By Steven M. Housman
Playing With Junior
Madonna & Chers pal has some new friends!
Madonna exclaimed, Music makes the people come together. I wonder if she had Junior Vasquez on her mind when she penned that hit?
One of the most fascinating elements of Vasquezs work is the important attention he pays to detail. He doesnt just have a great diva, or two, or more. He takes a song and makes it so much more than it already is. You are actually astonished how brilliant each and every song sounds. His songs arent just remixes, they are productions. When youre on the dance floor and a Junior mix is being played, you know you are hearing a Junior production.
His latest release, Anthem 2, is the follow-up to last years record-smashing Anthem album. This stunning compilation is an 18-track, double disc set, that runs well over the two-hour mark. Just the track listing alone would make anybody grab a copy, the extra treat (and beat) is hearing these songs remixed by the mixmeister himself.
Anthem 2 kicks off with Deborah Coxs Something Happened on the Way to Heaven, segueing to Vivian Greens Music, followed by a double dose from the amazing Kristine W, Fly Again and Save My Soul, respectively. The beat continues with Trinity featuring Revi, Where Is Love to Sophie B. Hawkins Beautiful Girl, Vernessa Mitchells Took My Life and the stunning closer, Joyce Sims Praise His Name. The only name youll be praising by this time is Junior Vasquez. And thats just Disc One! Disc Two begins with Junior presents Jason with My Life, Davis Longoria featuring CeCe Peniston and the classic Deeper Love, followed by a knockout production of Casey Strattons Blood, Moraes The Cure, Juniors own This Time Baby, David Coles You Take My Breath Away, Kes Strange World, another Casey Stratton gem, House of Jupiter, followed by Jason Walkers Foolish Mind Games, and the finale to it all, Ben Arthurs apropos End of the Day.
These are the songs that have put Junior on the map. These selections are known to his most loyal following, and will be known to the new generation that embraces Juniors masterful mixes.
After hearing this superb CD, the only thing I needed more was to speak to Junior himself. From this brief Q&A, hopefully youll have better idea of what makes Junior spin. Hes been called the granddaddy of DJs and the King of House. I played it very cool, and just called him Junior.
Your new CD Anthem 2 is phenomenal. Has your formula that has made you so successful stayed the same, or do you keep changing?
There are some elements to my productions that stay the same, like keeping the verse-chorus structure of a song intact. But I always try to pull in new elements, a lot of which I get from new tracks that young, up-and-coming producers and remixers bring to me to play in my sets. Im inspired by these young guys who really take a lot of chances musically in their own productions.
Your remixes on Casey Strattons House Of Jupiter and Blood are great. When you first heard these songs, did you immediately imagine a fresh remix from these piano songs?
Ive been known to take songs from other genres and rework them into club anthems with different energy than the original mixes. I did this with Elton John, Rocket Man; Dolly Parton, Peace Train; Rickie Lee Jones, Living It Up; and lots of ballads over the years. Casey Strattons an amazingly talented piano player and vocalist, and both of his songs are favorites at the club. Blood is taking off across the country, so were waiting until the fall to release House of Jupiter (which my label licensed from Sony) so that Blood gets the attention it deserves. Its always hard for club songs sung by male vocalists to get the kind of attention that they deserve since hard-edged, instrumental tracks and diva vocalists seems to dominate most play lists.
Why are the selections on Anthem 2 more vocal driven and a bit smoother in sound than your previous projects?
Well, I wanted the album to showcase my remixes more than my prowess in the DJ booth.
After The Sound Factory closed, did you dive right into this project, or would you have made this CD had The Sound Factory still been alive and well?
It was in the works, and it was a project that exists independent of my DJing.
Youve been called the most famous DJ in the world - How does it feel to hold that title?
I never got caught up with these kinds of statements. I just keep doing what I do in the DJ booth, and I keep making remixes and producing songs just for my dance floor, and sometimes the world loves me, and sometimes Im just too many steps ahead of everyone else to be appreciated.
At what period in your life did you know that this is what you wanted to do?
I was 35 years old before I really started DJing and working in the studio. I was in fashion and was a hairdresser before I was a DJ.
Who were your early influences?
Shep Pettibone and Arthur Baker were my earliest producer-influences, but I was probably most inspired musically by the Supremes and Diana Ross.
Do you ever listen to the critics?
Has anyone escaped you that youd love to work with?
Not really, but Im most excited these days about NEW names, NEW voices: Jason Walker, Casey Stratton, etc.
Who have been your favorite artists to work with?
Madonna was fun for a while, Cher was great to me, Cyndi Lauper was a pleasure to work with.
You are primarily NY-based. What other cities do you like to play?
I love playing at Anthem in Miami Beach, and I recently had fun at Nation in DC and at Queen in Paris. My stomping ground is still NYC though!
© 2004 Steven M. Housman. All Rights Reserved.