[INTERVIEW] Vanilla Ace Talks Image Reinvention, Versatility And Bringing Back Prince
Sam Young might go by the name of Vanilla Ace, but his music is anything but unconventional and boring…nor will you hear him dropping “Ice, Ice, Baby.” The British DJ and producer has made his name producing a dynamic and ever-changing but always feel-good sound, playing everything from nu-disco to G-house in the same set–and it actually works. Hell, he even got an infamous mini-Twitter rant from Deadmau5, which is never bad publicity. We caught up with Sam in the midst of his American summer tour:
You used to release music under your real name, but have experienced your success under the moniker of Vanilla Ace. You probably get this all the time, but where did that name come from? Is there any separation of identity between Vanilla Ace and Sam Young?
The whole reason I created the Vanilla Ace alias is so there was separation between the two. Under my real name I was doing remixes for Tiesto, Mark Knight, Timo Maas and the like, but nothing was hitting. My label wasn’t picking up any traction either. Around 2011, I was really liking all the underground house and nu disco stuff I was DJing and thought it was time for a change. I wanted to make that music. Alias and monikers in music aren’t anything new, but Vanilla Ace was created so I could do this new style of music and not be judged. For the first year or so I didn’t tell anyone it was me.
You’re very versatile when it comes to your music; you’ve managed to cultivate a distinctive but unpredictable sound, which makes your sets really fun. Not to mention you’ve played for some really famous people. Can you describe the process of deciding what type of set you are going to play?
It all depends on the crowd in front of you and their energy. For example, my set for HARD Summer or Paradiso festival will be very different to an intimate small club. I’ve been DJing clubs since I was 18, so I can play a number of genres easily.
Who do you really look up to in the industry and why?
I look up to the pioneers…guys like Arthur Baker, Nile Rodgers, Daft Punk, Armand Van Helden, Pharrell Williams, Roger Sanchez etc, people that trail blazed the way for everyone else.
Who would your dream collaboration be with?
Super hard question but it would have to be Prince. I’d love for him to break out all his old analog gear and we’d make some new classics.
You used to work in A/R before becoming a full time producer. You can see it from both perspectives, so what are your words of advice for breaking into doing A/R for a record label?
Growing up I was the biggest nerd when it came to music, I was always reading music magazines, digging for vinyl and reading the liner notes of who produced/wrote what. I think the most important thing to have if you want to do that job in A&R these days is a broad knowledge of all music and know what a hit sounds like. And obviously always have your ear to the ground so you know what’s next.
Are you superstitious about playing gigs? Do you have any pre-show rituals?
I’m not superstitious at all. Sometimes I might be a little nervous depending on the size of the gig but that usually goes by the time I’ve started playing.
Here at The Sights & Sounds, we try to go beyond your average music writing and connect with the music on an emotional and/or intellectual level, because after all–it’s about how the music makes you feel and how it inspires you. Name a song that you have a strong emotional connection with (good or bad) and why…
It’s a well known fact that I’m a huge Hip Hop, R&B, Soul fan…I’m a sucker for 90’s R&B ballads, so a song I could listen to on repeat would be Jodeci “My Heart Belongs to You,” beautiful production and amazingly sung.
Lastly, what has been your favorite experience with the dance music scene to date?
It would have to be playing on Holy Ship this past January. It’s such a surreal experience to be on a ship with so many of my peers and hanging out with the likes of Duke Dumont, Shiba San, Sharam Jey and Annie Mac.
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