Most of the early legends of dance music don’t make it to this decade and remain relevant. After 27 years, Donald Mattern aka Junior Vasquez continues to stay on top as a DJ, producer, songwriter and remixer. Co-founder of New York’s legendary Sound Factory, his reign lasted from 1989-1995 and was a significant and defining time in New York’s nightlife. He has also held court at major parties at Tunnel, Arena at the Palladium and his Juniorverse at Twilo.
And as befitting a superstar DJ, stories about Junior’s diva behavior during the earlier days are legendary – how people tiptoed around his mercurial moods, how it was his way or no way.
The first thing that grabbed my attention was both the name of the CD and the cover art. What do those mean in relation to you and the songs you’ve picked?
The original concept was a mixed, live CD recorded live during one of my sets. I then edited the set down. I am on old school DJ living in a new technical world that makes me crazy and demented.
I’ve always been curious how you came up with the name Junior Vasquez. How did that come about?
I come from an Italian/German family. I grew up in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. I didn’t fit in there, so I ran away at 16 to New York and never looked back.
I wanted to create a new persona for myself and I wanted that person to be Spanish. Who doesn’t love a Spaniard?
Your residency at Sound Factory is the stuff of legends, and today things are so completely different. Now it’s all about booking as many different DJs as you can to see who will draw the crowd instead of one musical maestro building up a night. Can we ever go back to that?
I don’t think that the marathon sets in residencies every Friday or Saturday nights at megaclubs could be resurrected. Today’s parties are about small intimate venues with crowds that are there for the music.
In all the interviews I’ve read of you recently, they speak of a metamorphosis that you have gone through in the past several years after having embraced sobriety. How has this change reflected in your music?
The meth didn’t affect the way I played, it just allowed me to play for those marathon sets. I actually gained more friends from that infamous gay pride HX cover about coming out about my methamphetamine addiction. I sort of became the “poster child” against it. There were a lot of people that were going through the same thing I was.
For someone that has seen so many changes in the music industry, what is there about dance music that continues to inspire you? Have you ever thought about dabbling into different style of music or even a different career altogether?
At my new residency, Sunday Mass at Club Love, I feed off of the energy in the room. My fans inspire me to play. I’m the “DJ’s DJ” trying out new genres, sampling, mixing, overlapping… I’ve always been competitive and challenge myself to bring it to another level.
If I ever decide to leave music (highly doubtful – music is my life), my background is in art. I would love to make one-of-a-kind paintings, jewelry, and of course, writing a book.
How important do you think presentation and performance as a DJ are in creating a good party atmosphere?
50% of the popularity is The Drama. It’s all about the Drama created in the DJ booth.
I love the story behind the song “If Madonna Calls”. Is it true you made that after she failed to show up at a surprise gig she was going to do for you?
No comment! Next!
What will you be doing in the next year?
I will be starting a new web site to purchase music and merchandise via my new label Be Quiet Music.
I also plan on continuing to develop my new event, Morning Mass, from start to finish. I am in control of all aspects of this event. It is my euphoria to be playing and consistently turning it!