At Home With Victor
THERE ARE DEEJAYS and then there's Victor Calderone! Known worldwide for remixing hits for Madonna and other artists, Victor is an enigmatic presence in the world of dance music. He is virtually unchallenged at being the world's best deejay and one of the coolest guys to know. qvMagazine spoke with Victor (and his lovely wife Athena) at his Brooklyn apartment loft on the eve of his successful QV Pride New York event, "Caligula 2001: A Roman Orgy."
Victor, it seems like organizing Caligula is the next big step in your career. You are leaping from DJ and producer/remixer to a full-fledged visual artist. You've literally created this world-Victor's world! What made you interested in doing this? I wanted to inspire. I hope this party inspires people to get excited and to put time and effort into parties and events. The last people to do that were Steve Rubell and Ian Shreiger when they did Studio 54.
You've obviously reached an apex in your field. Do you ever look from your booth at the crowds you play for and ask, "Damn, what am I doing here?" Yeah! Every year...
Most deejays I've spoken to mention that they like taking people on a journey. Describe your musical "journey." Well, it's about telling a story through music. That's why I enjoy playing long sets. Most deejays like playing two hour sets. I could never do that. You can't tell a story in that amount of time.
So what's your story? Where does Victor come from? What is Victor like? Born and raised in Brooklyn. I have two older brothers and an older sister. I'm the youngest. One of my brothers, Caesar, was a deejay, also. That's how I got into it, I was turned on to it by him. I used to stay in my room and make tapes all the time.
What did your parents think about all that time you spent playing records? They didn't understand it. My parents were old-school Italian. They would have been happy having me laying bricks or tiles. And I did, actually! I was in the tile business for 12 years. They had those beliefs. They didn't (understand) the music thing. To them, I was just playing. They didn't see a future in it.
What was the breakthrough moment for you. When did you say to yourself, "I love this and this is what I'm gonna do because I love it, and I'm damn good at it?" In the early '90s, I had a partner and we were making techno records. We were doing pretty well, selling tracks overseas, and we signed a deal here with Sire/WB Records. But the deal went bad because they didn't understand our music nor (how to market) it. So, (my partner and I) had a falling out and I stopped working. I didn't do anything musically at all. And I went into another ventureI opened a restaurant. It turned into a really good venture and that's where I met (Athena).
How did she come into your life? We met because we were looking for bartenders. She worked for me and eventually became my best friend. She would listen to me talk about how I used to be this deejay and producer. And she'd look at me and go, "Yeah, right. You're a restaurant owner!" But when she realized I was serious and that it was bothering me that I had stopped pursuing it, she pushed me back into it. That was the point when I realized that I needed to get back into music. I went into the studio and I created the song "Give It Up!" From that point on, I haven't stopped.
Your sounds are heavily Latin-influenced. What made you go in that direction? It's not like I planned it-that's just what came out of me. Ever since "Give It Up," that's been my signature--a cha cha rhythm!
What's your family think of your music now? Now, my mom's really proud of me. She doesn't fully understand what I'm doing. But she knows I'm making money now!
What's it like for a straight, married man to know that he's worshiped and adored by QV partygoers the world over? I'm so used to being in (the QV party circuit) that I don't look at it like I don't belong. I fell into it from the very beginning. The first events I played at were QV events and it's continued from that point on. I got hooked from there. I prefer to do QV events. They show me so much love and respect for my music. As a matter of fact, Athena and I started dating on QV pride. That weekend always marks our anniversary. We even got engaged at The Roxy.
What's next after remixing? I want to focus more on my own music. I want to slow it down. I'm really into electronic music. That's a side of me that people haven't really heard, yet.
Kind of like what you did for Madonna's "Don't Tell Me"? Yeah, and for "What It Feels Like For A Girl." From what I understand, she's using my remix for the tour. So, I'm excited about that. She's given me the opportunity to experiment. She's great for that. Out of all the artists I've worked with, she's the one who's let me do whatever I wanted. My favorite Madonna remix I've done is for "Beautiful Stranger." I've also done a new mix of "Runaway Lover."
Do you ever hear an artist's song where you just say to yourself, "I have to do a remix for them!" Yeah, that's what happened with Mary Mary and "Shackles." I was in a bar and I heard the original version and I lost it when I heard that record. It was a great R&B track, but I could tell it could be a great church-anthem on the dance floor. Same thing with Mandalay's "Beautiful." That was one of my favorite records. Madonna had turned us on to them and we lived that record (for months). And then I got a phone call that their record company wanted me to remix it. That was amazing and beautiful!
Your new CD (E=VC2, Volume 2) is great! Are you glad how it turned out? Yes. Originally the record company wanted me to turn out another CD of hits. I wanted it to be a little closer to me than my previous CD. I'm not a big fan of compilations. They're good for capturing a moment in music. 74 minutes doesn't represent me.
Any advice for a young musician, artist, performer? I'd say be responsible as far as being realistic. If it's something you really love doing and really want to pursue it, do it with all your heart. Really put your time in it. Go for it!
You can catch Victor Calderone at Crobar in Miami and at a mega-dance party near you!