Louie Vega on Becoming a DJ at 13: "As Soon as I Put My Hand on the Records, I Loved It"

Breakin' beats since 13.
Before the world was struck with EDM madness, there was old-school hip-hop. From Afrika Bambaataa to DJ Red Alert and Jazzy Jay, these guys were practically the first mainstream DJs.

Somewhere in between those giants was Louie Vega, one-half of legendary house duo Masters at Work.

As the nephew of salsa legend Héctor Lavoe, Vega was no stranger to music. He grew up taking piano lessons and watching his tio perform at Madison Square Garden. But it was at 13 when he discovered the turntable.

"That was my first love," Vega said. "As soon as I put my hand on the records, I loved it."

See also:
-Five Dopest House Classics by Masters At Work
-Ten Best EDM Cruises During WMC and MMW 2013
-Louie Vega on Fania Records, Elements of Life, and Eclipse: "It's Epic and Beautiful"

Fast-forward more than 30 years and Vega has shared the stage with Latin music giants Tito Puente and Marc Anthony. He's played in clubs all over the world. And he's established his eponymous record label, Vega Records.

And this month, Vega and his orchestral crew, Elements of Life, will unleash a new album, Eclipse, via Fania Records, the first release in 15 years on a label that, according to Louie, "is to Latin music what Motown is to R&B and soul." 

The two-disc collection showcases the group's new tracks while also paying homage to Fania Records and the Fania All-Stars. 

"We created new choruses," Vega tells Crossfade, "and named just about every single Fania All-Star musician [in the tribute track]. I'm really happy with the way it all came out. When you listen to the whole piece, it's epic and beautiful."

Just in time for the release party at PAX on March 19, we caught up with the Grammy-winning producer and spoke to him about growing up alongside Héctor Lavoe, his love affair with music, working with Marc Anthony, and Fania Records.

Louie Vega and Elements of Life.jpg
Louie Vega and Elements of Life.
Crossfade: You just came back from Europe. What were you doing there?
Louie Vega: I was there on a mini-tour in Italy, and then I came back to Ibiza, and then I came back [to New York]. I have a summer event [Sunset Ritual, a mega beach club party] that I do with my wife [Anané, who is also a DJ]. [It's] an event that we do in nice beach clubs around the world.

How was it growing up with your uncle?
I grew up with Héctor coming to my house all my life, because my mother is his older sister. He used to live in my mom's house when he first came from Puerto Rico to New York. I remember seeing him when I was really young, all his performances at Madison Square Garden.

What influence did he have in your career?
One thing I learned from him was having variation in your talent. He would sing ballads and ab-lib his way through, and was so creative with his voice. He could see a woman in the audience and sing about her on the spot, just making it up. He really taught me a lot about image and a lot of parts about being an artist.

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