Sitting down and talking with Deorro backstage at Coachella this year was a humbling experience. Erick’s focus on sound in our discussion highlighted a poignant aspect of his production style that I hadn’t realized: he makes all of his own sounds. This makes songs like “Five Hours” even more impressive; although up-and-coming producers would love to know what plugins and sample packs they can replicate to make a track like that, there’s real inspiration in the process of making all of one’s own sounds. Deorro has a unique sense of creativity and drive paired with an affability that I’ve only seen in the most humble of producers. So, without further ado, I’ll let him inspire you.
If you could sit across from eighteen-year-old Erick right now, with all of your current knowledge on music and production, what would you tell yourself if you could go back in time?
I wouldn’t tell myself a single thing. Not knowing anything got me to where I’m at today. I’ve seen Interstellar, man, I don’t want to mess with time travel. My goals and my ambition and what I was dedicated to do since I was a child has been helping people. If anything, my younger self would ask myself, “are you doing what we’re trying to do?” If you’re going to do what you’re going to do, you do it marvelous.
When do you feel like you really started producing?
I started playing the piano when I was four. To be honest with you, I don’t remember when I really started making music; it’s been my whole life. I came out doing crazy solos, I was born that way.
Did you teach yourself how to make music?
Have you seen Drumline? That’s my story, except I didn’t get a hot cheerleader, and I never learned how to, but I was still better than the school. But they didn’t give me a chance because I’m Mexican.
What kind of tools did you start out on?
I learned about Sonar, I bought it… my dad hated me for two years because it was so expensive. I did nothing with it, but I know how it works now. Then I moved on to Mixcraft, then Reason, then Ableton, and now I’m moving on to Paint and Photoshop. Haha, I’m an Ableton guy now.
What are your favorite plugins and VSTs?
I don’t use plugins. I make everything, from the drums to the trumpets to the violins, everything’s in my voice. I recorded everything the way you’re recording this right now [with an iPhone]. I could make a whole album with that. So that’s why I say, “it’s sound.” If you think about it, if you just aim for sound, and you can recreate sound… that’s the source of music. It took forever, but it’s worth it.
How long did it take you until you realized you were really going to pursue music?
I worked like eighty hours a day. Until I run into the same sound again, I won’t stop. If I ever end up getting a new laptop, it’ll only contain sounds that I’ve made. The DJ doors were open because I was a producer. I was trying to be a DJ in the beginning, and it was hard, so I stayed home and started making music. If you go to see a DJ, you’re going to see them because of the music you recognize.
Who were your biggest inspirations when you started?
Alicia Keys to Pink Floyd to Jimi Hendrix to Bob Marley. Mars Volta. I’m all over, man. I’m not a fan of genres; I’m a fan of sound.
What tracks have you been digging lately?
The ones that I did not make for DJ sets, like “Five Hours.” Those are the songs that the people ask for, but you know what, I didn’t make them for sets, so I kind of have to stop the song, but it makes it more special the way it starts.
What was the setting like when you composed “Five Hours?”
It was inspired by a love story. The story was about someone who traveled five hours for the person they loved. The whole point was that inspired me for all people, not just couples, like families and dads at work, who have that unconditional love. There is no distance. You’ll do some crazy things for love.
If you had to become a new producer in 2015, what would you do to get to where you are now?
I’d go crazy. I can hear melodies in my head, and I don’t know how that is, but if there’s somebody telling me, I hope it’s Mozart. I don’t go, “this is how you make music.” This is how you make sound.