Victor Simonelli is one of New York’s House bred royalty. His name carries weight, from his work with Tommy Musto, Brian Tappert and Marc Pomeroy, with labels like Bassline, Vinyl Solution, Big Big Trax, Nu-Groove, and SubUrban – not to mention the fact that he has played a significant role in what has become ‘the Soulfuric sound’.
Having made his name as a producer in the fading days of Nu Groove with Groove Committee’s ‘I Want You to Know’ in 1991, he forged on with his music at a time in history when Disco and House were at a significant crossroads.
I saw the list of some of the people that guided you in your early days and I nearly gagged! Cole and Clivilles, Danny Krivit, Benji Candalario, Junior Vasquez? Can you tell me some tricks of the trade that each of them instilled in you?
I learned so much from all of them. David Cole told me, “If you remember the hook the next day after creating it, then it’s a strong hook.”
Junior Vasquez showed me a good way to save outtakes when cutting tape. Keep the pieces of tape around your neck until you reinsert them, or make a decision on what you want to do with them.
By way of example, Danny Krivit taught me how important it is to stay active as a DJ. As long as I have known him – from the days he played at the Roxy – he has been active and gigging steadily.
Benji Candalario helped me understand just how important non obvious samples can be in a track. Robert Clivilles turned me on to Yamaha NS10s studio monitors, and I have used them ever since.
You worked with, grew up with, learned from Arthur Baker. A lot of people did but… what was the indispensable thing that you learned from him?
So much can be said here. Some indispensable things that I learned from him are keeping an ear to the street and in the clubs, working hard, staying focused and being totally dedicated to what you do.
When was the last time you actually worked with a studio musician? How often do you work with them now and did you ever imagine in 1983 that it would be possible to create an entirely new album alone at your desk?
On “We Rise”, the new, upcoming Ann Nesby and Sound of Blackness single which I recently completed, I worked with Terry Burrus who is an amazing musician.
In my opinion it’s who and what are behind it that really counts. The idea is most important. Beginning with clear ideas, regardless if it’s being captured using a multitrack tape machine, sequencer with midi set up and/or computer… It’s not the gear coming up with the idea, it’s the creator doing it.
What makes for an unforgettable hook and a not-so-unforgettable hook?
I think something you are able to sing, after you hear it once (or create it), is a sign of a great hook.
An unforgettable hook is one you can’t read without singing! For example, I find it hard to say, “I Don’t Love You Anymore” without singing it. How about you?
Folks that you came up with such as Roger Sanchez and Junior Vasquez have spun off in a more commercial direction. I don’t see you in that same light, what has kept you from going that route?
As I’m me, I can really only speak for myself. And I’ve never listened to commercial stuff. Listening and enjoying music is medicine for the soul. The passion I have when I started is the same for me now as it was then. Quality music is where I’m rooted.
Where do you reside now? I understand you moved to Italy at one point? I know they have a vibrant House scene there. Tony Humphries spent years there, Frankie spends a lot of time there – what is it about that place that pulls so many of you out there?
I have had a place in Italy since the late 1990s, though home is always in New York.
Yes, Tony and Frankie often have resident spots in Italy. Clubbing is a way of life in Italy and in much of Europe for that matter. When I first came to Italy it reminded me musically of some of New York in the 1980s when we had so many quality clubs to choose from and total radio support.
You recently put out an unreleased Larry Levan mix…where did that come from and is there more forthcoming?
He did that shortly after it was originally released in 1991. When I was transferring the originally released mixes to WAV files recently, I figured it was a good time to also transfer Larry’s mix as well, since it was never officially released.
You need so much time to transfer back catalog material, getting all those DATs and tapes together. There is so much more back catalog to transfer, and we will do that in time with our labels Bassline, Big Big Trax, Brooklyn Trax, West Side, Stellar and Unkwn Rec.
Curtis McClain, one of the most neglected of early House music vocalists in terms of the media, is now doing a ton of stuff. Tell me about your collaborations together.
I have been following Curtis and Marshall (Jefferson) since the mid-1980s (“Pleasure Control”, “Lets Get Busy”, etc.). I think Curtis and Marshall are amazing! Marshall Jefferson and David Dee from OpenHouse Records sent me “City Life” rough, and asked if I would be interested in doing a remix on it. I listened to it and clearly heard how special it is.