House at home

Jon Viera’s local Escuro label
By MICHAEL FREEDBERG  |  August 21, 2007

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HOOKED: “I’d go to flea markets for 12 hours. Then to the record store. I was a label hound.”

If you’re a producer of house music and you’re looking for a label, you might well submit your tracks to Escuro Records. Jon Viera, a young clubgoing type who grew up in Florida but graduated from Peabody High School, has based Escuro in his house — indeed, in the computer room upstairs. That’s where he can usually be found, listening to tracks submitted to him, producing new tracks, and communicating with artists, DJs, producers, and, in this case, the Phoenix.

The night of my visit, I find Viera at the computer. DJ Deka, a friend whose debut hit, “In the Darkness,” is an Escuro track, is there too, watching the Red Sox on television. Pizza is ordered. It might easily be just another sports night in the suburbs for two hard-working guys.

How did Viera get into house? “I was still a kid, living in Florida. A friend would bring over his tapes — I liked the artwork and I liked the music. Soon I started seeking out raves. Eight or nine hours of great beats! Hey, I’ve always walked the path of a different drummer, so at raves I found perfect happiness, which I couldn’t get from Top 40. So there I was, getting home at 6 am, when the rest of the guys my age were just getting up. It was kind of my secret, my passion — it was mine, nobody could take it away from me.”

It was the mid 1990s. Raves ruled. Viera started buying vinyl. “I’d go to flea markets for 12 hours. Then to the record store. I was a label hound. I was always begging mom for more money, spent every penny I could. Five years ago, I moved from record collector to the DJ booth. After a while doing that, I decided that my true future was in running a label. Now this was the time when, because of the Internet, all the real-world record stores were closing. I realized that digital distribution was the way to go, and it made things possible for me, because on the ’Net you don’t have to worry about being shafted by a distributor or paying to have vinyl pressed.”

Viera found himself prominent among the first wave of labels to exist solely in ’Net space. A page at MySpace and friendships with many of the Boston area’s best-known DJs plus DJ Manolo from Philadelphia quickly put Escuro in play. “Right away, I had great tracks to sign. Before, you had to be a top top DJ to get a record deal — a Junior Vasquez, a Danny Tenaglia, a Steve Lawler or Josh Wink, say. I wanted to show that the new guys have great music too.

“This was two years ago. For the first year, I signed nothing; I listened. I made contacts. I visited the DJs, saw them spinning, chose my label name, which means ‘dark’ in Portuguese. Finally, in the last year, I’ve released tracks.” Keven Maroda’s aggressive “The Freq” was the first; DJ Tomer’s deep-beat “You Don’t Know Me” the second.

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