“It’s my life. It’s the air that I breathe. ..” 909originals chats to house music legend David Morales
Some artists need no introduction, and when it comes to shaping the history of house music, David Morales has played a fundamental role.
Having honed his skills at legendary clubs such as the Paradise Garage, Ozone Layer, Sound Factory, Red Zone, Zanzibar and others, Morales has worked with artists such as Whitney Houston, U2, Michael Jackson, Aretha Franklin, Madonna, and Mariah Carey over the years (the latter earning him a Grammy Award), while his own productions have included albums The Program, 2 Worlds Collide and Changes, as well as 1998’s seminal single Needin’ U (as David Morales presents The Face).
For an artist that has been an influential force for more than three decades, Morales continues to keep at the forefront of changes in dance music, launching a new label, DIRIDIM Records, in 2018, a home for emerging artists as well as his own productions, as well as unveiling Sunday Mass, a livestream series on Twitch, last year, which kept him in touch with his fanbase, not to mention enabling him to build a new legion of followers.
Earlier this year, he released Parkside Ave, an instrumental, afro-jazz influenced album, while his most recent single, The Feels (featuring Mr. V, Scotty P and DJ Rae), was released on 16 September – you can buy/stream it here. The Feels is featured on Morales’ forthcoming album, Life Is A Song, which will be released on DIRIDIM in January 2022.
909originals caught up with him.
Hi David, thanks for talking to us. Let’s start by talking about the new single, The Feels. Are we right in thinking that this is a tribute to the feeling you get on the dancefloor, something most of us were unable to experience for so long due to COVID?
The Feels is about listening to a song that takes you to a place. When you hear a song in the moment, according to where you are in your life, you will always remember that moment. Listening back to that song years down the line, it will take you right back to that memory.
How was the pandemic period for you, both personally and as an artist? From the looks of things, you were quite busy?
The pandemic gave me the time to focus on both myself and music. As an artist and constantly touring, you barely have the time to stop and think. During the pandemic I focused on making new music and streaming live. I wrote and produced about 50 tracks. Luckily for me, I was able to channel my energy somewhere else.
Your Sunday Mass livestreams shows have been very well received – while you were obviously unable to tour, do you think these helped in terms of maintaining a connection with your fans, and building new ones?
My Sunday Mass helped me take it back to basics. I never thought that streaming would have such an effect on both myself and the fans. Streaming has brought me closer to the audience. The fans normally watch you from afar and don’t really know who you are personally.
What streaming has done is allow the fans to know me on a personal level, per se. It’s like your own personal virtual radio show. Streaming has really helped me maintain my sanity, because I was still able to play music and express myself. I look forward to Sunday Mass, it’s my favourite club in the world.
You have a new album, Life Is A Song, coming out in January. From the title, we suspect the album will be quite autobiographical – is that the case?
Yes, the title says it all. My life is a song. All of the songs tell a story that’s a reflection of my life.
What other artists are you working with on the new album, and what do they bring to the mix?
I have a talented collection of artists on my album. Some are known and some are new. Every artist practically wrote the songs that they’re singing on, with the exception of I Feel Love.
Ultra Nate, Elle Cato, Blakkat, Joe Roberts and Lea Lorien that have all enjoyed success, while Mr. V, DJ Rae, Scotty P, Michelle Perera and Tilly are from the new school of artists. They all are amazing.
Your recent Parkside Avenue project showed a more jazz-influenced side to your musical personality and was also notably an instrumental album. How did that project come together?
I’ve worked on so much music during the pandemic, both vocals and instrumentals, that it’s impossible to release them all on one album. I make a lot of music, therefore I had to separate the two. I also wanted to show my diversity as a producer.
It’s been three years since you launched the DIRIDIM label. What was the modus operandi when you launched the label, and has this come to fruition?
The reason that I started DIRIDIM was to have a vehicle to release my own music and support new artists that I feel represent what DIRIDIM is about. DIRIDIM represents my evolution. My label is open to the evolution of electronic music.
You recently described DIRIDIM as an ‘evolution’ from Def Mix. Has the Def Mix project run its course, or will Def Mix still have a future part to play in the world of dance music?
DEF MIX will have its place in the history of dance music, hands down. DEF MIX was me, Frankie Knuckles, and Satoshi Tomiie – together we represented a moment that was truly amazing and we made some incredible music.
In the end we’ve all moved on, because nothing lasts forever. Not many brands last for 25 years. I just felt that it was time to evolve and do my own thing, but make no mistake – I cherish all that we accomplished under DEF MIX.
You learned your craft in a world where the DJ would often play all night, or at least for several hours – these days, a lot of venues/festivals have each DJ on for one or two hours. Does that frustrate you?
At first it was very frustrating. My first short set was in 1989, at Sin at the Astoria in London with Pete Tong and Nicky Holloway. No one had told me that I only had a 55-minute set, so I was just warming up and didn’t get to play any of my big tracks. I had come from a culture of playing all night, so it took me a long time to adjust to playing a ‘short’ set.
You’ve been DJing for four decades now and producing music for nearly as long. How do you keep yourself interested – to make sure you maintain that spark?
I love music, period! The game is the same. There’s a different generation, the music has evolved. I don’t compare the past to the present.
Besides being a DJ, I’m also a producer, so you must be open to the evolution of music and technology. I also embrace new technology – I think it’s awesome.
You’re back touring again and played a few events and festivals this summer. Was it a strange feeling getting back in front of an audience?
It was nice to go back out again. I miss the game. I mean, it’s my life. It’s the air that I breathe.
Is there anything that you think has changed about the dance music scene as a result of the pandemic – or anything that you would like to have seen changed?
I think that there’s going to be a reset. There’s been a huge gap with the pandemic. There’s a new generation of DJs that are going to pop up, and I think that a lot of DJs are going to fall off the radar. It’s so unpredictable.
[Thanks to David for talking to us. You can buy/stream The Feels here]