DJ Frank Mendez on Moombahton, Dave Nada, Performing in a Rainforest, and How to Craft a Killer Set
If you've happened to listen to last year's AZ Gunslingaz moombahton comp, we probably don't need to tell you about DJ Frank Mendez's mixing skills. "Il Cattivo," his collaboration with local dubstepper Sluggo, is arguably one of the disc's best tracks and fully illustrates his abilities to craft exciting and energetic EDM.
Nightfuse Frank Mendez mixes up some moombahton at Bar Smith.
You can also hear said talents while attending The Scenario every week at Bar Smith, which allows Mendez to showcase his moombahton mixing abilities alongside the likes of Mark "Ellery" Leech and Pickster One.
Mendez took time recently to share his approach to DJing, as well as tell some stories about performing in the rainforests of his native Puerto Rico and other adventures.
Name: Frank Mendez
AKA: DJ Mendez
Preferred genres: Moombahton, dubstep, electro-house
Current gigs: I resident at Bar Smith's Scenario Wednesdays where I proudly showcase the sounds of moombahton, tropical bass, and dub with my associate DJs Ellery and Hartbreaks. I've never worked at a place where the club owners insist on playing underground music. On Fridays, I resident at Blue Martini in City North. I pretty much rock the crowd with top 40 remixes, some my own. I've had some great times playing up there. It's a much older crowd but hip and smell nice. The rest of the time I perform at various one-off events and parties around the world.
How did you get into the DJ game?
I was too young to get into nightclubs. One day I went to the most popular club during the afternoon and talked my way into promoting a night. Since I was already in as a staff member, no one ever asked for I.D. I promoted a night called 6ft Under, the DJ was using my record collection. It's a pretty insane collection now. One night he got all butt-hurt about something and I pretty much told him: "Hey man, you're using my music, I can do this shit. Go jump in a fire." And that's how I started DJing.
Where else have you performed?
I've been a traveling national DJ for decades now. From being one of the DJs on the X-Games to touring with my own productions. Memorable moments have definitely been playing in my island home of Puerto Rico on the side of a mountain in the rainforest for 2,400 dancing kids, playing Ultra Music Festival several years, WMC...I really could go on and on. Such great times, I am utterly thankful to live a life of music.
What bygone club do you miss the most?
In Phoenix? Probably nextDOOR in the art district. I had great times djing there for Johnny Chu. They let me live in a house right behind it. I would wash up, walk across the alley and into my DJ booth. RULED! In Miami, I'd have to say NEMESIS, a Gothic club we had. The building was an old funeral house on US-1 in Fort Lauderdale. My friend Danny Bled and I were the residents. Oh I sure do miss those fogged out blue lights.
Craziest shit you've seen at a gig?
Sober? Okay. It was probably in San Juan, Puerto Rico. I was DJing at this club called Warehouse, I turn around, and there's literally a pile of hot girls making out with each other. I, of course, dove in after my set. It was only proper. I used to be the resident DJ for Fetish Factory's Alter Ego event in South Florida, But that's a whole other story.
Do you have a mantra or philosophy when it comes to DJing?
I actually "DJ" which means that I still use some sort of circular disc to play/control music. But most importantly is PROGRAMMING. Know your music, know your crowd, understand the vibe around you and if possible cater to it. Unless you're playing your own music , its a job, not a "gig." Entertain, people are coming out to have a good time, they don't give a fuck what your favorite jam of the week is.
How do you go about crafting your beats/music?
Ancient Puerto Rican secret. I use Ableton Live Studio 8 as my main DAW. It really has revolutionized the way I make music. Never before had I worked with a program that you can virtually manipulate any sound, in key, in time, just hell yeah!
You attended the Southwest Institute of Recording Arts and Sciences. How did that training help you craft your mixes/music?
It talking me the basics of studio engineering which later on in life came in quite handy. It's great to actually have an Engineering degree but I learned most by collaborating with others.
What's the key to a good gig?
Good people, good vibes and good music...plus proper gear!
How do you create energy in your mixes/remixes?
It creates itself, I write music spontaneously. Whatever I'm feeling at the time, I try to capture in music.
How do you pick the songs you remix?
I have to be fully into the original tune. Lately I've taken on official remixes for RCA and other major labels. I have a taste and knowledge for what the masses are feeling and future hits as well. If I'm vibin' what I'm sent and see it fitting the tempos I work with, I'm innit.
How much or your work is original artistry and how much is remixing existing songs?
I have been working on my 100 percent original material EP due out this summer. The edits/bootlegs/reworks are really the things I've done when I wish to take a break from working on original tunes. I take much time on perfecting my original music. Edits/Reworks I can pump out in a few hours ready for dance floors and MP3 players.
In your opinion, how do you craft an effective set?
Hands down it's all about programming. I'm saying a pre-planned set. I know the music I have very well, I look at a room and [chose] what direction to go. Today's audiences are sooooo A.D.D. that you always have to switch things up. I can go in any direction and am always prepared to do so. I take people on a journey, whether it takes you to a desolate tropical beach or a poppin' party is totally up to the room.
Which blogs/sites do you regularly peruse for music?
Generation Bass, Walmer Convenience, Moomba+ , Moombah-Thong, Mad Decent, Smile for Camera, Futurobeat...the list goes on and on.
Your work has gotten love from the music blogosphere, correct?
Man, the blogs are my saviors. From all parts of the world too. I am so grateful to them all. Seriously.