Jason Walker on Junior’s comeback, and what broke Clubbing
Jason Walker is one of those rare dance music artists that is constantly trying to top himself. After success with Tony Moran on the amazing “So Happy“ he and Moran partnered again for Walker’s latest smash, “So In Love With You” (with accompanying video by the luminous Karl Giant). I caught up with Jason as New York Pride week kicked off. We talked about his latest single, getting creative with some amazing talent, and why he thinks we are ready for a return to the big room clubs!
Michael Cook: “So In Love With You” is your latest release and between a video by Karl Giant and amazing work by Tony Moran, it looks like you have another hit on your hands! What made you partner up with them again to make musical magic?
Jason Walker: You know, Tony and I just work really well together. We did “So Happy” together and we said that we should just do an album. There will be an album coming this summer, its practically finished. We just work really well together. Karl is a good friend of mine and quite frankly, I don’t think I have ever met a more creative person. There is a degree of insanity that you have to have to be this creative. I know Karl for about ten or eleven years. He is great friend of mine and believes in me and wanted to be a part of everything. I feel like I am spoiled. My goal is to make good music and have it look right and sound right. I am past the point of doing anything half assed.
Is it still surreal working side by side with nightlife legends like Junior and Tony?
JW: Before I knew Junior Vasquez and Tony Moran, I was a fan. I have everything that they have ever done. When I moved to New York I wanted to do dance music. I was a fan of them and now to be able to have worked with Junior and have the relationship I have with Tony, I am blessed. This business is not easy. I don’t have a lot of friends, or people that I can call friends within the business. It can be a shiesty game. To know Tony like I do and to be able to call him a friend, and people like Ultra Nate, Inaya Day, Kristine W, those people have taught me how to sing. And now I can call them my friends.
“It was right around the time that had met Ultra”
There was a video of Inaya Day, Ultra Nate, and you together as an almost super group. It was absolutely amazing seeing that many amazing voices together on one stage collaborating musically.
JW: It was so fun! Ultra Nate and Quentin Harris had been working on that album for many years. It was right around the time that had met Ultra. We got on really well, and she asked if I would come in and do some background vocals. We have become really close friends over the past ten years or so. When the album was finished, she called everyone and asked everyone who participated to come over. She wanted it to be like Parliament Funkadelic. She got a band and the players were just insane. And we did a few shows, Inaya Day and others, and I hope there are going to be more. They were so good! We rehearsed a lot. It definitely was not easy. The songs were intricate and it took a lot of work for everyone to learn what they needed to learn. We were not singing over our own vocals. Everything was live. People had to be on point. Ultra does not play around, she is all about getting shit done and being on point. It was an incredible experience and I love all of those people.
In terms of dance music, you are emerging as an artist who is truly standing the test of time. What do you think that explains your staying power?
JW: That is such a compliment to hear that. I really don’t know, this is all I have ever wanted to do. I have really also tried to surround myself with honest people. Unfortunately, Junior and I both fell into the arms of someone who was dishonest. I have learned from that experience, and I know he has. I guess you have to go through that shit to learn some shit.
Today in New York City at Pride
You worked so closely with the legendary Junior Vasquez and he is kicking off NYC Pride the only way Junior can do it properly, with a massive event! Are you glad to see Junior back and taking his proper place in the booth?
JW: Junior is definitely back. He is healthy and clean and he is all good. He was here for the Arena vs. Twilo event, and he turned it out! I know he is totally geeked about doing Pride; his Pride’s are legendary!
You will be with Lina, Kevin Aviance and Junior Vasquez at this Pride event at Playstation Theater on Saturday, June 23rd, putting you on the bill with true New York City royalty. How does that feel?
JW: When I saw that, I’ll be honest, I had a moment. I remember being really young, in my early to mid teens, and I would read about Kevin Aviance. I am from Pittsburgh, and music would come to us, but it was always eight months after it was already in major cities. I would read about these people and my mother would drive me to the mall to buy Tony’s remixes and Junior’s new cd’s. It is crazy that we will all be together on the same night. I remember when Black Stereo Faith did a show in Baltimore at one of Ultra Nate’s Deep Sugar parties. It was really surreal because I kept having to pinch myself. There I am with all of these people that I love so much. and that I grew up with. And now we are all singing together. It is totally wild and it’s even hard to explain. It never gets old.
“Junior Vasquez came to the show with his boyfriend and stood right in front”
You have been working with Junior for so long. What do you think is your best memory of your times with him?
JW: There is one moment that really stands out. It was right after “My Life” came out. “Foolish Mind Games” was about to come out. We were in the middle of making the album, before any of the bad shit happened. It was at the beginning; he was still the King of New York and it was just nuts. I did a show at Splash and he came. If you know him, he does not do that. He does not like the public. It’s so weird to be the maestro and a bit standoffish, and almost afraid of the spotlight. He came to the show with his boyfriend and stood right in front. I remember thinking that I could not believe it was happening. That is one of my best memories with him. The city has missed him. It is not like it was. DJ’s that are younger and starting out, I don’t know that they get it. I don’t want to say all of them, like Scott Martin for example gets it. He is in touch with what made clubbing and house music. He knows the history. Peter is gone and Frankie is gone. I feel that people are jonesing and they want that feeling again!
Do you think the big clubs will ever see a resurgence?
JW: I hope so. I really think that the Internet broke clubbing. I feel like Grindr broke clubbing. When I came to New York City, all of the clubs were still here. Junior was at Exit, Danny was at Vinyl, Peter was at Roxy, the Limelight was going through one of their own changes. And Chad Jack and Manny Lehman were turning it there. Then, all of a sudden, you don’t have to go out to meet anyone anymore. It is just becoming so stale. We need to have that kind of feeling again. People who are just coming out or young and experiencing club music for the first time, that is how they should experience it. They shouldn’t just be streaming it in their dorm rooms. You need to be somewhere with a legend who is really showing you.
So post Pride, what does the rest of the summer hold?
JW: I am doing Junior’s party on the 23rd and the madness will ensue at Playstation Theater for Junior’s party.
“Chris Cornell is one of my heroes”
Speaking of cover songs, you did a cover of Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun” that was absolutely remarkable!
JW: Thank you! Chris Cornell is one of my heroes. I had that song done for a couple of years. I had been working on a soul album for a couple of years and that was one of the songs. When he died, I felt that I had to release it. We have lost so many talented artists recently. Whitney Houston is one of the ones that I felt the most though. I watched the documentary that Showtime did and I will watch it just to hear her sing. I also like that they did not show her performing badly. She was truly the voice of our time. Whitney and Prince, those are the ones that I miss the most.
What gives you LGBT Pride in your life right now?
JW: I would have to say that I feel like people, especially in this political climate, are getting woke. They are not going to stand for this kind of bullshit. I am very happy about that. This shit has to change, it is out of control. This President is just a shit show. I feel like everyone is laughing at us. He is making it very hard for businesses now and people are starting to retaliate. I feel very proud to be a part of a time where younger people, and older people, are on the same page with wanting equality for everyone.