I love Ernie. There, it has been said. Not in any romantic sense of course despite the Spanish producer and DJ’s undoubted handsome charm. It is just that there is something about the man, his music and his exquisite almost boutique label Minuendo Recordings that exudes cool and his taste is near faultless. Even his recent obsession with tattoos is more David Beckham chic than of the delinquent self-inked ‘love’ and ‘hate’ style.
“Yes, I am crazy for tattoos lately and the artwork on Chicago Skull [Minuendo’s 22nd release] was stamped by Robert Hernandez my personal tattooist. I cannot tell you how much money I have spent on tattoos, I don’t remember. It is better I just do not think about it, but it is a lot of money,” laughed the man from Madrid.
Born at the dog-end of the seventies, electronic and black music have been deeply influential on the Madrilenian label head: “I think I have sucked in a lot of music, from the eighties mostly when I was a child and listened to bands like Kraftwerk and a great deal of EBM [electronic body music].
“I was crazy about hip-hop culture and black music when I was a teenager. Then during the nineties I started to get into club culture and went to Madrid clubs such as Soma, Voltereta, The Omen and Midday. These clubs were my high school and formed the basis for why I care so much for the scene.”
Although his early influences were primarily Spanish artists and DJs such as Oscar Mulero, Muerto, Yke and Von it was not long before the inquisitive Ernie naturally began checking out key producers from much further afield. No surprises but simply names that have left their indelible mark and influenced many of us: Jeff Mills, Kevin Saunderson, Larry Heard, Model 500, Maurizio, Ron Trent, François K and David Alvarado.
A move into production was inevitable. “I felt the need to release music,” explained Ernie, who began DJing in earnest in 1996. “But it was very difficult if you did not have a big name or some contacts. So in 2004 I decided to create my own label. I do everything now including the marketing and selling, but I have a great deal of support from my friend Dubbyman from the Deep Explorer label.”
With Minuendo having notched up eight years and more than 20 releases thus far, the label is entrenched firmly at the vanguard of the Spanish underground deep house scene alongside similarly-minded imprints such as the aforementioned Deep Explorer, Avant Roots, Cornuta Sound and newer additions to the fray such as Hizou Deeply Rooted Music. Yet despite its deep house sensibility today, Minuendo was initially a very different beast.
“It is true. The early days of Minuendo ran another way and the idea for the label was kind of different from what it is now,” continued Ernie. “At the start we were looking for different sounds: minimal dub, electronic beats, techno. But times changed and we needed to fit in and find new sounds. I do not regret what we did in the past as this formed the foundation for what we are doing now and it was good to grow. Now I am happy with the way things are as the label has a good image and presence in the underground house scene.”
It sure does. Ernie’s own productions have evolved and matured enormously into works of joy, from the early promising outings on wax such as the tongue-in-cheek EP When Ernie Killed Bert to the magnificent My Addiction, My Religion EP featuring Lady Blacktronika. Excursions onto other labels have been just as accomplished, assured and musically rewarding; the Four Suns EP collaboration with Above Smoke on Deep Explorer was deep, soulful house at its best, the Black Noise EP on Bliq saw Ernie playing Detroit at its own game and winning while the Deeptical Tracks EP on Morris Audio Citysport Edition was deep house minimal style and done beautifully.
Back to Minuendo and it is Ernie’s productions, aesthetic values and downright good taste that have set the tone for the label, while his enthusiasm and friendly approach to running the imprint have marked it more as a labour of love than a business, one which those of a similar bent seem only too pleased to support. And his A&R skills are none too shabby either having signed quality tracks and EPs from the likes of Baaz, Bjak, Juju and Jordash, Ricardo Miranda, Satore and most recently Finish deep house talent Deymare.
He also shrewdly picked up on both Jus-Ed and Patrice Scott for The Deepfathers and Deep Wars EPs respectively as both US producers’ careers were starting to boom. “I liked the work of Patrice and Edward on their own labels,” said Ernie. “They are great professionals and so I thought it would be very good for the label and so it proved as we picked up great support for Minuendo.”
Long may that support continue for a label determined to do its bit both for deep underground house music and the survival of vinyl. Releases are now strictly limited to 200 hand-numbered records, sold direct initially and then via key retailers, and artwork is a carefully chosen feature. Artist Eduardo Caballero has lent his skills to the latest EP, Rhythm Box. With much having changed during the imprint’s existence, especially sales of vinyl despite the oft-discussed renaissance of the medium, Minuendo has been forced to adapt to survive and it is impossible to underestimate the importance of being Ernesto.
“Now at Minuendo we do not work with a distributor. I am the distributor and the seller. The process is very hard but it is more fun. I have many contacts and it is potentially good for future gigs. It is more personal. I talk to people around the world and send copies of our records to Australia, Japan, the USA, South Africa and all over Europe. It is crazy work,” admitted Ernie.
No doubt more high quality music from Ernie and his lovely little label will be in the offing before very much longer as he confessed that he needed to keep on working as there was “much to do yet”. Right now a release on new UK label Contrast Wax is scheduled for September.
On the DJ front the man is already a favourite guest at the excellent London and Manchester club nights Northern Purpose and Arthouse respectively. Those who have yet to catch him playing out should seek out some of his mixes and sets online as a matter of the utmost urgency. More European DJ dates are mooted too although Ernie, who works without an agency these days, appreciated only too well that his brand of underground house was not for the mass market: “The promoters always look for big names to fill the club. But I am not worried now.”
Beyond that, Ernie was somewhat tight-lipped. “The future for Minuendo is top secret as always,” he insisted enigmatically. “But I have secured forthcoming releases with great artists and I aim to release new vinyl every four or six months. Stay tuned, it will be dope.”