Mexican-born Hector has been through a lot to get to where he is today. Moving to London when he was just 18-years-old, he didn't even speak English. "Nothing! I had to learn from scratch," he says. But of course, the eager young producer didn't let that stop him, working his way up to become one of house music's most in demand young guns.
Now he's celebrating his success in the best way he could: by helping the next generation of talent get the recognition they deserve with his Vatos Locos party series. One which refuses the idea of a headliner “in order to replace it with a collaborative approach.”
The Locos crew have also just released their first proper group LP, Vatos Locos Forever, on the recently launched Vatos Locos label, which features party regulars like David Gtronic, Randall M and Chad Andrew, along with several other fresh and upcoming names in house and techno.
Talking with Hector about Vatos Locos, we also get an in-depth version of his origin story, starting from a lucky chance encounter in Mexico up until his job as a record store clerk in London, selling LPs to the likes of Richie Hawtin and Ricardo Villalobos.
Tell me about the genesis of the Vatos Locos party project. It all began last year at BPM. BPM offered me to do my own thing, so I contacted all my boys, and we decided to do this party all together. We didn’t have a big headliner, we just wanted it to be ourselves.
The concept of the party was not to have a headliner. It was gonna be us, and we asked a favour to one of our very close friends, Martin Buttrich, and he did it with us. The party was a success, we basically did what we wanted. For us, as a crew, to play in a party where we don’t have a headliner, set times, we play back to back and drink lots of tequila!
The fact that you guys did not have a headliner was a nice choice. Exactly. You know, when promoters want to organise something with Vatos Locos, they’re always like, “Who’s gonna be the headliner? Headliner! Headliner! Headliner!” And you start to get stressed. Obviously they want to make numbers, they want to make money from the party. But if they are asking us to come and do the party it has to be the way we want to present this party to the people, because they are paying a ticket to come and see it. Our idea is to come there, show our music, what we are playing at the moment and completely take away the concept of “waiting for the announcement of the headliner.” No, no, no.
Of course we do have special guests and stuff, you saw what happened this year in Mexico when we brought Dubfire, one of the founders of Vatos Locos. He adapted to the mentality, it was a really good connection. The people felt it, that’s how you make a great party. It was improvised, people didn’t expect that. They saw that he was very close to the people, it was a different kind of phase of Dubfire which we were really happy about. That’s the mentality we wanna have.
Via The BPM Festival
And how did the Vatos Locos Forever album come about? Did it stem from the party or the other way around? Everyone that is involved in the Vatos Locos crew is my friend. We have been exchanging music and playing music from each other for a couple of years now. First, they’re all amazing producers and DJs, and then they’re amazing friends. I decided to put all of this onto a label in order for us to do something we love, which is releasing on vinyl. The vinyl will be our main focus. I asked every member of the crew for a track, and for the digital I added two people who will release stuff on the label in the future. We ended up with ten tracks and luckily they were really well-received from everyone. The record almost sold out already.
Did you have any kind of creative control, or was everybody free to contribute to the LP in whatever way they wanted? I asked everyone to contribute and put everything together, but each one of us had to give me the track they felt they wanted to put on vinyl. As you can hear, it goes across the board from techno to house to deep house to minimal. Everyone did whatever they wanted. I did a continuous mix for Beatport and you can hear all the tracks perfectly together, even if they have different styles.
Since you mentioned vinyl—did you get a chance to check out that video of Dimitri Vegas and Like Mike playing vinyl for like 15 minutes during a set after the controversy that surrounded their no. 1 DJ Mag spot? What did you think about it? No, I didn’t see it. I mean, I wish they could do a whole set on vinyl. Not just 15 minutes, you know? Anyone can play a vinyl, that’s not a problem. Vinyl would be the easiest thing to do. You get the vinyl, you make the beats match and that’s it. You can teach it to anyone in 10 minutes. Doing a 15-minute set is just showing off. I find it stupid. If you want to do it, do it properly, do the whole set. What they do with all the tricks, all the fireworks, whatever it is—everything synced to the pre-recorded set, that’s something different. For me, it would be more complicated to have a pre-recorded set on a CDJ and sync everything up to special effects.
You have recently lived in Berlin and Los Angeles, but where are you at the moment? I actually moved to Barcelona now. I’ve lived all over the place! One of the reasons why I moved here it’s the weather, since it’s kinda similar to Los Angeles. LA was great, the last few years I’ve been moving around but California is one of the places I enjoyed the most. You know, I need to be based in Europe and now I’m kind of settled, I’m finishing to build my studio, I’m bringing all my gear and I’m going to start my life here.
Were there any specific reasons you felt you needed to leave the US? Not really. I left because my management is in Europe, as is my main booking agency. To be honest, the only problem with living in LA is logistics. It’s not like there were some music-related reasons. I don’t really pay attention to the EDM craze and all that stuff. I was there for the quality of life. Musically, they have a little bit of everything. I went to party in Vegas more than I went in LA, to be honest!
I saw a picture of you playing with Stacey Pullen. How did it feel to share the decks with a true techno legend? We have been talking about doing these back-to-back for a good couple of years. Stacey is a really good friend of mine. I love him. He’s an amazing person and I learned a lot from him. He’s a Detroit legend. Sharing the decks with him was an honour. It worked out perfectly because we both like the same kind of music. It was in my home country, Mexico, and it was just amazing.
Via The BPM Festival
How did you first get into electronic music and producing? I actually got into electronic music because, while I was still in Mexico, I got to know a group of college-aged English exchange students that came there to learn the language. They were doing a lot of parties at their house. They started to play all this electronic music, which was something new for me. I had never heard this kind of stuff before and it grabbed my attention. In like the year, year and a half we hung out together, I learned about a lot of new artists, DJs and clubs. By the time they had to go back to London, I was like, “Wow, what am I gonna do now?”
My plan was staying there for three months, but I never came back. I went to clubs to see DJs I used to listen to in my friend’s house, and seeing them mixing live was amazing. I started to look for a job, I even worked as a waiter in the beginning just to earn money to go to school and learn how to produce that music, to buy decks and vinyl.
So you actually studied music production? Kinda, I studied sound engineering, then I started going to Ibiza, started putting out flyers for parties and burning my CDs, handing them out to promoters. I also worked at Phonica Records in London, which was a great opportunity. I think that’s the main thing that changed my life, because I was selling records to Ricardo, Richie, Loco Dice, and I met a lot of people there. I started sending tracks to labels, then I worked with Dice and that’s it! Now I got my own thing going on.
How old were you when you moved to London? I was like 18, 19 years old. It was difficult. I didn’t speak any English at all. Nothing! I had to learn from scratch. When I was young they taught me English but I didn’t practice at all. It was scary in the beginning, but it all worked out perfectly.
And what would you say is your ideal space to play in London? My favourite club is fabric, but London warehouses are among my favourite places to play in. Like 10 years ago, we used to do these warehouse parties where nobody would know exactly where they were. You could announce the address on the day, and that creates a lot of energy. People don’t know what’s going on. Then you go there, and it’s this dark, horrible space. But you use it to create a great vibe, and that’s what makes it amazing.
Who would you say are the best Mexican artists at the moment? Definitely Pinto, one of the guys from my crew. Also, Betoko—I don’t know if you have heard about him. He’s signed on Dynamic. Marco Balcazar and Metrika are also really good.
Vatos Locos Forever is out now. Buy it here.