Read a Lost 1995 Interview With NYC House Music DJ/Producer Angel Moraes

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New York City DJ/producer/label and club owner Angel Moraes passed away suddenly on February 27, 2021. Since his death, there’s been an outpouring of love and appreciation for Angel’s contribution to global club culture.

As my way of paying tribute to him, here’s an interview I conducted ith Angel that was published in the July 1995 issue of Muzik, a now-defunct monthly dance U.K. music magazine.

I interviewed Angel several times over the years. This particular interview happened while his profile was soaring internationally due to the success of his edgy productions on his Hot’N’Spycy label.

Read on to learn about Angel’s days clubbing at the Paradise Garage, how he laughs about trainspotting David Morales back in the day at the Ozone Layer in Brooklyn and the joy he had watching his track “Welcome to the Factory” make Junior Vasquez smile.

RIP, Angel.

Image by Michael Wong

TURNTABLE INSURRECTIONISTS like Junior Vasquez, Johnny Vicious and DJ Duke have roughed up the once smooth sound of New York. But as others simply attempt to follow their inspired lead, DJ/producer Angel Moraes, the man at the helm of the Hot’N’Spycy label, is busy bridging the divide between the rawness of the harder school and the more melodious side of the traditionalists.

The result is nothing short of stunning, as the material on Moraes’ recent Hot N’ Spycy Dub EP proves. The stage is set for yet another dramatically contagious Big Apple hybrid.

A rising star of not only the New York house scene and on the global stage, this Brooklyn native has actually been deep in the mix for a number of years. A DJ since he was a mere 13 years old, Angel Moraes came of age in legendary Manhattan bastions such as Paradise Garage, The Funhouse, Gotham’s West and Bond’s International.

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“Going to clubs was an addiction for me and I nearly broke up with my woman over my obsession with Paradise Garage,” he laughs, setting the scene for one of his favorite anecdotes. “Back in 1982, I used to flood David Morales with requests when he was playing the Ozone Layer in Brooklyn. This was in the days before he got into the Manhattan scene. I went down there so often that he was probably sick of seeing my face every time he looked up.”

And all the while Moraes dreamt of one day having his own spinning venue, as well as an outlet to release his tracks. “I had always had this big interest in music, but I could never find a way of getting into production,” he says flatly.

Nevertheless, Moraes spent the next few years playing mobile gigs all over New York. Due to the detailed preparation which they entailed, most of these were exhausting endeavors but unfortunately, they never culminated in a coveted residency. Disillusioned and fast approaching the point of apathy, for a while Moraes lost faith in everything and set his aspirations to one side.

“That was in around 1986 or 1987. I decided that, from then on, I was only going to party on a strictly non-professional level. I just couldn’t deal with struggling anymore.”

WHAT FOLLOWED might very well be the plot of a Hollywood feel-good flick. No sooner had Moraes abandoned his pipe dream of someday joining the ranks of his idols Morales, Vega and Knuckles than the pieces which would eventually propel him up the ladder of success slowly began to fall into place before his eyes.

“I was DJing at a friend’s birthday party here in Brooklyn a little over two years ago when Victor Simonelli happened to walk in,” Moraes recalls. “He heard the music I was playing and saw that the party was jumping. When he noticed that I was playing some of his stuff., he came to the back where the turntables were set up and started looking through my records. We got talking and he told me he had a session coming up. He said he thought that I had an ear for music and invited me to come by.”

Naturally, Moraes jumped at the opportunity to finally work on a track, getting down to business with Simonelli the following weekend to remix Ebony Soul’s “Can’t Hardly Wait” for Eightball Records. The session proved to be a resounding success and, with his spirits suddenly rejuvenated, Moraes brought a copy of the single along to The Roxy, where a then-unknown chap named Johnny Vicious was spinning at the club’s funtastic roller-skating night. Vicious had, at that time, recently launched his Vicious Muzik label.

“I think I’ve matured, but still have a lot to learn. I feel I’m maybe five or 10 percent better than when I started. It’s hard coming up with fresh ideas and making records that please everybody. But that’s something I’m always working on.”

Moraes and Vicious clicked instantly. So much so that, when the latter had finished his mixing duties, he took his new friend over to the Sound Factory Bar a few blocks away to check out the Master At Work himself, Li’l Louie Vega.

“Johnny really opened my eyes because I thought house music was obsolete, that it didn’t exist on any level after Paradise Garage had closed,” says Moraes. “I didn’t think I could ever get that feeling again. But when I walked into the Bar, Louie was on fire in the booth, and it felt like the old days again. Right there and then I knew had to get back into this music.”

With Moraes soaking up Vega’s effervescent sounds and enjoying a warm, tingling feeling of déjà vu, Vicious introduced him to Jeffrey Rodman, the man who had given The Roxy DJ his initial break. Vicious told Rodman about Moraes’ long-time dream of starting up his own imprint and Rodman was completely receptive to the idea of backing him. “I had a meeting with Jeff later that week and he decided to go for it. It’s been going pretty well for us so far.”

INDEED it has. Two years down the line, Angel Moraes has now released half a dozen singles on his Hot’N’Spycy label. His credits also include remixes of Pet Shop Boys’ “Paninaro” and Bensaid’s “I’m So Grateful,” the latter for Slip ‘N’Slide. Moraes likens the feeling he has when he thinks about the remarkable renaissance of his career to being reborn. He says there’s something spiritual about the way his years of silent prayer have finally been answered. And while a series of pivotal breaks and key introductions have undoubtedly been crucial to putting Moraes back on the proper path, he would equally undoubtedly have fallen flat on his face had he not possessed a serious dancefloor talent.

To prove the point, since issuing his debut 12-inch, “Release Yourself,” Moraes has become something of a hit machine, churning out captivating anthems like “Deep Inside Your Love,” “The Cure” and the venerable “I Like It.” The latter featured former S.O.U.L. System chanteuse, Octavia Lambertis, on lead vocals. But the track which really earned him his props was “Welcome To The Factory,” a striking rhythmical ditty inspired by watching Junior Vasquez work his magic behind the decks one Sunday morning at the now in-limbo Sound Factory.

“It was around 11:30 and Junior was playing some really good stuff,” he recalls. “He was so good that I really didn’t want to leave. Then the idea hit me of making a record that would incorporate most of today’s sounds and also pay homage to all the other DJs on the scene. I have a lot of ideas when I’m at a club. Maybe it’s something about the loud music or the people, but that’s where I get the most inspired. I often call up my answering machine and relay the ideas down the phone. That way l don’t forget them!”

“Welcome To The Factory” went on to become one the biggest-sellers on Hot’N’Spycy. More importantly, the track served as the archetype for Moraes’ percussive, multi-influenced signature.

“Up until that point, most people were looking at me as just another guy with potential,” he says. “Every record I’d done had been expected to make a lot of noise, but none of them really had. Then ‘Factory’ came along and it all took off. Junior went ballistic when I first bought him the acetate, and it wasn’t even called ‘Factory’ at that time. That man went crazy! He played it four times in four hours! It was nice to see him smile. He does that so rarely.”

LOOKING BACK on the last two years, Moraes is humble but eager to progress to what he calls “the next level.” Spending a week spinning in Portugal with Tribal America’s Rob DiStefano and the Kaos crew a few months ago has helped him to broaden his knowledge of dance culture, and now he’s anxious for British crowds to hear him DJ. He’s set to make his UK debut at the Ministry of Sound later this month. But trainspotters beware. Don’t expect him to show off his mixing skills just for the sake of it.

“I’m not out to prove anything in this business,” he confidently affirms. “I simply want to be myself when I spin, I just want to make good music. I really hate all of the paperwork and legal red tape which goes with putting out records. I think people are way too caught up in the money side of music. They often seem to forget about the party side of it.”

Party sides like the tracks on “Hot Spycy Dub” or the new, harder-edged mixes of his “Heaven Knows,” which are due out shortly on Tribal, or his recent work with Arthur Baker. With such credits to his name, it really is amazing that Moraes’ ego hasn’t swelled to almighty proportions.

“I think I’ve matured, but still have a lot to learn. I feel I’m maybe five or 10 percent better than when I started. It’s hard coming up with fresh ideas and making records that please everybody. But that’s something I’m always working on.”

And, at the same time, housing future dreams of someday producing Latin music and even pop-oriented ballads. First, however, he has to complete his next single with Octavia Lambertis.

“You can call me crazy or laugh at me, but with Octavia, I feel I can go all the way,” says Moraes. “She has the vocal range the tools, and she’s also very pretty. I could do any form of music with her and, if it’s put in the right place, I just know it will do well every single time.”

Whether or not this is true remains to be seen. But with dynamos like Vasquez, Simonelli, Vicious Rodman, Distefano and Lambertis at his side, it’s safe to say that this is one mixer who will proudly get by with a little help from his friends.

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Darren Ressler

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