As a Brooklyn-born/Queens-raised New Yorker, Joe Flores got in on the ground floor during the glory days of the New York House scene, playing his first gig as the artist we’ve all come to know as “Joeski” way back in 1991. With the opportunity to break in as a DJ at infamous dance institutions such as The Limelight, Palladium, The Tunnel, and NASA, those legendary venues served as the classrooms in which Flores earned his masters in the science and art of controlling a dancefloor. Plenty of DJs from that era have long-since vanished into obscurity, but Joeski has remained active for the long-haul, despite dealing with the struggles that the emergence of the digital era placed upon essentially every DJ and producer who was active and successful during the days when analog gear and vinyl were the only tools of the trade.
Joeski’s direction took an upward shift in recent years, following a stint that lasted several years in which he was forced to take a step back. During this period, he predominantly only released music on his label, Maya Recordings. Taking those steps back meant a slow fade from the spotlight, as the dance music industry, in the U.S. especially, was undergoing a period of great change, shifting toward a focus on EDM and simultaneously moving toward the digitally-driven industry we are in today.
The sudden incline in output from Joeski has brought us an onslaught of powerhouse EPs and remixes, growing his already staggeringly large discography. In 2016, Joeski’s name graced the catalogs of labels such as Defected, Get Physical, Crosstown Rebels, Poker Flat, and more. This sudden move toward ramping up his production output and returning to releasing on prominent labels has effectively put the name Joeski back on the map as a force to be reckoned with.
Not only one of the most diverse producers of House Music in the world, Joe is also one of the most capable and experienced DJs still around since those aforementioned and wildly revered days – back when “Sound Factory was like church,” as he put it when 5 Mag had a chance to link up with him as he prepped for a busy gig-filled schedule during Miami Music Week.
Being a man of many words and an equal number of passionate views led to our touching on what led to his ups and downs, as he reminisced about his early influences, explained his re-emergence on the international scene, and delivered his strong opinions on the state of today’s music industry.
Joeski: A 5 Mag Mix:
Joeski: The 5 Magazine Profile:
Hi Joe, thanks for taking this time with us! We’re both New Yorkers, and it’s no secret that you played an integral role in the proliferation of House Music during the ’90s here in NYC. How much has changed in The Big Apple compared to back then?
It has definitely changed from those days. Back then, we were doing collaborations as well. It’s definitely gotten a lot more saturated with a lot more competition. New York is still rockin’ though!
Do you feel there’s as much collaboration going on anymore, or is it more “every many for himself” as NYC has been famous for compared to other locales around the world?
I’ve been doing stuff with Harry Romero under the name HR & SKI. I also did a collaboration with Green Velvet, and we’re working on a follow up too.
That collaboration with Green Velvet, “Rouse,” is a great track! It’s great to see you back to being so active! Prior to 2013/2014, you seemed to have been taking a low key approach for awhile, releasing consistently yet much more quietly on your own Maya imprint. Was there anything in particular that sparked you to make a comeback and did you see yourself moving as quickly as you’ve been lately?
For me, consistency has always been the key. I have always loved what I do, that being the driving force for how quick I have been progressing. Honestly, I’m just happy to still be here doing this. I basically set out to release on specific labels that I love and respect. I love what I do, man. So for me it was a no-brainer. The focus was to reinvent myself, and I feel like I’m getting there.
“Reinvent” yourself? Can you elaborate on that a bit? This makes sense when I hear guys from the ’90s who didn’t have the talent for both producing and DJing, but you’ve clearly established yourself as one of the most capable DJs and producers around. With your level of ability and talent, what caused you to reach a place where you felt a need to “re-invent” yourself?
It was a combination of a lot of things. The change of the business going from the analog to digital era, and also the economy at the time. All of this played a big role in what I did from that point. So being where I am at now is what I mean by “re-invent.”
I was constantly busy, and then when everything kind of shifted into the digital era, I had to think to myself and say, “I have bills to pay!” [Laughs] So I did have to take a step back and obviously I had to make a living. Making a living doing something you love is great, but I wasn’t making a living anymore when the digital age started.
In New York, we had all these amazing clubs with amazing sound systems, all booking DJs that do what we do. Then, all of a sudden, that all just shifted into fucking bottle service and EDM.
Do you feel that this decline in work for you (and others in your shoes at that time) was because there were so much more access to more producers and more stuff was coming out? Is this what caused you to get less bookings, or what?
It just changed, everything. Honestly, I think what happened is the whole EDM thing. I feel like all of a sudden all the new guys coming in were doing this EDM thing, and our House Music and Techno was all of a sudden separate from EDM. Everybody just kind of shifted to that. All those artists coming into it at that time took over.
Before EDM, when you picked up a DJ magazine, it was Tony Humphries on the cover, it was Moby, or a Techno guy on the cover, you know? And then all of a sudden with this whole EDM thing, came this whole new generation of producers, and – if you want to call them that – DJs.
In New York, we had all these amazing clubs with amazing sound systems, which were all booking DJs that do what we do (House and Techno). Then, all of a sudden, that all just shifted into fucking bottle service and EDM.
A long set for a DJ is where you can just tell a story. You can see how something unfolds. You take them somewhere, and the crowd is reacting to that. Then you can take them somewhere else.
Also, the role of DJ and/or producer has also become a much more demanding job. There are probably at least 5,000 DJs playing House Music in the New York area alone.
Right. Now it’s all about social media. Now it’s all about marketing, and it’s all about these kids. Before, it was simpler. If you were a good DJ, you somehow were heard. Now? Whoever has the most money to put into fucking marketing is going to be the guy able to have a career. How did that happen?! I also miss the days of long DJ sets.
Things in today’s industry are like night and day, compared to when you were coming up as a “DJ’s DJ,” as we say. These days, most DJ sets are one or two hours long. What do you think caused that change, and, in your opinion, what’s the importance of those types of sets returning to prominence in today’s saturated world of club DJs?
For me, a DJ just took you different places in a span of a whole night.
Let me tell you something: when you only one hour to play, depending on how fast you play, you can probably play ten records… if that. A lot of times with the short sets, by the time I have to get off is just when I’m getting into it!! [Laughs]
We’re coming from a time when we played a lot longer sets and amazing things can happen as the night unfolds – you know what I mean? A long set for a DJ is where you can just tell a story. You can see how something unfolds. You take them somewhere, and the crowd is reacting to that. Then you can take them somewhere else. You get to experiment.
Absolutely! You have the stage, you have the room for the night. As a DJ, that gives you much more freedom.
To me, that’s always been the beauty of DJing, to be able to do that. I love all kinds of music. So I like to be able to take ’em in different places, within that genre or the realm of what your playing. Being able to experiment with different variations of styles is something I’ve always thought to be more interesting.
It’s hard to express yourself musically in that limited amount of time. You have X amount of records that you love and want to play, but instead you just have to pick a few. It’s just how it is now.
There has been a lot of debate in the industry and across social media about this lately. We hear that you have a new residency that you are about to start, though!?
Yeah! This is how the whole concept for this party started. Harry Romero and I were saying to each other one day, “Don’t you miss playing longer sets?” Making it just about the music, not just being a name on a flyer. So we said, “Let’s just put something together where we can do that, where we can play all night from start to finish.”
That sounds exciting. Where and when is this going to begin and how often?
We’re doing it at Panther Room in Output. We’re gonna launch it on April 6th, it’s a Thursday. We feel like we would like to do it once a month but we’ll see how things go. It’s something that we really want to do. To just to be able to experiment a little more musically. I love playing the deep stuff, and the kind of more psychedelic stuff – I love that stuff. But there’s a time and place for certain types of music, you know? And I feel like Panther Room will be a place where we can just put all that aside, and just do that.
Would you say that Output is your favorite venue to play in New York right now?
I like what they’re about. I feel like they came in with the concept that’s always been here in New York. The clubs here have always been about the big sound systems. I just I remember going to these clubs and being so blown away by the sound system. The music sounded so incredible! I will always remember that.
I feel like New York lost that. I understand, I get it – I know it’s a business. It’s about the money. That’s why when the bottle service kind of just took over with EDM, it wasn’t about the music any more. That’s when New York lost what the sense of what a real club was about.
So before New York “lost it” – was there a single night or DJ’s set that stands out in particular?
I can honestly tell you that a lot of those nights or sets that I’ll mention will involve Danny Tenaglia. He’s a big inspiration. And it’s so funny that we’re talking about this now, because just recently, Danny did a Boiler Room with Josh Wink. That was inspiring. Did you see that?
I haven’t! I did recently see a video recently where Danny was talking about how 8 or 12 hours for a DJ set was nothing to him.
Wow, yeah. Danny played some crazy long sets! [Laughs] How ’bout Junior Vasquez?! Yo, he did like 36 hours straight, at like fifty years old, just chillin’! You wanna talk about real marathon sets? Junior Vasquez. Sound Factory. Junior Vasquez has just done these crazy, crazy, crazy marathons. I remember back in the day, Sound Factory was like church to people. I remember seeing Danny Tenaglia, Carl Cox and so many other dudes out there on the dance floor… It was crazy.
Can you name one DJ in particular that has stood out for you as an inspiration for you during your formative years?
Oh man, there’s a few. But I’m gonna say definitely it was the Wicked Crew in San Francisco. Man, those guys. Just WOW. Jeno, Garth, Markie, Thomas. That whole crew was just so inspiring in the ’90s. What those guys did over there on the West Coast… just magic. It was magic, musically. That music was just so on point. You could hear the effort that they put into it. To me that was just so inspiring. These guys, they would go digging and it was about them just finding the rarest shit, it just blew my mind, you know.
The Wicked Crew is certainly legendary. These days, digging for gems is still possible, but much more time consuming. I think that’s what can make a DJ stand out nowadays is finding their music off of the top charts, and finding those Joeski & Green Velvet tracks like “Rouse”, that somehow fly under the radar.
Well it was always about, “What can I find that nobody has?!” Now it’s so hard, because it’s like everybody has access to everything, you know? There’s too many damn DJs! Too much of everything. Which is why I feel like it’s so important for me to just make a lot of the stuff I want to play.
You certainly have a very diverse style range as far as like the music that you’re putting out. It can be all over the place.
Yeah! I like everything, I can do something deep, or tech, or even something soulful. That’s just what I do. I love all kinds of music. I don’t feel like it should be always the same style or sound.
I remember someone gave me advice one time. He was like, “Joe, I love what you do, it’s amazing what you do with it. But if you want my advice: stick to one sound. Then mold that sound and people will know you for it.”
I thought about what he said for a minute, and realized that I like all types of stuff, so I don’t want to be known as “The guy who does that dark Techno.” You know what I mean? Why not throw a soulful vocal into that dark Techno? Why do that when you can show what else you can do?
This is why I am so adamant about not just sticking with one specific sound, you know? Do vocal stuff, do a tribal track, do a darker track. I’m just doing all the stuff I love.
You’ve even done a remix for Dave Seaman on his Selador label. Since you’re coming from such a classic New York House kind of background, how did that transpire with Dave Seaman? He and his labels have always had such a progressive and techy type sound.
It’s funny you bring that up, because we were talking about this earlier. How everything has changed. A lot of the progressive guys now play what we always have just called “House Music,” so it didn’t surprised me when Dave Seaman hit me up for the remix. I was like, “Yeah, ok!” Same thing with John Digweed, and Sasha. You listen to what Digweed is playing now, it’s not progressive. It’s House.
Your label, Maya Records, is also very diverse in its sound. Can you talk about Maya a bit?
We started the label in 2000. It was all vinyl, obviously. We were pressing one to two releases a month. We just wanted to showcase our music, so it was kind of funny that we started actually making money. We were like, “Wow, it’s crazy that we could actually make money off this!”
After awhile though, vinyl just died out. It wasn’t a lucrative business any more. Nobody was buying records. I still wanted to keep the catalog going though, since the label was never really about money.
You’ve been putting a lot of releases on different labels like Crosstown and Poker Flat. Are you still like planning on releasing a lot of you own stuff on Maya?
I’ll always release stuff on my label, but I mean I definitely want to broaden my audience. This is why I specifically released music on labels I respect.
Thank you so much for taking the time out of your hectic schedule to speak with us, Joe. In closing, what’s the one trait you feel has helped you rise above, despite so many obstacles?
I think a good work ethic is why I am where I am at the moment. And I love what I do. When you do what you love, you never have to work a day in your life! Thank you!