colombia then New Jersey, Morillo was exposed to the musical heat of reggae, hip-hop and Latino sounds. He did indeed start his superstar path at the early age of eleven, securing local gigs, before taking a studio engineering course at the local Centre of Media Arts. Fast forward two decades and not only is Morillo one of the only American DJs to ever hold a residency at Ministry of Sound, he hosted his Subliminal Sessions parties at Pacha in Ibiza for thirteen exceptional seasons, parting ways with the club in 2012. Morillo has very fond memories of the colourful nights on the White Isle which means he just can't keep away. “I think it's a magical island, I think there's something so special about this place and the fact that you have a little bit of everything.” He plans on staying in Ibiza for at least a month, however, after possessing a successful reign and more party tales than Paris Hilton (probably), he admits his focus has shifted from raving to relaxing with not one DJ set pencilled in on this season's party calendar; “This year I'm not going out a lot, I'm taking it easy and just enjoying a lot more of what the island has to offer outside of the clubs. A lot of people say to me, if you're trying to take it easy why go to Ibiza, but it has so much to offer and for me, that's why Ibiza will always be my home for as long as I live.”

Although it's well documented that Morillo is taking a break, he was offered not one but two slots at Space's 25th birthday on 13th July. “It was a really wonderful night,” he muses. “It's not something I'd do usually, playing twice in one night, but I actually think it was such a good way to make a statement in Ibiza; even though I didn't play this summer I got to do a very special party.” And a very special celebration it was! “It just brought me right back to the days of Space. The Terrace was about Happy House and it was about good vibes and, you know, I tried to bring that back and that was exactly what happened.” Following on from Annie Mac in the venue's famous car park, Morillo confessed he was concerned no one would turn up to his first set at ten o'clock as the World Cup final was awkwardly kicking off an hour before, but the place was packed out and the night was a smash. Has this little taster enticed Morillo to consider a bigger piece of the pie…a residency back on the island in the future? “I really need to take a step back and see what's happening. The landscape seems to be changing a lot; the music, the sound, everything. For me, I think I need to make a statement with my music first before I lock myself to anything else.” Morillo pauses, “If I do come back to Ibiza, it's going to be with something completely new, completely fresh and a new sound from what people would associate me with.” Never say never then ey!

But that doesn't mean Morillo is resting on his laurels, the lucky jet-setter also has close ties with Space Miami who celebrated, yep you've guessed it, a birthday earlier this year. “The wonderful thing about playing Space in Miami and Space in Ibiza is that people come for the underground music” But seeing as the Yanks have supersized Big Macs, two Disney Worlds and more national holidays, surely we Europeans have to be one step ahead at something right? “In America, dance music has just exploded in the last five years. Now every DJ in Europe is going to America to make money which is hilarious because it used to be the other way round,” Morillo chuckles. Guess our US neighbours are catching up on us then. “In America, it feels like it's the early 90s, they've just discovered it [house music]. It's a wonderful thing to see what's happening in America, I've been pushing for it for so long and now it's happening it's a really great thing.” With such an extensive twenty year experience in the industry, Morillo is used to seeing trends ripple through the music stratosphere. Looking back at his White Isle days with nostalgic eyes, Morillo explains of today's dance scene; “It's gone through leaps and bounds. I think here in Ibiza, there's always a cycle of music that comes along. It's good to see it come all back around; deep house is back in full form, house music is thriving again and techno is doing great.”

VIDEO | The official aftermovie from Space's 25th anniversary party, featuring, of course, Erick Morillo.

So are we holding our breath for a new album on the way? Morillo hints that there's plenty on the horizon. Most interestingly he states acting has always being something he's wanted to pursue and, as he has just bought a place in L.A, something that is on the cards in the not so distant future. You heard it here first! He also delivers the good news that he is really keen on a new album and taking the label back to its roots. “I haven't been inspired the way I am right now and I think what has inspired me has been the change in the music, it's coming back TO music. The kids are appreciating music again and to me, that's inspiring.”

With such a large encyclopaedia of musical knowledge and an ear for a chunky beat, I was eager to hear what Morillo's soundtrack to the summer was. But he sneakily side-stepped the question; “It's too early to tell, I have no idea, there's so many different things going on, so many different styles, I don't know yet.” Oh come on Erick, give us something, what's the best track you are hearing right now? “It's called Okay and it goes 'Okay-dugadugadugadugaduga,' " Morillo beat-boxed, “it's like a big bassline record.” Before I could reach for Shazam, Morillo searched for the mystery artist on his laptop and confirmed the tune was by French Deep House producer Shiba San who has been causing a commotion recently with his combination of old analogue sounds and futuristic beats. Listening to the track myself, I was surprised at how much Morillo's bassline imitation was on point. But what do you expect from such a talented man of music?!

When asked about his own hefty list of productions, Morillo doesn't miss a beat deciding what the favourite record he's ever made is. “Obviously I Like To Move It - it opened so many doors and it had so many different aspects to it which I think is why so many people took notice. You couldn't walk in to a club, any club, without hearing it so, for me that will always be the record that is close to my heart.” He also added that Believe by Ministers De-La-Funk Funk featuring Joselyn Brown and Live Your Life that he teamed up with Eddie Thoneick for, were two others he felt shone the most. Live Your Life, the 2011 tinkle-on-the-ivories-based dance smash, was played by Ingrosso and Axwell at their Departures Opening Party one month back, a solid sign that the tune is still a hit today. Morillo smiled, “It's one of those records that I've gotten so many emails and so many messages about that it really touched people. It's one of those positive messages that you can really apply to any aspect of your life. Even when I hear it, when I hear that piano, it just cheers me up.”

And with a new album in the pipeline and the golden Midas touch, let's keep our fingers crossed for plenty more dance floor chart toppers in the future. “That is one of the biggest pay-offs being a producer and creating music,” Morillo adds on a final note, “when you are able to touch people and you are able to affect people in a positive way.”

WORDS | Francesca Evans

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