When he's not remixing everyone from Basement Jaxx and Destructo to Yolanda Be Cool and Moon Boots, 36-year-old Londoner Sam Young, otherwise known as Vanilla Ace, can be found touring the world, setting the party mood for over 12,000 people in Green Valley, Brazil, throwing down at Holy Ship in Miami, and manning the decks at HARD Summer in L.A.
Raised on a typical '90s U.K. diet of hip-hop, drum 'n' bass, and house music, Young picked up DJing at 17 and has since settled into a grooving, bass-injected nu disco/indie-house sound that's earned him support from dance music heavyweights like Pete Tong and Seth Troxler — not to mention invitations to play George Clooney’s wedding and Elton John’s birthday party.
Throughout February, Vanilla Ace brings his expertly honed mixes of funky deep house, nu disco, and bass-heavy deep cuts to dancefloors across the U.S. in support of his latest release, the Jet Setter EP, which dropped last week on Sweat It Out Music. Ahead of his stop Friday at Vibe Las Olas in Fort Lauderdale, we checked in with the seasoned party-starter on how he came up in the DJ world, where dance music is headed, and what's new for 2016.
New Times: Where are you coming from, and where are you currently headed?
Vanilla Ace: I'm in London where I live, I fly to DC in the morning to kick off my tour at Flash nightclub.
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How'd you first get into dance music? Did you start out DJing or producing first?
I got into dance music from listening to the radio. The U.K. and Europe have always supported house music from its origin, and a lot of the early house records were massive radio hits here, so I grew up hearing everything from Inner City, S'Express, Black Box, Armand Van Helden, Daft Punk... I started DJing in my late teens — a lot of the records I liked were on import only so had to start collecting. This was long before iTunes and YouTube!
Who are some of your influences?
I grew up on everything from hip-hop, R&B, and rock to rare groove...So I would say artists like Teddy Riley, Jodeci, Chic, the Neptunes, Armand Van Helden, Zapp, Steve Arrington, Bill Withers, Herbie Hancock, Parliament, Dr Dre, Just Blaze...I could go on and on.
Have you always gravitated toward a nu disco/house sound, or did your current sound evolve from something different?
When I started Vanilla Ace it was very deep house and nu disco, very laid back, groovy tracks. As I started gigging more, I noticed I needed more tracks of my own that had high energy and more power, so my sound is definitely more on the ghetto bass house sound at the moment, but I still do the odd nu disco cut.
Tell us more about your productions. What's your setup?
Most of my music is made on Ableton using great plugins like Diva and Massive for various bass and synth sounds. I wouldn't say I'm a professional keyboard player, but I can knock out some keys when needed. I don't sing yet, but you never know!
How would you describe the current state of dance music and dance culture? Do you consider your sound underground, and what does that mean to you?
[It's] good; there is a lot going on and lots of sub-genres breaking off on their own and doing well. The only downside, for me, is the repetitive use of obvious samples on some tracks. Like, how many times does Adina Howard's "Freak Like Me" or an obvious '80s hit need to be remade into a lame nu disco track? Sometimes I think the creativity could be better. My music is a mix of underground and accessible. I like to keep it like that and keep people guessing.
What are some of your favorite collaborations? Who would you like to work with?
I work mainly with good friends of mine, so guys like Sharam Jey, Chad Tyson, Adam Baum, Barber. I've got a big collab with Destructo coming soon on Night Bass. I would love to do something with Prince or Jay Kay from Jamiroquai, great vocalists and songwriters. But producer-wise, I would love to do something with Armand Van Helden and Duke Dumont.
What have been some highlights from the last year?
Last year was great. HARD summer and Holy Ship were great fun, as expected. I also played in Australia for the first time and that was amazing, such a cool country. And I toured Brazil a lot last year; the BASE party in Rio was fun.
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Can you tell us anything fun about DJ'ing George Clooney’s wedding and Elton John’s birthday party?
Those were under my real name. I still get requested a lot to play private events and parties — being a versatile DJ has its perks. But those parties were fun, like any other really, everyone having a good time.
Do you have any new material coming out soon? When and how will it be released?
Yes, my Jet Setter EP is out now on Sweat it Out! Its available on Beatport, iTunes and Traxsource.
What should we expect from your set at Vibe in Fort Lauderdale?
Bass, some more bass, and some more bass.
10 p.m., Friday, February 5, at Vibe Las Olas, 301 E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale. Tickets cost $10 at the door. More info via Facebook.