Louie Vega: 'The Haçienda crowd were musically inclined and knew what was up'

Louie Vega. Picture: Jordi Cervera | www.jordicervera.comLouie Vega. Picture: Jordi Cervera | www.jordicervera.com
Louie Vega. Picture: Jordi Cervera | www.jordicervera.com
Back for a second year at Canvas Yard in Holbeck, Leeds, Soak presents Haçienda Open Air features a world-class array of DJs including Louie Vega, David Morales, Todd Terry, Graeme Park, DJ Paulette and Ralph Lawson.

Fifty-eight-year-old Vega, from the Bronx, New York, is a Grammy award winner and leader in global dance music, who has been mixing everything from house, salsa and afro-beat to jazz, hip-hop, gospel and soul since 1985.

Are you looking forward forward to DJ-ing at this year’s event?

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I heard reports from my good friend Todd Terry who really enjoyed himself and I also saw some great video clips. The crowd was in it!

Are you excited about sharing a bill with David Morales? How did your friendship begin and how has it evolved over time?

David Morales is like a brother to me and a close friend of over 30 years. When I speak to him, even if I haven’t in many years it’s always like I spoke to him yesterday. After so many years we finally had our moment to work in the studio together when we produced a song call Still Here for Julie McKnight under the Kings Of House NYC moniker. We had so much fun working on that tune penned by Josh Milan. When we play together as KOHNYC it’s always a blast of creativity live! Our friendship has evolved as more than friendship, it’s family at this point. The respect and love is mutual.

You’ve DJ-ed in Leeds quite a few times over the last 30 years. Do any occasions stand out?

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It’s been so many years there are several to name, but one I remember was playing a tribute to Larry Levan and the Paradise Garage at the disco festival some years back. It was great to mix those classics and see the love and reaction from the Leeds crowd.

Louie Vega with his fellow DJ and long-time friend David Morales.Louie Vega with his fellow DJ and long-time friend David Morales.
Louie Vega with his fellow DJ and long-time friend David Morales.

What kind of set can we look forward to when you’re over here in May? Have you noticed any particular tunes that have been going down well lately on dancefloors?

There will be lots of heat played from various producers and music we have coming. Leeds will get exclusives, never-heard-before versions of tunes as well as some familiar favs and club classics played the Vega way. It’s always a musical journey and heavy mixing and vibing off the crowd.

When did your association with the Haçienda begin? And what do you think made the club in Manchester so special back in the day?

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I remember playing for The Haçienda as Masters At Work along with my partner Kenny Dope. The club already laid its foundation so we were excited to play where some of our friends like Frankie Knuckles, David Morales and others played. Also being that New Order owned it, one of my top UK bands that I grew up with in the early 80s with songs like Confusion and Blue Monday, especially the earlier tune which I played in my early DJ years in the Bronx. Arthur Baker and John Robie produced it and they rated highly at that time and now today! The Haçienda crowd were musically inclined and knew what was up. For us it was fun to play to such a receptive crowd.

You came from a musical family. What got you started as a DJ in the Bronx in the mid 1980s?

What got me started as a DJ in the Bronx was going to block parties and neighbourhood jams as a child. Then DJ-ing with my friend’s big brother’s equipment trying to emulate the djs at the block parties. Having another neighbour who was a mobile DJ and played high school jams and sweet 16s, I became his apprentice and helped set up the equipment and in return he would loan me two turntables, a Gemini mixer and two JBL speakers. I’d pick from his over 20 crates of records, select three crates of tunes I fancied and I’d DJ with that for a week in my room. It all began there!

Your residency at The Sound Factory Bar in Manhattan in the 1990s has become the stuff of legend. What was it like to be in the midst of that?

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It was an incredible time, I was the Pied Piper and the printers were Don Welch and Barbara Tucker. Between my musical knowledge and DJ-ing, Don’s musical knowledge and promoting skills, Barbara’s knowledge of all the upcoming house artists, being a dancer and performer, as well her musical knowledge, we all helped create a night that lasted five and a half years and held down house music in NYC in the 90s, breaking many new artists and tunes at the club. It was a Wednesday night and was penned an industry night because all sorts of people in entertainment would come hang out as well as the friend of the crop of dancers in NYC. Underground house and dance music at its height. These are a few you heard live there first before anywhere with their big hit tunes:

Barbara Tucker

Michael Watford (RIP)

Dreamer G

Kenny Bobien

India

Ultranate

Duane Harden

Tito Puente (on Love & Happiness)

George Benson (on You Can Do It)

Lil Louis

To name a few…

You’d also hear the well known live :

Jocelyn Brown

Loleatta Holloway

First Choice

Double Exposure

Linda Clifford

To name a few…

I played in the main floor and below in the Funk Hut we had so many amazing DJs:

François K

Kenny Carpentar

Kim Lightfoot

D.J. Camacho (RIP)

Ian Friday

And many others

Your partnership with Kenny ‘Dope’ Gonzalez as Masters At Work and Nu Yorican Soul was ground-breaking. Were you keen to broaden the scope of house music with a whole variety of new influences?

It was always key to broaden the scope of house music with Kenny and I, aka Masters At Work. We fused jazz, Brazilian, funk, soul, Latin soul, gospel, rock and hip hop into house music. Nuyorican Soul was a ground-breaking project that did lots and we always put these sounds within our remixes depending on what the song called for. We would know in an instant once we listened and discussed before working in a remix. Now over 3,000-plus recording later we are well seasoned producers but always with a keen ear to today’s technology and always learning as we go.

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We are now producing three albums. The first album we are producing at this moment is for Brian Jackson (Gil Scott Heron’s musical partner) with various amazing guests, coming on BBE records. We are also producing our albums Nuyorican Soul II and Masters At Work album III.

How do you view the current state of house music?

The current side of house music has flourished in a big way, even in the pop world many are interested. That’s when you know it’s in the crossover stage. But we are all in a creative state and it’s at an all-time high. Lots of music is being made from all over. But the interest from outside the pond is there. You’ll see!

Your last album was Expansions in the NYC. Have you been working on any new music? And if so, are you planning on releasing any of it soon?

Yes, lots of new music. Right now remixes are being released from my Expansions In The NYC album which came out April 2023. Remixes on the Honey Dijon collab came out two Months ago with remixes by Seth Troxler, Nicole Moudaber, and Tedd Patterson and the Beatport/Loop contest winners remixes were released of “How He Works” featuring Nico Vega which are doing very well. Next up is Masters At Work and Dave Lee (JN) Remixes of Music Is My Life featuring Unlimited Touch. We also have remixes coming from the Moodymann collab Seven Mile, and the Robin collab, All My Love with Honey Dijon, KDA remixes along with a Surprise remixer.

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We’ve been doing several Elements Of Life shows at the Blue Note New York City and HERE in London which were very successful, with a new release next week on Vega Records, Dusk On The Beach, Elements Of Life and we are working on a new album called Dreamer. New releases on also Vega Records by Bebe Winans, Johnny Dangerous, and a big surprise artist.

With Maw Records, we are up to MAW Lost Tapes 13 releasing one a month for the past year and have more lost tapes releasing till December 2025. These are from our stored tapes of over 27 years that we’ve transferred over to digital files and found many unreleased gems.

There are new fresh Masters At Work tracks coming, starting April 20, 2024 with monthly releases. Remixes on Nervous Records for Anané’s Take A Ride EP, by an all star cast. Two Soul Fusion, Masters At Work, Luca Moplen, Tedd Patterson, to name a few.

New collabs: Louie Vega & The Martinez Brothers, Shermanology, Nico Vega, The Ritual With Anané & Louie Vega music, Msaki. More surprises!

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Upcoming remix work and working on already for Muscle Cars, Jose James, Taraji P. Henson.

Soak presents Hacienda Open Air takes place at Canvas yard, Leeds on Sunday May 5. For tickets visit Skiddle: https://bit.ly/HaciendaOpenAirTickets

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