Don't underestimate easy listening house and its charms, though. Since 2002, Deep Explorer Music has excelled at releasing records that operate in the middle ground between dance floor utility and home listening enjoyment. Or, as José puts it, tracks that aren't "simply loops, but not constantly changing rhythms either..." In a scene dominated by music that only seems to work in one context or the other, this is no mean feat. But it's one that has clear roots. As a kid, José grew up listening to the radio on weekend nights, listening to DJs mixing pop hits together.
"I remember one of the first mixes that I heard. It was a greatest hits from Madonna. I really was charmed when I listened to all the songs linked without stop...My favorite, though, was 'Mix Favoritos' from Radio Callao in Madrid. Those guys mixed everything. Sometimes it was difficult to find the dial frequency, though, because I think they were pirates. I must still have about 40 tapes somewhere in my basement recorded on prehistoric tape from that time," says José. And it's this wide-ranging attitude that stuck with him as he began to get behind the decks himself.
He's been extraordinary lucky, though: He's found a number of clubs throughout the years that have allowed him to pursue his more underground vision. Madrid's Sybaris is his favorite at the moment. He calls it a "small but precious lounge club," a place that feels like home. It's there that he gets to play "funk, jazz, reggae, underground '80s and, of course, deep house at the end..." And when he wants to play deep house all night long, there's also The Gift, a venue run by two brothers that José claims "know well the meaning of the underground"—something that is rare in a country that, as mentioned earlier, specializes in the commercial sound of Ibiza. José admits the scene there isn't very strong. But he says that it's logical, as Spain was never "a cradle of the sound." Sounding a bit like someone arriving at the fifth stage of grief, he concludes thusly: "Deep house remains an underground movement in Spain. And I'm OK with that."
José has come to terms with deep house's underdog status in the country largely, it seems, because of support both local and global. His brother, Javier, helps out with the label, mastering new releases for the imprint, acting as sound engineer and sounding board for new compositions and remixes. They've collaborated plenty too, with Javier acting as producer on José's tunes, and José remixing Javier's work in return. It's a symbiotic relationship: Javier is the studio genius, José is the DJing talent with a head for the mundane tasks that keep a label afloat—public relations, finances, A&R.
But while José claims that 2010 will be more focused on these and other emerging talents—"we want to edit and support all those new cats that are making good music, but nobody knows"—Deep Explorer has plenty of time for veterans of the scene. Mike Huckaby, Scott Ferguson, Kai Alce and Marvin Belton have all released work on the imprint, with Reggie Dokes also set to get special attention via an upcoming release.
It's been working. Lawrence, Redshape, Prosumer and Agnès all count themselves as fans, and Trus'me tapped both José and Javier to represent the country at the Disco 3000 festival this year in Croatia, suggesting that their small scene in Madrid was among the only interesting house music being currently produced in the country. Judging by 2009's output alone, he may be right: The Lady Blacktronika returned to the imprint with an EP whose true hypnotic power is shown in the mix provided by Dubbyman below when it's mixed into Kai Alce's anthemic "Power Thru Pt. 3." Speaking of Alce, "KZR Gruv" from his Alpha Revisited EP "conjure[d] twilight reverie beneath pads as luxurious as 1000-thread count linens" for RA writer Chris Burkhalter. And the label's latest, Above Smoke's Time features none other than Alton Miller on vocals and Stereociti on guitar on a set of songs that reflect Javier's love of jazz as much as his passion for deep house.
But while the accolades have rolled in for the quality of work that José and Javier have been putting together lately, José isn't too fussed about the increasing amount of international gigs that have come with it. While he agrees that he now gets more than ever before, he also says that to leave "my country to play is something that I don't care a lot [about] because I like to play next to my people here in Spain. [It's] good to know other places, but I don't like to live in airports like other DJs."
It's a curious revelation for someone that helms an imprint called Deep Explorer Music. Magellan, Columbus, Ponce de León; it's in the Spanish blood, right? But, then again, maybe it makes sense. Most producers will tell you—when you ask them why they use outdated software—that there's an innate urge to master something before moving on. Only seven years in, José and Javier feel like they still have plenty of ground to cover musically with the label, and plenty of local heads to convert. And like any good explorer, they both know that you sometimes find the most interesting things close to home. Indeed, in an era in which the internet has changed the face of globalism, that may just be the most adventurous statement of all.