Def Mix don and NYC OG David Morales is about to launch his new label Diridim Records. We called him up to find out more...
David Morales is in a good place right now. Now based in Italy, he’s swapped the NYC hustle for a more continental pace of life, and it’s clearly paying off: since last summer he’s collaborated with Luciano, launched a new label with Moblack (MoDef) and released a whole string of singles such as Hela, Save Me and the scene smash Father. He tells us he’s sitting on more new material than he has in a long time, and he’s about to launch one of his biggest projects in years: Diridim Records.
Drawing a line in the sand between his legacy as an original house music pioneer and his future as a genre statesman, Diridim (and its floor-focused offshoot Diridim Trax) will be a place for Morales to sign and develop new artists, release his own material and, in his own words, celebrate global house music that crosses all subgenre boundaries and borders.
An entirely fresh project from the man who founded the legendary Def Mix with Frankie Knuckles, Satoshi Tomiie and Judy Weinstein, he promises that the only thing 'classic' about Diridim will be the mentality and value behind the releases. No weekly banger blast-offs, no over-extended artist roster; Morales wants to give each release the space it needs to develop and us fans the time to digest it.
So it’s only fair we gave him the opportunity to tell us - and you - a little more about it…
In with the new! Let’s start with MoDef…
"That was mostly down to Moblack. He picked up on some records I’d previously released on Def Mix two years back. Moblack Records is getting a lot of recognition. They’re one of the strongest labels to represent the Afro-house scene right now. I wanted to do some big vocal Afro-house records so we worked together.
"I love so many South African vocalists: Toshi is incredible, for example. We’ve already done two records together, and there are many more acts out there that I want to produce. There’s a vibe out there, a real scene. So the idea for MoDef is to really celebrate that side of house music which I feel doesn’t get represented as well as it should. I need to tell you about the singer on my latest record for MoDef, Save Me.
"That’s her. She’s Malaysian, she’s 16 and she'd never sung in a studio before. She’s the daughter of my percussionist Steve Thornton. He’s a very famous percussionist, one of the best in the world. Sabreena was with us in the studio and Steve had shown me videos of her humming these beautiful melodies, so I suggested she went in the booth and played around. Let me tell you, she was such a natural. I came up with the lyric idea of 'save me' and told her to try it out. She was perfect! She looks like a baby Sade and has such a voice. So that’s the level of talent we’re talking about, the vibe we’ve got with MoDef."
And now we have Diridim...
"We do. So let’s go back for a second… everyone knows Def Mix. It was about the evolution and the defining of a sound going right back from the 80s to the 90s going into the 2000s between myself and Frankie. We never operated like a record label per se; we didn’t put out records for the sake of it. We just wanted to put our own music out there and, because of that, Def Mix has its sound, its legacy and its fans. But I don’t want that legacy to confuse what Diridim will be."
So it's a fresh start - a blank canvas?
"That’s right. Diridim Records is the next step in my evolution. It’s a haven for good, global house records. Whether it’s Red Zone-style records or soulful or tribal or tech, I love it all, I play it all, I make it all. That’s what Diridim is about: a brand-new canvas with no emphasis on the history and all focus on the future. I want to sign new artists, singers, producers. I want to entertain the new DJs, the new generation and help them.
"I also want to celebrate the more electronic sounds, not just that classic sound people will know me and Def Mix for. Yes, there’ll be some classic sounds but I’m also reaching out more and starting something new so having the fresh new brand means, I hope, that people are more open-minded.
"There’ll actually be two labels: Diridim and Diridim Trax. Diridim will feature the vocals while Diridim Trax will be more about the instrumentals: Red Zone-style stuff, DJ tools and loops and creative things for the mix. Like the type of stuff I do on Disko 45 as Disko Headz - we need these type of records and tools as DJs!"
Something to spice up the mix?
"If you’re not spicing up a mix then what are you doing up there? I have some crazy tools to release that will make people say, ‘Really? That’s David?’. I’m still a DJ at heart and still love creating things on the fly. Mixing elements and creating something new. So you can expect a lot of those type of tools and releases to come under the Diridim umbrella, too."
And of course your own productions?
"Oh, everything I make will come out on the label because I promised myself a long time ago I would never be a slave to a record label again in my life. If I make a record today, I want to put it out tomorrow. But I know I have to be careful with what I release and when I release it. I don’t just want to fire things out too quickly. I see a lot of labels just chucking out releases but there’s no promotion, no energy behind it, no investment. It’s crazy. You’re responsible for working a product, have some respect for it!"
Yeah, I get that impression from some labels. Just bang-bang-bang with releases, and no real push behind them…
"You will do, because the UK was the worst for that type of behaviour. Back in the late 80s, early 90s the UK labels would just fling it all on the wall and see what stuck. It really felt like there was no artist development at all.
"I remember when I mixed Dirty Cash. It was a big record for me. I went to the label and said it was massive, and they said they weren’t going to work it because it wasn’t working. I said, ‘Work it? You haven’t even tried working it!’. They threw it out and did nothing. It felt like if it didn’t get traction instantly they just moved on to the next one. I mixed the record anyway and it ended up being No 2 in the charts. Mercury in the US picked it up, bam boom, nutshell, album deal. That’s how it should work.
"But that still goes on today in a different way - things are moving too fast, there’s a lot of technology but no investment in promotion. Not just music but movies, TV, everything. People don’t have enough time to digest a record."
There is just a hell of a lot of talent around - technology is more accessible, there are more resources to get stuff out there.
"You’re right. There’s just too much information! There’s a lot of great music out there but so much of it falls through the cracks. You can’t keep up and things get lost. So with Diridim, I want to work the music in the way I want it to be worked. Anyone I sign has to get 100% of my time and effort and attention.
"If I’m signing a record, it ain’t just to stick it on the wall and say ‘Fuck off’. I want to invest in promotion, maybe a video, graphics, art, whatever it needs. This is me evolving, sonically and as a businessman. I want to launch other people’s music that I find interesting and exciting and will represent my brand. And it has to be done properly."
Can you tell us what you’ve signed so far?
"I have an artist from Italy, Alex Uhlmann. I’m doing a record with Joe Roberts who you’ll know from Back In My Life back in the day. I have a track with Janice Robinson called Freedom, I’m working with blondewearingblack - I love her sound, I find it very interesting. These are the type of artists I’m interested in. People who represent a global sound.
"I want to represent the world, you know? I’ve been known for representing New York house and the New York sound, but I want to represent music how I hear it and how it’s evolved with the technology."
Like a timelessness or a universal groove that all house DJs can enjoy?
"Yeah, exactly. I don’t want to represent just one thing. A great record is a great record. A great example of that universal groove recently was Camelphat & Elderbrook’s Cola record. It’s well balanced. The tech people love it, the commercial people love the hookline and there’s a real groove. That’s what I mean about global. Records everyone can identify with.
"I know some of it will fall through the cracks, because that’s the way the game is today, but I’m optimistic and I’m very happy with what I’m hearing and what I want to release from other artists and my own solo music."
So when does this all start to roll out?
"I’m looking at the beginning of March but I’m not rushing things because the whole idea is to be more selective about the music. Everything has to be at a level that has value, otherwise it’s not fair to the people I sign!
"Who am I paying attention to? I’m paying attention to the artists, to the fans and the people. I have to. It’s my name, it’s my brand, I have to do it right and make sure everything’s as perfect as it can be. When it does kick off, there’ll be a release every month and by the summer time I hope a lot of people will know exactly what Diridim is all about."
Words: Dave Jenkins