DJ Frank Mendez on Moombahton, Dave Nada, Performing in a Rainforest, and How to Craft a Killer Set
Frank Mendez mixes up some moombahton at Bar Smith.
If you've happened to listen to last year's AZ Gunslingaz moombahton comp, we probably don't need to tell you about DJ Frank Mendez's mixing skills. "Il Cattivo," his collaboration with local dubstepper Sluggo, is arguably one of the disc's best tracks and fully illustrates his abilities to craft exciting and energetic EDM.
You can also hear said talents while attending The Scenario every week at Bar Smith, which allows Mendez to showcase his moombahton mixing abilities alongside the likes of Mark "Ellery" Leech and Pickster One.
Mendez took time recently to share his approach to DJing, as well as tell some stories about performing in the rainforests of his native Puerto Rico and other adventures.
Name: Frank Mendez
AKA: DJ Mendez
Preferred genres: Moombahton, dubstep, electro-house
Current gigs: I resident at Bar Smith's Scenario Wednesdays where I proudly showcase the sounds of moombahton, tropical bass, and dub with my associate DJs Ellery and Hartbreaks. I've never worked at a place where the club owners insist on playing underground music. On Fridays, I resident at Blue Martini in City North. I pretty much rock the crowd with top 40 remixes, some my own. I've had some great times playing up there. It's a much older crowd but hip and smell nice. The rest of the time I perform at various one-off events and parties around the world.
How did you get into the DJ game? I was too young to get into nightclubs. One day I went to the most popular club during the afternoon and talked my way into promoting a night. Since I was already in as a staff member, no one ever asked for I.D. I promoted a night called 6ft Under, the DJ was using my record collection. It's a pretty insane collection now. One night he got all butt-hurt about something and I pretty much told him: "Hey man, you're using my music, I can do this shit. Go jump in a fire." And that's how I started DJing.
Where else have you performed? I've been a traveling national DJ for decades now. From being one of the DJs on the X-Games to touring with my own productions. Memorable moments have definitely been playing in my island home of Puerto Rico on the side of a mountain in the rainforest for 2,400 dancing kids, playing Ultra Music Festival several years, WMC...I really could go on and on. Such great times, I am utterly thankful to live a life of music.
What bygone club do you miss the most? In Phoenix? Probably nextDOOR in the art district. I had great times djing there for Johnny Chu. They let me live in a house right behind it. I would wash up, walk across the alley and into my DJ booth. RULED! In Miami, I'd have to say NEMESIS, a Gothic club we had. The building was an old funeral house on US-1 in Fort Lauderdale. My friend Danny Bled and I were the residents. Oh I sure do miss those fogged out blue lights.
Craziest shit you've seen at a gig? Sober? Okay. It was probably in San Juan, Puerto Rico. I was DJing at this club called Warehouse, I turn around, and there's literally a pile of hot girls making out with each other. I, of course, dove in after my set. It was only proper. I used to be the resident DJ for Fetish Factory's Alter Ego event in South Florida, But that's a whole other story.
Do you have a mantra or philosophy when it comes to DJing? I actually "DJ" which means that I still use some sort of circular disc to play/control music. But most importantly is PROGRAMMING. Know your music, know your crowd, understand the vibe around you and if possible cater to it. Unless you're playing your own music , its a job, not a "gig." Entertain, people are coming out to have a good time, they don't give a fuck what your favorite jam of the week is.
How do you go about crafting your beats/music? Ancient Puerto Rican secret. I use Ableton Live Studio 8 as my main DAW. It really has revolutionized the way I make music. Never before had I worked with a program that you can virtually manipulate any sound, in key, in time, just hell yeah!
You attended the Southwest Institute of Recording Arts and Sciences. How did that training help you craft your mixes/music? It talking me the basics of studio engineering which later on in life came in quite handy. It's great to actually have an Engineering degree but I learned most by collaborating with others.
What's the key to a good gig? Good people, good vibes and good music...plus proper gear!
How do you create energy in your mixes/remixes? It creates itself, I write music spontaneously. Whatever I'm feeling at the time, I try to capture in music.
How do you pick the songs you remix? I have to be fully into the original tune. Lately I've taken on official remixes for RCA and other major labels. I have a taste and knowledge for what the masses are feeling and future hits as well. If I'm vibin' what I'm sent and see it fitting the tempos I work with, I'm innit.
How much or your work is original artistry and how much is remixing existing songs? I have been working on my 100 percent original material EP due out this summer. The edits/bootlegs/reworks are really the things I've done when I wish to take a break from working on original tunes. I take much time on perfecting my original music. Edits/Reworks I can pump out in a few hours ready for dance floors and MP3 players.
In your opinion, how do you craft an effective set? Hands down it's all about programming. I'm saying a pre-planned set. I know the music I have very well, I look at a room and [chose] what direction to go. Today's audiences are sooooo A.D.D. that you always have to switch things up. I can go in any direction and am always prepared to do so. I take people on a journey, whether it takes you to a desolate tropical beach or a poppin' party is totally up to the room.
Which blogs/sites do you regularly peruse for music? Generation Bass, Walmer Convenience, Moomba+ , Moombah-Thong, Mad Decent, Smile for Camera, Futurobeat...the list goes on and on.
Your work has gotten love from the music blogosphere, correct? Man, the blogs are my saviors. From all parts of the world too. I am so grateful to them all. Seriously. What attracted you to moombahton? Moombahton came into my life and I found my calling. It a music I feel 100 percent heart and soul. Being born and raised in Puerto Rico, it's given me even more reason to be a proud Latino. It can go in any direction. Utterly soulful with the moombahsoul, Latin ass-shakers that stay true to the origins of moombahton, to the crazy dubstep/electro fused moombahcore/nu-jump up bangers.
How would you describe moombahton to someone with no knowledge of EDM? Reggaeton/house/dubstep/electro dance music fused with awesome.
Where do you see moombahton heading? Will it blow up as dubstep? Seeing that major labels are on to it, who really knows. It's one of the most accessible tempos in dance music. I personally don't give a shit, I do this all from love. If it blows up, even better.
Have you interacted with moombahton creator Dave Nada? Dave was introduced to me by Pickster. He is now one of my biggest supporters and a true friend. Dave is really good people. I am so thankful for his support from day one. I have yet to collaborate on music with him, but I don't see it to far in the future. Nada, Heartbreak and Munchi have all become family.
What was it like working with Sluggo? Sluggo is one of the realest mofos out there. I met him while he was in his Ultrablack project. I've learned so much about sound design and making my drums pop out from him and now his production partner Tyler Blue. Sluggo has been one of the only people to stick to everything they say. I'm honored to have him as a best friend and label partner on El Cuco Recordings.
What's the reaction been like to your new EP with YMCMB?? The reaction has been amazing. Feedback from all over the world. C'mon now, it's some of the bigger names of modern hip hop. How could I go wrong? These are no-brainers for djs to get the crowds accustom to the tempo.Do moombahton and hip-hop mesh well in your opinion? If so, why?
Yeah for sure. I personally don't follow hip-hop in general, but once I lined up a vocal to my beats, the marriage was obvious. Most hip-hop/rap now is about partying and clubbin, similar to moombah.
Is moombahton conducive to dancing? It's infectious. Most ladies love the tempo too, dudes follow. Dr. Dre was right, "Slow is better."
Are your tracks being played in clubs outside of Phoenix? My tunes are being played all over the world, it's utterly humbling. Most interesting place, the middle of the ocean on some fishing boat. My Soundcloud stats are so nuts.
What's your favorite tracks of the moment? Beauty Brain & Poisound, "Bullfighter;" Telmini, "Climax" (LeDoom Remix); and the throwback: Alex Clare, "Up all Night" (Nadastrom Remix). I love this tune!
What artists have also been finding their way into your sets lately? Bro Safari, Skrillex, Pickster, Melo, Riot Earp, Nerd Rage, Killbot, JDevil, Uman, and Vegas. I love music, I could list all day.
Best thing about being a DJ? Not having to wake up in the morning .....well unless it's to catch a flight, so double WIN.
And the worst? Drunk bitches that don't understand I'm working and NOT PLAYING THEIR FUCKING REQUESTS! DIE !!! Okay, I vented. Thank you.
How is your approach different from rank and file DJs? When I go to a "gig" I play almost 80% of my own productions. Exclusive tracks and remixes, my production background as well as the huge network of DJ/producers I'm affiliated with plus flawless mixing, make me stand out from the norm. I've been know to take a dead vibeless room and turn it into a party within the first three tracks. Plus I REALLY love what I do, I dance, jump around, shoot lasers in the air, yell at the crowds and basically wild out.
What's the secret to your success? I do things from the heart and soul. I also stopped giving a shit as well as trying to sound like other people. Almost all my music is available for free downloads. If at the end of it all there's some reward, then even better. I'm just honored and grateful to be able to move others.
What misconceptions do people have about you, if any? I think since some of my productions are on the darker side of the spectrum, people think I'm unapproachable. I'm actually quite interesting if someone pry's it out of me. Other than that, not much at all.
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