Confidential catches the pioneering DJ pre-flight, as he prepares to play Lost in Music in Manchester this Friday
Mixing records. Easy enough. Buy some software, pick your tracks, twiddle a few nobs and drop it. Doddle. Not so back in the 70s, where you'd find a 20-something John Morales, in his Bronx bedroom, cutting and splicing records with a tape deck, a box of razor blades and his actual hands. Back then most records were only three to four minutes long, and as an emerging DJ - playing the likes of Stardust Ballroom, Pippins and the infamous Studio 54 - Morales needed more from his records, so became one of the first to experiment with the extended mix and remix.
Nobody knows for sure how many records Morales has been involved in (some have taken a stab at 1000+), but throughout the 80s and 90s, as a solo artist and as part of the influential disco/funk collective, M&M Productions (alongside Sergio Munzibai), Morales has produced hundreds of releases and multiple ground-breaking records for the likes of Tina Turner, The Rolling Stones and Billy Ocean.
In fact, just about every major artist of the day was in some way retouched by the hands of Morales. A true music innovator, and yes, even legend.
On Friday 29 September, Morales heads to Manchester to play Lost in Music at Underground.
We're guessing this isn't your first time in Manchester?
JM: "I've played Manchester a few times, but it's been a couple of years now. I played the Soup Kitchen seven or eight years ago, when those guys first started having parties. I remember it being so underground, grungy, where you had to pee through a hole in the floor. It was probably one of my favourites gigs, people were there for the music and the party, to drink beer and down shots, not for VIP bottle service and to stand around playing with their fucking cellphones. The other place I played was the RoadHouse, unfortunately that's gone now but I played a Stevie Wonderland party there a few years back. That was another dirty, grungy place with a real vibe."
Have you had much downtime in the city?
JM: "I've done a couple of things at Piccadilly Records for Record Store Day. My former agent used to live that way actually, so I'd walk around, drop into some of the bars and stores, eat some of the food. But I think to really pick up the vibe you need to spend at least a week - one day I'd like to have time to do that in Manchester."
Does Manchester have a reputation over in the States?
JM: "Manchester has a great reputation as far as people who appreciate good music. Whenever I've been there it's been a place where there's always different genres of parties going on. You can go out and find a hip-hop party, a rock party or a disco glitter box-type party. The people there seem to roam the streets looking for a good time - regardless of the type of music."
You've been a DJ for over five decades, things must have changed immeasurably?
JM: "The whole superstar DJ world we live in never really worked for me. Unfortunately today you have to have a big media profile to make a difference. But I love it when I play places where people still ask me my name, they don't give a fuck who's there and just say 'hey great music man'. I also play a place in London called the Bussey Building, it's in Peckham, great people, great vibes - it reminds me of Soup Kitchen actually, just with three more floors."
So, Friday night, what can we expect?
JM: "Expect a good time. Happy music for happy people. You might hear some things you know, and be educated in some things you don't. I play a combination of disco, house and new disco, for me it works because I can unite the younger crowd with the older crowd, give them a reason to hang out together."