It’s 7am. We’ve just witnessed five hours of symphonic techno from one of the greatest producers alive today. The doors to Output open and we spill out into the sunrise. A few minutes later, Maceo Plex emerges to hugs and handshakes. There’s something about the solidarity of staying up late with strangers. Especially when you see the sunrise. There’s a sense of accomplishment so distinct to the pursuit of live electronic music.
Eric Estornel, known by many as Maceo Plex and by others as Maetrik, is making a powerful impact on the world of techno. His origins in Miami and Dallas and progression to Barcelona pave an unconventional path to Ibiza, his style manifesting in a unique approach to the industry. I had the pleasure of talking with Eric after his set at Output, mulling over the definitive components of his career in music.
If you could sit across from eighteen-year-old Eric right now, with all of your current knowledge on producing and touring, what would you tell your younger self?
Go to college. Finish school. I was in Texas at this point; I didn’t think it was going to go anywhere. I was just doing it for fun. But eventually things went well. So I’d tell myself—at those moments where I thought about quitting—to not worry about it. Just keep going. We all want to quit at some point. Maybe nothing’s going well. Your girl, or people in your personal life are telling you to stop. So it’s better to keep going. Don’t listen to anybody.
When did you know you wanted to commit your life to music?
When I went to my first rave. I never knew how to do anything else; I was always afraid of having to find something else to do. To have to learn something new all the way through. I didn’t have to dedicate myself to that—that’s all I knew how to do.
During what part of your early career did you make the most progress?
When I moved to Europe. When I was here in the US I was with my nerdy friends making weird shit. It didn’t really work on the dance floors because they were too small. When I got to Europe and went to some of the clubs I realized what works and what doesn’t.
And you started out on Cubase?
I did. Now I use that and Ableton. Half that, half analog gear. My Jupiter’s one of my favorite analog synths. Now they came out with this new Jupiter 8 Boutique one that’s really good. But before that it was the Jupiter 8. And Korg Mono/Poly.
How about soft synths?
Omnisphere. Reaktor. Those two. I’ll use a sample if it’s good, but I try to synthesize all my own stuff. Sometimes I use a preset too, it depends.
What’s been the proudest moment of your career?
Playing at the clubs I’ve always wanted to play at. It’s an aggregate, or more of a proud time. There was a period of six months where I hit all the clubs I’ve always wanted to play. Fabric. Berghain. Robert Johnson. Clubs like that. When I finally got to those clubs I felt like I made it. And now it’s a different level—now I’m doing my own party in Ibiza on Tuesdays. I think that’s it, that’s the last goal you could possibly have. Other than that, what else can you do… arenas, or some bullshit like that?
Do you try to stay cognizant about the commercial versus underground dichotomy?
When something does well, they call it commercial. And they call you commercial, even though you play underground. If you do too well, then you’re commercial. I’m not necessarily worried about it, but I think about it. Is this going to be big, and if it is big, is this what I want to be big? Is this what I want for people to hear? I used to not care, but now I have to worry about what I release—not just release every big track that I make. Maybe put the big tracks under another name. You have to worry about your brand. Who you are.
Lastly, what approach would you take if you were a new producer in 2016?
Teaching yourself is the best way. When you have someone teaching or tutoring you, you tend to emulate. You don’t develop your own style. When you do your own thing and don’t listen to others, you develop your own style. Trial and error. Make a lot of bad tracks. Then you get better.
Many thanks to Eric, Ellum, and Liaison for making this interview possible. Photography by Resident Advisor and Insomniac.