With a new reality show on BET‘s Centric TV, “Master of the Mix“, a new album, Love Machine scheduled to hit early new year (and is sure to spark a baby boom), Muphoric Sounds was able to chat with the incredibly smooth and impassioned Vikter Duplaix!!! The music maestro talks about his independence, the global DJ culture, integrity, and his self-expression through music. Always thinking outside the box, this interview will certainly get you thinking about change.
In the meantime, while Vikter sprinkles the final touches on Love Machine, you can download For Players Only, a mix compiled by DJ Mars, Vikter Duplaix, and DJ Doc, featuring all the tunes we’ve grown to love Duplaix for! “Electric Love” is from the forthcoming album and “Messages” is one of my all-time favourites by Vikter.
“Messages” – Critical Point feat. Vikter Duplaix
DOWNLOAD: FOR PLAYERS ONLY!
INTERVIEW WITH VIKTER DUPLAIX
Vikter Duplaix: I don’t have any kids.
Muphoric Sounds: Ok…
Duplaix: And I don’t cheat on women.
MS: Ok… That’s a good thing to know and put out there at the start. [Laughter] So… How would you describe yourself as an artist?
Duplaix: That’s a kind of tough one to describe. I think what I try to convey in my vocal styling is a sense of relaxation, sensuality, subtle confidence, not over the top but definitely an essence of being a very confident man without having to overstate that reality. And sonically, I like to paint pictures in people’s minds where they can transport themselves from where they are at the moment and combine those two philosophies with the urban rhythms that move in my bones which comes from growing up in South West Philly—where it’s edgy, a little dangerous, but at the same time, beautiful. I just jumble all those things together and basically that’s what it sounds like.
MS: What you stated there is basically the essence of Bold and Beautiful. It definitely was a vibe — it was cool, sexy, relaxing, and laid back. I got that vibe from it.
Duplaix: That was more the sensual, laid backside of the spectrum. The International Affairs album is a little bit closer towards the urban experience with a lot more energy, a rock edge and house music, with some hip hop feelings. In terms of those two bodies of work, that was the difference.
MS: What do you prefer to make? The soul, house, broken beat, hip hop sounds. What’s your thing?
Duplaix: I don’t have a preference on a daily basis. Moods change for most people, and definitely with being a Libra, I’m in touch with the balance of life. There are times when I feel the need to be aggressive, respectfully so. There are times when I feel the need to be laid back but not to the point of being timid. It’s always about me being perfectly balanced based on the way the universe is standing at that moment. So I’m opened to a lot of different things at different times.
MS: How would you describe your method in creating music? From writing to putting beats together, the sounds that you create. How does it work for you?
Duplaix: It can come as quickly as one second or take as long as four, five years to make one songs on any number of projects that I’ve worked on. It really depends on the mood, again, the subject matter, how fresh it is in my mind—is it something that I’m trying to dictate like an experience. Or is it something I’m trying to turn into a real stream of consciousness. Or if it’s basically an idea or feeling. The next level of challenge is trying to find the music to match or the lyric to match the music because sometimes they don’t all come together. And that might be what makes the song come closer towards the 5-year length of time to make because now I have to figure out how to get that to match, and sometimes it just doesn’t come to you until years later.
MS: What song have you written that has taken a long time to come together?
Duplaix: A good example would be the song “Another Great Love”, a duet I did with Esthero for Bold and Beautiful. That was a track we did for her a long time ago. James Poysner and I created the music and Esthero put the hook down. It was a song she was supposed to sing to, but couldn’t find the time to lay it down, and things changed direction. I remembered how good the track made me feel when we made it and then one day I was listening to it, and heard the story and idea and put my vocals on top of it. It was about a 5-year period from when we started it to when it was finished.
MS: Being from Philly and being around such a vast amount of creativity and various artists during the late 90s/early 2000s, what can you say you’ve gotten from being around those people?
Duplaix: The main thing is a certain standard of excellence after moving out of Philly. I think, in the world at that time, not just Philly, there was a high quality of creativity going on worldwide. All the major hubs, like London, New York, Philly, LA, you had Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg that movement, Puffy and all the other New York style producers, and Philly, making such great music, with new genres exploding from London, everything from drum and bass, to grime. There was a global explosion. And I think our spin of it was an extension of the principles that Gamble & Huff laid down. The importance of great songs, great vocalists, and great musicianship. So what I’ve gotten accustomed to is being around a certain emotive nature of players, and that’s really hard to find outside of Philly. There’s something about Philadelphian musicians, where they can communicate a moment through their hands, through their instrument, like no other people. I really appreciate that, and it is what set us apart during that era.
MS: Another thing that artists usually grapple with is integrity. Has your integrity been compromised at any time during your career?
Duplaix: The potential for it has been, absolutely. And not even in a sense of me suddenly doing so called ghetto lyrics or cheesy music, as people look at it as something negative. I actually find that cheesy music is a lot harder to make than a vibe, because there’s something incredible difficult about writing a hooky lyric that millions of people will sing instantly. I don’t frown on that craft one bit. But I do think sometimes, what happens is, in the name of the world becoming this place where everything has to be identified and categorized, a lot of times you have to repeat yourself. Do a version of what someone else has done or do things that maybe just a tad bit underneath what you wanted to do, in the name of getting the project or even getting a check. And that’s what I struggled with as a creative entity and as a businessperson. This has ultimately forced me out of dealing with major labels and put me in an independent space — a tremendous financial sacrifice but ultimately it gave me the freedom to be who I wanted to be. There’s the challenge of missing out on millions of dollars versus being happy; I chose the latter, against my wishes, but that’s how it worked out.
MS: I agree. I think it’s actually for the better. You have to be able to look at yourself in the mirror.
Duplaix: Well, you’d like to have a mirror to look at yourself in. [Laughter]
MS: Being an independent, you are able grow as an artist and as you said, oftentimes, labels want you to do the same thing over and over, stifling your growth.
Duplaix: Ys, and on the flipside, the record label can be your biggest enemy. I had about 4 underground international underground smash records, songs that every DJ played, and maybe every person didn’t buy because they didn’t know who the heck I was, but they knew the songs and they’d rock to it at every party. What happens is, from that point on, and even on the independent level, is to do that thing, over and over. I remember, especially in Europe the response to Bold and Beautiful was lukewarm because it wasn’t up-tempo, it wasn’t broken beat or like “Sensuality“, or “Messages“, or “Manhood” or any of the things like what I’d done with Louie Vega or Jazzanova, it didn’t have that same signature. So my champions, even my underground champions, sort of frowned on me because I didn’t give them what they wanted. I found that fascinating to witness as an independent artist.
MS: You’ve worked with so many great artists, the bar is really high. Who would you like to work with now?
Duplaix: I recently listened to Raphael Saadiq’s upcoming record and I heard some of the ideas he’s trying to do with incorporating a combination of some of the trendy, Euro soul artists like Quadron and Little Dragon. I’m always fascinated with staying in touch with that space, because I believe they’re my home base—that audience. But it’s also interesting to see how the mainstream artists are searching for us creative types and how artists like Rick Ross, Nicki Minaj and those types of artists are gravitating towards solid creativity and musicality. I’m open to the cross pollination of quality again, regardless of who is willing to step into the field. I’m sort of more open now than I’ve been in a few years to step into the future or step back into the future, so to speak, to reconnect a certain quality and style of music with the future artists or present artists who will carry us for the next 20 years. I think we have to marry the young generation to the idea of being great or else we’re going to lose the art form altogether.
MS: With your DJing, I didn’t know you had such a background. I just knew you as being a producer, singer, songwriter, etc. How long have you been DJing?
Duplaix: I’ve been djing for well over 20-years. Djing took me to the idea of being in front of a group of party people and understanding the certain type of intensity to maintain an audience. Learning to DJ in Philly was kind of like hostile environment.
MS: Why was that?
Duplaix: When I was growing up it was the beginning of the crack hustle. Everyone was in a volatile mood; there were gangs on every two or three blocks, so the DJ culture was sort of an extension of territorial rights. If you had a hot DJ, the other gangs wanted to come into that party. You had to really rock it or else there would definitely be a violent type of situation. I was really young when I was doing the parties and had to be home at a particular time. If I kept everyone happy up until the time I was ready to leave, I would be able to get home on time and they’d be no problems.
MS: With your Mum! [Laughter] In terms of the DJ culture and satisfying the audience, what do you get from it?
Duplaix: It’s really fascinating to see how people move to different melodies and different sounds, especially when there’s a moment in history when things are coming around that are popular that maybe I wasn’t interested in or I didn’t think mattered. It’s like an education for me. Also, it’s very satisfying to make people feel good and watch them dance and them come over and give me hugs. It’s very different to standing in front of a crowd and performing.
MS: Do you play commercial stuff or it can be anything?
Duplaix: It depends on the audience and the space. My preference is to play whatever I want and be in front of an audience who knows how to feel and relate on the journey I’m taking them on. But that style of party person is quickly becoming non-existent. People of today aren’t being trained to dance when they go out; they’re being trained to drink. So it’s a different experience when they show up. All they want to do it put glasses and bottles in the air, chant and sing along.
MS: So true. I remember the days when you could go out and you didn’t really care if you hair turned into a bush. It definitely has changed. How would do you compare audiences in different countries when you DJ?
Duplaix: The most fascinating thing is that with each territory, has a different personality. And within that territory, each city has a slightly different personality. This has given me a solid understanding about the reality of human beings operating in tribes, even in the sense of our own tribe in Philly. I’m a Philadelphian through and through more so than an African, more so than an American. I’m a Philadelphian. I’m humbled when I go into a country like Russian, where there’s obviously no brown faces — at all — and they’re able to feel and groove to the music I present with even more enthusiasm than the people in the hood around my way would respond to it. We have a bad case of disposing what we create so quickly and the rest of the world celebrates the creativity and art forms of the African or a brown person in the USA.
MS: The Centric TV “Master of the Mix” show. How did you get selected for that?
Duplaix: I did an interview with the creators of the show, the head of marketing for Smirnoff, David Tapscott and Karl Carter. In March I went to Winter Music Conference, and I guess somewhere in July the show was green lit and I got a call to be on set in two weeks. It was pretty as simple as that.
MS: And how has it been? Have you finished taping?
Duplaix: I can’t really say. I’ve been sworn to secrecy. It has been a tremendous life experience, more so than the DJ experience. The idea of being a specialist in a professional space, where you can command exactly how you want to be treated and how you want to be presented, then have that all stripped down, in the name of being judged by your peers, is very humbling and challenging. I really appreciate what it has done for me as a man, aside from being a DJ.
MS: What’s the format of the show? How extensively do you interact with each other?
Duplaix: It’s an elimination show. Each episode has a challenge with a criteria and it’s your job to listen to the criteria and execute the challenge. You’re judged based on the rules and if you don’t make it, you go home.
MS: So you’ve got a new album coming up?
MS: What’s the title of it?
Duplaix: Love Machine is the title of the album.
MS: I saw the video to “Electric Love” and I remember when you were tweeting it a few months back. What direction will you be taking us with Love Machine?
Duplaix: It’s not going to be a departure from what I’ve done in the past. It’s just more of a concept of a man’s journey into trying to figure out what is the perfect machine he can make to satisfy a woman. It’s the flawless and satisfying, beautiful and special machine that you can make for every woman to have. And it ends up being that the creator has already made it, and that is the man. But it’s your responsibility and your understanding of yourself that puts you in the position to be the perfect Love Machine.
MS: So it’s more baby making music, I see?
Duplaix: There’s definitely going to be some of that. And there’s going to be some intense ideas of communicating, being forward and honest, an approach to expressing love in different ways.
MS: So do you have a hard release date for Love Machine?
Duplaix: It doesn’t have a hard date yet, but it’s going to be late January – February-ish.
MS: What are you views on the industry in the digital age? How it can potentially affect you and your work?
Duplaix: It’s almost impossible to launch a career right now in music. It’s sad and it’s concerning because I think the days of a world singing the same songs are gone. Unless something else comes around, where there’s a particular way we can monetize safely the art of a great song, we’re going to have to morph into the idea of being content with our small audiences that keep us alive, and hopefully but don’t necessarily, give that stadium style fan base. There maybe a way to address that in the future and it will more than likely be a type of multimedia star — the singer who is an actor, who is the television show creator, who is the owner of a distribution network, and so forth, with an immaculate website that can download all the songs from their show. It will be some artist who redefines the way things are done. Or some show like Glee, that is tapping into the idea of playing music in the show on Monday, and it sells a million copies on Tuesday. I think that’s where we’re headed. But in the meantime, those of us who make music because we love it, must stand by our words and not expect that idea of the love for making music, will make us millionaires.
MS: In terms of this digital age and the speed at which music is easily released, how are you going to combat that? Are we going to hear more music from you?
Duplaix: I don’t know. I really don’t know. I’m leaning towards trying to figure out how to become more of a multimedia presence versus just being a musician, artist, or track maker, or a DJ. I’m focusing more on readjusting my lifestyle to not be focused on the monetary goal and be more focused on being stabilized to the point where I’m comfortable enough to do exactly what I love to do, which is to create music without having to compromise my profession. I am one of those people who’s looking for that new way of bringing the art to the masses.
MS: So what’s Vikter listening to? What’s got you open?
Duplaix: I’m listening to so much music right now, trying to digest it all. I came across this Japanese artist called Marter, who I’ve been listening to a lot. I was fascinated by his melodic interpretation of things coming from Japan, and the mood he creates. That’s what I’m listening to this week.
DOWNLOAD: FOR PLAYERS ONLY!