As things heat up ahead of next week’s Pendulum takeover at Exchange, we sit down with none other than the bearded bad boy from the crew known as El Hornet, who promises to once again decimate the dancefloor with his infectious energy and inimitable style behind the decks.
Chatting up everything from D&B as “punk rock dance music” to his favorite food spots in Los Angeles on through to the lost art of DJing and the benefits of buying locally sourced organic foods, it’s a massive glimpse into the inner workings of one of the genre’s top selectors.
If you’re in need of a little jump-start to your week, be sure to stick around after the jump for a walk down memory lane in the form of Pendulum’s two-hour Essential Mix (circa-2005), rammed with now-classic tunes like “Blood Sugar,” “Vault,” “Hold Your Colour,” and “Slam.” Hold tight, massive—Pendulum is on the way!
Your musical taste spans so many genres, why drum & bass? Is this the electronic version of your punk rock dreams?
I think drum & bass was the missing link in my world, not just in terms of the music I liked, but my entire life.
I was playing in a punk band in the ‘90s and the rave scene was this alien thing to me. I was into the occasional jungle track but really only for its audacity. Artists like Squarepusher, who fused insanely frenetic breaks with slap bass, really blew my mind, but I didn't find myself initially as attracted to the main rave sounds of jungle as I was later on in life.
But somewhere around 1997 I started hearing artists like Ed Rush & Optical, Trace, Nico, Ryme Tyme, Matrix, and I started buying records, got some turntables and learned how to mix. Once that techstep sound got into my ears I was hooked.
To me it was definitely the punk rock of dance music, in both the sound and the general public’s perception of it. You had house music being all shiny and nice in the main room and then you had these D&B guys in the other room who danced differently and had an entirely different attitude to music; it was the underdog.
You’ve become something of a career DJ these days with the globe as your milieu. I don’t imagine you have much time to “practice” in the formal sense so give us a sense of how you prepare for each show.
For me, gig prep is pretty simple: a Jack and Coke, one last check of what new tunes I want to play, and hopefully the guy playing before is killing it so I can step up with the right vibe.
Speaking of DJing, what’s the key to programming a solid DJ set?
Honestly I think the key is to not program it. I’ve never played a planned set in my life. I don’t have a clue what I’m going to play after the second tune. The first two I have worked out and it will depend totally on where I am playing and what the audience is like, but that’s only the intro. After that I’m completely winging it.
DJing is supposed to be about reading a room and having the ability to take a group of people on a trip with highs and lows and periods of reflection and periods of losing their shit. You can’t do that if you program a set. Very rarely do I even see DJs actually DJing now, if that makes sense. I see guys who want to promote their latest studio productions and do very little DJing. People are stopping tunes to get on the mic and say, “Hey guys I love you, this is my new song and you can get it on Beatport tomorrow. Please follow me on Twitter.”
How did we get here? This isn’t what I look up to. My advice is to be better than those guys. Learn the history of the music you claim to be passionate about. Look back through that history and incorporate it into your set. Find tunes nobody else knows about. If you’re entering the world of DJing and production right now, awesome! Your chosen genre will likely have 20 years of history you can learn about, draw from, and get your mind blown by.
Speaking of talent, any new-school heads we should be keeping an eye out for?
There’s been some killer stuff around lately: Mefjus, Bensley, Hamilton, Ulterior Motive, Reso, Neonlight, Frankee, Culture Shock, Prototypes, DC Breaks and Mind Vortex are all on fire.
What sort of non-D&B music is floating your boat these days?
I listen to an awful lot of band music. Lately I’ve had playlists full of La Dispute, Saddest Landscape, Pianos Become The Teeth, Braid, Jazz June, We Set Sail, Pity Sex, Tigers Jaw, Empire Empire, Prawn, Frameworks, Basement, Modern Baseball, Turnover, Caravels, Enemies, A Great Big Pile Of Leaves. I’ve listened to the new Eskmo record on every flight I’ve taken in the last two weeks. It’s incredible.
We’re excited to have you touching down at the Exchange in Los Angeles next week. What’s your favorite thing to do while you’re in L.A.?
L.A. is pretty much my favorite city on earth. I have so many spots I need to hit when I’m there and there’s never enough time. I always put in at least two hours at Amoeba Records. Minimum. It’s the best record store on earth. I used to do a lot of walking, taking photos of old sleazy motels and that kind of thing. I usually stay in Venice when I’m in town so I skate the boardwalk a lot, too.
As for food, I always try to hit Koreatown for some Korean BBQ. I need to get my fill of Mexican too so I will hit up old school spots like El Cholo or Tito’s, but there’s so many trucks and little taquerías everywhere that I want to eat at them all! Then there’s Roscoe’s for chicken and waffles, In-N-Out for burgers, and Menotti’s in Venice for the best coffee in L.A.
Speaking of which, you’ve just launched a new venture back home—hit us with the details so we can stop by when we’re in the neighborhood!
I love my street food, I really do. I can’t turn down a good burger any more than the next person, but I do believe that there’s ways to eat convenient food, even junk food, and it not be full of chemicals and sugar. Even more importantly, there are ways for it to be sustainable, responsibly sourced and beneficial to those who took the time to make it.
My family had a farm when I was growing up, so I’ve always had an interest in how the food chain works. I care about where food comes from and how the people who produced it made it, and so my wife and I opened a small organic supermarket in North London. It’s called Harringay Local Store. It’s a mix of locally-produced beers, organic and biodynamic wines, organic food and goods from small local producers. We have a great selection of vinyl too. I always wanted my own record store!
I wanted to close by asking a question directed towards your beard but I can’t think of one. What should I have asked it?
My beard asked me to ask you why you haven’t got a beard, too. Time to man up, esé!
By Chris Muniz