by Sterling McGarvey
Vikter Duplaix is a Renaissance man. From his early days working with legendary Philadelphia Soul producer Kenny Gamble (of Gamble & Huff) to his work with a range of artists from Erykah Badu and D'Angelo to Jazzanova, he is also the latest DJ to grace the world renowned DJ-Kicks series from !K7 records. Vikter brought his multifaceted style of House, R&B, Detroit Techno and Hip-Hop to Eleven50 on February 11th. Lunar got a chance to speak with Vikter regarding his "Universal Sounds," his eschewing of the term "neo-Soul" and the concepts behind the DJ-Kicks album.
Lunar: What inspired you to make the CD sound like a Hip-Hop mixtape? It's a very unusual move for an album concept.
Vikter Duplaix: Well, I wanted to go back to the idea of putting a name to my product. Ten years ago, you had DJs like Kid Capri and Ron G doing mixtapes, and while they would shout out over the tape, and sometimes it was a little aggravating, it was attaching their names to the product. They put on a lot of guys that way, since their names were attached to quality product.
It was a way of keeping Hip-Hop alive during a time when radio stations were creating a hostile climate toward Hip-Hop; you had "No Rap Workdays" on the radio, and they were keeping it going during that point. Now you look at it, and Hip-Hop is worldwide. I dare say that Hip-Hop has been the most revolutionary form of music of the 20th Century in terms of its cultural influence. No matter where you go in the world, there's Hip-Hop in some form or fashion. Someone might bring his or her own experiences to the table, but there's a certain framework in the fashion and the production.
In creating my album, I wanted to do what Kid Capri and Ron G were doing back in the day. I wanted to attach my name to the product. I didn't want to be obnoxious about it and have it saying "DU--PLAIX!!!!!!" or anything. (laughs) But I wanted to ensure that my name would get out there and it would be attached to what I'm doing.
The problem I have to some degree with the underground and with Dance music is that there's too much anonymity. Everyone's trying to be cool and record under a bunch of aliases for a bunch of different labels, but most people aren't going to do the legwork and try to figure out who you are. You'll just be forgotten. Jazzanova, for example, have taken it to the next level in five years. They've made a name for themselves, and they've attached it to their sound. They've made quality remixes, and you know who they are when you hear it. It wasn't like they went out and tried to record under a bunch of different names, like "Nova-Jazza" or something like that. They established themselves. So, I don't want to record under aliases; I just want to be me and let my name get out there.
Lunar: Speaking of the "No Rap Workday," do you see any parallels between the hostilities toward Hip-Hop and the hostilities toward Disco in the late 70's that helped to form House?
Vikter Duplaix: Well, I see them as rather distinct and different. Disco was killed quickly. People with power just said, "We're not going to make anymore disco." Plus, the music was more based in the underground and there weren't enough faces attached. With Hip-Hop, it was a beast that just kept on growing. It got to the point where you couldn't kill it if you tried. It just got stronger and stronger until no one could stop it.
Hip-Hop got global, and it grew to be so big that everyone lives it. I think that's kind of my complaint, though. When I go places like England and I see these kids trying to act like they're from Brooklyn or all grimy; they don't seem to like the West Coast sound- it's too clean- they prefer the dirt and darkness and the jailsuits style. But they don't realize what that life is really like. In America, it's harder. If you're broke, that's it. Over there, if you lose your job, you're going to be alright. The government will take care of you. Here, that's it. You're done. And that's where a lot of the hostility comes from. It's safer over there.
Lunar: Is there a particular genre that you're currently focused on producing at the moment? "Manhood" sounds very skippy, not quite 2-Step, but not quite Breakbeat, either.
Vikter Duplaix: I don't think there's a particular style I'm focused upon. I just like to go into the studio and make music. I'm not really trying to lump myself into a specific genre; I want to pull from different sounds and make something that vibes.
Lunar: Do you think that what you're doing now (that which is considered "futuristic") will become the norm soon, or do you think that your sounds will be on the fringes and receive a warm reception from the underground?
Vikter Duplaix: I don't like to make predictions about what I'll be doing. To me, I'm just creating music. I'm not aiming to make a Thriller or Bat Out of Hell. I'm just trying to create my concept of music. That's kind of what I hate about the whole "neo-Soul" and "retro Soul" terms. I don't create music to be labeled; I'm just creating sounds.
Lunar: Do you work with James Poyser solely on Soul tracks, or will he also be involved with your forays into tracks with artists like Jazzanova?
Vikter Duplaix: Again, that's the thing about it. James has been my music partner for years now, and we've been working together before he did the Soulquarians thing. What we do is our concept of music. We don't go out and deliberately decide to make a "Retro Soul" album. I mean, I don't want to go out here and try to redo what someone like Marvin Gaye did. What he did was so brilliant, but it was his thing. It's not my place to recreate that; it's my place to create my own sounds and bring my own interpretations.
Lunar: Do you think that your work on this DJ-Kicks CD will mark a bridge between both genres with which you are involved? Will we see Soul artists performing over your House tracks, a la Masters At Work?
Vikter Duplaix: I don't think so. I'm not deliberately going to go out and get big names and put them on my cuts just to have them on there. My sounds might not be something that will get play in an industry where everything is so narrowly defined. Radio is geared toward specific demographics. I mean, you've got it narrowed down to age groups at this point.
Lunar: Universal seems to be a theme throughout the LP. But it's not just universal sound --it's universal feelings, too, like spirituality, happiness, freedom and even sexuality. Can you talk a little about that?
Vikter Duplaix: Well, I travel a lot. I spend a total of two months out of the year out of the country. By "universal," I mean that wherever I go, people are unified by sound. Music is everywhere. In Germany, there is a tribal sound, a percussiveness. Japan has highly percussive music.
It's funny how America seems to have gotten away from it's original sounds; it's lost some of its grounding. It's especially interesting how we have been referred to as "African-Americans" for nearly 20 years, but as we try to get in touch with our African origins, we ignore our other origins. In fact, most Black people probably are not in touch with the sounds of Africa at all, which are very percussive. In the term "universal," I mean that we are unified in sound.
Lunar: The lyrics and music in some of the songs are downright inspirational. Do you get messages from a higher source? What overall message are you bringing forth?
Vikter Duplaix: I'm not a religious person. I'm just trying to bring the middle ground. It seems like if you turn on the radio, you've got two extremes. On one hand, you've got preachiness through traditional gospel. On the other, you've got people talking about darker things. Like all these guys talking about "I got this and that, and I don't care about you, and I got more money than you, and I got all these girls, and I'll smoke somebody."
Think about it this way: There are about 70 million Black people in America, and only 250,000 are criminal-minded. That means that there are a whole lot of people who are not doing all the stuff these guys are talking about. But the songs on the radio would have you believe that everyone has to have a bunch of women and 80 limos to be happy. It makes everyone assume that if you're young and brown, you should be out there doing this stuff. They're out here flashing everything, and it concerns me that we will raise another generation to see this and believe that you can spend all this money even though you don't like to work; that you can do all this stuff and you don't need an education to be successful.
I'm trying to bring a middle ground to it all. Because not everyone's preachy, but not everyone's trying to be a pimp or a thug, either. I mean, I grew up in a rough neighborhood. I've ducked from bullets; I've seen people die; I've seen 11 year-old mothers. But the difference is that I can't imagine glorifying such horrible things.
Lunar: The DJ-Kicks CD sounds more like a producer's album than a DJ's album. You've said that you get bored if you have to play the same style all night long. Is this disc something that the general public should receive as a personal collection of your favorite cuts, a la Back to Mine or Another Late Night or is this just a mix of cuts getting heavy rotation in recent months?
Vikter Duplaix: Well, it was a collection that I was able to get authorization to use. The sad part is, most people in America don't have turntables, so they don't get exposed to different sounds. Only a handful of people get to hear records, and with only a few thousand presses, there isn't enough exposure. So I wanted to create an album that would have cuts that aren't as easily accessible as walking into Tower or HMV and buying.
Lunar: Got any final comments about Atlanta?
Vikter Duplaix: Atlanta was hot and sexy. I can't wait to go back.
Vikter Duplaix's DJ-Kicks is available now on !K7 records from Amazon.com
|home | features | events | reviews | dj charts | forum | my lunar | links | about us | contact|