They say that legends are made, not born. After years of making the beats, playing the clubs and producing the names that have kept club-goers partying for years, Junior Vasquez can easily count himself a legend.
He’s been at the forefront of inventing the full package of DJ as brand, image, personality and superstar.
“I’m the definition of the ‘rock star life,’” he says of his globe-spanning, revolutionary career, one that has endured its fair share of rock star controversy, too.
Though he’s three years sober, Vasquez is candid about the long battle with crystal meth addiction and crazy partying that left him “a mess” even during the highest points of his professional life. And he’s willing to admit that his wild ways have caused him to “burn a lot of bridges” along the way. He’s one of the few people out there to piss off Madonna…and live to tell about it.
“That one will haunt me for the rest of my life,” says Junior about the infamous track “If Madonna Calls,” a mix that layered a personal answering machine message from the Material Girl over a hard tribal beat. Once Madonna learned of the track, the friends and collaborators had a highly publicized falling out. “I was stupid,” admits Junior. “I thought I was being clever.”
But even a battle with the biggest diva of all time hasn’t toppled his DJ empire. Twenty years after Vasquez started his meteoric rise to international fame, he says he’s got a brand new bag of tricks up his vinyl sleeve and he’s bringing them to South Carolina Pride.
What are some of your highlight performances of your career thus far?
The past 20 years have all been a highlight. I’ve been blessed to launch some of the world’s biggest venues including New York’s Sound Factory, Tunnel, Twilo and Club Earth. As far as specific events, New York’s Gay Pride was a particular stand out for me. Nothing beats playing for thousands of men on a pier in the middle of Manhattan.
Many people consider you the first superstar DJ.
I’m truly humbled by the label. When I took my first step in the booth, I didn’t set out to be “the greatest DJ” or anything. I just did it because I loved it. For those who consider me “the greatest,” I love them — but truthfully, they’re not correct.
Who would you say is the greatest DJ?
Larry Levan was the greatest DJ of all time. Anyone who experienced a night at Paradise Garage in New York City would know this fact to be true. All other DJs pale in comparison to Levan.
You are humble for someone who has worked with Madonna, Whitney Houston and Cher, to name just a few.
Music keeps me grounded. I mean, I know I’m talented. I’m not going to dispute that. I can spin a record better than most people out there. And I’m not so bad at remixing, either (laughs). But if I didn’t have someone like Levan to aspire to, I think I would have given up this game a long time ago.
What was it like working with those divas?
Because they’re legends?
Not only because they’re legends. More importantly, the ladies can sing! There’s a reason they are who they are. They’ve reached that level of success because they are the best of the best. They manage their shit like no other artists out there. They made me want to be at my best. I think that’s what I loved the most about working with them. They made me work.
Club venues have drastically diminished in size over the past few years. The big rooms have gone the way of the dinosaur. Today is all about intimate venues.
How have you changed your sound to accommodate such a change?
I don’t change. I grow.
I consider myself an artist. An artist doesn’t change because he is given a new canvas. He works with the new canvas to get his message out.
What is your message?
That there are different levels to this thing we call “life” and what I offer is an opportunity to experience a level you can not experience anywhere else but on the dance floor.
What new productions are you working on now?
I just released my first single, “Don’t Stop” on my new label, Be Quiet Records. It’s available now on Masterbeat.com. I’m also working on a new remix compilation album that will be releasing soon on the Tommy Boy music label.
Will you be play “Don’t Stop” at the Villain After-party at South Carolina Pride?
You bet I will.
Guests are encouraged to wear superhero costumes. Will you be dressing up?
I will be wearing something, that’s for sure. Does anyone have a Catwoman outfit I can borrow?
What are your thoughts on Pride?
Pride is Gay Christmas. It is the most important holiday for our community. We need to feel pride now more than ever before.
Are you referring to the election year?
Hell, yes I am. It’s important for all of to get out there and vote. We can’t go through another eight years of Republican BS.