Ursula 1000, aka New York's Alex Gimeno, is an anomaly. This multi-instrumentalist and multi-talented producer has managed to straddle the previously uncharted line between the '60s lounge-core kitsch society and the dusty crate-digging living-in-your-mom's-basement type. As a sought-after DJ and a respected local at New York City's APT nightclub, Ursula has traveled to the far reaches of the world spreading his unique brand of mashed-up eclecticism on the turntables while churning out new retro-progressive records and DJ mixes almost every year.
Raised in Miami, Fla., by a musical family (his father was in the '50s Latin orchestra Los Chavles de España), Ursula cut his teeth as a drummer in a number of local Brit-pop and new-wave bands, all the while building an eclectic record collection. After building his studio in the late '90s, Ursula used his vast store of vinyl as a springboard for inspiration. “I started doing my first demos around '97 when I'd gotten ahold of an early Akai S900 sampler, a groovebox and some cheapo Casio synths,” he says. “I'd been rediscovering and schooling myself on a lot of '60s music, whether it was soundtrack stuff, music library or pop from that period. At that time, a lot of artists like Pizzicato Five or Dimitri From Paris were using these '60s elements in their music and tweaking them in a modern way. I got really turned on by that whole concept.”
After recording his first demo and shopping it to a few labels, Ursula was quickly snatched up by ESL (run by D.C. downtempo dons Thievery Corporation). Since then, Ursula has become one of ESL's most popular and prolific artists, releasing two original records and two highly regarded DJ mixes. And now, with the 2006 release of his third album, Here Comes Tomorrow, Ursula's progression as an artist and his longstanding obsession with a variety of musical genres is more apparent than ever. Tomorrow is a beautifully mismatched record — the '60s jet-set vibe is still present, but so are Timex Social Club — era digital funk, '70s Jamaican ska, Latin party beats and dirty Glam rock. It's solid gold on a dancefloor, yet perfectly suited for home listening. “These elements have been in my DJ sets for years,” Ursula says. “And I just wanted to bring more of this into my production, to show people kind of what I'm about.”
Not present on Tomorrow are the samples and loops that have been part of Ursula's previous work. All instruments are played yet processed to sound like samples to give a retro feel. “I still like the idea of sampling,” he says. “When you sample a '50s record, not only are you getting these great hits and stuff, but you're also getting a different era of productions. I tried to re-create that kind of effect. Sometimes I'll run the audio through an Electro-Harmonix Memory Man pedal to get that gritty noise, or maybe I'll sample myself playing and re-import it into the computer to get some of that 16-bit feel.”
Tomorrow was also produced entirely on Pro Tools, a big step for Ursula, who'd produced previous records with an Akai MPC. For him, the process was a slow one of watching and learning from others, while putting some serious time into it on his own. “I'm all thumbs when it comes to technology,” he laughs. “For me, Pro Tools is very similar to Photoshop; its very user-friendly, but you get to know it through trial and error. I mean, you could sit there and read the manual, but I hate manuals.”