DJ Sabo’s name and his Sol*Selectas label have long been held in high esteem with the alternative Latin club music scene, and he’s now a driving force behind the young moombahton movement. Although he recently relocated to LA from NYC, he sat down with us to discuss the new genre, where it’s going, and the love of reggaeton among its founders. He breaks down what makes for a good studio mix, lays out the tools he uses, and also explains why he relocated to the Left Coast.
Sabo also provided us with the second installment of our recently revived podcast series. The mix was made for SXSW to showcase the different styles of moombahton he has made over the past year. It was recorded live in one take on 2 CDJs, and a mixer. Every track except for the last one – his first original moombahton production – are available for free. The tracklist is at the bottom of the interview. - MS
What makes for a good studio mix?
For a studio mix I usually prepare the track list ahead of time, make sure all songs are in tune, and spend time on the intro and outro. The studio mix should have a theme of sorts, and generally I make them an eclectic blend of styles with varied tempos. I tend to edit some of the tracks as well so as to include as many songs as possible, without losing the flow. For live mixes I just use 2 CDJ 1000’s and a Pioneer 800 mixer, and record directly to a M-Audio Microtrack. For studio mixes I use Ableton Live. For a studio mix I tend to edit some of the tracks, extending the intros for blending from song to song, and also will add some voice-overs or sample snippets through out the mix, to coincide with the theme.
How does a studio mix differ from a DJ set?
A studio mix is more planned out and generally has a theme with an intro and outro to tie the journey together. For a live one-take mix, it’s spontaneous, and the musical journey is a direct reflection of my mood. If it’s recorded in front of a dancing crowd, then the mix is a direct reflection of the energy I’m receiving from the crowd at that particular moment.
Why’d you move to LA?
Warmer weather, more skateboarding, better quality of life (in terms of apartment size), and because LA is really the most happening city in the US right now in terms of underground music and parties. Not to mention LA has 2 or 3 radio stations which are playing non-commercial top 40 music, and that’s something that really doesn’t exist in NYC other than a few hours of special programming per week.
What benefits does that city offer over NY in terms of being a DJ, artist and/or label boss?
I’m still adjusting but I feel the benefits are that there is a lot going on in the underground scene here for music. Many big name producers and DJ’s are re-locating here and that means more creative outlets and people to collaborate with. Also in terms of licensing, we are next to the film / entertainment industry, so opportunities to get songs licensed are greater being out here. I also wanna tap into the Asian market for gigs, and being in LA the flights to Asia are much cheaper than from NYC.
[DJ Sabo - "Yo Oigo Yo Bailo feat. Nappy G"]
Your music often features live drumming. Is that you?
No I don’t play drums, but I do have some incredibly talented friends who play percussion and I generally record them. Nappy G has been on many of my early works for Sol*Selectas, he’s probably the best percussionist I’ve heard to play over electronic music.
How do your record and arrange live drumming?
I’ll record a drum session in Logic, usually having the percussionist play a few takes over the song. I’ll then edit the session, taking a few of the best loops, drum fills, or solos, and use those parts for the final mixdown of a track.
What is your studio setup?
Very basic Mac laptop, M-Audio firewire external soundcard, and a small Oxygen midi keyboard. Having been in NYC and restricted to very small work spaces in studio apartments, I had to really minimize the gear I can use (or rather fit into) the space. I have small studio monitors, and also my DJ set up to record samples from vinyl as well, but that’s pretty much it.
Your first mombahton release was a free download (assuming because of heavy sampling). Do you think a shift away from a dependence on sampling in the genre will develop as it grows?
Definitely. In this day and age hardly any one is buying music anyway, so it just seems better to give-away tunes rather than try to clear samples, and re-coup on those costs. Even a top 10 tune on Beatport or Traxsource is not selling very many downloads, so making a profit is really difficult. I’d rather post a song for free and allow more people to hear the tunes right away. Moving forward, now that the genre is established and respected, I think it’s time to make original moombahton works that are sample free, and that’s what I’m focused on now.
[LoveAvalanche - "Less Corruption feat. MC BenJammin (Sabo Remix)"]
Is that necessary for its financial sustainability?
Financial stability in the music industry right now is shaky at best. However, I do think that original moombahton works are necessary for the genre to grow and be respected by other producers who initially thought it was just a fad. It’s already happening right now with official remixes coming out, and I think this year is gonna be HUGE for Moombahton.
How do you feel about its creative development?
I think it’s amazing because there really are no rules other than the general BPM be around 108 – 110. People are making tracks that use influences from all types of music – latin, afro, disco, techno, house, rave, dubstep, soul, funk, reggae and more – and that’s what makes it exciting. Kids in Canada, Australia, Europe, South America, and all over the US are pumping out tunes and the various styles keep on coming. I think it’s these various interpretations of the genre that will keep it fresh and help it to grow.
Is there a strong appreciation for reggaeton among moombahton fans?
Me personally – hell YEAH! I’ve always loved reggaeton, particularly the older productions, many of which were at 108 bpms already. In the last few years, reggaeton moved toward a slower bling bling auto-tune imitation of main stream hip hop, and that’s ultimately what made it lose popularity in the U.S. I think. Moombahton is the dirtier, crazier cousin that reggaeton needed for the last 5 years. A lot of producers are now getting into the moombahton game who probably never even listened to reggaeton, but all the original producers of moombahton like Dave Nada, Munchi, Heartbreak, and myself, were HUGE reggaeton fans from the get go. Not to mention you have guys like Toy Selectah, who was already making his own hybrid called “raverton”, and I know he is a huge supporter of reggaeton. I feel like Moombahton is the defining sound we’ve been waiting for….
[Dennis Ferrer - "Hey Hey (Sabo's Moombahton Dub)"]
When you made one of your early moombahton tracks, you said that your house fans would hate you for it. Have you found that was true or remains true?
When I did my “Hey Hey” Dennis Ferrer edit, that was such a big popular house tune, and almost nobody had even heard of the term moombahton yet. I thought there would surely be some haters who thought “you shouldn’t try to remix such a classic, and especially not in a non-house tempo”. But to my surprise many guys I highly respect like King Britt were feeling my slowed down edit. In fact I sent my remix to Dennis’ label Objectivity, and they loved it! Because of their open mindedness, my remix got cleared officially, and will be coming out on Mad Decent’s “Blow Your Head” moombahton compilation in May. To me – that’s huge respect for the genre. And you gotta remember that moombahton has that same four on the four pumping kick drum like house music, and it makes people DANCE. House guys are lovers of dance, so they respect, if at the very least, the crowd moving power of this new genre. When I make a moombahton edit of a house tune, I’m doing it because I already love the original song, and it’s sort of my way of paying homage to the artist. As with anything new, you’re always gonna have haters, but in the end, haters just fuel the creative fire that makes us all aspire to make better and better tunes.
Your mixes and releases have always been eclectic. Do you ever do entire moombahton sets?
Lately I’ve been doing quite a few exclusive moombahton sets. At SXSW this year I played strictly moombahton sets at both the Peligrosa party and the Megaton showcase. And Dave Nada and I started a party called Moombahton Massive where all the DJs are moombahton producers and we play only that all night. The response has been incredible!
TRACKLIST :: SABO Exclusive Moombahton Mix for Dubspot
01. House Of Gypsies – Sum Sigh Say (Heartbreak vs. Sabo Edit)
02. Sabo – Mezclaton
03. Oliver $ Feat. Deize Tigrona – Ta Com Medo De Mim (Sabo Moombahton Refix)
04. DJ Djeff & Silyvi - Canjika (DJ Bu5a Remix) (Sabo’s Amtrak Edit)
05. Sabo – Philly BOUNCE
06. House of Pain – Jump Around (Sabo’s Moombahstep Edit)
07. Sabo – Fr33ky Egypt
08. Sabo – Patchy Moombahton
09. Benga & Coki – Night (Sabo Moombahton Edit)
10. Sabo – Toca Aqui (feat. Zuzuka Poderosa & Joytoy)