Today the world is consumed by social media and few are safe from its wrath. Sam Young, known as Vanilla Ace, found this out for himself after his less-than-packed gig in Toronto last month prompted a candid reaction on his Twitter account. "Word to the wise never play in a small city when @hotsince82 and is playing another club & @EDC_LasVegas is on," he tweeted on June 20, which has since been deleted.
This unintentionally instigated Toronto fans and DJs (hint: a deceased rodent) to lash back in defense of their city, some even comparing Young's future as a DJ to that of Ten Walls' humiliating demise. "Someone making a geographical reference to a city is not quite the same as killing all gay people," says Young. "What I was trying to say is for a big city like Toronto, if there was less competition I probably would've had a better night."
And he's probably right. The competitive madness of the music industry can be crippling and Toronto is a perfect example of cutthroat club nights going head-to-head on a weekly basis. Young is clearly unafraid of these things, as he should, he's no stranger to this bloodthirsty industry. Having remixed one of the widest modern ranges of music—from Mark Knight to Tiesto—as Vanilla Ace, Young is not short of experience. The Londoner is on the cusp of a growing G-House collective and didn't get there without treading on some toes and dipping his fingers in a few tasty musical jars along the way.
What began as a cheeky pseudonym in a little black book has become much more than that for the world-touring Young. Growing up in England, Young was listening to early house music almost constantly, he just wasn't aware of it. Whether it was the TV show Top Of The Pops, or England's country-wide radio, Young was devouring everything from Innercity, to Big Life, Steve V, and Dirty Cash. "They were just good dance records," says Young. "I didn't really realize as a kid, that it was house music." By 13, with a tape deck and CD player, Young was DJing his school discos. The trend would continue into his teenage years and by 19, Young and his set of turntables were playing in most clubs throughout London.
It wasn't until recently that Young created the Vanilla Ace moniker. Under his given name, Young worked up a reputation for great track selection, even playing to the young British royalty, Will and Kate, along the way. But, as many do, he eventually desired a change in sound and a fresh start. "In London, everyone knew me and the music I was making," he says, and decided to veer back into his house music roots. "I remember listening to early Daft Punk stuff thinking all of it was original music," he says. "Only later did I realize that most of Daft Punk's early albums are just really obscure disco records." To start, Young decided to sift through what he says had become a quite extensive record collection. "I thought, 'Let me pull out some rarities from the vinyl collection and try and make some tracks. '" Vanilla Ace was born.
Young sought to uphold the track selection finesse that he had already honed with his former moniker. Much of this music digging know-how can be attributed to his time working at Sony Music as an intern during his time in college. Young says he was exposed to new music every day—growing his own collection as a result. "They used to hate me," says Young, "They'd say, 'Sam, we've got to get this to Tim Westwood or Trevor Nelson and we can't give it to you.' I would say, 'Oh now, I won't tell anyone…' Then I would sneak a copy." After his time at Sony, started working at as an assistant A&R at Concept Music. There, Young would listen to upwards of 30-50 records a week in search of something worth signing. One of those records happened to be that of Kasabian, who was, at the time, an unknown British band. After leaving Concept Music, Young brought the band's demo to a friend at BMG and a few weeks later Kasabian had a record deal. At 22-years-old, Young signed a group that would go on to headline Glastonbury and pull in a Brit Award or two. A feeling of pride was inevitable, but at the same time, it brought the realities of the music industry to his attention. "When you're at that age you don't understand everything about the business but at that age you know a lot but not enough," he says.
The sense of community that Young is referring to isn't extinct, it's just a tad more watery than it might have been in the past—much of that is to do with fans expectations. "Obviously not all my music is G-House," says Young, "You can call it gangsta or ghetto, but it's a silly term. For me, it's just dance music." With artists like as Amine Edge and Dance pioneering the term, G-House's popularity has exploded and consequently buried artists in the genre labelling game detested by so many. His latest EP on Sleazy G is made up mainly of material that is almost two years old. "The original version is the one that me and Chad [Tyson] did and when we first did it we thought it was a bit hard, a bit ahead of its time," says Young. "We literally sat on it for two years."
Before summer is through, Young will release a number of EPs, including one with Boy George. Despite a bruised internet presence, Young's world tour will continue. From Montreal to Brazil and all the cities in between, he refuses to let social media blabber affect what he does and what he plays behind the decks. "I saw a YouTube video of Marco Carola, and he was playing Armin van Helden's 'Professional Widow,' at 7 AM at Amnesia," says Young. "Maybe it is going back to the point where people are playing a number of styles in a night and there is nothing wrong with that." Pro tip: if Marco Carola can do it—it must be OK.
You can see Vanilla Ace at Montreal's Beach Club. Buy tickets here.