MUSIC: Louie Vega Reflects on the ‘Elements of Life’
ARTISTICALLY SPEAKING: Q&A WITH GRAMMY AWARD-WINNING LOUIE VEGA
Fifteen years ago, Giant Step’s launch party at Supper Club NY celebrated the release of an all-star masterpiece album, “Nuyorican Soul,” on Giant Step Records _ putting the world on notice of a spectrum of multifaceted artists, including an influential visionary, Louie Vega. On Monday, Giant Step’s popular monthly night at Le Bain returns to the Standard Hotel with a special DJ set and premiere of Vega’s new album, “Elements Of Life: The Eclipse,” follow-up to the 2005 “Elements Of Life: Extensions.”
The internationally revered Grammy winner talks with Tania Fuentez Media in the following exclusive about what unequivocally matters most through the years and how he stays on point as a composer, DJ/producer and head of an expanding independent record label. Vega Records is now up to its 130th single and it has a catalog of seven albums to date. And, fans can stop wondering about a Masters at Work reunion with powerhouse DJ/producer Kenny “Dope” Gonzalez. “Yes, Kenny and I have already sparked some MAW interest,” Vega said. “We’ve picked only a handful of shows and played some amazing venues to come back and start getting into it.”
NOTE: All photos and graphics courtesy of Louie Vega. For exclusive downloads and more information on Vega and family, visit Vega Records at http://www.vegarecords.net/
To RSVP for Vega’s “Elements of Life: The Eclipse” special listening session and DJ set on Monday, July 16, visit Giant Step at http://www.giantstep.net/events/1526
TFM: It’s clear the “Elements of Life” project has been a labor of love since its inception. What’s the journey been like for you? High points, challenges you’ve faced together, etc.?
LV: It’s been an amazing experience with Elements of Life. We’ve traveled from Tokyo to South Africa to various countries in Europe (U.K., Italy, Spain, Slovakia, Amsterdam, France, Switzerland, Germany and more). We have had the privilege to play alongside many of the greats who we admire and have played the most prestigious festivals and venues.
High points: composing a song for Cirque de Soleil and performing it live, the Elements of Life band and lead vocalist, Anane. Blaze and I co-wrote the song, so the whole family was together!! Even Nico (our son) is on the recording, when you hear children laughing, that’s all Nico!! We were on television with over 145 million people watching worldwide and in front of 70,000 people at Dolphin Stadium in Florida live with all the wonderful Cirque de Soleil performers. It was 81/2 minutes of pure bliss, an out-of-body experience. I have this super talented band of musicians and incredible singers who can bring any project or recording I work on to life!!!! Also, the EOL mixes I’ve done on various projects for many artists finally paid off when it garnered a Grammy for “Best Remixer” in 2006.
Challenges for me are always working out these tours since it’s a big group on stage. I’ve now created three tiers of ways to perform, helping it to be more compact for budgetary purposes. A challenge for me this time is pulling together the team, from booking agents to project manager to distributors, but something is brewing now that I’m very excited about. I will announce soon once signed and sealed.
TFM: Are there any surprises with the new release? How long did it take to complete and what is its significance now on the music industry, which seems stuck in a creative rut and a bit removed from true musicianship.
LV: There are surprises. “Elements of Life” is about bringing together many cultures, rhythms, artists who do all, from writing to singing in various languages, and are from different parts of the world. It’s about celebrating life, a message to the youth, letting the youth know how important it is to be aware of all going on and realizing how they are the future for us all, it goes a little deeper. A message about our icons as well, and the roots (knowledge is roots) … there are so many subliminal things on this album. I will let you and many others figure it out. It took four years to complete. I’ve actually recorded two albums, “Elements of Life: The Eclipse” and “Elements of Life: Icons.” I will release them both within a year, one in October 2012, and the other in March 2013. Musically it has a variation of styles in music the Vega way, and they all come together as one when listening to it as you will on Monday.
TFM: Like everything else, House music must evolve with each generation, adapting to a diverse global audience’s tastes. How does a DJ/producer stay relevant amid fleeting trends? What makes this genre distinctly unique, particularly what’s known as deep or soulful House music?
LV: I think it’s fine to get inspired by sounds out there. But, very important to make music that touches you and others in whatever way it may be. Staying true to what you love will keep you relevant. Your music, if made well, and great songs with talented artists, powerful tracks … all these things will create demand with other DJs wanting to play your work. DJing at your residency club, traveling the world, being in the right places at the right time. Consistency is very important with your productions and as a DJ.
Reinventing yourself when you are here this long is important. People always want new things. I’ve started something really special with my wife, Anane, which is playing on the decks DJing simultaneously!!! We started a night two years ago called “Sunset Ritual” which we did in Ibiza for two summers. This year, we are touring in Formentera, Italy, and Greece, with our “Sunset Ritual” and “Moon Ritual” parties. It’s really a lifetime dream for me that came true and that’s to be able to DJ with the one I love. And, she rocks it very well!!! She has great taste in music, very technical and she works her instruments (isolators, effects, etc.) She started DJing three years ago, when I told her over five years ago she should try DJing. She’s always had stunning taste in music, so it was there all the time, once she started DJing her technical side came in naturally which started at the subMercer with a residency (thanks to Stephane Vacher who believed in her), she then incorporated DJing and performing within her night. Anane really has it, I’m very proud of her! We have “Sunset Ritual” worldwide and spreading to the prestigious beach clubs. We’ve done : Ibiza, Formentera, Salento, Italy, Myconos, (Greece), Miami, NYC and more!!!
Deep, soulful, Afro soul, so many names, it’s all global soul. Actually, there isn’t really one name for it. This music is really intriguing and it pulls you in, leaving you never wanting to come out. It really touches you, especially if listening on a dance floor with a big sound system. But, you can also listen to it at home. I think, most of all, is also the social part of it. Listening and dancing to this music with good friends and good vibes. If someone new comes into the dance floor, it’s easy and comfortable for them to get involved, then they become a part of the family. Now with social networking, it’s even bigger. But, when people get together, listen and dance to it, there is a unifying experience. It’s a lifestyle worldwide!!
TFM: Reflecting on your career and far-reaching influence on so many artists, what’s been the most rewarding aspect of it all?
LV: The most rewarding aspect of all for me is being able to change people’s lives with my music and DJing. I’ve had so many people at home and around the world say that I helped change their life for the better. For me to see people putting tattoos of my logos on their bodies shows how appreciative they are and a sign of how they’ve been touched by what I do. I mean that’s unique. It’s really special that a DJ/producer can help enlighten lives. I feel blessed by the almighty God and I will continue to do what I do ’til I can’t no more.
TFM: For the fans who go way back, any chance of a MAW reunion EP? Who else would you like to collaborate with in the studio? No limit to choices here.
LV: Yes, Kenny and I have already sparked some MAW interest. We’ve picked only a handful of shows and played some amazing venues to come back and start getting into it. We played “Rock in Rio” (in Brazil) with Stevie Wonder, Jamiroquai, Janell, Josh Stone on the bill to name a few!! “Rock in Rio” Lisbon, as well, and this summer we will play at Space in Ibiza for Carl Cox’s 50th birthday. We will also play at Ushuaia on Luciano’s Cadenza closing end of summer. We took a big step and went into the studio just one day and we came up with six tracks!!! It was so natural when we stepped in to work, I’m very confident we will come with some super heat!!! We will play a track or two at our shows and start creating havoc in a good way!!! Exciting times. Once we have the tracks, then we think collab and who. That’s news coming!!!
Vega Records: http://www.vegarecords.net/
“Elements of Life: The Eclipse” Listening Party at Le Bain at The Standard Hotel: http://www.giantstep.net/events/1526
“Roots NYC Live” with Louie Vega and Kevin Hedge on WBLS (Friday nights, 10 p.m.-midnight): http://www.wbls.com/
“Dance Ritual” with Louie Vega Live Stream on South Africa’s KAYA FM (Saturdays, 4 p.m. EDT): http://www.kayafm.co.za/
Giant Step: http://www.giantstep.net/