I should have killed the whole ‘drama’ schtick when I had the chance, right at the beginning of being Junior Vasquez’ manager. I mean that I should have killed “drama” 100%, because it was tired and played out by then anyway. It was so connected to the Junior Vasquez identity that it would have been hard to shake as fast as Selen Bilgutay Aviance Cakmak and I had to get things had to get rolling when Jane Brinton passed me the honor of being “Junior’s Manager”. Oh the glory.
JVM employees all secretly partied and carried on when Peter played at the Roxy – Vic too. And of course what they played at The Roxy mattered to me. I’m ‘thorough’ if anything, so I got reliable tracklistings on my Blackberry – mostly to track Jr’s own songs and whether A&R guys were honest when they said they gave me songs exclusively for Junior. (I put back on my professor cap and taught one in particular a valuable a lesson about truthfulness – and fucking with JR/ome.)
One record store was vicious in telling me what Victor and Peter had purchased, practically jumping over the counter with a sick look in the eyes to report to me, which only made me think they would do the same behind my back. I didn’t need to cheat at record shopping or have anyone’s plalists because I am and always have been a faster and better record hunter than all three of them, Junior included, before I got mixed up in this. Eventually I started to buy one copy of every new record, even 1 copy if that’s all they got in, and stop listening almost entirely at the stores.
I knew that what Junior was playing was ‘of interest’, and that did matter. If something was so good that I wanted Junior to be the only one to have it for a while, buying all the copies in NYC and from the distributor bought a few weeks of guaranteed exclusivity of an import 12″ but also made the shopkeeper take note, naturally. To throw off that, it helped to occasionally buy every single copy of a random HORRIBLE track and dump them in the first dumpster.  “Typical, predictable” people seem to never be in short supply. They just shouldn’t make it soooo easy to play with them and manage a mini-empire at the same time.
Matt Kalkoff published this after a formal interview (monitored, some restrictions) in 2000, which is mostly accurate, and it touches on drama and other djs.
by Matt Kalkhoff

Faster than 140 bpms. More powerful than a Phazon sound system. Able to mix records with a single hand. Look! Up in the DJ booth. It’s a genius. It’s a diva. It’s Juniorman!

He may not wear a cape or spandex tights (although he has been known to playfully sport a blond wig on occasion), but the legendary DJ and prolific producer, Junior Vasquez, does possess many extraordinary powers. From his very own Fortress of Solitude high above the dance floor, Junior rules a universe in New York City that many have come to know as Twilo. During marathon spinning sessions that begin late Saturday night and end Sunday afternoon (sometimes later), Junior deftly mixes a compelling melange of records from a multitude of genres that includes tribal, diva, gospel and progressive house, old-school favorites, rock and roll classics, Motown gems, and even a ballad or two, all the while expertly guiding listeners on a magical and spiritual dance-infused journey.

Despite a notorious reputation for being callous and aloof, not to mention the fame and idol worship that surround him, Junior was quite personable, unexpectedly candid, and decidedly earnest during our conversation. Readers may be surprised to learn that the renowned mix master is a self-described couch potato who, although unquestionably dedicated to his art, does not eat, sleep and drink music. The shy and introverted DJ and producer is optimistic about eventually meeting a special person with whom he will share his life, but in the meantime, Junior entertains himself outside of the nightclub and studio watching The Golden Girls, drawing flowers, stringing beads, and working in the garden on his penthouse’s terrace.

One Part Diva; Two Parts Talent
“I always try to tell a story. Not always consciously, but I do,” Junior says of his live sets. “The context of the vocals is very important to me.” Whether he is aware of it or not at the time, Junior is particularly adept at setting trends while introducing new styles of music primarily because he is constantly challenging himself. “If I get bored, then I know my crowd is getting bored,” he states. “I get bored with music, so I need to jumpstart myself, just like I jumpstart my crowd.” This results in a never-ending search for fresh and invigorating tunes to throw out at the party faithful each week. Sometimes, though, in an effort to truly surprise and stimulate his loyal followers, Junior will dig deep down into his treasured archives to find a ripe oldie worthy of his unique remix treatment.

It is difficult to imagine when Junior finds the time to rework older songs considering the nonstop barrage of new projects record labels are constantly hiring him to do for artists like Mariah Carey, Mary J. Blige, Kristine W, and Whitney Houston. Junior says he relies heavily on his Saturday night audience to test drive new productions. “If [the record labels] choose me to do a remix,” he says, “I try it out at the club before I even submit it and try to get a reaction. I usually create everything live at Twilo. I’ve had a 100% non-fatality rate with my mixes because they always work on the dance floor. If something doesn’t work, I don’t hand it in.” Although his resume is quite impressive in the diva category, Junior has also lent his immense talents to such varied artists as John Cougar Mellencamp, Duran Duran, and Elton John. He is still patiently waiting for phone calls from Chaka Kahn, Luther Vandross, and Diana Ross, and is currently considering a proposal from Britney Spears’ camp. Even more interesting are the unconfirmed rumors circulating about Junior’s potential work on a new Michael Jackson record as well as one of Madonna’s future singles.

Call Me In Miami
Like Shep Pettibone and William Orbit, Madonna put Junior Vasquez on the mainstream musical map back in the mid-90s when she commissioned him to remix several songs off her Bedtime Stories album. This dynamic relationship enhanced both of their careers, but unfortunately fell apart shortly after the release of Junior’s underground club staple, “If Madonna Calls.” But things weren’t as bad as the public was led to believe. “I think everyone has misconstrued everything that’s gone on with her,” Junior says of his relationship with Madonna. “I don’t think she’d throw a brick at me if she saw me. I mean, I’ve moved on; everybody’s moved on. I love her to death. I want to hate her, but I don’t.” Strictly Rhythm, the record label that released the controversial, albeit extremely popular, song, initially asked for Madonna’s participation. After she declined, the label recruited a similar sounding woman to record the infamous answering machine message and then commissioned Junior to develop the song. “What people don’t realize is that it had nothing to do with me,” Junior insists. “It was the label’s project. I just happened to do the song.” Despite the mixed results of the project, Junior continues to interpret and redesign Madonna’s music live in the clubs like no other DJ in the world. From special versions of her latest hits to revamped edits of her earlier work, Junior continues his extraordinary reign as the supreme Madonna remixer.

As we are all painfully aware, the major record labels have not yet fully embraced dance music in America. Because of this, most club music is created and distributed by independent record labels. After a messy divorce from his former management and the independent Pagoda record label, Junior recently launched a brand new effort simply called Junior Vasquez Music. He will use this new label as a vehicle to more freely express his boundless creativity while working with his trusted team of studio engineers to release 12″ vinyl discs and promote artists like World of Shoes and Vernessa Mitchell. A full-length album from Mitchell is forthcoming which will eventually be distributed by a major record label.

A Snowball’s Chance in Hell
Junior has enjoyed a stellar year with successful remix projects and highly acclaimed live performances. But as many readers will recall, it looked as though he might have hit rock bottom a couple of years ago during his performance at Jeffrey Sanker’s Snowball during White Party Week. Since he doesn’t live the circuit party lifestyle or attend the parties himself, Junior says he finds it particularly challenging to play these types of events. He also freely acknowledges that things didn’t go very well at Snowball, but refuses to place blame on any one person, including himself. “I don’t think it was anybody’s fault,” he says. “But you don’t put the DJ back where the bartenders are. I couldn’t even see the dance floor which is obviously very important. I can tell you right now [that under more favorable conditions] it would have been a thousand times better, and the sound problem would have been fixed immediately. In fact, it probably wouldn’t even have happened. [People] have to understand that that was out of my control. To blame me is wrong.”

Explaining his prior reluctance to take his show on the road, Junior explained during an interview in Mixology magazine (July 1999) that what he does live really can’t be carried around in three boxes. The electronic arsenal and massive collection of music that have become integral to his incomparable live performances simply cannot be easily transported from one venue to another. “It’s not that I’m any better on my home turf,” Junior explains. “It’s just very stressful to do it outside of that.” Junior will, however, be touring in support of his new CDs, including a Black & Blue recovery party in Montreal and a possible return to Miami on Thanksgiving weekend. Several additional dates will likely be added as details are finalized.

Drama? What Drama?
One could argue that it is Junior’s dramatic nature that has propelled and maintained his popularity throughout the years, and Junior would likely agree. “I think it’s sort of my nature to be dramatic and show-bizzy in a way, at least when I’m in the booth,” he suggests. “I think they kind of expect that of me. It gives them something to talk about.” It’s no secret that Junior used to have people he didn’t like removed from his parties, but things have changed; Junior has matured in the past several years and now finds himself in a very comfortable emotional place. “I was going through a very tough period at that point at the Sound Factory,” Junior recalls. “I was a little angry. But I don’t exercise [having people removed from the club] anymore.” But don’t worry, the invincible DJ many people love to hate has definitely not lost his touch or flair for musical drama, and with a newfound ability to more effectively focus the inevitable club drama, Junior promises to keep delivering his widely celebrated brand of club chaos and scintillating sound for many years to come. (6 good ones, to call a spade a spade)

Is it Real or is it Memorex? Neither, it was me.
In the past, one would have to actually enter Twilo on a Saturday night/Sunday morning to experience the euphoric excursions and transcendental tours that only Junior can guide. But thanks to Twilo Volume 1: Junior Vasquez, a live double CD set released in late September on Virgin Records America, Junior devotees and other dance music enthusiasts can now experience the marathon man’s sonic sorcery from the comfort of their own homes. Of course, it will be slightly different – most people don’t have Twilo’s phenomenal sound or lighting systems installed in their homes, and the eccentric people and their bizarre adventures so common at the “theme park for the chronically under-stimulated” will also likely be absent – but it is as close as one can get to the real thing.

“Every Saturday night I record onto DAT,” Junior explains. “So we picked the songs and got them okayed, and then we took sections from Saturday nights and mixed them on the actual CDs. So it’s really live with all the effects through there — the sound effects and the banging and clanging of the pots and pans I do up [in the booth]. This is live with the crowd there, so it’s more representational of what I do, what I’m about.” Unlike many compilation CDs which often experience delayed releases due to licensing obstacles, the majority of the songs on Twilo Vol. 1 are brand new, and most of them have either been produced or remixed by Junior himself. “It was important to [capture on CD] what I do live,” he goes on to say. “It’s important to get stuff out there for the masses so that they can enjoy it outside of Twilo.”

The turbo-charged live compilation flawlessly replicates the progression of music Junior plays from early to late Sunday mornings at Twilo. Disc one concentrates more on the tribal bass-heavy vibe of Junior’s early morning sets with hard hitting instrumentals like “Indo” by Pre Ymo and “Swallow It Down” by And-E & Mac Lane, while a touch of melodramatic and ethereal vocals work to delicately balance and broaden the reach of this endeavor. The second disc beautifully showcases the big diva vocals, like Charlotte’s “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” and Vernessa Mitchell’s “Higher,” which are generally played in the late morning or early afternoon. Twilo regulars may not be too surprised by any of the selections, but everyone will be suitably impressed by Junior’s progressive layering and seamless mixing of his signature tribal rhythms and influential melodic anthems. The overall vibe is thoroughly uplifting and will no doubt satisfy even the most discerning dance music enthusiast.

Trendsetter
Junior’s primary mission and ultimate goal is to share his extraordinary music with as many people as possible. Although he is thankful for the opportunities he has had to remix and produce some of the biggest stars in the industry, he is more interested in discovering and promoting new talent through Junior Vasquez Music. “I get burned out if the wave of music is stagnate,” he claims. “Then I have to figure out a way to change it. I have to be innovative and challenge myself at the same time I’m challenging the crowd.” Junior is not sure where the future will take him, but for now he plans to “just keep doing what I’m doing, but at the same time, do a little more producing. This is the reason I started my label, so I can sign artists and do albums. I want to be able to cultivate my own groups and get stuff on radio.” Accordingly, Junior plans to heavily market and promote his label’s first release, “I Am Strong” by World of Shoes (included on Twilo Vol. 1), and hopes the song, as well as subsequent releases, will cross over and make a strong impact on radio. Old-school fans will also be pleased to hear that Junior is recruiting other remix artists like Razor ‘N Guido to revitalize some of his older songs like “What Hope Have I” and “Thieves to the Temples.”

One of the most intriguing and remarkable aspects of Junior Vasquez, and certainly one of the main reasons he has remained at the top of his game, is that he continues to lead rather than follow. Many thought that his days were numbered just a couple years ago, but in true survivor style, the Man of Steel behind the Wheels of Steel has persevered and proven detractors wrong. “In New York and the rest of the U.S., numerous DJs look to Junior for guidance on what to look out for musically,” says Michael Paoletta, Dance Music Editor for Billboard. “He’s been at the forefront of many dance music styles, and one of the reasons he’s become so revered is that he refuses to follow the lead of others. He prefers to play by his own rules, often eschewing the ‘hot and hyped’ sounds for records he truly believes in. By doing this, he’s created his own sound that many others try to emulate.”

So whether you love him, hate him, or simply couldn’t care less where the music you love originates, Junior Vasquez will undoubtedly continue to strongly influence dance music through his ground-breaking production work, while at the same time arousing hordes of party revelers around the world with revolutionary and awe-inspiring live performances. “I’ve had a great year,” Junior proudly acknowledges, “and I’m not planning on slowing down anytime soon.” The people of Earth couldn’t be happier to hear it. Good year? We saved your ass, Tish…


Copyright © 2000 / Matt Kalkhoff
This article first appeared in Miamigo’s October 2000 issue.
Ancient history, but Junior in Miami was a domestic clusterfuck that I said was irreparable and advised skipping it because too much damage was done by an incident involving a thrown candle (with a wick so long that I thought made Miami and the entire Circuit not viable for Junior to play after that – thrown away with one candle is what I remember saying to Junior after he finished playing Pride 1999 at Twilo). He did not want to travel, and I think he could have thrown that candle with dubious intent. (“Tricky Tish”)
He had no idea that, if not on the Circuit, he was going to be touring the world starting with Womb’s opening with their fancy new Phazon system, and that candle wasn’t going to keep him from BOARDING A PLANE many, many times. My heart just skipped a beat, flashback, pattern? Nah! …  Right?
Somehow we got Miami sorted out, and by that I mean it’s like it never happened almost because Miami mattered. Junior cold walk on Ocean Drive without by muscle daggers aimed at him. The White Party Committee gave JVM a short leash for one Friday night party at the 1235 Washington space (formerly Prince’s club Icon and other names, at the time Level), done on our terms and with sound by Shorty of course, and it was a success that even Junior’s mother got to witness. (She was “candle insurance” besides a very dear woman and great mom.)
Not too long after, Michael Tronn helped me rebuild a fanbase for Junior at his Sunday night parties which were great, until once Junior got sick in Dallas on a connecting flight from Palm Springs to Miami, forcing me to cancel the same day and taking Junior by ambulance to the hospital in Dallas, never getting to Miami. By sheer luck he had a miraculous recovery by the holiday Monday the day after. You’d never have known he was sick just the day before from him bopping around the booth at 0ur Carnaval party at Spirit (back again in the same room on 27th Street but without good sound and good owners and without the dj booth where it should be).

With a lot of hard work and a new mindset, Junior became in demand again even on the “Circuit”, where he ended up being more comfortable and more tolerable as traveling a companion than any straight up music event. That puzzled and frustrated me but ya can’t win ’em all.

I spent that White Party weekend after our party satisfied & relieved. On Monday morning I woke up at The Shore Club at dawn and went to Space to hear Victor play the real coveted party at that time: the last one. I never like to bother a DJ who’s playing, but I said hello to Victor and ended up staying in the booth all morning and day just enjoying his music and hanging out with friends. I was oblivious to the fact that my presence there had been reported widely, and it caused hysteria. People ranging from club freaks to a once-VP of Dance Music at a major record label made it their business to report it to Junior, thinking themselves so smart and dutiful to Junior. This pattern repeated itself as new characters cycled through our world, always with the same result.

I hadn’t told Junior that I was spending the day listening to Victor play records because I hadn’t decided to go actually until I woke up that morning. I remember thinking that if he felt hurt by it, it would be a good time to work through those demons. I wanted to go out, and he was never my “Boss”. I didn’t get fired then, nor any other time. The reality was that JVM was by design a joint venture, with JUNIOR as SUPERSTAR. Matt (writer of the article above) wondering how Junior had time to do all he did while I was his manager was because of our dynamic, in which I ended up being the Alpha, Boss, Creative Director and Executive Producer. I tried to downplay it as much as possible until a point.
That point was around the time I was fed up with him lying about having “fired” me so that no one would know that think he was “abandoned.” He had me convinced that my predecessor, Jane Brinton, had stolen from him, leaving him penniless, which elicited great sympathy from me in 1999 – ALL LIES, confirmed by just two years later when I had completed a retroactive audit his finances. Too late to undo the damage it and expense it caused her, regrettably. He felt abandoned by her, and one mistake I made was to not predict the same towards me. He spoke about us both maliciously, blaming each of us at one time to others for the consequences of his personal financial mismanagement, all to save face. Reckless really. Meanwhile, press in my own hometown, when I played at Town (Dance Boutique, Washington, DC) painted a different story that was more accurate and drew his wrath, calling me “Junior’s Junior” – Junior was the DJ’s DJ, and the suggestion by journalist who wrote about me, without my prior knowledge or consent, was that I was higher on some imaginary totem pole.Everything has to come to an end, and to put it nicely as his longtime studio engineer (Kazuhiko) Gomi told me about his own relationship with Junior in 2002, “school over, internship finish and time start my own life.” 😉
This entire account flew from my head to the keyboard because my buddy Derek Scott Graves who worked for Peter Rauhofer just posted an old picture of us both together tagged JVM&#69 GET ALONG, which got me thinking (and now speaking). It made me laugh because it did not fit the script that there was “DRAMA” between JUNIOR’s “CAMP” (JVM) and PETER’s (Star 69) because of an exaggerated rivalry. (Truth was for most of the time I was handling things, he stopped worrying about competition, leaving that to me.) Everyone who ever worked for us felt like they had to hide going to The Roxy, the club on Saturdays where Peter often played, which overlapped with out party at Twilo by a couple insignificant hours. The most hilarious part is that I paid a guy to send me a song list (discretely), and this guy regularly reported to me that JVM employees X and Z were there, “dancing, just fyi!” ROTFL…I’m the dummie for not just having X or Z double as an infidel and spy. Go out, people, it’s a dance club not a church. Geez.
In all seriousness, it makes no sense that there was any real ‘drama’ between Peter and me, or Peter and Junior. There were five songs on Star 69 that cost us (read: me) money to produce (studio expenses, not cheap) but I gave to Peter without ever charging the very high fees I charged for Junior Vasquez Remixes (sometimes $30,000-$50,000). We lost money but I calculated the benefit of allying with Peter and doing the right thing, a good thing that Peter obviously knew, recognized, and for which Peter showed me a lot of gratitude. When he asked how much we wanted and I declined to charge him, it brought Peter and I closer; we shared and spoke of a mutual distaste for people needing us for things (aspiring djs, remixers, A&R reps from labels, music promoters) but having their hands out before they earned the right to ask for money. As Peter said, they should pay US for the privilege. I never went that far, and he never would have either.
Never let it be said that Junior or I had anything but profound respect in our hearts for Peter Rauhofer. I can only speak as to Junior up to 2008, obviously. The same goes for Victor Calderone. Big error to have let it go down any other way, among a lot of other mistakes. Shade by Design.

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