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Split Personality: Maceo Plex & Maetrik

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Electronic music has many faces though for artists it is important to have a well-defined identity to enjoy success. Whilst a cohort of artists are renowned and make a career with their genre-defying eccentricity this can itself becoming the defining feature with which fans identify. Occasionally an artist establishes themselves in multiple planes, albeit a tremendously rare story of success. Despite years spent in the shadows of fame and accomplishment Eric Estornel persevered, producing techno under the guise of Maetrik with a debut release going to press in 2000. Despite plugging away with releases and relatively small scale club appearances the sudden propulsion to fame and celebrity with his alter-ego Maceo Plex was perhaps not the linear progression that Estornel had expected. If one listens over the impressive back catalogue of Maetrik’s work, the polished composition and attention to detail is obvious and serves as a stark reminder of how difficult success can be in this fickle industry.

Now, having enjoyed the successes of the deep house boom, Estornel is ready to again push the sound at the root of his ties with electronic music. The darker, more stripped back and arguably more interesting style afforded by Maetrik is the perfect tonic to a prolonged period of soulful and deep basslines and melodies.

On the background of his successes as Maceo Plex and the quality of Maetrik’s back catalogue it’s all but certain that Maetrik is on the brink of a surge in popularity. Particularly in view of the direction that electronic dance music appears to be taking. We thought it prudent to tie the man down as he prepares for a double header in London, playing as Maceo Plex on the first night and as Maetrik on the second. Estornel gave DT an insight into the artist that is Maetrik, as well as the lessons that he has learnt from working with the big white chiefs of the electronic music world.

You could argue that one name is sufficient regardless of whether you release different styles of music. What’s the advantage in your opinion of having more than one moniker under which you release music?

It was just that I had released so many records when I started out under the name of Maetrik with darker sounds that it felt a little weird to suddenly switch to a deeper, housier sound. I came up with a new name and it stuck. Now I’m just juggling between the two, though they do mix from time to time when I do something that’s a little bit darker but comes out as Maceo Plex for example. So it’s a good way of dealing with labels and a good way of separating the sounds so the fans know what they’re going to get.

So Maetrik’s a darker sound to what you’re known more famously for?

It’s not only darker, it’s also much better sound design with much more intricate programming. The ideas are also a lot more abstract as are some of the effects. Emphasis is on the weirdness whereas the emphasis of Maceo Plex is on the soulfulness or the melody or groove. The Maetrik tracks have groove but they just have a far crazier sound design.

What’s your attraction to the alternative, abstract sounds?

I’m a synth geek at heart and I’ve been doing it for 20 years now. I’ve heard so many different types of sounds and when I’m not listening to dance music I’m listening to experimental or a lot of weird electro and so it comes through in my Maetrik productions. I guess it’s the sci-fi feel to the sounds, robotic sounds, shit like that…

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So some of your inspiration is drawn from your interests outside of music…

Yeah, sci-fi, futurism, futuristic art and stuff like that. It comes through in the Maetrik tracks.

Who do you hold in high regard that you feel has been able to combine an abstract edge to their productions within the realms of techno and house?

I’d say that Andrew Weatherall was one of them in the 90’s with Two Lone Swordsmen. He had some really weird sounds with sort of electro beats but I can’t even explain what they were. There are too many artists to mention, though Andrew Weatherall and Anthony Rother are a couple of artists who have done that style really well. More recently though I’ve been listening to a lot of super dark techno, there are a lot of new artists with some really cool sounds coming out.

So would you say that you go through phases listening to different styles of music? Is it a mood-based thing?

I always have listened to darker stuff because the sounds are really cool, but yes, mood does play a part too. If it’s a sunny part of the year and I’m hanging out with friends by the pool I might listen to something a bit housier. Right now it’s winter, I’m at home in my villa a lot and what’s currently interesting to me is sounds like that rather than happy uplifting stuff. It is a mood thing but I will listen to everything from soulful house from New York and Chicago all the way through to dark techno.

And does your mood play a role in the direction in which you want to take a crowd when DJing? How confined are you by the persona of Maetrik to stick to a certain formula?

It’s not such an issue as when I’m playing as Maetrik it can get pretty deep too. I can be playing some deep techno for example. I guess I can feel confined if I’ve got some fans there who aren’t wanting to hear that but I’m in the mood for it, though I’ll generally find a way of expressing myself and making them happy at the same time. I’ll go into some super deep techno that isn’t housey or generic and still has that groove. But yeah, it’s a good point, it can feel a little confining to play as one name and that’s the style that everybody expects. I always find a way to do it though.

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