Back in 2013, Jason Baez was New Times' pick for Miami's Best DJ on the strength of his powers as a selector. By all accounts, he was one of the most popular and in-demand on the local underground house and techno scene.
But while he already had a couple of budding original releases under his belt by then, 2015 might be the year when Baez truly comes into his own as a producer, especially if A Fool's Circus, his new EP on Bimini Records, is anything to go by.
With hypnotic slow-burning melodic arrangements harking back to late-'90s progressive house but decidedly still in vogue with today's international deep techno Zeitgeist, the record marks a definite maturation in Baez's studio production sound.
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"Unfortunately, I wasn't born a musical prodigy or blessed with music composition talent," Baez self-deprecatingly tells New Times. "It took me years of trial and error and countless YouTube tutorials to understand the bare necessities of music theory and composition. And even today, I am still developing my knowledge.
"But I am happy to say that within the past 12 months, I have reached a point where I am very proud of the work I've done. I think A Fool's Circus has been my biggest breakthrough yet."
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These days, it's fairly common for vocational producers to take on professional DJ'ing, with little to no prior experience, in order to escape the obscurity of the studio and present themselves live. But any enthusiast will tell you that exceptional producers don't always make exceptional DJs. More rare is for seasoned DJs -- like Baez -- to develop and mature into producers as a way to expand their repertoire and express their personal vision.
"As a producer, you're always trying to be different, yet everything has been done. We are sampling old tracks from the '70s, '80s, whatever. We use the same virtual plugins and presets. How much different can we really be?" Baez wonders. "Well, we can be. I think what makes a producer evolve their sound is to understand their capabilities and learn from the mistakes they make in the studio.
"I went through ten to 15 versions of both these tracks on A Fool's Circus," he says. "Every version was becoming worse than the last, until I started to simplify my process and stopped worrying about how I wanted to sound. I've only been able to evolve in production by letting go and having fun in the studio."
Of course, for a DJ turned producer like Baez, the creative process behind making a quality dance record surely benefits from his years of experience as a selector with a finely tuned ear and keen sense of what gets people on the dance floor.
"My next big project is to create a 120-minute mix that strictly includes my productions and remixes or edits," he discloses. "It has been in discussion with my crew at Bespoke Musik for some time now, and they feel that it should be my focus for the next few months. My other project is to launch a record label, and that is set for the first quarter of 2015."
"As far as DJ'ing goes, I'm trying to take a step back temporarily -- not to say that I won't accept any gigs," he adds. "I understand that I am at a stage in my career where focusing my time as a producer makes much more sense. I want to be able to go back and say that I failed trying rather than I failed to try."
However, before Baez burrows back into his studio, we'll all have a chance to catch this locally beloved DJ shining on the ones and twos once more for the Electric Pickle's anniversary celebration on February 28.
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Baez. As part of Electric Pickle's Electric Picnic Sixth Anniversary Party. With Thunderpony, Ms. Mada, Jeremy Ismael, and others. Saturday, February 28. Electric Pickle, 2826 N. Miami Ave., Miami. The party starts at 3 p.m. and ends at 11. Ages 21 and up. Call 305-456-5613, or visit electricpicklemiami.com.