“I'm sure Chris Fortier has a Mexican passport by now, right?” asks a happy clubgoer while dancing to Fortier's DJ set at a recent party overlooking Chapultepec Lake in Mexico City. As the dancefloor full of people surges until 9 a.m., with Fortier at the helm, in the blistering, bright sun, it's no surprise that the U.S. progressive-house DJ has been a fixture on the Mexican dance-music scene for the past 10 years and counting.
A progressive-house pioneer in the States and south of the border, Fortier has fully developed himself as both a successful artist and a successful entrepreneur. The DJ and producer — who hails from central Florida and now makes his home in New York — paid his dues through residencies in New York and London, as well as nonstop touring, before getting into production and starting his own label, Fade Records, in 1994. In addition to owning and running Fade, Fortier is also founder and CEO of the Balance Record Pool. Somehow, he still finds the time to discover new artists and manage gems like Steve Porter. Needless to say, Fortier has made quite an impact on the dance-music scene — not bad for a boy who started out as a competitive surfer.
Fortier returns to Mexico on the heels of his new mix CD, Audio Tour (2004), a heartfelt release promoting the burgeoning Fade artist roster. But a record-store tour is the order of today. Usually, DJs who have earned a name like Fortier receive promos and new releases through the mail, so going record shopping for this superstar DJ is rejuvenating and fun.
As he makes his way to Opium Records, Fortier thinks about which records he wants to get that haven't been sent to him, hoping to find at least a few of them. He is amazed when he arrives to find a space that is half restaurant lounge and half record store — all white and with a sidewalk café. Opium has not even been open for a year, yet it's already the local DJs' favorite place to hang out and have a cocktail while listening to new music. This is not the regular record shop that Fortier is used to, and, shockingly, the vinyl portion of the store is so small that there aren't as many options as he expected.
Nevertheless, Fortier is undaunted, launching into his meticulous method of picking records off of the racks. He reads the name and the label, and if something catches his eye, he puts it aside. Once a bunch of records are on a separate table, he then looks over them again and gets rid of what he is not totally convinced will be worthwhile. He makes sure that he's not missing any good stuff by going into the secret stash hidden underneath the store's long white counter.
A few hours later, Fortier has gone through almost all of the store's records, but still thirsty for more, he finds out about a secret record store a block-and-a-half away from Opium. But even though everyone else seems to know exactly how to get to this vinyl hideaway, Fortier just can't seem to find it. Eventually, the man who had been helping out with the Opium purchase, Oso, comes to the rescue, guiding Fortier to a stone building that looks like an ordinary house. Inside one of the rooms is Zua Records, a smaller place but covered with racks full of records.
Fortier's eyes shine when he enters, and once he has separated a load of records, he gets ready for the audition. When Fortier listens, he does so in three parts: He plays short, separate sections of the beginning, the middle and the end. Once he's listened carefully, he gives a peculiar smile and places the record into the shopping cart. If he doesn't like the record, he raises his eyebrows and places the record on the other side.
Fortier always has the best of the best in his record box, and with this trip to Mexico City, he had hoped to add a few more ace selections. One afternoon and two record shops later, he is pleasantly surprised to find some goodies. Here's a look at what he came up with.
“Bravo (Alexander Kowalski Remix)” (Bpitch Control)
I loved the original of this, but now with this remix, it has gone from warm-up record to peak-hour bomb. I have been playing loads of things from AK, and this one doesn't falter: driving, acid tech house with trancey elements that give a hypnotic feel.
The Acid Orchestra EP (Lifted Music)
This is another excellent acid-house tweaker that I can't stop playing. This track is part mixing tool and part groove. I have been using it in the midparts of sets to push the pace up a notch. With this kind of record, you can go in so many directions. I love it!
Nice Kiss EP (Big Chief)
Marky Star is making some wicked stuff at the moment. I think I have about four of his tracks in my box now. I think this is an album, not various mixes of the same track, but I can't be sure. All tracks are tripped-out drummy house that has just enough attitude and edge. I am playing three of the four tracks on one of the 12-inches.
HECTOR MORALES & CHRIS CARRIER
We Live This EP (Robsoul)
This one is just solid, straightforward house. It has a jackin' kind of vibe with the drums. Both tracks are strong in their own right. One side is a bit more early-set, but both have such heavy bass lines that they shake your bass bins, I'm telling you!
I have heard some of Richie's stuff in the past, but I haven't heard him do this kind of sound. This is a bit more techy prog and a solid filler for early in my sets. The bass is low and driving. I am leaning toward the “Werq Your Drums Mix” because it is more tracky.
SMITH & SELWAY
I am a big fan of the Tronic releases, mostly from Christian Smith and John Selway. Together, they bring a hard and melodic sound that feels retro and fresh all at once. The original mix is great on its own, but I am more into the “Adam Beyer Remix” on the flip. I pitch it down a tad to groove it more. This has a great synthy pad that fills all of the empty space. The drums are hard and tough. Altogether, it is great!
PAUL VAN DYK
“Crush (Funk D'Void Remix)” (Positiva)
This record is a true testament to the fact that you should listen to every record. PVD isn't really within my normal sets, but because it had a Funk D'Void mix, it caught more of my eye. This mix could have easily been on Funk's new album, as it was a remix for Paul. It is heavy, trancey, tech house that has been filling my record box.
My Friends and I (Regular)
I have been playing about six of the eight tracks on this album already. Now, I am getting a second copy to be able to work all of the tracks together in a set without limitations. This is pure, deep techno and tech house. The variations of house that are displayed are wicked. You can create a great set just from what is here.
Opium Records; Mazatlan 81, Col. Condesa 06140, Mexico City, Mexico; tel. (52-55) 5211-9362
Zua Records; Mazatlan 120, Col. Condesa 06140, Mexico City, Mexico; tel. (52-55) 5211-3345