From the days he was a kid with dreams of being a DJ to his current globetrotting days, and Ibiza residency with Café Mambo and Bob Sinclar’s Pure Pacha - Paris by Night, Paris-born, Erik Hagleton has come a long way since the mid 1990s when he started out in dance music in suburban Paris.
Name changes, underground club residencies, a surprise chance call up from French electronica icon Bob Sinclar, the 40-year-old London-Ibiza based DJ/producer has been through it all, bringing with him is own unique style of house music which he describes as “happy underground”.
All that from him and more, as we had a chat from a café in the heart of Ibiza from the man himself last week, just prior to his ending his season in Ibiza to start his road travelling on Mambo on Tour, which brings him, amongst other stops in Asia and Europe, to Kuala Lumpur this 5 October (tonight, as a matter of fact) for a special guest set up at Marini’s on 57.
Your current residency with Mambo, how long have you been playing Café Mambo?
I started Mambo, I think 5 years ago, with Bob SInclar. We started Paris by Night at Pacha 4 or 5 years ago, and we started a few pre-parties at Café Mambo and then they realised that my music was something special. Every time I was playing there, something happened, so I started to play more and more, a few times a year, and the year after, maybe 10 times, and then they asked me to be an official resident DJ. They really enjoy the fact that I am playing different music, trying to bring something different and not playing like everybody else. I spend a lot of time, thinking, searching, making edits and stuff, to play different. It works at Mambo.
Before Mambo, how did you start in the dance music industry?
I started like every kid that dreams to be a DJ, but back in the day, it was not such a big thing as today. It was not really a job when I started because I started like more than 20 years ago. I’m 40 years and I started when I was 17. I started working like different bars and stuff. I’m from the suburbs of Paris so I grew up over there. But then you start to spend even more time on music on producing music and you meet more people that introduce you to other people and you create our network and you grow up like that.
It was a good 10 years doing stuff here and stuff there. And then I’ve been a resident DJ in Paris for 7 years in one of the best underground clubs (then). It was called The Red Light, but I was working under another DJ name back in the day. When that club closed, I decided to stop everything and restart fresh – new name, new music style, exactly what I like to play, to feel. So I created this Erik Hagleton name. My real name is Damien but I couldn’t find a suitable DJ name with Damien. So my second name is Erik, so I used that name and the Hagleton name – I wanted something that doesn’t sound French at, like “where is this guy coming from”. Hagleton is a play of words from the Ableton Live, the software for producing.
When did you decide on the name change, and why?
That was I think in 2010. You need to understand that the DJ life is hard. People think that it is interesting, you get to travel. As long as you don’t have a big name, to make money or make a living like that, you need to work very, very hard. And I was at that point where I wanted to stop music, I was resident at that club, and when it closed, I felt like I didn’t achieve anything. I spent too much time on that club and not enough on my DJ career and then everything stopped I felt alone. I was at that part of my life when I had to take a decision, should I stop or carry on. So I started Erik Hagleton, my own record label, and started releasing and producing the music I like with no pressure. If it works, amazing, if it doesn’t then I don’t care. I just want to do it and have fun, and no pressure.
How did the chance to work with Bob Sinclar come about?
Everything was moving slowly, I was happy with it, and one day, the biggest thing in my life happened. I got a call from Bob Sinclar, whom I never met before. And he called me one morning, and he said, this is Bob Sinclar, and I thought, is this is a joke?
It turned out, we have a friend in common, who sent him my work. And he (Sinclar) told me that “this is not the music I like, or play, but listening to your music, I can tell there is something. I feel something in the way you build your track, the way you track grooves and he told me, I want to meet you, I want to work with you”.
It kind of changed my life, we started to make projects and produced together, we were making a lot of IDs together, and a year or two after that we created Paris by Night. We made the “Paris by Night” album together, then we started Paris by Night at Pacha, then at Café Mambo. It really brought something into my life. Someone trusted me, what I was trying to do musically. I’m glad I met Bob Sinclar.
Your music style and production, you’re calling it happy underground?
It’s been a big step in my career. It’s helped me a lot to make my name bigger in the industry. I’ve always been very groovy when I started DJing, I was a resident DJ in a very commercial club, I used to play all kinds of music, and by doing that, you learn the real job of a DJ is to make people dance and people have fun. Whatever music you play you have to make them happy and I think that I feel that now, especially my music today. I like to play underground, I’m not a commercial DJ or radio DJ. I like house music something very groovy but I’m trying to be different, trying to make edits or a special bootleg.
I call my music style happy underground. Please myself and please the crowd. I’ve remixed Madonna’s “La Isla Bonita”, Rufus & Chaka Khan’s “Ain’t Nobody” this year, but in my own way, which is a very repetitive tech house but very groovy. But I make it very special to make people happy but not cheesy. My point is not to go over the limit. I remixed a lot of tracks from the 80s. It works on the disco because I think it’s not cheesy, but it’s still underground.
There’s a gap today in electronic music – it’s either very underground or very commercial and there’s not much in between. There’s a gap and I’m really the only one (bridging it). I know I touch a bigger range of people. I don’t want to make it too cheesy.
The Basement Jaxx “Jump N Shout” remix it’s been an anthem over the past couple of years, how did that come about?
By doing these edits and bootlegs one day I made “Jump ‘n Shout” but it was just for my sets. One day I played it at Pacha, two or three years ago now. And when you play a track for the first time and you see the crowd going crazy jumping. It was unbelievable. It was one of the best moments of my small career. So we sent a message with Bob Sinclar to Basement Jaxx to see whether we could release the track and it ended up being signed onto Toolroom records. And I didn’t expect anything of a success like that because all the tracks and edits I make is for my sets to make it different. I was not thinking of releasing it, but after it, it really went crazy. It’s really rare to make a track that touches the very, very underground scene to the very commercial scene. It’s been played by Nicole Moudaber, Paco Osuna to David Guetta. In between everybody played it. It’s been a year and a half since the release and still, people play it again today.
This track really represents my style; it’s very energetic, people having fun when they listen to it. And I made it with my heart, no pressure, and I’m always doing that. I remember when I did it, it was very special, it was goosebumps, in the studio.
And now, what else is happening in the studio?
I’m working on the follow up to “Jump N Shout”. I made another version last summer, which is as big. We are also relaunching Africanism with Bob Sinclar and the first release is mine ... it should be this month. Africanism has been quiet for a long time, easily 10 years. I think there is this new trend of Afro house and it’s a good time to relaunch the label.
And other projects very groovy and happy underground. It is my style, underground and happy.
What can you say about going to Malaysia since you’ve not been before?
I expect like a crowd who really like to party and very energetic and really excited for electronic music. I’m not there to play dark underground. I really expect to be really close to the crowd.
By Jason Cheah