Interview: Soul of Hex

Magic seems to happen around Gerardo Cedillo, the young, humble, and intensely brilliant Mexican house music artist, with whom I met last weekend at his New York debut, surrounded by fog machine mist and disco lighting. He was in a corner hanging out on the couch when I found him, speaking intently to a friend. We were on the top floor of an industrial building in Bushwick with a rented sound system blasting, and I approached to ask if he was indeed the mastermind behind the records that have emerged recently as among the most exciting dance floor numbers on the scene. When we spoke, he was cheerful, despite nursing jet lag and a hangover. He was excited to be in the city, he said. It was only his second visit, and earlier he’d made the trek to the diner from Seinfeld, his favorite TV show, on West 112th street.

Coming from Tijuana, Cedillo, better known under the moniker Soul of Hex, is part of an emerging scene of house artists based in the Mexican hotbed of renegades and excitement. Lately his efforts have gained momentum through sheer artistic ingenuity, and support from recognized European labels, propelled by crushing house rhythms made palpably vivid by analogue synthesizer lines.

After beginning as a teenage bedroom track-maker, under the tutelage of producer 4004, his profile has risen over the past couple years, and his material has been remixed by the likes of pioneering Chicago house legend Larry Heard and contemporary English trend-setters Henry Wu and Glenn Astro. His brand-new EP Snake Snares was his second effort released by Freerange Records, a long-standing London deep house staple, and his collaboration with Ponty Mython put him in prestigious company on Berlin’s Dirt Crew Recordings.

But in his live performance, thrown by Brooklyn party collective Galaktik, Cedillo surpassed even the expectation laid out by his recorded material. From the first note the room was transformed with a dense, rapturous energy. At times the music was hysterically corporal, evoking a man digging down, transfixed, plunging his hands into the soil and tearing it into the air, the rhythms, melodies, timbres, driving into the Earth. Yet Cedillo himself came across as a lucid presence, exhilarated, conducting those gathered to gyrate in communion.

In the hallway before he went on, I had the opportunity to speak to him about what’s behind his music.

What does house music mean to you?

House music means—it’s pretty obvious—but for me it means music that’s made at home. It’s music that you don’t need a lot of instruments for, music you can do at home. I think people like house music because it’s not like, for example rock, which is a very complicated genre, or like jazz music—house music is very good for the human ear, all the frequencies are chill. 

So you make house music at home?

Yeah for sure, in my basement. I just quit my day job, actually. I was working at a print shop and just working on music every day, and DJing at home with turntables and vinyl and shit.

What about 4004, are you still tight with him?

Yeah for sure, 4004 is my mentor in house music. He’s four or five years older than me, so he was pretty much the first deep house artist in Tijuana who started releasing music, back in like 2009, so I started collaborating a lot with him. I’ve been a producer since I was 13, in 2007. I used to do a lot of styles, like electro and techno, back in the day. The house music influence came from listening to a lot of Daft Punk back when I was a kid, and watching, like, Nickelodeon and stuff, and from there I approached house music. Basically from listening to Daft Punk, like the album Discovery, and watching the anime videos and such that aired on Nickelodeon.

4004 is such a humble guy, very genuine, and I really love his work. We used to collaborate a lot. Actually we created the Soul of Hex project together, but he had to split because the sounds we were doing were super different, and he’s focused on his own personal projects. Right now I’m doing Soul of Hex by myself. He’s more inclined to be just a producer. Me, I’m just a dancer. I mean, I’m not a professional dancer, but I love to dance. That’s my first priority: dancing. I really love to dance and therefore I’m a DJ, you know? I’m a DJ and then I consider myself a producer. House music is a dance music genre, and I really like the whole dance music spectrum. It doesn’t matter if it’s funk, or disco, or house, or techno, whatever, it’s just dance music to me, and I’m inclined to make people dance. It’s such a science, and an art, making people dance; it’s very complicated.

Me, I’m just a dancer. I mean, I’m not a professional dancer, but I love to dance. That’s my first priority: dancing. I really love to dance and therefore I’m a DJ, you know? I’m a DJ and then I consider myself a producer.

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Merissa Blitz ig: @mbiltzphoto

I will say, I’ve been to Tijuana a couple times, and that city just has a great vibe to it.

Yeah! I recently saw one magazine said Tijuana is one of the most artistic places in Mexico. There’s a lot of people doing stuff. It’s not like a competition, but everyone’s trying to be the best at what they’re doing. There are a lot of good bands from Tijuana, there are a lot of good artists doing paintings and stuff. It’s very artsy. Right now there’s a cinema that’s focused on art movies, called Cine Tonalá, and right now it’s a platform for new directors who are creating movies in Tijuana, or around Mexico, and they’re showcasing them. It’s really cool, the premiers there are amazing.  

There was a big club scene, but right now it’s a lot of promoters, I won’t name names, but everyone’s kinda doing it for the money rather than the love of music. That’s why I think Tijuana has its ups and downs, because sometimes the promoters are making stuff and putting on parties because they love the music, but once they have a successful party or a series of successful parties they’re gonna start doing it for the money, sometimes it’s tempting, you know? I think that’s why sometimes it’s not that cool.

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Merissa Blitz ig: @mbiltzphoto

Are you planning on staying in Tijuana to make music or do you want to go somewhere else?

Right now I really like Tijuana because I don’t go out that much. I lived in Berlin for three months, and I went out all the time. And it’s really inspiring because the club scene there is amazing, like you have the Berghain and Panorama Bar—well, if they let you in of course—it’s really, really cool to go there regularly. I dunno, I like Tijuana a lot, all my family lives there and I really love them, but it’s always cool to get out of your comfort zone and be in a place like, for example, Berlin.

I was really, really excited to play here in New York, because it’s like the mecca of dance music. For me there’s a holy trinity, you know, Chicago, Detroit, and New York, as the most important places for house music. To me, Larry Levan, who’s from New York, Ron Hardy, who was from Chicago, Mike Banks, and the whole Underground Resistance movement from Detroit—I mean, those are my influences. So basically I was super stoked to get to play here. It’s my first time playing here tonight, and I’m really looking forward to it.

For me there’s a holy trinity, you know, Chicago, Detroit, and New York, as the most important places for house music. To me, Larry Levan, who’s from New York, Ron Hardy, who was from Chicago, Mike Banks, and the whole Underground Resistance movement from Detroit—I mean, those are my influences.

You’re about to get ready to play, what’s the first thing you’re going to think about when you start putting on records? 

I like to read the crowd. For example, you’re playing a track at 120 bpm, but sometimes, you know, people are not even moving to 100 bpm, so you have to play something slow. But if it’s a wild crowd, you have to, well, be playing something fast, quick. I like to create momentum, and some kind of climax in my DJ set, because I came from—well, I used to dance a lot and rave when I was young. You know, I don’t like to consider myself a crowd pleaser, but I always like when the crowd has listened to you, and probably they know a couple of your tracks—it’s always good to make them feel good, to make them feel comfortable. Sometimes DJs are just focused on what they like, but what if the crowd is not feeling it? I really like to play something for the people, it’s not just for me.

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