The breakthrough came quickly. Erick Morillo, as one half of house/reggae duo Reel 2 Real, unleashed the club monster with the Godzilla-size hook “I Like to Move It” in 1993, just about a year after he started getting serious about music.
Seventeen years gone and you could still hear “Move It” played in DJ sets tonight. In that same time, how many producers would have been left on the side of the road? Yet Morillo endures as one of the most sought-after in the game. It’s a feat worth fêting.
With Tao Group set to open its newest super-venue, Marquee, at the Cosmopolitan on Dec. 31, Morillo—already dubbed as the group’s go-to major-weekend jock—is also to become Vegas’ newest major monthly resident with 10 dates lined up for Marquee in 2011 including New Year’s Eve, plus his perennial Memorial Day and Labor Day appearances at Tao.
Just to keep everyone in the proper frame of mind for Morillo’s marathon sets—notorious for stretching well into the a.m.—Tao brought the DJ in on Halloween to spin at Morillo Mayhem. It was a night that saw him go head-to-head with DJ trio Swedish House Mafia, who brought their own Masquerade Motel event from Ibiza’s Pacha, where Morillo has had a residency for 13 years, to The Joint.
“The wonderful thing about Vegas is it can sustain six Cirque du Soleil shows at the same time on one night and they’ll all be busy. There’s only one Vegas, just like there’s only one Ibiza,” Morillo says, laughing off the idea that there would be any kind of rivalry between the Mafia and himself. “I love those guys and they love me, so we’ll party after.”
If anything, this is just the opening salvo for dance music enthusiasts who will face some tough choices in the near future. Morillo’s Marquee residency will occur on select Saturday nights in 2011—just like three-time World’s Best DJ, Tiësto’s monthly engagements at The Joint. In fact, half of Morillo’s dates land on the same nights that Tiësto will be in town.
Thanks to DJ/producer David Guetta, the Black Eyed Peas and Lady Gaga, Morillo says American pop music is starting to follow the same path Europe has been on for the last 20 years. That’s not news here, of course, where there’s an established DJ culture, but the idea of DJ residencies leading to destination travel is something that’s been taking on a life of its own at least since Paul Oakenfold launched his full-scale production show, Perfecto, at Rain.
“I think not just Vegas, but the U.S. as a whole, it’s finally happened: Dance music has become the culture. It’s become the culture in America. I see all the clubs that used to play only hip-hop, now they play dance music. Granted, they play commercial dance music, but it’s a start. It’s resonating with people,” Morillo said. “People realize it’s such a great escape, a great place to go after a hard week of school or work. It’s a great way to go and dance your problems away, basically.
“I see the [Vegas] scene just getting bigger and bigger. I’ve seen the scene go from parties eight or nine years ago where you didn’t know who was who—who were the gamblers, who were the fans. Now you know people are there for the party.”
Frequent-flier miles will also factor greatly in creating that party. Morillo, spurred by the success of Swedish House Mafia, plans on teaming up with Harry Romero and Jose Nunez (“They’re my Mafia,” he says of the pair, who are inked to his own Subliminal Records label) to perform at Miami’s Ultra Music Festival and Coachella. He’ll also commute between Vegas and Ibiza in the summer.
Morillo’s Subliminal Sessions has been a Wednesday-night staple in Ibiza since 1997. Even with that kind of veteran experience, he’s being careful about building something new at Marquee instead of just replicating what he’s done off the Spanish coast.
“I don’t normally do residencies. I don’t take them very lightly. I had the longest running residency in Ibiza at Pacha on Wednesdays—13 years so far. That’s 13 summers doing every Wednesday,” he says. “[Vegas] is a high-turnover city. As far as the production values I’m bringing to it, it’s nothing like I’ve done before—even at Pacha in Ibiza. The guys at Marquee have really let me out of the cage. It’s going to be a complete experience from head to toe. From the time you walk in to the time you leave. You’ve got to walk in and go, ‘Wow, what the fuck?’ It’s not only going to be an aural pleasure but a visual one as well.”