Erick Morillo became a staple in Las Vegas nightclubs long before the electronic dance music explosion. But as the sound morphed into an EDM/commercial pop hybrid, the veteran house music DJ/producer became disillusioned with the tunes he was making and playing. After a hiatus of self-discovery, Morillo is back with new music and a new residency at the SLS, next up at LiFE nightclub on May 24 for the big Memorial Day Weekend festivities.
How do you feel your residency at LiFE and Foxtail differs from other residencies you’ve had in Vegas?
It’s a great room, great sound system, great production, great light show and I really like the guys there. Before this I was at Marquee and before that at Tao. At Tao I used to do 10 to 11 hour sets, so this is a little bit more tame, but always so much fun, great energy, hands always up in the air.
What experience or story will you tell with your sets at LiFE?
When I play at nighttime at a club, I always like the opening DJ before me to keep it light and sexy. I like to start there and take it from that sexy place and build it up slowly, kind of like foreplay. I like it to be a buildup of energy and taking them there and taking them there and at some point in the night blow the roof on that thing and have everybody go insane.
During the day is another experience and it really depends on if it’s sunny, if it’s beautiful, if it’s raining. You really can tell a story. I never know what I’m going to play when I show up to a gig. I literally walk into the room and I feel the energy and I go with that. It’s really important to do that. It’s a skill and a gift a lot of these young guys haven’t developed yet—but they will, sooner or later, I hope.
Do you think you may do a marathon set at some point?
We have been discussing it. We’ve been talking about maybe doing something at the pool at night that goes into the day.. For me, the longer the set, the better. As long as the people are still up for it, they’re dancing, I’m going to do my thing.
As someone who’s played in Las Vegas since before the electronic music explosion, what are your thoughts on the direction the sound has taken?
OK, so fortunately and unfortunately: I think that unfortunately it’s become the epicenter of commercial dance music because everybody who goes to Vegas from all these states and what have you, they listen to radio or watch TV, they know the commercial stuff—which means that the clubs want to book the DJs that are going to draw the most and obviously the DJs that are going to draw the most are on the radio. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best music. If I had a dollar for every time somebody told me that “EDM is dead,” meaning the progressive house sound, I would be a richer man. But the fact remains that those people that go to Vegas mostly listen to radio, and that’s what they know.
For me, it’s wonderful to see what’s happened and that dance culture has been finally accepted. I’m hoping over the next couple of years, quality is going to take the place of what’s happening now. I’m not saying the music is horrible, I’m just saying that one style of music seems to be dominating, and that’s that progressive house sound. Unfortunately, it’s a formula of music, which is: make as much noise as you can—and put a pop vocal over it. There are some that stand out, but there’s a lot of crap out there.
What have been the challenges and/or rewards of taking a hiatus right when the dance culture was reaching epic proportions? Has it helped you musically where you didn’t fall into the prevailing formulaic patterns?
I went through some personal stuff two years ago and I took almost a year off from DJing, making music. We stopped the label, everything. I found myself trying to make music that I didn’t love and I was playing music I didn’t love and it was making me depressed. I started looking for other ways to be happy and it was definitely the wrong way to do it. When I was able to take a step back from everything, stop drinking alcohol and stop doing everything and literally get to know myself again and get myself healthy, and got to the gym and was doing yoga, I started to realize what it was that I wanted and didn’t want.
I moved to LA, bought a house out here and I haven’t looked back.
Now when I’m playing my gigs, I’m playing music that I want to play. Because for a little while, I lost myself for sure. I was trying to follow all the stuff that was going on. But now I’m coming back and everything is starting to line up. Not only is Subliminal [Records] relaunching now, I have an artist album that’s going to come out later this year with some really sexy artists, and it’s just happening and clicking!
What are some of those releases to get excited about?
I have six releases ready to go! We’re going to be relaunching [Subliminal] at the beginning of June. There’s a couple of solo records that I have. I have a record with Jamie Jones as well. I have one with Shawnee Taylor. Basically what I want to do is sort of re-educate the young kids that are coming into the scene now that maybe weren’t familiar with Subliminal and the domination we were lucky enough to experience for such a long time in the dance world. Sort of bring that sound back—with a new flavor. What they’re calling house and deep house these days is what we were doing back in the ’90s! It’s pretty funny to see it come back around, but it makes me happy.