In Conversation With DJ Meme

During his visit to our HQ the acclaimed Brazilian producer shared some thoughts about the beginning of his career, Frankie Knuckles and his years at Def Mix, his upcoming releases and much more.

DJ Meme is by far the most critically acclaimed and successful remixer/producer in Brazil.

Born and raised in Rio de Janeiro, Meme started DJing at the age of 11 years old and remixing since 1986. He began to gain recognition early in his career thanks to a bunch of remixes for major artists like The Bee Gees, New Order, the Pet Shop Boys and many more.

In 1996, his remixed of ‘Estoy Aquí’ for the then-newcomer Shakira exploded on the club scene and became a worldwide hit, resulting in a huge demand from major labels for Meme’s ability to inject underground dance rhythms into popular music. As a result, the Brazilian artist went on to produce stunning remixes for major pop acts including Mariah Carey, Toni Braxton, Dido, Ricky Martin, Des’ree among others.

Among Meme’s massive discography, we can mention his reworks of contemporary soulful anthems, such as Kenny Bobien’s ‘I Shall Not Be Moved’ (Soulfuric), Groove Junkies ‘Dr Feelgood’ (MoHo), Audiowhores ft Pete Simpson ‘Not Going Back’ (Papa), Kenny Thomas ‘Keep The Fires Burning’(Soul-Fi), Jamie Lewis & Michael Watford’s ‘It’s Over’ (Defected) Knee Deep’s ‘Me Kumba’ (Knee Deep), Darryl D’Bonneau’s ‘Say You’re Gonna Stay’ (Jellybean Soul) and the massive orchestral dance anthem ‘The Cure & The Cause’ by Fish Go Deep (Defected). And let’s not forget his 2011’s remix of ‘The Ones You Love‘ by Frankie Knuckles & The Shapeshifters, which immediately reached the top of the download charts worldwide.

 

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We had the pleasure to interview DJ Meme, who flies in to visit our House of Frankie headquarters. Here the acclaimed Brazilian producer talked about the beginning of his career, Frankie Knuckles and his years at Def Mix, his upcoming releases and much more.

INTERVIEW

Hello and welcome to House of Frankie, Underground Radio in Milan, Italy. Today, we are joined by incredible DJ and producer, DJ Meme. Thank you for being here!

Thank you very much!

How did you start your career? What kind of music did you listen to when you were younger?

I was born and raised in the ‘70s, actually I was born in ’65. When I was like 8/10 years old I started to hear my own music, but before, I was listening to my parents’ music, which was very melodic like Jazz and Bossa Nova. Then, when I grew up, those melodic harmonies and music took me to disco. Think about that, in the ‘70s we had two options; Rock & Roll, which was very popular in the ‘70s, and Disco. I chose disco eventually, that’s why I’m here today and that’s the music that made me who I am today. After that came house and everything.
I started to play when I was 11 years old, for one specific reason; I was the only kid in my building Brazil that didn’t like football. I had to do something to socialize with people, I did parties. So, because I didn’t like football I had to make parties and bring people close to me, so that’s how I started.

Over the course of you career you have also collaborated with Def Mix. Anything you’d like to share with us about this experience?

Def Mix was like a highlight in my life, my career, and that happened because of Frankie Knuckles, because he had insisted for one year to bring me into Def Mix and enjoy them. Everything started when we were in Ibiza together. I had a very complicated flight weeks before, I had some problems in my tour and I was talking to Frankie about that and then he looked at me and said: “You should come and work with us at Def Mix” and I was like: “What are you saying?” and he replied: “Yes, you should come and work at Def Mix!” “Oh, c’mon Frankie! It’s Def Mix, c’mon!” and he said he had always talk about me to Judy Weinstein. So, he called Judy, who said Frankie was always talking about me and then she asked me: “Will you come to New York please, talk to me, let’s see each other when you come over there.” And I said: “Ok, all right!” And then everything happened! When I came to New York one year after that conversation, everybody, David Morales, Hector Romero and Frankie, said yes, so that’s how I joined Def Mix. I stayed there until Frankie died, because when he died it was like something broke inside of me and I wasn’t feeling home anymore. But, of course, it was a great experience, we travelled to a lot of places together. Def Mix is a real family and you definitely have to be part of the family to be there. I felt it was a great honour to me to have been part of Def Mix, because if you think about that, not so many people were able to be part of this amazing brand, how many DJs? Six, Seven, Nine? You don’t remember so many people. So, it was such a big honour for me. I will always love Def Mix.

You like performing alongside live musicians and sometimes full orchestras. In your opinion, how important is it to both play music with real music instruments and to listen to it?

I think music is important but I’m not that kind of guy who says “Oh man! Analogue tapes, real music!” No, I’m not like that, but I know there are people who think in that way. I like music in every way, I can go crazy with a piece of techno and at the same time I might not like some disco cuts.
I grew up in a time when to make music you need real musicians. When I started to make remixes, I was like 21/22 years old and I needed a musician in those days. Electronic music was coming, it was growing and expanding but we still needed musicians, so that’s why I worked with a lot of them. This is in my DNA. Don’t expect every song that comes from me is an orchestral piece. I’m not a disco guy, I’m a music guy, I like original disco tracks, techy, soulful, original house, new house, deep house…I like everything. But if you make deep house, you’re not gonna call a real percussionist for that, you’re gonna make all electronic. I think everything has its own kind of arrangement, but it depends on us to keep musicians play on music. For example, the new Louie Vega record is amazing because of that. I just did a record very similar to that with a different type of music, but there are 37 musicians playing live on my record, I mean, playing instruments on my record. There is also Vince Montana Jr. from Salsa Orchestra on my album. So, I like music, that’s why I think we shouldn’t make only electronic all the time. Sometimes it has to be electronic, sometimes not.

What benefits do you find nowadays in the new DJ technologies?

I love technology, I really do love technology, but I like the good one. I remember when CDJs started to launched, I didn’t like them because they were too complicated back then. But when the Pioneer CDJ 100 was launched, I said: “Wow! Now we are getting in there!”
The new CDJs from Pioneer, the new equipment from Pioneer is amazing. I don’t use turntables and I don’t play with vinyl – even if I grew up playing with vinyl – because I don’t want to carry them anymore, they are too heavy. So, nowadays I just carry two USB sticks with my music and this is amazing. Also, I don’t play with laptops, I don’t see why I should, this isn’t for me, but I respect people who like to use them. I prefer two or three USB sticks and my headphones.

What is 2018 looking like for DJ Meme? Any new projects on the way?

I was talking to Brian Tappert [Traxsource’s Co-Founder] the other day and he said: “Man! I never saw you make so much music!” I have so much music in the pipeline right now, which I don’t know what to do with that. I have my own label but I just did a whole record, a whole album with Brazilian music, which took me one year and a half to end it. I’m currently arranging my record release, which is a non-electronic album; it mixes Disco, Bossa Nova, Jazz, and Boogie. And on the other side, I have a new track coming out on the new David Morales label, Diridim, ‘Fall to Raise Up’, which I played today during my set at House of Frankie.
There are also three more tracks ready that I still don’t know what to do with them, I’m thinking about when and where I’m gonna release them. Anyway, I got so many things for 2018 and I’m so happy to be here in Italy, it’s a big pleasure for me.

What do you think of the current global House scene?

I see things going well right now, really well like vocals are coming back, people looking for old songs, to remix and to bring it back too. People are sampling a lot of old songs and putting them on new songs too and this is growing more and more. And I also see techno coming close to house and vice versa, so it’s a good thing. I see house music touching a lot of people nowadays, sometimes they don’t know it’s house music but they like it, so I’m very happy to see how it is right now.

How is the clubbing scene in Brazil? Do you think it’s really different from the European and the American ones?

Brazil is more like a trendy place, if something is trendy, you can find it in Brazil right now. So, can you imagine a country bigger than Europe playing commercial music? I go crazy! If you ask whether we have a house music scene in Brazil, I have to say no, we don’t. But, anyway, there is a good amount of people who likes dance music in Brazil, but it’s different and it’s always trendy. And if you ask me what’s the dance music in Brazil right now, I would say it’s more techy, tech house or techno and this more in South Brazil. But if you ask me “Oh wow! I go to Brazil next week, where can I dance?” I don’t have a tip to give you, maybe some parties. If you are lucky to get there for a week and you find parties, go there!
It’s really hard for me sometimes to live in that country, so far from the clubbing scene and from house music, because that’s the music I chose, the music I play and in Brazil we don’t have a house music scene, but as I said, I just have to take a plane and fly away, where the music is.

Right in front of you, there’s a selection of canvas, that’s what we call our Artists’ “Gallery Wall”, showcasing some of our ideals and inspirational figures from the international underground music scene. Is there anyone among them who has influenced you or whom you’re very close to?

Frankie is definitely a big inspiration, he was like a big brother for me. Every time I had a problem, I would have called Frankie, we used to get in touch via Skype, video calls together. Frankie always had an answer for everything you need, always, he was like a Buddha, he was like an oracle, anything you wanted to know you would have asked to Frankie Knuckles, anything you had in mind, which was a problem for you, Frankie had the answer. He was a great inspiration.
I also see Hector Romero, David Morales, Dimitri From Paris, who is my brother too, I like that bitch, I like him a lot, he is my favourite French, but he is not French actually (laughs).

Our digital platform, House of Frankie, was born as a project dedicated to Frankie Knuckles, and more in general, as a tribute to house music. Do you have any memory of him?

When I met him it was 1992, I went to New York to see Frankie at Sound Factory Bar, but we didn’t know each other back then. So, I was the whole night watching Frankie and thinking “I have to go to the DJ booth, I have to talk to him.” But there was no way I could make it because he was in a special place where you would go upstairs, there was a closed door you couldn’t open from the outside, only from the inside. At the end of the night I said I would go there and when somebody opened the door, I got in and I stayed there. It was like 6 am, the end of the night. When Frankie finished his DJ set, I went to talk to him, and as he has always been opened for everybody, I introduced myself, saying that I was from Brazil, that I was there for him, that I liked his music, etc. And then, we started to talk, we talked about music, and at the end I said to him it was a great night, that I would love to have for myself the music he played that night. So, he turned to the right side, he got a DAT tape, which was a digital tape. He recorded his DJ set all night on that tape, so, he made a signature upon the tape and then gave it to me, saying that was our ring, “This is our ring, so keep it forever!” And I still have that tape. Because of that we became friends, but back then I could meet Frankie from time to time, when I travelled and he was the same place I was. We were distant from each other, so we weren’t close friends yet. But there was a special moment in London, where we had a friend in common, Silky, a great tech house DJ. Silky said: “Look, I’m here with Frankie in his hotel, c’mon, come and check us out!” So, I went to the hotel and it was the first time we had a real relaxing time to talk together and enjoy our time together. I started to tell jokes because we were all so relaxed and I remember him putting his hand on my shoulder saying that he didn’t know I was so funny. And that moment we became real friends, maybe because I’m funny (laughs). So, those are two special moments for me with Frankie.

Thank you so much DJ Meme!

Thank you very much, it was a pleasure! The pleasure is all mine, trust me! I love this place, I love the work you are doing. For me, this is the most important radio show in the house music scene nowadays, really! That’s why I’m here! It’s a pleasure, thank you!

Listen to DJ Meme’s latest releases on Traxsource!

Video Filmed and Edited by Samantha Faini.

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