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Interview: Vanilla Ace

Jun 17 2015

We sat down with Vanilla Ace shortly after his set, and we had an absolute blast at the Hilton Hotel lobby, where we talked old school DJ-ing, advice to future musical artists, and even a bit about George Clooney.

He’s also got a couple of fantastic remixes out for us, just in time to kick off the new week. Check out both tracks below, and read below for the fantastic interview!

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Discobelle: My first question is about sort of the “future of festivals.” There have been a couple of articles circulating online about the end of traditional festivals as we know it. I wanted to know what you envisioned the future of festivals to be like, especially since you’ve played so many in your career.

Vanilla Ace: Well, there are so many festivals out there. Just talking about in just “dance” festivals solely… everything will just go the way the wind blows. At the end of the day, promoters and the festival itself, they are there to make money. A good example is EDM today. That’s where the money is.

Actually, even back in the day I would play a lot of the progressive stuff. The Dirty South, Axwell kind of songs… it was all really good back then. If the EDM scene went back that way, it could actually be really cool again, and [that’s the direction these festivals will go].

Discobelle: To kind of follow up on festival-talk, how do you concentrate in this heat?!

Vanilla Ace: Actually, today when I was setting up my laptop was under direct sunlight, and I didn’t notice until I started playing. Obviously once I started playing, it’s really hard to try to move all that stuff because I didn’t want to mess with the set, and I had to ask the guys to help bring an umbrella over. I swear you could have cooked an egg on the equipment, everything was baking under the sun.

DB: Yeah! I actually saw yesterday that another DJ’s laptop literally overheated, and she had to switch to USB’s halfway through the set.

VA: Oh yeah, I was worried about that as well! I was just thinking “please don’t crash on me!” Once I got the umbrella, it was cool. I was fine.

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DB: I also wanted to ask about the Discobelle mix you made a little while back for us. Would you say your musical influences have changed, and who are you listening to these days?

VA: I wouldn’t say my musical influences have changed. I think since then, I’ve been DJ-ing out more. I know what works better. Obviously, when I’m making music and remixes, I make stuff for me. So there’s a lot of deep house, but it’s now a little bit influenced by the ghetto house, with sampling from hip hop and R&B grooves and such. I think when I started, there was a lot of tracks I couldn’t play unless it was like a serious club that was really into deep house. There were things that, if I played in a big room setting, I couldn’t play. I adapted.

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DB: So… I’ve heard you’ve played for George Clooney…

VA: Oh! Yes, under my real name. I’ve done a few things under Sam Young, from Elton John’s birthday to Clooney’s wedding… Not that I mind that people know me under my real name or that I’ve done these big parties. They could have gotten any DJ in the world, and it means a lot they asked me. Aliases are all a part of dance music, so it’s cool. I will say George Clooney has an immaculate taste in music. Seventies, eighties, old school hip hop stuff. He didn’t want anything new… a lot of parties I play they want Rihanna and all the Drake stuff. Clooney was particular, all the greats. Parliament, Nile Rogers, Marvin Gaye… He knew his stuff.

DB: Okay, time to switch it up a bit and learn a bit about your time in making music. What would you consider as essentials in the studio?

VA: Most of my stuff is just done with Ableton and Plugins. Trilogy, Massive… I do a lot of remixes with Darfunkh and he’s a bit more of a mix down kind of guy. We’ll go into the studio, the sampling ideas are from me… I’m a DJ first. I leave the mix-down stuff to him.

I read this thing on Facebook about how if a person doesn’t mix and master by themselves they are cheating! But it’s not… back in the day, Dr. Dre would be hired to just mix a whole album. This whole mentality in which everyone has to do everything themselves is  bit silly. It’s young people who don’t know what it’s all about.

DB: Yeah, we get a lot of press emails where the person emailing has done everything from production to the music video, when in reality, the final product might have been better if they got help from others.

VA: Yeah, it’s true that no one promotes you better than yourself. But… there really is only so much you can do by yourself. There just isn’t enough hours in the week to do it!… and anyone telling you otherwise is talking rubbish.

DB: And finally, what would be your one advice for those trying to get into the DJ-ing game today?

VA: Commitment and practice. Obviously anyone can DJ these days. I can teach anyone the basics in two days if I wanted to. A lot of these celebrity DJ’s in Ibiza, they’ve got nothing else to do and they can make money doing this, but these Paris Hilton-types, they are making a mockery of those of us who take it seriously. Have they gone to a record store and dug around for hours? I doubt it. Has she gotten papercuts from the sleeves? I doubt it. Has she ever carried around a box full of records? I doubt it very much. I’m from the era of vinyl, you had to be SO committed. Finding records, tracking it down, and technology has made it easier.

I get a lot of emails from people these days and people want my advice, even on their first song ever! I get a lot of requests for collabs as well… and people have no patience these days. Whatever they want, they want it now. I think social media… well, there are guys that started literally last year, but they’ll have a good management and they can work the blogs and they blow up fast. I don’t have a manager, I have PR, but they don’t follow me around. I mean, it feels like it’s so much of who you know these days, but I’m in it for the long haul, and (ultimately, the hard work ethic and talent trumps who you know). It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Take your time, you will get more respect that way.

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Thanks Vanilla Ace for chatting with us and helping us stay cool in the heat! Make sure to check out all the goodies on his soundcloud.