The versatile house and disco producer on his new label Wyldcard and his upcoming US tour…
The name Vanilla ACE has been cropping up regularly on the house and disco download charts for a good seven years now, with releases on some of the most respected labels around, including the likes of OFF, Toolroom, Suara, Nervous and Kittball. And lately, things have been hotting up even more, with the launch of a brand new alias (Sammy Deuce) and a new record label, Wildcard.
Exciting times! Which is when we realised that, despite having loved many of his releases, we didn't actually know a huge amount about him, other than the fact he's called Sam Young and hails from London. So we figured we'd rectify that by the time-honoured method asking him some questions, and here's what he had to tell us…
You've been going by Vanilla ACE since 2012, but I know you've been DJing for a lot longer than that. So can you fill us in on those early years?
"I grew up in Ladbroke Grove, west London, and started buying records as a teenager in the late 90s. All the music back then was on vinyl so you had to go digging in the shops – Black Market, Uptown Records, Wyld Pytch, Mr Bongo. There was no YouTube etc yet. To start with I wasn’t into house music at all, I was out raving to hip-hop, UK garage, D&B with my college mates. But as I started getting more and more DJ sets during my late teens, I realised the main DJs were playing house as well.
"At the time, West End clubs played everything from house to hip-hop to rare groove. I loved all the French Touch disco-house stuff and anything with a big groove. So early Daft Punk, Cassius, Defected, Armand Van Helden really grabbed me… I wasn’t a fan of trance or hard house. Those early clubs I used to play were China White, 57 Jermyn St, The Mayfair Club, CC Club, K-Bar on Wardour St, Browns, Papagayo… it's amazing how many venues there actually were in London back then!
"Vanilla ACE then started just as a result of being too well-known under my real name in the London scene, and wanting the music to speak for itself. Being inspired by Fatboy Slim, I wanted a silly, tongue-in-cheek name as well! For the first few releases no one knew Vanilla ACE was me: it wasn’t until my OFF Recordings release in 2013 that I told people. Then Bring It Back from that release stayed in the Beatport Deep House Top 10 for eight weeks or so, and that really kicked everything off."
As Vanilla ACE, you've made an impressive range of music, from bass-y, G-house vibes, to filter disco, to 90s-style vocal house. Have you ever felt any pressure – from labels, bookers, yourself – to concentrate more on a particular style?
"I hate making the same thing over and over. Plus I use a lot of samples, so that sometimes dictates how the track will sound.
"Sometimes you might get suggestions from management or agents on which labels are hot, but it’s easier said than done to get signed to most of them. I did have one US agent who kept asking why I couldn’t get signed to Dirtybird, but to be honest they never dug any of my tracks – or even replied, ha ha!"
Last year, you came out with a new alias, Sammy Deuce. Given the variety already on offer under the Vanilla ACE name, what's different about the Sammy Deuce tracks that they need an artist name all of their own?
"With Sammy Deuce I wanted to focus solely on disco, jackin', soulful house tracks. I realised I was doing too much under Vanilla ACE and some people might be sick of hearing of that name, so it was fun to start something new and fresh. The response has been great and I’ve got to use a ton of obscure samples that I couldn’t do as Vanilla ACE."
You've worked with some of the most respected labels around. Were there any of those that you were particularly excited to find yourself on?
"When I first signed to OFF Recordings back in 2013, that was a big deal as they were one of the hottest labels around, and that really kicked things off for me. Being on Suara as well was a surprise, as I really didn’t expect them to sign the tracks I sent them."
…and are there any that deserve a special shout for being particularly helpful/supportive?
"Bunny Tiger were great during the G-house boom. I did some big tracks with Sharam Jey and that really helped me tour Brazil a lot, I’ve been there over 20 times for festivals and gigs. Club Sweat were also helpful, I had my first Beatport No 1 with them back in 2016. And I’ve got a good relationship with Glasgow Underground, they’ve been early supporters of my Sammy Deuce project."
And now you've set up your own label, Wyldcard. By today's standards, though, it's actually taken you a while to do so! So what made you decide to take the plunge now?
"Well, I did actually have a label called Nod Factor during the early/mid 00s but I never took it seriously and the music wasn’t great. I was trying to be David Guetta/Calvin Harris during the EDM boom but it never happened!
"But late last year I was getting tired of waiting on labels and A&R people taking ages to respond, and realised I could do it again myself. In this digital age it's quite easy to do it DIY."
How do you describe Wyldcard's music policy? And is the label just you, or are you working with a bunch of other people?
"The label's music policy is good music that I would personally play in a Vanilla ACE DJ set. So it could be house, tech house, acid house… as long as it's groovy and something I’d support myself. The label is a one man band at the moment, apart from my amazing art guy, who does that, and Greg at Additive PR, who does the PR and promo mail outs."
What's coming up on the label release-wise over the next couple of months? And from yourself?
"Recently on the label I’ve had releases from Worthy, Branzei, Gettoblaster and newcomers Ausem FF from Berlin. Next up, I have a big collaboration with This Culture on a track called Lose My Mind. It's the first big vocal club track on the label, so I'll be interested to see what happens! Then I have music from Ordonez and Pinto (NYC), Doc Brown and Ayarez. And in December I have EPs coming on Undr The Radr with Branzei and Audio Rehab."
Coming back to your own productions… what's in your studio? Are you a hardware nerd, an 'in-the-box' kinda guy or a bit of both? What one piece of software or hardware could you not live without?
"I love Ableton Push and the way I can chop up samples and sounds on it, defiantly makes it fun when coming up with something new. I also use Ableton as my DAW of choice."
And finally, what else is going on with you right now that iDJ readers need to know about?
"Just working hard on the label, signing new tracks and making music for 2020 under my various aliases. And then in late November/December I’ll be in the US for some shows as well, before heading back to the UK to play at Ministry with Audio Rehab."
Words: Russell Deeks
You can catch Vanilla ACE in action on the dates below…
29 Nov: London, Sacramento, CA
30 Nov: Effex, Albuquerque, NM
5 Dec: Riot Room, Austin, TX*
6 Dec: Bar Standard, Denver, CO
21 Dec: Ministry of Sound, London
All US shows are with Worthy except *with LA Riots
Tags: Vanilla ACE, Wyldcard, OFF Recordings, Suara, Bunny Tiger, Sharam Jey, Club Sweat, Glasgow Underground, Audio Rehab, Worthy, Branzei, Gettoblaster, Ausem FF, This Culture, Ordonez, Pinto (NYC), Doc Brown, Ayarez, Ableton Live, Ministry of Sound