Illich Mujica

Illich Mujica: ‘I strongly believe that we to need to fight from all angles, and as in other musical genres, dance music lovers also need a proper soundtrack to do so’

Illich Mujica is a Venezuelan-born, Brooklyn-based DJ specializing in techno and house music. He has played at venues like Output, House of Yes, The 303, Le Bain, and Cielo with artists like DJ Tennis, Max Cooper, Joris Voorn, Carl Craig, and Marc Romboy. He hs been hand-picked by Eduardo Castillo to be part of his Leverage Agency. While he is adaptable to almost any setting, he excels at sets that combine a kaleidoscope of moods, from dark and sexy to uplifting and emotional.

We had the chance to talk with Illich aligned to the release of his latest mix ‘Soundtrack to the Resistance’.

Electronic Groove: Hi Illich, thanks for the time to chat with us. How did you get involved with electronic music?

Illich Mujica: Thanks guysI grew up in Caracas, Venezuela; and as a teenager and young adult your social (and early sexual) life heavily depends on how good of a salsa and merengue dancer you are. As a tall, slinky and clumsy dude, my social life at parties was disappointing. So, like many disaffected teenagers, I turned to heavy metal, alternative and rock music. I loved the fact that there were no rules to how you “dance” to any of that stuff, it was angry, and liberating to me. At 19, I got drafted to play semi-pro baseball for a summer in the training camps in Florida. When that didn’t work out, I moved to Miami to go to an architecture school. At the time I started listening to some acts that straddled the line between rock and electronic (dance) music, like The Prodigy, and also through an evil ex-girlfriend discovered industrial music – Nitzer Ebb, Front 242, and others – and intelligent dance music (IDM) like Autecher, Squarepusher, Boards of Canada, etc. Being in Miami it was hard to escape the Winter Music Festival every March and when she broke up with me on the eve of WMC because I wanted to party sober and couldn’t party at her level, I decided to explore that thing called techno, because it was the closest cousin to those metallic sounds and aesthetics of industrial, rock, metal & IDM music. After that, I went to a backpacking Europe trip and passed through Berlin and stumbled upon the original Tresor by chance. A few years after that my dear friend Navid introduced me to Detroit techno and the rest is history…

EG: You come from Venezuela, now living in New York. What was the reason of this movement?

Illich Mujica: After Miami, I came to do my Masters of Architecture at Columbia University, two weeks before 9/11 happened. They say it takes a decade to call yourself a New Yorker, but I think I became one that day. Columbia is where I met my best friend, Luis Padron, who taught me how to mix vinyl.

EG: New York is a vibrant city, would you say living there has changed your life?

Illich Mujica: Oh most definitely, this city will kick your ass if you can’t keep up with it. No matter what your line of work is, you are always competing with the best of the best at a global scale, and while it is often inspiring, it can also be incredibly draining. New York City is no longer a place for starving artists and bohemian neighborhoods, it has been years since it has been going through a savage gentrification of most of its creative and authentic neighborhoods. The city can make you a cynic, and it gives you a thick skin, but it has also provided me with an incredibly deep level of knowledge and culture that I am positive I could only get in a handful of other cities… Oh hai Berlin, what’s up!

EG: How would you define your current musical style?

Illich Mujica: For the past decade my sound has been melodic, emotion-heavy techno. But, ironically enough, I am having a bit of a Latin renaissance to my sound. Last year I was blown away at seeing how another Venezuelan DJ, Eduardo Castillo, draws and highlights the timbers, textures and nuances from our Latin American roots. I am now incorporating a lot more traditional Latin sounds, grooves and beats, including Salsa-tinged things, and meshing it with my signature sound, which can go from dark and sexy to uplifting and sometimes a little mindfuck-ish. Truth be told, I have shied away from techno (or at least playing full-on techno sets), but that doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t drop some of it here and there to spice things up. 😉

“I knew I had to craft a mix that had a tone of encouragement, rage, and underlying darkness, but something that ultimately could become a rallying cry for the work that needs to be done and the fight that needs to be fought to protect our democracy”

EG: Your mix for EG is entitled ‘Soundtrack to the Resistance’, can you explain more about that?

Illich Mujica: Definitely, I have always wanted to do a conceptual DJ mix, I had done 3 of them in the past that dealt with the loss of loved ones, but have always wondered if there is any space for dance music in the realm of politics and activism, given how much this type of music is associated with aspects of decadence and excess. Like everyone else who wakes up and hears horror story after horror story of what the current US administration is doing, politics have been in my mind. One day, while walking through Manhattan I ran into an immigrant’s march, and the NYPD had this recorded loop about public safety that sounded so incredibly dystopian, almost out of an Orwellian page form 1984! I immediately took my phone and recorded and sampled the scene, I knew I had to do a DJ mix with this somehow. I also got to recently watch the documentary ‘Before the Flood’, and have been listening a lot to Laurie Anderson’s soundtrack to her film ‘Heart of a Dog’. The former is just the most depressive eye-opener of what we have done to the planet and the irreversible path of destruction into which we are heading, and the latter was a series of spoken word sound bites that represent the background dialogue of a film that explores living in NYC in a post 9/11 world. The intro I mixed jumps in time, from the era when I arrived to NYC (2 weeks before 9/11) and what that felt like in this city and the ominous global repercussion of this endless culture of terror and how we played into the hands of the terrorists, (this is where I used Anderson’s sample), to the current state of affairs which could easily be traced back to that fateful Fall of 2001… Laurie Anderson feels so ominous but so right when she says that “we had crossed through a door, and we would never be going back…” .

So I knew I had to craft a mix that had a tone of encouragement, rage, and underlying darkness, but something that ultimately could become a rallying cry for the work that needs to be done and the fight that needs to be fought to protect our democracy and the environment during the dystopian times of one of the most harmful U.S. administrations in history.

This very personal mix is heavy on field recordings, samples from speeches and even soundtracks. It features ‘Lo Air’ by Johannes Brecht, a track that is part of the Iceberg Songs project against Climate Change, in which a group of researchers and scientists field-recorded the sounds of the icebergs melting, and provided those to a group of selected musicians to use in new productions.

It also has a track featuring a famous Iranian singer – Iran is one of the countries in the Muslim travel ban. A dear Iranian friend who I consider my sister tells me that she chants, “Shut me down if I am saying nonsense (or if I am saying anything but the truth)”.

It is a heavy mix, but these are heavy times. While many rightly believe that dance music should provide us with escape from the constant barrage of shocking news, I strongly believe that we to need to fight from all angles, and as in other musical genres, dance music lovers also need a proper soundtrack to do so.

“The tracks I am working on at the moment are in the realm of experiments, but I’m hoping that before the end of summer there will be some creations that could see the light of day”

EG: Tell us about the first months of 2017. How have they been in term of gigs, any special one worth mentioning?

Illich Mujica: This year started in an incredibly good note! I was lucky to play a very special back-to-back-to-back sunrise set at Habitas Tulum with Eduardo Castillo and Goldcap. I was in the middle flanked by these two maestros with a full army of Ableton Live instruments and I had one CDJ. The flow was technically complex and challenging but musically it was incredible! The set was short but one of the most memorable sets I have ever played, and the crowd at Habitas has no comparison. I can’t wait to do something like that again!

EG: Are you working on new music? Any special advance you would like to share with us?

Illich Mujica: The tracks I am working on at the moment are in the realm of experiments, but I’m hoping that before the end of summer there will be some creations that could see the light of day.

EG: Can you name a few tracks that never leave your record bag?

Illich Mujica: Earlier this year Timo Jahn’s sent me an advanced promo of Ben Bohmer’s latest track called ‘Dissensions’. The track is included on the ‘Soundtrack to the Resistance’ DJ mix, and it is already out in Timo’s label, Freudnchen. It’s one of the best and most unique productions I have heard in a LOOONG time. It’s Jazzy, it’s dark, it’s funky, it’s melodic, it’s sexy AF and people go nuts every. single. time. I drop it. It’s like the Justin Trudeau of tracks, LOL! Other special mentions in my DJ bag right now are:

Ben Bohmer – Promise You (Ton Töpferei)
Rival Consoles –  Slow Song (Erased Tapes Records)
Jan Blomqvist – Dancing People Are Never Wrong (Armada Deep)
Atelier Francesco – Dead End – Feat. Astrid (Tim Green Remix)(Cityfox)
Shkoon – Ala Moj Al Bahr (Goldcap Remix)(Underyourskin Records)

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