Sit Down with Grammy Award Winning DJ Louie VegaSeptember 18, 2012 By: Steve Lewis
It a was Wednesday night at Cielo on West 12th Street in New York City’s Meatpacking District where a dance crowd gathered for Louie Vega -- a Grammy Award winning DJ, producer, songwriter and label owner. Vega had just returned from a seven week tour in Europe where crowds sold out spaces to hear the legend. At Cielo the crowd was small but vibrant.
A Wednesday September in NYC's club world can be problematical. Then a voice whispered as if answering the question sitting silent in my brain "I just got back from Europe with Louie...he packed it out....things are different here." Louie plays a soulful House set not a stadium packing Electronic Dance Music set. But as I watched the dance floor there was an energy, a vibe that is so hard to find. There were smiles on faces, feet couldn't stop and there was love all around the club.
Louie Vega plays beautiful music. When we spoke he was particularly excited with his Sunset Ritual events he produces with his wife Anane, Jackson, Tito Puente, the Black Eyed Peas and many others. In 2006, he received a Grammy for Best Remixed Recording, Non Classical with Curtis Mayfield's Superfly. He has his Roots live WBLS 107.5 radio show with Kevin Hedge. He even has a line of hats, jewelry and T-shirts. He has done so much and has a lot going on.
Nightclub Confidential caught up with Louie Vega and asked him all about it
Nightclub Confidential (NCC): Tell me about your latest and greatest Sunset Ritual, the new album and the Fania label.
Vega: Sunset Ritual is an event created by Anane and I were we have special events and residencies at beach clubs and nightclubs around the world. We bring together our musical friends and create an atmosphere that is hot and sexy. It’s very special because Anane and I are DJing together simultaneously with six decks, three isolators, effects units, and a few other wonderful gadgets. We feed off each other on the spot and remix records before your eyes. The sets are from 4pm till midnight during sunset and into the night.
Sunset Rituals started at the Blue Marlin three years ago in Ibiza. This year we went to the island of Formentera to Pineta Club, Cavo Paradiso Greece, Villa Della Rosa, Balnearea Otranto Italy and a ten city tour in the Mediterranean. We’ve had artists like - percussionist Sheyi Olagunje, Lisa Fischer, Josh Milan, Todd Terry and David Morales as our guest. We are already setting up Sunset Ritual and Moon Ritual (our night party) for the 2013 summer.
Elements of Life is my live band project. I’ve completed the new album, The Eclipse, which will be released on January 22, 2013 on Fania Records. For me it is a huge deal as it was the label of my Uncle Hector Lavoe, one of my favorite producers Willie Colon and the infamous Fania All Stars. I believe I’m the first artist to be signed since the legendary Fania days. This is an honor for me. Elements of Life will begin touring in December, starting in South Africa and Mozambique.
I’m also working on a few projects for Fania, one being taking my uncles catalog and putting together an album where I could base an entire new record for him with today’s feel and combining it with the classic Lavoe sound! At Fania, it is in the works where I will be music producer. I’m co-producing Anane’s new album “Peace, Love and Musica” for next year. Still, I’m remixing projects here and there when something interesting comes along but now mostly producing new and fresh sounds.
NCC: A couple hundred people came to hear you and dance with you at Cielo in NY. However, in Europe your crowds are much bigger. What is the difference between the European and NY mindsets?
Vega: In NYC I’ve had Roots NYC night (along with Kevin Hedge/Blaze) at Cielo for the last eight years. We picked Wednesday so that we could still travel and it’s worked out well. We’ve had amazing nights and every Wednesday I always have a great time, its home. In Europe the crowds can be of all sizes, playing to large audiences is different from playing to the smaller audiences where it’s more intimate. I do keep the integrity of my music and don’t change my vibe but it may have a more energetic feeling since the sets are shorter (3-4 hours). At home there is more of a musical journey and the crown is marinated with many sounds of our music, ranging from way back till now. But you can’t sleep on Europe out there. It’s been an amazing time and there is a lot of love out in Europe, Japan, South Africa, UK, Australia and more!
NCC: I see you go by Louie Vega now as opposed to Little Louis Vega. Is this because you have grown as a person?
Vega: I use Louie Vega now, yes it’s been many years of Little Louie Vega and I’ve decided it was time for change. Everyone got used to it after a while. I’ve grown as a DJ, a producer, an entrepreneur, an artist.
NCC: Your set had traditional deep house as well as disco elements and even rock samples. It was also heavily influenced by Latin sounds. With the Latin population growing, will more Latin based sounds infiltrate the DJ dance floors?
Vega: Latin sounds and percussion has always been a big part of the dance floor, it’s so infectious you have to move to it. I’ve always been into various sounds from growing up in NYC. My sets can range from 1971 till now and can be as new as music six months in advance. I play from soulful to minimal, disco to rock, dance, new wave, afro to afrobeat. It’s just about playing good music. I may even play a hip hop track or reggae, that’s the big surprise about coming to hear me, you never know. I’m Puerto Rican, so percussion is part of my heritage therefore it’s going to come out in my music. Latin music percussion all stems to the African Roots. The African roots will also be present within my sound which is the altogether Core. But I love good music in general, anything that touches me I will play; it has to give me the chills!
NCC: Electronic Dance Music, is it a true religion? Will it take over the music scene? What are the pros and cons?
Vega: I feel EDM has already engulfed the world and has for years. It’s just that now the US has finally caught on to it. EDM is all types of dance music. It’s just been given a new name now. I’ve been a part of it since the beginning and I’m honored to be able to be a heavy contributor to dance music. The exposure is huge on EDM and it’s only helping the world to notice all kinds of dance music. It’s good for all of us.
NCC: Where do you get your trademark hats and how important is style to a DJ?
Vega: My trademark hat, I’ve had for many years, I’ve always worn the player hat and the fedora since I started DJing in NYC from back in the heartthrob Studio 54 Devil’s Next days. Then when I started the production team masters at work with my partner Kenny Dope in 1991 we had our logo made by an artist named CAB, he combined me with the player hat and Kenny with his baseball hat turned to the side, hence the famous international masters at work logo!
Style and image is very important to a DJ. Just as any artist, there are so many DJs these days you need something that stands out and that people can identify with, it’s all about having your own style, imaging and sounds! When I did it, it was natural. I actually didn’t say all these things back in the day. I just did it out of instinct and something good came from it all.