In Conversation With David Morales

During his visit to our HQ the King of House music talked about his incredible career, Def Mix, his great friendship and brotherhood with Frankie Knuckles, the brand-new project Diridim and much more!

Born in New York but of Puerto Rican ancestry, David Morales is a Grammy Award-winning DJ, record producer and remixer. Growing up during dance music’s most influential era, he had the opportunity to frequent the most legendary venues in NYC, the Loft and the Paradise Garage clubs, which represented the only places where you could truly “let go” and “be yourself” during a racially tense period in the city’s history.

After honing his skills at New York City’s most popular clubs, Morales embarked on a remixing career in the mid- 80’s, right when the art really started taking off. Over the course of his brilliant career the legendary American artist has remixed and produced over 500 releases for artists including Mariah Carey, Aretha Franklin, Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson, Eric Clapton, Seal, Pet Shop Boys, U2, Donna Summer, Whitney Houston, Britney Spears, and Jamiroquai. In 1996 he was nominated for his first Grammy Award as a Producer on Mariah Carey’s album ‘Daydream‘ for the song ‘Fantasy‘. He was nominated again the following year and ultimately winning the 1998 Grammy Award for ‘Remixer of the Year’.

With opportunities starting to fly in, Morales teamed with Chicago House music pioneer Frankie Knuckles and For The Record DJ Pool founder/NYC nightlife impresario Judy Weinstein for the creation of Def Mix Productions to help manage remix requests and handle artists’ business affairs.

Morales’ solo production debut came in 1993 with the Mercury Records album ‘David Morales & The Bad Yard Club‘, ‘The Program‘. In 1998 he released ‘Needin’ U‘ on the Def Mix label, DMI Records, under the alias The Face. The track licensed to Mercury Records UK soon became a #1 Dance Record and video which is still being licensed and covered around the world. In 2005 Ultra Records released Morales’ second album entitled ‘Two Worlds Collide‘; the first single, ‘How Would U Feel‘, proved successful on the dance floor while ‘Here I Am‘ performed by UK artist Tamra Keenan is prominently featured in the smash 2006 film, The Devil Wears Prada. ‘Feels Good’, performed by Angela Hunte landed a major position in the end credits of 2008 film Don’t Mess with the Zohan.

Ultra Records released Morales’ third album ‘Changes‘ in 2011. Since then he has released several tracks, The Red Zone Project Volumes 1, 2, and 3 and various others on the Def Mix Music label.

In 2016 Morales dropped a single with Janice Robinson, ‘There Must Be Love‘, and joined forces with Luciano on the successful track titled ‘Esperanza‘. In the same year he was also recruited to serve as a judge on Top DJ Italy.

Recently he also launched his brand-new project, Diridim. The first release, ‘Back Home’ by David Morales feat Alex Uhlmann, is the manifesto of the project itself, being part of the album Freedom to be released in several episodes.

Among his latest releases you can also find ‘Father‘, a spiritual salute to the powers that features strong vocals from co-writer Janice Robinson, ‘Believe‘, ‘Hide Away‘, and ‘The Red Zone Project Vol. 4‘.

Considered by many to be one of the first so-called superstar DJs, the legendary artist still continues to perform at the best clubs around the globe.


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Watch David Morales’ exclusive DJ set aired live on November 16th from our HQ in Milan.

We had the honour to interview the King of House music David Morales, who came to visit our House of Frankie headquarters. Here the legendary American DJ and producer shared some thoughts about his incredible career, Def Mix, his great friendship and brotherhood with Frankie Knuckles, his new label Diridim and much more!


Hello and welcome to House of Frankie, Underground Radio in Milan, Italy. Today we are here with House music legend David Morales! Hello David! Welcome to House of Frankie!

You’ve got a big wall up there! You have some great names, big people up there…and let’s not forget about Carl Cox, King Cox (laughs).

David, you’re quite active on social media! In one of your most recent videos, you took the opportunity to thank everyone who supported and prayed for you for what happened to you in Japan. What’s your relationship with your fans and what message would you like to give to them here from HOF?

I think for every artist is important to have a relationship with their fans, because they are the ones that support you and keep you relevant. I don’t think any artist would be anyone without their fans, you don’t wake up a star or famous, it’s your fans that give you that title. So, it’s important to give back to your fans, because they’re the ones you need their support from. Today we talked about the world of social media, where you have a broader platform to communicate with your fans like instantaneous almost. It’s a good and bad thing at the same time but it’s important because you’re important to them, and what social media has become is really to be more involved with your fans.

You are one of the House music Pioneers who has always paid great attention to the sound system during your live performances. In your opinion, how important is the sound in a club? What advice would you give to insiders?

Today a lot of DJs lack the acknowledge of sound and sound is a very important part of being a DJ. There are different levels of what a DJ should know; the first is to enjoy music, you have to love records, you have to love to shop, you have to live and breath music, this is what I know. This is school 101, I mean university, everything. A lot of people don’t know about quality of sound in making and listening to records, how to play them and even how to use a mixer. It’s not just about about playing in the red or playing too loud, you have to know how to manipulate. When it comes to the new generation, unfortunately the majority don’t know about sound at all and there is a difference when someone that understands sound gets on the sound system.


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What do you think of the new Pioneer CDJ-2000NXS2?

Well, I can’t talk bad about Pioneer, of course not! I like Pioneer! The original Pioneer component is a TAD driver which is one of the best drivers out-there, a lot of people really don’t know this. So, I like the sound system, I love the CDJ-2000NXS2. I’m not a fan of fader mixers, so I don’t use a Pioneer fader mixer, not because I don’t like their mixer, I just don’t like faders. But other than that, I think Pioneer is a good product and I’m a big supporter of Pioneer.

Describe to us your technical set-up…

My technical set-up consists of 4 CDJs and normally I have my own mixer which is an ARS mixer, it could be the 9000 or 6700 or the 4100, there are 3 different models. I also use a Dope Real isolator as well and that’s pretty much my set-up. And of course, I have in my rider my monitors, which have to be good monitors. I have to have what I need to feel comfortable to give a better performance per se, because if I’m not feeling it, trust me, nobody is.

Over the course of your extraordinaire career, you have remixed and produced over 500 releases for incredible artists including of course Mariah Carey, Britney Spears, Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson, U2, Whitney Houston, Jamiroquai and many more. But which of your remixes are you most proud of and why?

I have a top 3. First is ‘Space Cowboy’ by Jamiroquai, because I made a song out of something that wasn’t really a song. It was a different tempo, it was another jam session, it was amazing but it’s different, it’s like if you take the remix and the original, it really doesn’t match the way the lyrics are, the way the chorus, the verse… of course, that became his biggest record for sure.
Second is Mariah Carey ‘Dreamlover’ because that was the first time the vocalists, singers, came in to re-sing the record, because it was a pop record. And we did something different with it, we re-wrote the chords, the melody practically.
And the third one is ‘Mr. Loverman’ by Shabba Ranks, which a lot of people don’t know. When I tell people I had done a record called … they are like “Really? I didn’t know this!”. That one because it was a dancehall record. They actually changed the name – the original one was ‘Champion Lover‘ – because I changed the hook-up of the record. So, those three are probably my top 3 remixes for creativity because I actually changed everything, they had nothing to do with the original. And of course, over the years, working with Seal, Donna Summer, Ann Nesby from The Sounds of Blackness, Julio Iglesias… was amazing! People may laugh “Oh, Julio Iglesias!” but we are talking about icons, some of the greatest singers, legends here. Oh, and Aretha Franklin! I cannot forget her!
However, my next one on my list is Patti LaBelle.

You are one of the greatest producers in the world and now we are going to retrace your illustrious career. Among your latest successful productions, we find ‘There Must Be Love’ and ‘Father’, two tracks sung by Janice Robinson, who is currently an UK X Factor contestant. How did you meet Janice? Are there any new collaborations with her in the pipeline?

I have known Janice for many, many years, obviously I’ve played her record when she was on Livin’ Joy. We got together when I was on Ultra Records and she did a record called ‘Believe’ and then we sort of like lost communication for a while but I have always wanted to work for because she is a great songwriter and I love her voice but she was going through some personally issues and stuff, so she wasn’t in a right place to get together. But, I have always kept pushing and I did this record. I played the track that was ‘There Must Be Love’ at Ministry of Sound – I think it was in December, right before Christmas – and it was such an instant hit, the marriage of the track and the vocals. I went to Japan after that and I was like “Wow, I have to make a record with a new vocal on this” because I had already made something for me to play. So, I told Janice “I have this record and I want to feel your pain”, this is exactly what I said. She sent me back the demo for ‘There Must Be Love’, it was before my set in Tokyo and when I listen to it I cried, I was like “I ask to feel your pain but what is this? It’s amazing!” Ever since then, that’s how ‘There Must Be Love’ came out. It was an instant record because I actually first played the finished version of ‘There Must Be Love’ in Italy – I think it was at Peter Pan – and it was an instant hit, it was like another record. We have also done ‘Father’, which the original version was like an Afro-House kinda record and it turned into this other thing that wasn’t supposed to be. I came up with the idea of ‘Father’ as not to tell about somebody’s father but about the higher power and so, without sing “God”, without sing something, is just “father” as a father figure.
When it comes with Janice, we have great chemistry, I give her ideas and we work well together. We have another track, two more tracks, we have another one called ‘Love Is In The Atmosphere’ that is absolutely amazing. I did this record two years ago and nobody has ever heard it, I believe I have not played it out before. Then, the new we have is ‘Freedom’ which is like epic. We do great records together, they’re timeless, very spiritual without going over the top, I mean they always have some sort of message, great musicians, great singers on them. But because she is on X Factor, we cannot release any of those records until another 3 months unfortunately. So, people are gonna have to wait.


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Could you tell us more about your new Diridim label? Also, what’s next for David Morales?

I have had Def Mix for a very long time, we have done some great things with Frankie Knuckles, Satoshi Tomiie … it was an era, we did 30 years which is truly a lot for a company. We’re actually an independent record company, a brand dedicated to club music and to the dance-floor basically. And Diridim really is just me moving forward in creating something new on a global level. What I did before was more classic house kinda things and with Diridim it’s all about making global music. We wanna concentrate on songs of course, new artists and not just soulful house music per se, because there’s so much music out-there, there are so much great talents out-there and I want to send Diridim to make worldly music.

House of Frankie, was born as a project dedicated to Frankie Knuckles, and more in general, as a tribute to House music. Frankie was a good friend of yours, I know it may be hard to talk about but do you have any memories of him you want to share with us?

I have many, happy years. It’s funny because today I had a Frankie moment, kinda ironic. Frankie is a very sensitive subject for me, so bear with me. I guess one of the funny stories we had, I remember when we first came to Italy and we had the driver who spoke no English. It was me, Frankie, John Brown, and our tour manager at the time and that poor guy that spoke no English whatsoever. We were going to an amazing hotel called the Savoia Hotel in Florence but we were not listed at the hotel and I had never seen Frankie get really so upset. I was always one that would be the bad guy, with the attitude while Frankie was always so sweet, so soft, he was a teddy bear. And that was the first time ever I saw Frankie told somebody was gonna punch him in the face. I was like “Whoa!”. So, went to some ‘Rotonda’ (a rondabout) and the guy was going round in circles and then we finally stopped. I got out of the car because I needed to take a break, because we were all in one car, 5 of us. Frankie and John, they were two big guys and I were in the back with them. So, I got out of the car and the guy started to leave and Frankie was yelling at him “But what about David? you’re leaving David behind!” and I was like “Where are you going?”. Then, we were driving on a highway, there were burning cars on the highway, and we finally got to Torino and stayed there one night, because the next day we had to drive from Torino to Milano. So, we came to a hotel, the name of the hotel was Four Stars but actually it was a one-star hotel. We arrived and there was one guy that did everything, he had the so-called Coke bottles glasses. It was dark, and we went in, we got in our rooms. I was the first one to go inside the room, it was a really shitty hotel, it was like so nasty. So, I run outside like “Stop! Everybody stop! We’re not staying here! We’re leaving, do not unpack your bags, don’t do nothing, we’re gone”. So, that was just one of the episodes I have with Frankie. I mean, we have so many over the years. And it’s funny because I look at a picture that somebody sent me today, that’s why guys I got kinda emotional. Whenever you see a picture of me and Frankie, it’s like we look like a couple! Frankie was always good for a hug. People put up things on social media, with his voice, interviews. I can’t look at them, I can’t hear his voice, and it’s funny cause it has been 4 years (since his death), but it’s almost like yesterday for me, I mean we created something together, we were a team, and we were spiritually a team. And that’s just how we were. His passing really affected me in many ways, we were Def Mix. So really, losing Frankie, it wasn’t just losing a friend or a brother, it was also losing someone that was part of me creatively, even though we didn’t make music all the time, but we just bought it together.

Listen to David Morales’ live DJ set from our HQ on SoundCloud and check out his latest releases on Traxsource!

Video Filmed and Edited by Samantha Faini.


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