Junior Vasquez :: Raising PRIDE’s BPM!
There are memorable moments in club culture cemented in every individual’s dance consciousness - nights that we could never forget - no matter how hard we tried (even if we wanted to). For most of those dedicated club revelers, the man at the center of their "greatest night ever" could be no other than the legendary DJ Junior Vasquez. For nearly 40 years, Vasquez has designed - and then redesigned again - the club remix keeping the industry always on its nimble feet.
This PRIDE season the mix-maestro will be re-engaging with his most loyal devotees and bringing the weeklong of festivities to a proper climax, when Junior Vasquez hits BPM at THE OUT NYC for a closing night experience Sunday, June 29 that Manhattan will be talking about for many years to come. EDGE caught up with the "untouchable talent" who brought us up to speed on his upcoming appearance.
With your legendary status as one of the pioneers of the club remix and Circuit phenomenon, please tell me why you’ve chosen to close out New York City PRIDE at BPM New York?
Junior Vasquez: I had been working on my retrospective project and it felt like it was the right time. When I met with BPM to share my vision and plans for the next few years, they embraced it. It made sense to come home to New York where it all started for me. It’s a significant milestone in my life and career so I needed to be in command of creating the experience.
The PRIDE of NYC!
What sets BPM apart from other spaces in the city? What do you have in store for your public during your closing set of NYC PRIDE on Sunday, June 29th?
Vasquez: I played there when it was XL and I really liked the sound system. The fact that BPM supports my vision to be the creative director for my nights and in a sense commissioned my insight from nearly 40 years experience being on that side of nightlife. Steve Dash for sound, Susan Buckley managing...they have the top-notch people there. The Pride Event is the kick-off to a partnership with the venue and just as they have a vision for their rebrand I wanted to work with a space that respects the significance of my work as I push forward to evolve my own brand. T
For the Pride Event, "Love is Stronger Than PRIDE", the people involved are very important for the feel of the night and it’s rooted in the music I’d been listening to, which helped inspire me to do it in the first place. Often over the last six months, I’ve been going back to the "More To Life" album I did with Lydia Rhodes back in the early 90s. I produced that album and it’s a project that I’m very proud of so I wanted to see where our creative energies, our soul connection through life and music, would take us now in this day and time. Along with Lydia, they’ll be a special performance by Jason Walker but you’ll have to be there to hear all this. I also brought Vincent Gianni, my lighting designer from EARTH. I’ll stop there because I don’t want to give too much away.
New York City nightlife continues to change and the audience is consuming the club scene in a very different way that from the iconic Sound Factory days. What do you think has been the biggest impact on clubland in the last decade?
Vasquez: Parties will come and go and I feel like I’ve talked about everything and anything that has had an impact on the scene. For me personally, the biggest impact is losing friends, loved ones and the talents of artists like Whitney Houston, Donna Summer, Amy Winehouse, Peter Rauhofer and Frankie Knuckles.
You’ve helped to shape the scheme of the club sound well into the 21st Century. How would you describe the evolution of your own musicality? What genre of music has been your greatest influence? What makes for a truly great remix?
Vasquez: There’s no true answer to that, it just does. It evolves from...ok, everybody knows that I test things out over the years and to come up with a new sounds. I listen to a lot of music and the process is very organic. It all happens very naturally and it’s difficult to explain. If a song is good, if it’s danceable, it could be slower or faster, I’ll play it. I don’t play what other people are playing necessarily. I can’t get caught up in genres or what dance music is being labeled, because I know what I like. I have my own style as an artist and the path I take is the one that paves my sound.
The genre of music that has been my greatest influence? Motown - the movement and soul of what was considered dance music back then, when I was a teenager, all the way up to now.
What makes for a truly great remix are the beats, the production and obviously the arrangement. Being able to take the singer, the song, the vocals, just being able to take things further like no one would ever think to do it. I’d slow things down, change things, just figuring out a way to do it. It’s being an artist and I always say it’s like an artist painting in blues for so long until they get sick of it, then they shift to another color, they experiment. That’s how I always look at it...from the artist side. As far back as I can remember the music was always in my head no matter what I was doing. I think my work and the way I work and how I do it speaks for itself.
there is still an archive of remixes that we haven’t heard yet. Will some of these tracks ever see the light of day? Who are some of these artists in your archive of unreleased tracks?
Vasquez: Yes. I’m pulling those mixes together and doing these parties. I’m constantly playing those mixes in my head. This particular party has me focused on Lydia Rhodes, the work we’ve done and continue to do. It’s got me seriously involved with my passion again. But it’s also reworking those unreleased tracks to take something from the past and make it new. Even "in retrospect" I can’t help but create for the future. And it’s not just about music, it’s fashion, it’s art, it’s jewelry, writing, photography, it’s my life.
What makes this PRIDE season special as compared to PRIDEs of the past?
Vasquez: We’ve come a long way as a gay community and I’ve come a long way personally. I needed to do this one out of love for my fans and love for myself.
Thank you for your time Junior; it’s always a pleasure catching up! You’ll always stand as one of the "untouchable" legends!
BPM at THE OUT NYC proudly presents DJ Junior Vasquez "Love is Stronger than PRIDE" with performances by Lydia Rhodes and Jason Walker on Sunday, June 29 @ 11 p.m.. Lighting by Vincent Gianni. For tickets go to: www.bpmny.com/junior.
BPM is located in the heart of Manhattan’s Theatre District at 516 W 42nd Street.