First question: What happened to your famous diamond MAW pendant?
Arrrr… that poor pendant. Its in Miami somewhere. Some lucky cleaning lady has it or something. It was a gift from Kenny that he gave me about 10 years ago. When I was in my place in Miami, my son was wearing it and I guess it must have just got lost down some sofa somewhere. That was a very beautiful piece. I am having a new one made.
We saw a video of you DJ’ing recently in Miami. Was that your mum you were with at he party, does she go to all of your gigs?
You know a lot of my parties here in the US are family orientated. My Mom, my sisters their daughters, they all come out and they love this music. It was my Mom who was rocking out and the other woman was my aunt! You can see the video at www.defected.com/tv
Did the music that they played when you were growing up influence your style now?
As you know I have Latin heritage, Salsa music is a big part of my growing up. I had a very famous uncle singer named Hector Lavoue signed to the label Phonia ?????, I also listened to Elton John, Steely Dan, Stevie Wonder, and got I got musical influences from my sisters going to clubs and being club queens in the late 70’s and 80’s they brought a lot of records from Zanibar and the Loft, Paradise Garage and The Gallery.
Did you go to any of those clubs?
I got to go to the garage when I was 15 years old, I remember what Larry Levan was playing when I first went in there, it was amazing. He played Candido – Thousand finger man, Street Player - Chicago, a lot of those records that influence us today were played at that club. I still play those records to this day. I was in awe of the sound system, Larry Levan, the way he played, he mixed a lot of effects and accapellas, he really took you on a trip.
I guess you could say that he was a role model or you.
Yes he was a role model for me as a DJ a producer and remixer. He remixed and produced tons of great records, the Beach Boys, Grace Jones, Gwen Guthrie even Mick Jagger.
Maybe your have reached the same stature as him now?
Ah man… I don’t tink I could ever go that far, but there were a lot of great DJ’s around at the time watching Tony Humpries at the Zanzibar, they way he played records. At that time it was amazing, in New York. It was all about the big clubs and the sound systems. You had 10 or 15 clubs the size of The Ministry of Sound and all had amazing DJ’s. Between 85-90 I played the tops clubs in NYC, I was young, 20 years old and I was playing every Friday and Saturday to huge numbers night to 2500, 3000 people every weekend.
What about your legendary underground Network Party?
I took a break for a couple of years then I met Don Welsh who was Barbara Tuckers partner at the time. He had already started the underground Network at Elite. They said look how do feel about being the resident DJ at all our parties every Wednesday. Then they came up with the concept of making it a music industry party where all music industry heads could hang out, dancers DJ’s etc and just release, and so we went over to the Sound factory where we had seen Frankie Knuckles playing. It was bumping and we loved the club.
Do you think that Strictly Rhythm kick started your career, especially with songs like Beautiful People?
I would say as a producer for house music YES, Strictly Rhythm gave me the opportunity to release a lot of the ideas that I had, Mark Finkelstein was the man behind the scenes sorting out all the business side of things, but Glady Pizarro was in charge of the creative part, she was always out, checking out the clubs, checking out what was new, checking out the next thing. She would always say to me ‘what you got thats new?” and I would be calling her at 3am in the morning, her and Micheal White???? at Nervous. Strictly Rhythm and Nervous were very instrumental to my career and I would call them and they would listen and I would say ‘I have this record and it real hot!’ The records would be Deep Inside, or Beautiful people and they would be freaking out. I’d say ‘I got this idea, we wrote this song called beautiful People’ and it was actually India, Lem Springstein, Dereck Whittaker and Myself who had written the song, and the next thing Beautiful people was born. I had a great team at the time trying to pull together some great song writers, I was working with India at the time, and Lem Sprinstein.
What’s the story behind Deep Inside?
I came up with this hot groove and I wanted to do something for Barbara Tucker because she was always singing at the Underground Network. So I said I got this song for you. When she sang this song she sang one little part that really stood out for me that was ‘Deep Down Inside, Deep Deep Down inside’ and I was like wow that gave me an idea I went back into the studio I wrote this new groove to it and it became ‘Deep Inside’ the track, and I though that I would like to use this groove to introduce Barbara’s voice to the house scene. I think it will be perfect for getting the crowd to get into vibe.
Whats this I hear about an up and coming superstar DJ helping you out?
It’s funny that it’s such a small world, when I took that sample I went to a studio where a young guy who had a tiny little studio in a room in his house helped me out. This young engineer who worked on my song turned out to be Erick Morillo. The young Erick Morillo did my track! He was my engineer on Deep Inside. From there the song blew up and I couldn’t believe it, I gave that song to Strictly Rhythm for practically nothing and it did amazing out there.
It has become every house music aficionado’s favourite record!
Its wild how that happened, I remember going to Italy and seeing there reaction, I saw how huge it was, it hit everybody on the spot. It’s a classic groove and the hook is infectious.
Who do you think is setting the standards now, the people that are on your radar?
I love it when people get creative, Henrik Schwarz, Dennis ferrer, Ame, Mr V, Alix Alvarez, Will Rodriguez from the West Coast, Frank Roger, Joe Clausell. This crew are coming up with some really crazy things. Even on a mainstream level Bob Sinclar and Martin Solveig, There is a lot of music our there and its up to the DJ to develop his taste to music, the DJ has to make it his thing. That is the sign of a really good DJ when you identify exactly what his sound is. Its like yo, that’s a Larry Levan Record, or that A Zanzibar Record, it goes from way back.
You don’t follow trends though right? You play what you feel is good.
Exactly, things will stand out if you like them you like them, if you don’t you don’t. I play music that I feel moves me, music that gives me chills. Its how you play the particular song, you can see the reaction from the people. how you bring it in, what you do to create a dynamic..You can make a crowd sing a song just by the way your are playing it, you can accent parts that people what to sing it or say it, even if they haven’t heard that song before.
Music in a transitional stage at the moment. How is it changing for you is it getting better or worse?
It is changing, obviously the Vinyl, we have had a great run for the last 15 years has been wonderful and is dwindleing and is becoming more of a purist thing, with my releases at Vega Records we still take care of the purists, that is something that is close to my heart obviously because I am a dj and I still collect Vinyl, even though I play CD’s when I’m travelling. I have a huge collection of vinyl.
Do you play from Laptop as well?
I have Serrato??? As well, I can do either, I have done it before, its great as you get to carry tons of music. It’s a good time for independents and small labels because you get to sell your tracks digitally around the world from different digital stores, you can promote through the internet, you can sell your records without having to invest tons of money in marketing and production, at least you can get a start.
What are you saying its better at the moment?
Its got its better side and its worse side. It is not easy for an independent label to survive, you have to be very consistent and make good music. The best thing is that nobody can stop me making music, I make tons of music, I always have Ideas, my mind is always fresh full of them as I am travelling around the world. We can almost control our destiny because we are creating the music and finding the new talent. That’s what I have dedicated Vega Records for to find new talent.
What have you done with the mix.
I am very proud of the Louie Vega in the house. I covered a lot of different styles of house music. It took me seven days to put that together, I have covered a lot of different styles of house music, I have even done a third CD that I have done on my own, which contains inspirational tunes. It’s a really great CD, one of my favourites so far. It’s a really great all around package.
What are the differences between the two mixes?
Well CD1 starts really aggressive and fun and party, the first tune opens up with the Bob Sinclar Remix of Put your Drink Down, This is a really hot summer track and then it goes into this album cut that the Basement boys did, that Freestyle Records put out in the UK, They replayed the horn lines of Street player, it has an aggressive tribal beat, I’ve started it with a big bang. Right away it takes you there.
Are there any standout tracks on that particular mix?
There’s a song that I produced for Cerrone, it is Louie Vega Vs Cerrone is how they are presenting it. its called Love Ritual, I did it as a tribute to Cerrone and it remade his famous Conga tune, The one that Todd Terry sampled for Gypsy Man, I redid that beat with the ELO band and it sound really powerful, with a new singer called Nina Rodriguez singing some chants on it.
Is that an exclusive for the album?
Yeah man there are a lot of exclusives on there, also a song by Anane and Blaze, Dance Ritual another song I did for Cerrone, is on the 2nd CD, and there are a lot of special versions that I put on there.
Sounds like you have a lot going on Louie.
At the moment I’m touring, I am also working with Kenny doing more Masters at work projects, We are both really excited about this, especially with this strictly rhythm album which is a double CD, We have remixed ‘Love and Happiness’ as well which is on the album and we have done two more mixes of this too, something that we are coming back to Strictly with so that is awesome.