It’s difficult to understate the role that record shops have played, and continue to play, in the career of Hector Murillo. It was, after-all, in a record shop that Hector got his first break. Having emigrated to London from Mexico, the then-unknown DJ sought out a job selling vinyl at Phonica Records and soon found himself offering personal recommendations to figures likes Luciano, Richie Hawtin and Loco Dice, whenever they were in the capital. It was Loco Dice who would turn out to be a crucial figure in the young producer’s career. Impressed by the younger DJ’s tips and selections, the Desolat boss offered Hector the opportunity to go on tour with him as his warm-up act. The rest, as they say, is history.
Half a decade later and Hector has established himself as one of the top draws in house and tech-house. A slew of releases on labels such as Mobilee, Tsuba, 1trax and Desolat have seen the American establish a signature as a versatile producer with a knack for penning big hits, whilst his exhaustive tour schedule has earned him a reputation as a relentless DJ talent.
Yet whilst Hector can now count himself amongst the cream of house producers, he hasn’t forgotten his first love: crate digging. In fact, as I Voice found out during a conversation with the producer in his new LA pad, the act of going into a record store and spending time hunting for the freshest sounding records remains central to his identity as a musician. With a 12” on NYC’s Serkal label having just touched down and the imminent launch both of his Stoned Raiders merchandise line and Vatos Locos parties looming, I Voice decided to spend some time getting to know Hector Murillo.
I think I spent more time in the air than on the ground, but then again these were three really great gigs that I had been looking forward to. fabric, was especially amazing...I was looking at your tour schedule for 2014 and you’ve played two or three gigs nearly every weekend this year. This year has been a busy one for you! How do you cope with this kind of schedule?
It’s been very, very busy. It’s been quite tough in that I have started to get some back problems, and that’s made worse by sleeping in different beds every night. I try to exercise as much as possible and eat healthily in order to keep my body going through these crazy weekends, but it’s very easy when you’re in an airport just to get a Burger King or something. This last weekend was hectic, I played in Paris and then fabric in London, and then Barcelona. I think I spent more time in the air than on the ground, but then again these were three really great gigs that I had been looking forward to. fabric, was especially amazing.
You play quite diverse gigs, from venues like fabric to spinning in Las Vegas alongside Pete Tong. Are you selective about where you play?
To be honest, for me it comes back to [an ethos that I developed when] working in Phonica Records. I worked for so many years in the shop and every day I would listen to lots of new music from lots of different styles. And still, I don’t just concentrate on just one style of music, I buy music from lots of different genres and so when the time comes [to DJ] I can play techno, house, tech-house minimal, I can play [on the same bill] as Marcel Dettman or with Dubfire, no problem. And of course, this approach offers the opportunity to play more clubs, which is an advantage to me.
For me, if you embrace diversity you can go through every single style of music, then you will go on through the years...Why do you think you’re interested in embracing variety rather than focusing on one sound?
When minimal [became popular], a lot of people focused only on minimal music and then minimal disappeared and all those DJs and producers disappeared too. For me, if you embrace diversity you can go through every single style of music, then you will go on through the years. I can see this in Loco Dice, he’s someone who went from minimal to tech-house to house, but he always plays to his own style and the result is that he is one of the top DJs right now.
Do you think you have your own ‘style’ of djing?
Yes, but it changes from gig to gig. I go can go deep or play techno, or perhaps play old school classics. It all depends on the crowd. For me it is very important to read the crowd. You can push it a little bit, but [not too much]. That’s why I never prepare my sets in advance, because it always depends on the vibe in the club.
I guess you must use CDRs or USBs then, if you carry that much music with you?
I use Traktor with vinyl codes, because every week I still go out and buy vinyl. That’s very important to me, I always support vinyl.
So the process of actually going into a physical record shop remains an important activity for you as a DJ?
The experience of going into the shop, talking to the record shop owner about what’s new, listening to the physical product, looking at the artwork is still really important to me. I used to go record shopping in Berlin with my friends David Gtronic and Randall M, and it’s also a social thing. We’d go there, talk, exchange records and discover new music. You can’t do that when you’re just sat there in front of your computer.
Of course, you get the big labels like Desolat, Mobilee and Ovum, who always deliver good stuff. But if you want to dig a little deeper, you have to discover these small, crazy labels...What labels and artists have you been getting excited about when you’ve been record shopping recently?
To be honest, I’ve been discovering a lot of white label and vinyl only records that have just a stamp and no name, or are from a small Romanian or Russian underground label. Of course, you get the big labels like Desolat, Mobilee and Ovum, who always deliver good stuff. But if you want to dig a little deeper, you have to discover these small, crazy labels.
Let’s talk about your own releases. You’ve just put out a vinyl 12” on the NYC imprint Serkal, how did that record come about?
I lived in New York last winter and I became very good friends with the label owners. They approached me about releasing some music on the label and I presented them with my ideas, so I have two EPs coming out for them. The first one has just come out and the next one will be in 2015. I just received the vinyl and I played it out for the first time last weekend - the response has been great. Marco Carola played the David Gtronic remix [on the b-side] in every single set this summer, it’s a guaranteed bomb.
There was a piece recently on FACT about how 2014 has been a renaissance year for the dance-music album. That’s a format it has seemed that you’ve resisted. Why is that?
I want to wait until I have developed my production skills so as I can put out a proper album. I don’t want to put out just another tech-house or techno album. I want it to consist of different styles and influences, and I want to be able to integrate different musicians. I am going to save [making an album] until I am in the right place and have enough time. It’s in the pipeline, I’m looking at studios. But it all needs to be perfect.
The last fourteen years of my life, I’ve been moving around. I’m like a nomad, moving between cities all the time...Let’s talk about your recent move to LA. You’re from Mexico, you have lived in London, Ibiza, more recently, Berlin, and now California. Are you someone who can never stay in one place for too long?
The last fourteen years of my life, I’ve been moving around. I’m like a nomad, moving between cities all the time. I considered Berlin my home, but then I was only there a few times this year. Now, I’m in LA and I really like it here. It’s 24 degrees outside here, whilst back in Berlin it’s cold, rainy and grey. I’m happy here, but, of course I miss people in Berlin and London.
Do you think this movement between cities informs your output?
[My environment] has such a big influence on how I produce. I’m always taking influences from whatever is going on around me, everyday I’m collecting something new.
You’re launching a mixed media venture called Stoned Raiders, can you tell me a little more about what that entails?
Stoned Raiders is starting with a clothing label, which I’m launching with one of my best friends from London, Angel. We have started with twelve designs; they’re t-shirts that you could wear clubbing but they’re going to be of a really high quality. We’ve focused on getting some fine details in the design, such as adding denim or leather detailing to the t-shirt. We’re only making fifty of each t-shirts, so it’s going to be very exclusive and they will be available in New York, LA, Japan and online. In the future we’re going to branch out to other merchandise too.
The first party is taking place on the beach and the line-up is all my friends. There’s no egos, no concerns about who is headlining, who is warming up...At BPM you’re launching your Vatos Locos party. Tell me about the ideas informing that.
It’s basically my way of giving something back to the people who have been supporting me for a long time. The first party is taking place on the beach and the line-up is all my friends. There’s no egos, no concerns about who is headlining, who is warming up. The subsequent parties are going to take place in warehouses and other special venues in North America, beginning in New York, Chicago and Miami. Then, when I’m ready, I’ll bring the party back to Europe.
Hopefully we’ll see a Vatos Locos party in Ibiza at some point?
That’s the plan, because Ibiza means a lot to me. But Ibiza has a lot of parties and are competing with each other, and Vatos Locos is not about egos or money, but just throwing a really good party. So when I find a venue in Ibiza that will allow me to do that, I will come and do it.