Isaac Escalante is one serious dude. Google his image, and you’ll see photo after photo of a pensive expression peering out from deep, dark-set, soulful eyes. Don’t let the photos fool you, however: On the dance floor, this Mexican mixmaster knows how to throw down hard-driving music to make a party come alive and stay that way, hour after hour. In the space of a very few years, Escalante has risen from the clubs of Mexico City and Puerto Vallarta to become an international DJ superstar.
From Divers/Cite in Montreal and Prism in Toronto to the Gay Village in Rome and Songkran in Bangkok, Escalante has been banging out the beats in DJ booths around the world as well as back here in the States where he has recently appeared at Industry in San Francisco and at Urge in Miami this past July with DJ Abel.
One thing you can say about Escalante: This maestro is master of the house (music, that is) who knows how to keep the boys moving with heart-thumping tribal beats that make the dance floor throb. Coursing through all of his music is a Latin-tinged flavor that syncopates and gives it soul and depth.
Along the way, he’s also made an international name for himself in the studio, with productions of forward-looking tracks that have made his name as familiar on mainstream dance floors as gay ones. In 2005, he released “Cheater,” which began a long string of underground hits through songs like “Monaco” and “Zambomba,” and into the 2010s with “Galaxy” and “Love Me.” He’s also a go-to remixer for artists including Ronen Mizrahi, Bruno Renno and Fc Nond. Considering his avant-garde bent, it’s no surprise that he cites influences like Klaus Nomi, David Bowie, the New York Dolls, Amanda Lepore and Victor Calderone.
Escalante cut his DJ teeth while still in his teens spinning for friends’ parties, but he soon moved up to fashion shows. It was in the clubs of the gay mega-resort of Puerto Vallarta, however, that he really broke wide and started to attract the attention of promoters from North and South America. He was already becoming widely known in Europe and Canada when he set out to conquer the dance floors of the U.S.
One of his first stateside gigs was Long Beach Pride’s closing party, which he has been playing since 2008. In 2010, he helped DJ Paulo celebrate his birthday at Club Dream in Miami. Producers of the major Circuit weekends soon came calling, and Escalante answered with a sound that landed him coveted gigs playing the Miami White Party’s pool party and White Dreams at Salvation as well as the main party at Dallas’ mammoth Purple Party and the WE Party Airline Boiling Point party during Miami’s Winter Party.
Miami is a natural second home for Escalante, but he still returns regularly to Puerto Vallarta, where he is treated with all of the honors of a hometown boy made good. If there’s a major party in this major party town, Escalante will probably be there in the DJ booth.
If there was one signature moment when it became clear that, as far as Americans were concerned, Escalante had truly arrived, it had to be when he was chosen to spin at the Work party held at Roseland Ballroom in New York City during Pride of 2013. The annual marathon dance event turned into a tribute to its dearly departed creator, Peter Rauhofer, with his untimely passing just the month before. Escalante joined Chus & Ceballos, Eddie Martinez and a tiny coterie of other DJs who embodied Rauhofer’s hard-driving aesthetic. It was truly an ingathering of the tribe, and Escalante was recognized as one of the key figures anointed to continue the tradition.
When asked about the smoldering quality that’s in his music and those brooding photos, he just shrugs a reply: “I think Latin guys have something special.” In his case, that’s an understatement