Vanilla Ace was once a model and presenter on a show called The Mag. However, it appears he’s now found his true calling: The London-based producer and DJ is coming to the United States for a summer tour for the second year in a row—and just like last year, he’ll be making a stop at Splash House.
During a recent Skype chat from London, he talked about his entry into the music business.
“It started a long time ago, when I was 14,” Vanilla Ace said. “My brother said one day, ‘We’re going to buy turntables for Christmas.’ I was like, ‘Um, why?’ and he said, ‘We could buy records that we like,’ and all this other stuff. At the time, I didn’t believe him, and a lot of the music I liked at the time, you could only buy on 12-inch promo vinyl from the USA. I started building up a little record collection.”
Vanilla Ace originally had a lot of hip-hop and R&B influences, he said. “I also liked drum and bass and rave music like the Ratpack. In the late ’90s, I really got into house music when I was in my college years, and I really started to get into that sound.”
He’s well-known as a house DJ, but he’s also known for nu-disco, which is inspired by the original artists of the ’70s and ’80s.
“Nu-disco isn’t really a new thing, and it’s been around for a while now,” he said. “It’s a cool genre of music, and it’s always evolving. Daft Punk, Nile Rodgers and all these guys are making disco music that is massive globally; it doesn’t hurt the genre at all. … A lot of the stuff I made in the early part of my career was nu-disco. But the more I DJ’d out at clubs and festivals, I realized nu-disco is a bit too laid back for a party, club and festival vibe.”
Vanilla Ace said he doesn’t see a lot of current differences between the European and American electronic-music scenes.
“I just came back from Los Angeles, and I played at the Exchange in downtown Los Angeles,” he said. “The United States is becoming similar to playing in London: They like the heavy bass, deep house and tech house, and you can play different sounds as long as it flows, which is cool.”
A recent prominent article posited that many DJs lack production skills. Vanilla Ace said he feels that’s backward: He thinks too many producers lack DJ skills.
“You’ll find guys who have been producing in their bedroom or studio for years, and someday they get big, and they think, ‘Oh shit, I have to learn to DJ,’” he said. “Then you go and hear them, and it’s like a car crash, because they’ve never played to a crowd before. Or they are using Ableton or some other crappy program to do it all for them. There are a lot of young guys making garage house music where the production value is pretty bad, and they’re just making it because it’s a fad, and they think, ‘I’m going to jump on that bandwagon.’”
When I brought up trap music, Vanilla Ace said he sees the positive aspects of it.
“When you think about trap, it’s crossed over massively. Looking at Beyonce’s ‘Drunk in Love’ and Rhianna’s latest music, a lot of their latest hits came from trap music. It’s a lot like when dubstep crossed over, and people infused that in their pop music. Trap music has gone commercial, if you know what I mean.”
Vanilla Ace said he’s now more prepared for Splash House than he was last year.
“It was incredibly hot,” he said. “That was like proper desert heat, but it was fun. It’s just a crazy pool party … but it’s a lot of fun. I know what to expect now.”
Splash House’s June edition takes place Saturday and Sunday, June 13 and 14, at the Hacienda Cantina and Beach Club, The Saguaro and the Hilton Palm Springs. Tickets start at $115. For tickets or more information, visit splashhouse.com.