The House Oscar Built
In the DJ booth during his weekly residency at Miami's most famous club, the internationally recognized Space, house DJ/producer Oscar G began to get that feeling. It was 2002 and he was set to release what would become his biggest single to date, the gorgeously twisted "Dark Beat." As he spun the track, Oscar remembers briefly looking up from his equipment and over the gyrating crowd. What he saw would floor him; the sweaty, sold-out audience at Space moved in perfect sync with the song's ominous, thumping rhythm, and as the chorus's grave, processed vocals cued up -- "I can't hide it/I won't deny it/Cuz I'm addicted to drums" -- the nearly ecstatic crowd sang along to every word of the then-unreleased single.
"The energy that one night was so incredible," Oscar remembers. "That was the night where I finally felt fulfilled ... that this was what I always wanted to do and it was happening right now."
For Oscar it was a culmination of fifteen years of hard work, from playing junior high dances to pressing and distributing his own records. But what he couldn't have known then was that this was only the beginning. Over the past three years, the sound he and partner Ralph Falcon have developed under the Murk moniker has taken the house world by storm. Their dark, tribal take on the genre has come to be regarded as the "Miami sound," and it has not only helped elevate the careers of Falcon and Oscar, but it has also been partially responsible for Miami's ascension within the international house community.
Long before he was playing to sold-out audiences at Space, Oscar was performing for prepubescent partiers. Born and raised in Miami -- he attended Coral Way Elementary and La Salle High School -- Oscar recalls spinning early electro such as Kraftwerk and Cybertron for oftentimes baffled adolescents. A turning point came in 1989 when Oscar was a junior in high school. There two events that would prove pivotal in his development were his reunion with childhood fried Ralph Falcon -- who had been at military school since the seventh grade -- and his discovery that there was a larger, national dance music community. Now aware of a thriving dance music world beyond Miami-Dade, he felt emboldened to fully commit himself to his music.
Three years later, in 1992, Oscar and Falcon received their first big break when they released "You Got Me" under the name The Intruders. The break-driven track introduced the duo to the global dance community. Although subsequent years yielded their fair share of house anthems for the Murk duo -- most notably the 1996 single "Fired Up," which they released under the guise of Funky Green Dogs -- setting a foundation in their hometown proved elusive. "In Miami there was no house scene at the time, so we started traveling to places where there was one," Oscar recalls.
But as the Nineties gave way to the new millennium, things changed. South Beach's gay scene was quickly waning, and the era of the superclub was on the rise. "The introduction of the Winter Music Conference definitely played a part, but also the downfall of [the infamous NYC club] Twilight helped put the focus on us," Oscar comments.
In 2000 Oscar was given a weekly residence at Space and quickly become Miami's biggest draw. "Being the resident at Space was like a dream come true," Oscar says. "To have a place like that in your hometown where you're the weekly resident is amazing. Every week I would go there I would be excited about it. It really gave me a platform for what I do."
The basic Miami house aesthetic consists of dark, brooding bass lines, tribal percussion, and thin, processed vocals. The silver linings to this somewhat gloomy sound are the euphoric releases during peak club hours that serve to unwind the music's propulsive tension. Oscar sees himself as a storyteller of sorts. "I'll DJ from eleven at night until ten or eleven in the morning. And when you play that long, you take the audience on a journey," he relates. "It's an adrenaline rush for hours on end, and when I'm through, I'm just dead."
This narrative arch is on full display on Oscar's new CD, Made in Miami. The album features some of the biggest and hottest names in house -- including Carl Kennedy and Steve Lawler -- and is a continuation of the sound that has defined Murk's previous releases. But there's also something new here. Unlike his sets at Space and his previous release -- 2003's Live in Space -- Made in Miami has a softer, more melodic edge. The brilliant mashup of Basement Jaxx's "Fly Life," DJ Pezi's "The New Dimension," and Ralphie Rosario's "You Used to Hold Me" points to a concentration on technical mastery.
"When you're making a CD, you try to do something that is more timeless," Oscar says. "When you're doing a live gig, you just want something that hits that night. It's a different approach."
After touring to support this release, Oscar plans to return to the studio with Falcon to work on the new Murk album. "I just hope and believe that the scene will continue to grow and that people will continue to become more aware and involved -- not just of what's happening now, but everything that took place before," Oscar says.
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