Hi-tech soul out of East Los Angeles.
Back in the '90s, a phone call to Submerge HQ established an enduring link between Detroit and East LA. When "Mad" Mike Banks found out Chicanos from Southern California were interested in UR records, he took an immediate interest, sensing a common ground between Los Angeles's Latino enclaves and the black neighborhoods of Detroit. LA producers like Esteban Adame, DJ Dex and Santiago Salazar would subsequently travel from LA to Detroit to apprentice at Submerge, and Adame's piano remains a key element in UR's "high tech jazz" band, Galaxy 2 Galaxy.
Adame grew up in East Los Angeles, a 96% Latino suburb of LA, and cut his teeth in the area's rough and tumble backyard party and rave scenes. He shouts out these roots throughout his catalogue—there's a track called "Where's The Map Point" on his recent 12-inch for Dolly—but his musical practice has since expanded far beyond ditch parties. Along with making Detroit-flavoured melodic techno, Adame plays with a jazz trio, conducts a high-school band and produces noisy modular techno as Frequencia.
In his RA podcast, Adame touches on modern techno and deep house while playing his own tunes alongside music from LA peers and collaborators like Silent Servant and Santiago Salazar. He's also included a few classics, making the mix feel like an update on the backyard party sound.
What have you been up to recently?
I've been in the studio mostly. Been working with my jazz trio. Splitting time between that and production.
How and where was the mix recorded?
It was recorded in my studio at home with two 1200s, two CDJs and a Pioneer mixer.
Can you tell us about the idea behind the mix?
I wanted to play a mixture of records I liked. Some of them I rarely get a chance to play outside of my studio, and it progresses into stuff that I like to play in clubs. I also wanted to include some LA cats like Flylo and SaRa mixed up with some tracks that I used to play in backyard parties. I also wanted to include some classics, a couple of my own tracks and some current stuff.
You came up in the East LA backyard and rave scene then apprenticed under Mike Banks at UR. Is there a natural connection between Detroit and East LA?
The big one I've noticed is how music is a part of anything social. There is always music; city events, car shows, whatever, music is always present. And just like Detroit, East Los is a working class town, come the weekend it's party time. So again, you hear music coming from everywhere, people throwing parties. The best part about East LA was that backyard parties rarely got shut down like in other parts of LA. Unlike Detroit, in East Los there is not a lot of interaction between the Black and Latino communities. If I had to pick a part of LA that most resembles the dynamic of Detroit, I would say Watts. There are so many Latino families there living together with Black families.
Banks always felt there was a natural connection with Black and Latino families, and since we work the same jobs, our kids go the same schools, we play the same sports together, we should be making music together. That was the idea behind bringing guys like myself, Santiago Salazar and Dex out to be a part of UR after Rolando.
We saw you rip it on piano at a Galaxy 2 Galaxy show earlier this year. How has formal training changed your approach to dance music?
Thanks, appreciate that! It was a hindrance at first. I would ignorantly make music that felt good and that in theory was incorrect, striving for a good loop that would sound good on the dance floor, something I would play in a DJ set.
But once I started learning how to play keys I realized my tracks had lost the groove. I had to learn how to shut off the theory and think like a DJ to regain the groove. My tracks became really "musical" and harmonically dense and the groove was lost.
What are you up to next?
I'm still in the studio finishing up a stack of tracks from this summer. I've collaborating with Banks and getting a release ready for Happy Records, the UR sub-label that was a platform for more dance floor-oriented soulful stuff. That should be out soon. Trying to juggle that with being a father.