Realistically speaking, this guy is not ‘up-there’ he is the ‘there’ itself. A kind, modest and well-mannered character, he claims his life ambition was simply to buy his mum a house – which he did – and now, he’s using what time he has left to bring music to the people. Speaking at the speed of sound, it seems as though there is so much for him to do – in so little time. And it’s all part of the Morillo express.
“Obviously I’m still travelling and touring the world – that side of things for me never stops. I’m also doing my 12th season at Pacha in Ibiza on Wednesdays. I’ve also been doing a fair bit of work in the studio; a few new singles are coming out as well as a new album with my man Harry Romero and that’s going to be awesome – it will feature Dizzy Rascal, Mark Anthony, Craig David, Jessica from The Pussycat Dolls and so on. In the sense of collaborations and things, it’s still good dance music; we do experiment a little bit here and there but it gives off great energy. The first single is with Busta Rhymes and it just keeps going from there.”
Growing up in Union City, just over the bridge from the Big Apple in New Jersey, he felt the passion for turntables in his early teens. He went on to study studio engineering, which would later prove helpful in his capacity as a producer. It was in 1997 with Harry Romero that he started his record label – and then spent a year perfecting everything from its business model to the letterhead! Talk about pragmatic! Indeed, the quality and recognition the imprint has received worldwide is clearly evident – hits have spawned from the house countless times – and his collaborations are always mind-blowingly epic.
And why? Well the reason being is that Morillo has never had time for what he calls the “faceless producers in dance music.’ “I’m always about giving clubbers something they could relate to.” Likewise, his productions are always clearly prepared with an eye for the underground – “dirty and tough and with proper songs,” he says. And his collaboration discography reads like the who’s who of Hollywood: P. Diddy, Enrique Iglesias, Basement Jaxx and even Macy Gray and Whitney Houston; nothing to be sneezed at, to be sure. Yet he doesn’t want to take too much of the credit.
“I definitely think that the internet has made it a lot easier for people to become stars in the scene. Before it took ten years, now in a year or with one hit record you can become big. People who are big now you didn’t hear about five minutes ago – the Afrojack’s of this world – they’re the biggest thing in America right now. So you can really crack it in the industry now; dance music has finally exploded in America and after all this time having to travel, everyone is coming here to work! It’s great for our scene I think, no doubt about it.”
Back stepping, Morillo reminisces about being raised and influenced by the smoother sounds of Latin and reggae. And he was inducted into the imaginary house music hall of fame early on – his work with Kenny “Dope” Gonzalez and Louie Vega as well as his ambitious attitude in approaching top labels such as Strictly Rhythm in New York. That attitude saw the young Morillo gain quick recognition and success. A swag of Billboard #1’s followed as did residencies everywhere from NYC to Ibiza and Ministry of Sound in London. Today, he is one the most in-demand and celebrated DJs in the world with a touring schedule that can take in ten, 20 or more venues a month.
And across that hectic gig schedule, you’ll never hear the same set twice. Morillo thrives on the uniqueness of each of his performances and claims to be an activist of the cross genre style. “Man, when I started as a DJ, house DJs were playing house and techno DJs were playing techno; it was unheard of for a DJ to play each other’s sounds. Now we’re one industry and I’ve always been a big supporter of that – I even remember dropping drum and bass records in my set in the 1990s! It’s good that it has opened up, you know?”
Finally, Morillo is back to Australia for a series of end-year dates around the country and with a sense of pride – and not obnoxiousness – he suggests that punters will be hearing the sounds that will be coming out three months from now! “I’m all about hands in the air energy and dropping heaps of bootlegs and old accapellas. As always, I’m just excited to be getting back to Australia because it’s always a great vibe down there, especially in the summer! See you all soon!”