Interview with David Morales

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Taken by Thomas Fath at the Maritim Hotel in Cologne (Germany) in late September

 

Email: thomas.fath@geoplanet.com

Homepage: Deepvisions

 

New pictures added January 17, 1999 (taken by Thomas Fath)

David Morales, the DJ, the producer, the legend - he seems to be a myth and many stories are told about him, lots of rumours and gossip. Who is the man, who did such sensational remix-work as the mixes of "Lemon" for U2 or "You're making me high" for Toni Braxton? The list of the remixes he did, would be way to long to be published here and there are already other places, where the music-lover can have a closer look at Senor Morales incredible work.

All I want to do here is to give you an excerpt of an interview, that I did with David, when he was in Cologne, during his Germany promotion-tour for his latest and maybe biggest success as a producer: "Needin' you", the new world-wide known and successful track.

David started to DJ at the very young age of 13. Growing up in Brooklyn, without the financial means, he used to work with DJ-friends' turntables in the beginning. After having joined the record-pool of Judy Weinstein in 1983, where all the big Djs at that time, like Larry Levan, Kenny Carpenter, Jellybean Benitez and Shep Pettibone, were members, he soon became popular. It all started with a call he got one day from Michael Brody, the owner of the now legendary houseclub "Paradise Garage". Brody wanted David to play two nights at the Garage. David, at this time 21, was rather surprised by Brody's offer, especially because he never heard David play in a club and all he knew from friends was, that he was supposed to be a great DJ.

David took the offer and played two nights in a row at the Garage, 11 hours a night. The clubbers at the Garage loved his set and that was probably the beginning of his very successful carrer.

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Thomas Fath (TF): David, what was it about the Garage? We still hear these stories about its sound-system. Everybody who ever played there seemed to be really touched deeply by this system?!?

David: It was the best system I ever heard in this world. You'll never hear it again. Never ever! It was all about the sound!

TF: Was the time at the Garage, the time when you met Frankie Knuckles?

David: No, I didn't meet Frankie until 1987.

TF: You and he did a lot of successful remixes and productions together. How did you meet him and how did your team-work start?

David: I met him through Judy's record-pool in 1987. Frankie just moved back to N.Y. He was playing at the "World" when we met. It was cool. We hung out, you know, then I invited him over to my house for dinner and we had a really nice time. We became friends and at that time he was working at the "World" on friday nights. He recommended me to play there on thursday nights, so I got the thursday residency. Soon we did a couple of mixes together. You know, people always wanted us to put together, but we wanted to do our individual things as well. Frankie had his name. He was one of the first Djs, who travelled around the world. For me Frankie Knuckles was like this. We were a good combination, when we worked together, but we are good as well, when we work separately.

TF: Is it true, that you are the highest paid DJ in the world?

David: No, Carl Cox is...

TF: Well, I meant in the House-scene. I heard you and Todd Terry are the most expensive House-DJs...

David: I don't believe this. I'm expensive, but I'm not more expensive than other Djs, like Louie Vega or Frankie Knuckles. Me and Frankie, we have the same price. Louie has the same price. Roger Sanchez has the same price. Todd Charges more than all of us, but Todd doesn't go around a lot. Todd is like: "Well, I don't wanna go nowhere", so people pay him more to come. They wanted me to play in Turkey and I didn't want to go, so I said: "You give me $ 20.000 and I'll play", thinking that they wouldn't pay this much, but they called later and said, that it's ok. I was thinking that now I had to go there and play. I guess, I am one of the highest paid Djs in the world, one of...

TF: How can you still stay down to earth and not have a big superstar attitude?

David: Well, I still play for nothing!

TF: You do?

David: Yeah, if I like the club, or it is a friend of mine, I won't charge, or not much. If you have a club, that hosts only 200 people, I can't turn around and say "You give me $ 5000, or I won't play...". If the party is incredible and I want to play in this club and you have only $ 500, I'll do it! I want to do it. It's no problem then. If you wanna charge $ 50 to come in and you have 2000 people, you should pay me more. If I go to work, it's not about the attitude. You cannot have attitude, if you play in a club. I go to a club and still get nervous.

TF: You do? After all these years of being in the business?

David: Sure! I sweat, I'm pacing, I get nervous how're the people gonna react... am I gonna be good enough? Am I gonna be ok? It's not like: I'm David Morales and here I am! I'm the best. Crazy! You cannot be this way. I mean, you are not great all the time you play. There is NO way! There is one night, when you're good, another night you're not as good as you are. There is a night, that is incredible, another night is just o.k. Some Djs can play everywhere. You can put them in the back and they are still good. I need to be in touch with the people. I need to make contact, have a connection, then I will be good!

TF: What are your favorite clubs. I mean, you are travelling all over the world and probably know more clubs and places than every other DJ. Any special venues, you love more than others?

David: There are three places I enjoy all the time. Two are in Italy; "Echoes" in Rimini, Riccione and "Divine" in Badi and the other is "Yellow" in Japan

TF: I heard several stories about this club and about Djing in Japan in general. Louie Vega once said, that he really loves to DJ in Japan, too. What is the difference of Djing in Japan to other countries?

David: The crowd in Japan is just coool! They don't speak english, but they are really into good housemusic and everybody who ever played in Japan, me, Frankie, Louie, Francoise Kevorkian, we all love Japan. They love real music, you know, people cry, they scream, people scream like crazy. The last time I played there, I put "My piece of heaven" (Ten City) as the first record on the turntable and people started screaming and just didn't stop. They make you feel like you are Michael Jackson! Whenever I turned around to the crowd, they started screaming again.

TF: So what is the difference to the clubs in the US?

David: I find in America, they are not energetic enough. The most energy you'll find in a club is going to be in a Hip Hop club. That's where you'll see people jump, throw hands up in the air; but not in a dance-club... I don't care to play in America anymore. N.Y. especially. There are some places in America that are better than N.Y.. N.Y. is not actually the place to me for music anymore, even tougher, the best producers and remixers are from N.Y. Most of the clubs, the big venues, are now playing the same shit; all this progressive, hard shit. There is no variety, the variety is more in the small clubs; the jazz, the Hip Hop, the Trip Hop, you know. The big clubs have more the crowd taking drugs.

TF: Seems true. The last time, when I was in N.Y.C., I went to Junior's Arena@Palladium party and I thought the crowd was kinda scary. I had the feeling, that I was the only, who was not fucked up. Special K and E seemed to rule the club. Even Twilo was not a very different experience to me.

David: Look at Twilo now. You go there at 9 a.m. and everybody is just plastic! There is no other place to go at this time and everybody is on drugs. It's not about the music, it's all about drugs. In the old days, it was about the music, but now no longer, it seems. There are only young kids, straight kids and most of them are high on XTC or Special K and they play only hard techno there. One day, I wanted to go there and see these young kids coming out and they were all high...and I'm curious, just came out of my house; I'm fresh and decide not to go inside there. In the early 90s they played a lot of good housemusic, but now it seems to have only this "bum-bum" sound. Drumroll after drumroll. If it has only moments like this, there are no real grand moments anymore.

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TF: What do you think about Victor Calderone? My friends in N.Y.C tell me all the time, how great he is and that he has taken Junior's place? Victor seems to become a real leader in NY?!?

David: Yeah, he is the new gay-following DJ. He plays saturdays at the Roxy. A nice kid, very sweet guy. You cannot compare him to Junior. You can't even talk to him. If Junior had an attitude, the whole club had an attitude, you know. Victor is not like that. His sound is more "Euro", not very housey, more like his "Ray of light" remixes and this kind of thing. He is very commercial. For America that is great, that's why he 's popular at the gay audience. He won't cross over to Europe.

TF: David, do you still have a club-residency in N.Y?

David: Well, I refuse. It is a waste of my time. You can't do things that you want. There is no crowd that appreciates and you gotta have a promoter that REALLY wants to do that thing, wants to promote parties with good music. It's all about the promoter.

TF: Let's talk for a few moments about your remixes. You remixed all the big names in the industry. Is there still anybody left, who you would like to work with?

David: Chaka Khan!

TF: But you did...you've done the remix for "Life's a dance"!?!

David: Yeah, but I mean work with Chaka, like produce her. "Life is a dance", I even don't remember when this was...so long ago. I cannot compare myself then to now. Now I would want to produce her. I got offered to do a remix for Patti LaBelle's  "Shoe is on the other foot", which did Tony Moran, but they offered me hardly no money and I said: " If you don't pay enough, forget about it". It even didn't matter that it was Patti Labelle, who is another of my fantasies. It even wasn't the right record for me. The song itself wasn't that great. It was a tough record to remix. Patti LaBelle sounds great. She is like Jocelyn Brown. She can make sound anything great.

TF: You are called Mr. Radio-friendly as well as Mr. Club-friendly. What is the secret, teh special key of a Morales remix? I remember the first time, when I heard one of your remixes, was in 1989, when I was in London and it was unavoidable not to hear somewhere your incredibly mixes of Frankie Knuckle's and Satoshi Tomie's "Tears". Clubs and radio-stations played them like crazy. Then in 1992 I was in Los Angeles and even in the Gym, wher I worked out, they played your remixes of "Work out" so many times a day...

David: Ok, let's take me and Armand van Helden. People hier me to remix the song, to play with the lyrics. Armand van Helden gets hired to do a dub. So I'm good for radio and for clubs. They want something in the middle, something that you can play as well in the clubs, but will be played on the radio-shows, too. They want Armand's dubs for the clubs only. That is what he is famous for. You cannot listen to a Van Helden dub ten times in a row.

TF: Your massive hit "Needin you" was pretty similarly done in 1995 already. Did you know this? It was a record on Vybe Music and a UBQ Project called "The I don't know EP" and they used this "Needin' you" sample to.

David: It wasn't from the same record, though?

TF: I think it was. The only have not these Piano, which you added and their version is a bit jazzier than yours. Probably because it was on Vybe Music, it never really became popular.

David: I never heard this before. Mine is actually two years old. I was playing the acetate two years ago, but I only used it for me.

TF: No way, do you do this often? This actetate and unreleased thing, drives record-collectors like me almost crazy. Virgin loves to do this. They never released the best mixes of Janet Jackson's "Go deep" and Mel B's "I want you back". I hate this kind of thing.

David: Man, I made an incredible remix of INXS's "Dissapear". It was incredible and it never came out. Record-company policy.... "Needin' you" is about two years old and one year ago I played it at a club in Los Angeles and Mousse T was at the club. He came to the boothand and wanted to know what record this was. I told him, that it was something, that I put together and he wanted to know when it would be coming out. I said it is not coming out at all and Mousse said I should release it. That is the story. I have lots of unreleased material. 

TF: You definitely should release it!

David: You know, I never do it, because when I mix Mariah (Carey) or Toni (Braxton), I am at such a point at my carreer, that I feel funny putting out a track, that doesn't have a vocal on it.

TF: Are there any new projects on Definity coming out?

David: There is a new single called Sub City feat. Kathy Brown "Joy" with some other remixes next to mine and the next Face single is going to be released soon. Also, there is an entire Face album coming out and my remixes of Jennifer Paige's "Crush", which I do for Edel Records. Actually I have some new projects going on....

TF: Seems as if we can expect a hot fall-season with lots of good dancable Morales-stuff. Thank you for this interview David and enjoy the rest of your stay in Germany.


Thanks to Juergen Dobelmann and Uli Nefzer for hooking me up with David and make this interview possible.

This page last updated January 17, 1999 (pictures by Thomas Fath added)