With more and more musicians creating than ever and more and more of these creations being released, what does this mean for you as an artist in terms of originality? What are some of the areas where you currently see the greatest potential for originality and who are some of the artists and communities that you find inspiring in this regard?
For me originality is where you start. Your track and song need to stand out and have something special about it. If you get goosebumps or chills after listening then something is right!!!
Original artists that inspire me: Prince, d’Angelo, Jill Scott, Stevie Wonder, Quincy Jones, the Mizelle Brothers, James Brown, Kendrick Lamar, Thunderkat, Josh Milan, Larry Levan, Barrabas, Rolling Stones, Beatles, Gamble & Huff (mfsb), Norman Connors, Anane Vega, Vince Montana JR., George Benson, Tito Puente, Eddie Palmieri, Hector Lavoe, Willie Colon, Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Luis F. Vega Senior, Michael Jackson, David Bowie, Ian Dury & the Blockheads, B52s, Grace Jones, Gwen Guthrie, Trevor Horn, Don Cornelius, Midnight Special Creator, Earth Wind & Fire / Maurice White, Jazzy Jeff.
How strictly do you separate improvising and composing?
Composing is writing music from scratch on paper and writing lyrics too. For dance music there is a lot of improvising on a groove, you may have the idea, you then lay it down and you fine tweak it. But sometimes leaving the groove in that first take has the best feel. It's about capturing that feel, the natural feel and in the pocket. when you have it in the pocket the groove is sitting perfectly where it moves you. It's usually the beat, the bassline and some chords or catchy sounds. Rhythmically it has to be in that perfect spot. Once the groove is where it feels good you add on the rest of the music. That rhythm section in dance music whether live or on drum machines and synths has to sit right.
If I’m doing a project let's say more of a score or composition for a show where live performers have to read and play, I will bring in one of my composer musicians which means they will transcribe it on paper and we then rehearse with the musicians for the show.
If I’m in need of live string arrangements or horns, I will make sure the parts I come up with on keyboard are transcribed onto paper and we bring in the musicians to play their parts and I’m producing the parts as they are being played on. But not taking away from letting the musicians have their freedom in their performance. If I hear something different I will say it 'til we get it where its feels good.
What's your perspective on the relationship between music and other forms of art – painting, video art and cinema, for example – and for you and your work, how does music relate to other senses than hearing alone?
Music, art / painting, video art and cinema all go hand in hand. Lots of my music is related to art. seeing something beautiful can trigger some wonderful musical creations and visa versa. I have many friends who are artists and get inspired because of a song or track they’ve heard. One artist I know from the UK named Richard Wilson has painted the most amazing masterpieces due his listening of my music and others music for inspiration.
What's your view on the role and function of music as well as the (e.g. political/social/creative) tasks of artists today - and how do you try to meet these goals in your work?
I do send messages within my music to help encourage positivity out there in the world.
Here are a few songs with messages on past projects:
"Children of the world" - Elements of Life feat. Josh Milan
"I deserve to breathe" - Louie Vega starring Adeva
"One dream" - Louie Vega & the Elements of Life feat. Anane Vega
The magic about making music is you are allowed to express yourself freely whether musically or lyrically and you can use it to help others that are less fortunate. I have done various works for charities or helped for a good cause many of times. It's part of who I am, I was brought up to help others.
Listening is also an active, rather than just a passive process. How do you see the role of the listener in the musical communication process?
Listening is the most important thing. whether producing or DJing, it all starts from listening.
Reaching audiences usually involves reaching out to the press and possibly working with a PR company. What's your perspective on the promo system? In which way do music journalism and PR companies change the way music is perceived by the public?
I have a PR company I work with that are from London, and when I first looked for a PR company the first thing that has to work with me is they need to be into the project and feel it. If I get a company I meet that doesn’t listen to the project and just wants to work with me based on my name and achievements then they are not for me. With Melissa Maouris it worked out because once she received the album she heard it several times and responded with excitement but knowing the music she had to work with. I had a few others who just said yes and it felt like a machine working, nothing organic or really listening to the project they only went based on who I was.
Promo system I’m not into promo these days, as there is so much sharing and leaking. But I know you need to get it out to the press and media, I get it. So there is a balance on the promo system. Journalism and PR companies get your music out there to the masses or where the publication or media show’s audience is. They get your music out to many who may not have heard about you. This is important. but there is also a biased side of media, and I don’t think everyone listens to it with an open ear. so there are two sides. but you get it out there and let the music speak for itself. I’m very confident with my work and I’m not afraid for it to go in places it has not been. We definitely need PR companies to help expose our music out there in the world.
Do you have a musical vision that you haven't been able to realise for technical or financial reasons – or an idea of what music itself could be beyond its current form?
Music and art!!! Let's start there. I am gearing more towards that connection.
Also music in movies and TV series, now that the shows are with more substance e.g. vinyl on hbo there are opportunities for our music to become a landscape for these visions.
Live performances with the EOL band and guests filmed. Documentaries on Louie Vega, Masters at Work, and house music but a well made documentary. A book on the musical life of Louie Vega.