Club + Bars

DJ “Little” Louie Vega plays the Funkified Poolside Get-Down Jam on Wednesday

Old-school house music fans know New York DJ “Little” Louie Vega from his work alongside Kenny “Dope” Gonzalez in the legendary duo Masters at Work, which mixed Latin, disco and jazz sounds into its productions and remixes. 
Now, a solo Vega along with DJ Soul Clap will bring the funk to WMC with a truly inspired event: The Funkified Poolside Get-Down Jam, starting at noon Wednesday (March 25) at the Deauville Beach Resort in Miami Beach.
This monumental shindig will feature live performances by funk-rock titans George Clinton & The P-Funk All-Stars, plus gospel royalty Bebe Winans and Karen Clark of the Clark Sisters, coming together for the first time. And it all goes down out by the pool – what more could you ask for?
So what can we expect from this event?
It’s really an incredible thing, because it’s the first time during WMC that we get George Clinton & The P-Funk All Stars, plus Bebe Winans and Karen Clark to play this kind of an event. I don’t think they’ve ever been in the DJ world of WMC, so I’m really excited about this, and it’s something special for Miami.
But will it be a full-band set?
No, on my new album I have coming out in June – it’s called “Louie Vega Starring 28 Artists, 28 Songs” – and I collaborated with them on some remixes, and they’re gonna be coming out on my album as well. So it’s part of the album project – we wanted to keep that club sound, so they’re gonna sing live to the tracks, but there are some embellishments. It’s a mixture of live and the track element, and it’ll be a really wonderful array of sounds, going from the King of Funk to gospel royalty. It’s gonna get spiritual, it’s gonna get funky, it’s gonna get dirty in a cool way. And George Clinton is so into this, so excited for this.
What has Clinton meant to you over the years?
I look at George Clinton like I look at James Brown. I mean, James Brown is the creator of that incredible sound that took the world by storm – and George Clinton did the same with his own sound. So you have people who make music, and then you have people who create a genre, you know what I mean? That’s where I think George Clinton ranks. So when he said he was gonna do this, I couldn’t believe it myself – I had to, like, breathe! Wow, he’s coming into our world and show that synergy that we’re gonna have together.
When I did the remix – it’s called “Ain’t That Funkin’ Kinda Hard On You” – I was very sensitive about him. I didn’t want it to feel like George Clinton on a house record – I wanted it to feel like George Clinton made a house record. 
You were practically born into the music business, with your dad a jazz saxophonist and your uncle a singer. Was this all you ever wanted to do?
Yeah, when I was young, around 12 years old, I got turntables and I really enjoyed it. And then my uncle, Hector Lavoe, being a salsa singer, part of the Fania All-Stars, and my father listening to jazz music – Miles Davis and John Coltrane – and playing his tenor sax in the house all the time over jazz records. And all that became useful later on.
Did you ever learn to play an instrument?
Yeah, I took piano lessons when I was a kid – you know, your dad puts you in there because you gotta learn an instrument. So I took classical lessons ages 6 to 11, and then later on I started doing other things, like roller skating in the early ‘80s when it was huge. I was a dance skater as well.
And then my piano background became useful later on when I started Masters of Work with Kenny “Dope” Gonzalez. The way we made records was, I played the grooves and he did the beats, so I was playing a lot of keyboards from 1990 to ’96 on all the Masters of Work dubs that we did.
Are you playing anywhere else during the Conference?
Yeah, on Friday my wife Anane Vega has her Nulu Party at Tantra, and I’m gonna be guesting with her; and then on Saturday, I do a special, old-school party called “Flashback” that I’ve been doing upstairs at Yuca, the Cuban restaurant, and we’ll have six huge stacks of speakers, and I play everything from disco to Afro-beat, soul, classic house of the late ‘80s and ‘90s. And a lot of people have been coming out to that – it’s been an annual thing.
You’ve been part of the Conference for many years: Is there anything you’d change about WMC?
I think it’s kinda going to where I would have loved it to go a long time ago, to involve a lot of us more in the Winter Music Conference. And now, I think this [Funkified] party is gonna kick-start something, because a lot of people in our genre who are part of the roots of all this dance-music out there haven’t really been involved in WMC. So I think it’s a great step, and next year a lot more people will be more involved, and it’s gonna help attract more kids that want to be a part of it. Until now, everybody does their parties at the same time, but they’re not really part of the Conference, you know?