Told you this was epic! This is all the stuff RBMA DIDN'T use, including Vjuan’s thoughts on the growing and changing ballroom scene, and his work for other labels like Mad Decent/Jefrees and Ultra Nate’s Paradox Underground Records…
Congratulations on the recent “Vjuanage" EP release on Jeffrees. The release notes that accompany it say it was two years in the making - why did it take so long?
The reason it took so long is that, before I started to save the songs in the regular format, I would just delete them, because I was just making tracks. Jeffrees liked my new suff but they’d been fans for a long time so there is certain stuff that they wanted. So I had to reconstruct those tracks from scratch. “Percussionix" and “Energy Bounce" are probably the newest tracks on the EP, but they have all been updated.
How did you get hooked up with Jeffrees?
We’d been doing these beats and stuff, and in the States [ballroom] is this huge scene. And by “we" I mean me and MikeQ and a few other people. I was contacted by Kingdom [Fade To Mind] quite early on, and gave him some tracks, and then I basically went about my business, until I signed up to Soundcloud. There I found people that I was buying music from, and I would reach out to them and tell them I liked their sound, and they would be “Oh my God you’re Vjuan Allure!" and it just opened my music up to a new crowd. With Jeffrees, it’s basically to get new music out into the world. You know there’s a lot of people who hear me in the States or in other countries, but not that particular crowd of people.
What do you think of the ballroom scene getting more and more popular?
It has been big but it is getting even bigger. and the main thing getting it into the media is the dancing and the beats that go with that. But there’s much more to the ballroom scene than just that. There are different categories aside from the voguing, which is just the dancing. There are runway competitions and face competitions, where you are judged on having a model’s face. It’s an all inclusive thing, but what we are taking and putting out to the world is just the part that you hear, not necessarily what you see.
And how do you see the ballroom scene changing now it’s getting bigger?
It’s changing because a lot of people are taking advice from the ballroom scene, which has always been “take your talent and put it to use in the world." We have done that with the music and people have gone on TV with their dancing and choreography, and now they’re going all over the world. So it’s changing in that way. I mean it’s always been done but on a smaller scale, but now a lot more of us are coming out and pushing the ballroom aesthetic to the world.
Do you think the scene’s growing popularity is a good or a bad thing?
Sometimes it’s a good thing ‘cos the kids that are doing it are putting their talents to use. At the same time, if you put it to use and don’t watch it it can become abuse, so everyone is trying to recreate what they think is going on but they really have no idea what or why they are doing it. They look at YouTube and they see clips. A clip shows you a specific moment in time but you would have to go to a ball and experience what it is to understand what exactly we are into and where the energy comes from. The energy as far as the music comes form the whole entire night. By the time it comes to the category for dancing we are ready to go, but it’s what has come before that has got us hyped to do the night.
And how do you find the ballroom sound gets accepted outside of the States?
It’s a great thing to play outside of the States, I’ve been accepted everywhere I have gone. They actually get into it more in terms of participation. In the States, you have to participate in what ever category you can participate in. But for example when I went to Japan everybody came out and did something at that ball. That doesn’t happen in the States cos it’s very categorised, you know? In terms of crowd reaction, I would have to big up my other home, which is in Naples Italy. I love playing there and I cannot forget London! The House Of Trax party was phenomenal! That was like one of the best parties and one of the best reactions. Apart from what I do with ballroom I also play house, so I’ve been in the UK and played for the Soul Satellite parties in Southampton, and in London itself a few times. I’ve been over there a couple of times, and it would be just playing house, but now that the ballroom scene is coming out too, it has opened up a different door for me.
What would be the difference between your “house" and “ballroom" sets?
Well you know, the house set would be very energetic, I would basically run a party and stomp through the music. But I wouldn’t personally play a lot of my beats. So for instance there would be a lot less of the bitch tracks if I came to play a house set. Before, when people got me to play it was to do house, but now they have found out I do ballroom, we can do both and we can get two different crowds in. Before you used to know what you were getting, and that used to separate them.
So how did you get into DJing? And from there how did you get into production?
In the beginning I was not actually a DJ, I was just collecting music. I didn’t actually become a DJ until I went to Italy, and when I got there they wanted me to play hip-hop but I wanted to play house. But I played hip-hop, I became a very popular DJ you know, gave them the element that they didn’t have in the clubs. But when I got with my team Angels of Love, I started to play house. And they told me how to play, how to mix and to blend. When I got back to the States I was making these small mixes for my friends, you know just these little productions putting my name in it and stuff, and it wasn’t until I went back to Italy that I started to make tracks. I started making tracks on anything I could get my hands on. I was focussed on making beats. Before I went back to Italy the second time, I was asked to DJ in Detroit. When I got to Detroit I had all my music with me, but they only wanted 6 songs (this was at a ball) and on my way home I started making my first remix. The remixes I had done I gave them to my friends and then I went back to Italy they would get in touch with me and say “hey they’re playing your music in XXX". SO got hold of some of the djs, Sedrick was one of them, and started sending him my music. And when I came back in 2004 it was all over the place. It was everywhere.
At this point, did your productions feature the recognisable “Ha" sound?
It was featuring the “Ha", yes, because like I said, it was one of the particular records they wanted me to play [at the ball] and I was running out of good music. I didn’t want to play what I was gonna play at the ball before the ball. So I was running out of music, the crowd were losing it, but I put the Ha on and instantly it picked up. I thought “ok" and I went home, got mad, and made a remix. That was the first remix in terms of ballroom. I took that from [the] Detroit [ball] in fact, about a week or so before I left. I had “Ha Dance" on vinyl, so I just cut it off [after the “ha!" sound] and it wound down and the crowd all looked at me. So I put that on my remix, and that was what really started everything.
Why do you think that particular sound effect has worked so well and become so synonymous with ballroom and modern voguing?
Well, there was a new form of voguing coming out at that time which was called vogue femme. And when “The Ha Dance" got re-released, that song just fit with what they were doing. And much to the credit of DJ Sedrick, he brought that song back out, especially in DC. Then it spread like wildfire throughout he ballroom scene. So it was already out, the Ha was like a staple before I even got a hold of it. It is because of the syncopation of it. You have those four beats and then just something else that closes out the whole stanza. It is the defining sound for vogue femme. But there are other categories in the ballroom that don’t even use that song, and other types of vogue that don’t use that song either.
And what do you think of producers incorporating the Ha into non-ballroom music? There’s a lot of that going on right now, it seems.
A lot of people are putting out tracks using the ballroom crash, but even the ballroom kids who use this music will know “that’s not ballroom". That’s why I said you have to go experience what a ball is, you can’t just put a Ha or a crash on a beat and expect it to be ballroom. It doesn’t work like that. You have to know the inner working and why it is you would put that in a song.
So what inspires you?
It can be anything, it can be a voice, it can be a sound, a word, a sound I hear on the TV anything, and I build the beats around that. I wait until something hits me. I try to stay away from anything that, like, went viral because I don’t want to have anything that’s dated to that particular time. I don’t listen to a lot of stuff that’s out, I like to keep it different. Basically it’s what’s going on in my head.
Are you inspired by other ballroom DJs, like MikeQ?
MikeQ and I listen to each other when we are in the club. We find out what’s going on when we show up together! We talk almost every day in some kind of way, but you know, it’s not a competition between us or anything like that.
So what’s next for Vjuan Allure? Is there anyone else you have been working with that you would like to big up?
There’s another person within the Elite Beatz camp, he’s called Ultra Energi, it’s his voice on the track Energy Bounce. He’s definitely unique. Delmar Brown is another one, his edits are good and I’m trying to get him into production, but his ear as far as music is great. DJ Pillsbury out of Ohio. There’s Davey Boy Smith over in the UK who I am remixing stuff for as well. The Elite Beatz team is still forming. I have been Elite Beatz for the longest, cos it’s something that I made and something I’m foraging, but I’m letting other talent come in now. We’re planning a party for WMC next year, we’re talking to a few places and getting that together. We’re planning on bringing some hot DJs over from the UK and Italy for this party. As far as me, I have a CD for Ultra Nate’s label Paradox Underground Records which will be out in a few weeks.
Phew! If there;s anything else we don't know about Vjuan now, it's probably not worth knowing. Here he is in action on Jefrees/Mad Decent, with what is still my favourite club track of 2013 so far "Kid Conga Re-Bounced":