Victor Ezcurdia (a.k.a. DJ Vazik) is a stalwart of Mexico City’s vibrant electronic music scene. In 2007, he launched Sounds of Earth Records to shine the spotlight on up-and-coming talent. While the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry, Ezcurdia has managed to stay focused on his vision. Eleven years on SOE have hit the 100-release plateau, a milestone marked by SOE 100th Moving Forward 5.
For the second installment of our Why I Did It series, in which we talk to artists about the motivation behind starting their own labels, we asked Ezcurdia, who has released tracks on Flash Recordings, Flow Records, Maktub Music, Spring Tube, and Plastik Park, about the history of his label, the expansion of the label’s sound from progressive house to techno and tech-house, and SOE’s first showcase at ADE on October 19.
One-hundred releases. Take a deep breath, slowly exhale. What’s the first thought that comes to mind when you think about the label’s milestone?
Victor Ezcurdia: Work and passion.
What inspired you to launch Sounds of Earth? Did you have a musical manifesto in mind? How has the label’s sound evolved over the years?
I started doing events under the name of Sounds of Earth since 2000. Everything grew up pretty fast. A few years later, we had a very solid artist roster here in Mexico. Starting the label was the next step and it came out smoothly; our sound was still influenced by progressive trance and you can hear that on the first releases. With time we moved to techno and progressive house and many other genres in between.
What led you to believe the label had a chance of being successful?
We have built many things around SOE, from festivals to banging club parties. We haven’t stopped working on new things since we started. We try to keep as fresh as possible but always deliver something very honest. Starting the label was something natural, I knew we had the right weapons to make it successful. A couple of years ago we got an award as best label with International Exposure in Mexico. It has been a long way also for the label; we released around seven CDs in the past and we are now presenting the USB bracelet with the SOE 100th.
Every entrepreneur needs a mentor. Was there anyone in particular — whether from the music business or elsewhere — that inspired you to set up the imprint?
This one is a good question; you made me think in a lot of people. But back in the days (around 2002-2004) there was a DJ that helped me a lot. His name is Antaro. He used to run Spirit Zone, one of the most successful psy and progressive-trance record labels. I used to stay with him in Hamburg for months during the summer, and I used to see all his work behind the label. A complete team working everyday. They printed thousands of CDs and vinyl and their work was amazing. That definitely influenced me somehow.
Mexico has a rich musical history. What was the electronic music scene like when SOE began? How does it compare to where it is right now?
That is right. Mexico is full of musical history, culture and art. The scene in Mexico has been like a roller coaster with many ups and downs. But it is going in the right direction, I think. The whole world is looking to our DJs and producers, and we are getting closer to the rest of the world too. We still need more clubs and venues all around the country that are full dedicated to electronic music. We also need more media that spreads the right information about what is going on in the scene.
When did you know that the label was going in the right direction?
When we sold the first 500 CD copies of Moving Forward 2 in Mexico.
Was there ever a moment where things weren’t going right and you thought about walking away?
Working as a freelancer is not easy. There is always better moments than others. But to be honest, I have never thought about walking away. I have been DJing for more than 20 years, and I live from it almost since the beginning. Running a label is not an easy job and it is even harder in the digital era, but we will always find a way to survive.
Tell us about a few of the releases that stand out in your mind, or ones that you’re most proud of.
I guess most of the compilations are really special for me. I always try to deliver a top product which has some kind of journey or progression in between. All the Moving Forward chapters are really special, also the SOE ten-year anniversary (released about seven years ago) is dope.
Is there a release that you passed on that went on to become huge?
Well, I was one of the first to sign some names that now are quite big. I released an EP with Matador before his career got huge. Also Dubspeeka remixed for our label before Sasha discovered him, and the list goes on with a good bunch of artists. I try not to think about if I passed on some artists. I try to focus on what is yet to come.
You continue to release records on other labels — why?
Yes, as Vazik I try to release music on other labels that I like. There is some cool stuff in the pipeline on labels like ICONYC, Jannowitz, Phobos, etc. I want to start working on an album, but it’s hard to find the time.
How did your Picnic Day Party evolve?
Picnic Day Party is going to definitely stay in the memories of the Mexican dance floor for a while. We did seven editions of the best Day Party around Mexico City. The vibe was great! We had 700 people on the very first Picnic, and we gathered almost 2000 on the last one. For different reasons we had to put a pause on that project but we are already working on some other stuff just as good.
I know you lived in Berlin for a time and travel quite a bit. How does life outside of Mexico influence your music and SoE?
Since 2001 I try to go to Europe at least once a year. I was living in Germany for nearly a year on 2014, and Berlin has definitely a very special place on my heart. I have done more than 100 shows outside of Mexico, so traveling and partying abroad has definitely influenced me a lot. I like listening to different styles and feeling different clubs and venues. It definitely influences me on what I try to do here and the vibe we project in our parties in Mexico.
Tell us about SOE 100th Moving Forward 5. How did it come together? How did you select the artists?
Well, the 100th was getting closer every day, and I knew I had to do something special. I had plans to do a vinyl edition but I was getting so many tracks that it would have been impossible to just pick a few ones. Most of the artists are already SOE artists or have released music with us before. The rest are producers that I admire and follow since some time. So it all blended perfectly in the end. I am very happy with the final result.
The album artwork is visually amazing. How did it come together?
Somehow I saw this guy on Facebook that was painting some really cool stuff. I started following his art and we started chatting once. Later on I thought he could do the cover for the SOE 100th, we had a meeting and he really liked the whole SOE concept and was kin to do the special artwork. His name is Jeavy Mental. You can catch his drawings and paintings all around the city and you can catch his work at special galleries. He is a super-cool guy, and he totally understood the vibe and made an amazing drawing for us.
I thought it was interesting that the last track on the compilation is called “No End.” Is that a statement or a happy coincidence?!
It’s a little bit of both. The track was ready before the whole compilation was done, but in the end it fitted the best as the last track. I have been playing this track a lot, the vocals are mine and it always rocks the party. I guess there is “No End.”
So here’s the obligatory final question: What’s next for SoE and Vazik?
We have our first SOE Showcase at ADE on the 19th of October. D-Nox and Khainz will be joining us in the DJ Booth. It is our first party outside of Mexico; we are totally excited about this one. Join us!
Regarding Vazik, I need to find more time for the studio. Between the events, the gigs and the regular life it’s hard to do as much music as I would like to. Some really cool collabs are on the way, and many remixes and original on different labels though. Somehow it is time for an album and a big world tour afterwards. Music is the answer!
Thanks for your time, Victor. ¡Hasta luego!