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Eli Escobar & M. Vaughan: From collecting records to running record labels

Although they hail from different eras and together hold a wide range of musical influences, both Eli Escobar and M. Vaughan eventually found their way into DJing and producing electronic music.

For this episode, NO BS: Exchange of Minds sat down with these two house heads to discuss their respective journeys into the genre, the labels that they operate and the music they create.

With over 20 years experience, Eli Escobar started viciously collecting records at just six years old. He soon began indulging in mid-80’s music, as he appreciated the innovation of new genres and use of technology in the emerging scene.

For a record collector, and having at one point owned 10,000 vinyls, DJing came naturally. When asked about his approach, Escobar said,

“I make a pretty huge effort to play all over the place, and not necessarily in one set, but on a nightly basis.” As a DJ that genre hops from house to techno, disco, afrobeat, hip-hop and reggae, Escobar tries to “make each night different from the last.”

M.Vaughan, the now Brooklyn-based producer/DJ, grew up playing guitar and songwriting for bands in high school. After learning he was a control freak, wanting to take liberties in writing and producing, Vaughan began making electronic music.

“A lot of the stuff I sample are from mellow jazz records I’ll listen to while cooking dinner, and think ‘that would be cool to re-contextualize into a bumping dance track.’”

Vaughan describes his DJ sets as “deep, soulful, almost melancholy, but very driving.”

The young artist currently runs a small label, Super Tuff Records, and has already made some headway by recruiting European artists. He hopes to join them soon and play a few dates across the pond.

Meli Rodriguez and Deana Sophia rebranding techno one at the time

For this episode, NO BS had the pleasure of eating… erm I mean picking the brains of two gifted techno DJ/producers, Meli Rodriguez and Deana Sophia at Louie and Chan.

The refreshing pair of young female talents in this male-dominated industry talked to us about their efforts to rebrand techno, different approaches to producing music, social media personas, and playing overseas.

Currently based in Costa Rica, Meli Rodriguez has built somewhat of a mini-empire. After struggling at first to get her foot in the door because of closed-minded promoters, she and her husband decided to handle their own business.

Now, with a resume that includes owning and managing six record labels, a monthly party that draws 2,000 attendees and a loyal following of over 30,000 on social media, Rodriguez certainly poses a strong presence in the techno scene.

Paralleling her background in graphic design to her original music production, Rodriguez expressed, “every sound is a color.” Also a former drummer, Rodriguez has channeled her skills into the percussion-driven genre she now resides in.

Sophia has a bit of a different approach. Having recently finished her first original track, and in the midst of producing a debut EP, the late bloomer relies on reverse engineering. She tells us,

“I’ll find a track that I really love, try and break it down… make it my own, and go from there.”

Sophia’s interest in pursuing a music career came after working in a nightclub. She would peek over the shoulders of the DJs, Shazam songs, and virtually “crate dig” to start building her own catalog. Transitioning from a modeling career, Sophia said she sometimes attracts haters that question her abilities.

When asked about tips to counteract this stigma, Sophia advised,

“Be yourself. Just keep pushing… If you’re good, you’re good, and that’ll show, and it won’t matter.”

Carlos Castano and RIFFA on record deals, Objektivity, OKNF, and inspiration

With over a combined 20 years experience under their belts, NYC-bred minimal tech house DJ/producers Carlos Castano and RIFFA are the embodiment of grinding artists continuously on the rise.

They sat down with No BS at the Pop International Gallery located on Bowery Street in New York, to chat about how they kick-started their careers, ways to counteract creative blocks, and the grueling journey to earning respect in the music industry.

A self-proclaimed fine selector, Carlos Castano, was recently signed to the Objektivity record label (run by Dennis Ferrer & Andre Hommen) — a point in his career he acknowledges as a huge stepping stone.

When asked about accomplishing this feat, Castano emphasized, “cut no corners” and advises fellow artists to “dig deep into your roots” when looking for inspiration.

As for RIFFA, he believes his parallel career boost was when one of his biggest influences, Kyle Watson, played out his track on his American tour.

RIFFA finds inspiration in sample digging, and his creative flame can be ignited by something as simple as a crisp snare. Both Castano and RIFFA continue to push forward, with plans to expand their respective brands by packaging their innovative art. When asked about a disconnect in regards to people making great music and not knowing how to promote themselves on social media, RIFFA said:

“There could be a disconnect, sometimes people don’t care about other aspects (of their careers) and all they do care about is the art.”

Carlos added: “Everything aligns. The way you thrive, the way you socialize, make music and present yourself. Everything has to be there.”

RIFFA “All the social media can come later as well as the networking. If you have a phenomenal product to work with then you’re in a good spot.”