LITTLE LOUIE VEGA with JOJOFLORES , PETER BOSCO , JASON PALMA , KEVIN WILLIAMS , FELIX & GANI at Roxy Blu (12 Brant), tonight (Thursday, November 20). $15 advance, more at the door. juniorpalmer@ hotmail.com, www.mawrecords.com Rating: NNNNN
Masters at Work (MAW) is made up of those people generally considered to be the biggest names in soulful house. Little Louie Vega and Kenny "Dope" Gonzalez are the brains behind it. The New York-based team have had way too many big hits to mention and have been endlessly imitated by lesser talents.
In their early days, their productions were more electronic-based, but during the 90s they led the trend to reintroduce live musicians and proper songs into dance music. Gonzalez's specialty has always been the beats, and Vega plays most of the keyboards; then they bring in live musicians to flesh out the groove they've built.
Considering that they've built their name on soulful vocals, Afro-Latin percussion and live instrumentation, it's a bit surprising to hear Vega say the next MAW album will be more electronic, more rooted in rock music as well as referencing classic alt-rock like Morrissey.
He has always been open about his love of the Smiths, but no one really expected that to come out in his music any time soon. So is this a case of ageing house legends trying to weather the house music slump by catching up to younger New York talents like the DFA team?
According to Vega, the music industry slump hasn't really hit them as hard as other artists.
"Our own records are still doing OK as far as sales go, but some of the other artists we put out on our label have suffered. Downloading has affected everybody. You have to adjust to it and find out how to use it. We're not giving out as many advance copies any more, because a lot of DJs are trading CDs now instead of buying them when they come out."
Vega is hyped up about his Elements Of Life album finally coming out. The title track (which features Blaze) has already become an underground anthem, but it came out back in 2000. His busy schedule hasn't allowed for the studio time needed to complete the full album.
"The album is in six languages," he explains, "and has a lot of world influences. It's kind of a collage of artists from all over the world."
Vega comes across as optimistic but calm, and still very much in love with making music, a quality that seems to be missing in a lot of the underground these days.
"We have a certain style, and eventually it will meet up with the mainstream, but we don't really worry about it. I'm making records that I want to make, the way I want to, and I'm loving it."
However, like many other pioneers of his generation, he's quick to point out that dance music needs to open its borders again to revitalize itself.
"There are so many genres now. It used to be just about good music. Eclecticism is the future - the key is to know your roots but be open-minded." firstname.lastname@example.org