It takes a decent sized set of balls to call yourselves Masters at Work, but Kenny "Dope" Gonzalez and "Little" Louie Vega, have always embodied their handle to the max, in turn producing some of the most beloved house jams of all time.
From "Deep Inside" to "The Ha Track" to "Lean on Me", Masters at Work are responsible for tracks that we still here in the club every single weekend. And who else has remixed Madonna, Michael Jackson and Mel B? This month sees the release of House Masters: Masters at Work Volume Two on Defected Records. The four disc set is a serious crate digging affair, going deep, deep inside (sorry, couldn't resist) the MAW archives for a set of loose and louche remixes, originals, and alternate versions. To celebrate that, we asked a few of the world's best DJs and producers to tell us why they love Masters at Work as much as the rest of us.
Dimitri From Paris
I would say that the key Masters at Work track for me would be "The Boss" by the Braxtons. With that remix they proved that disco could be recorded in the modern age and still sound pretty close to the real thing. They also enlisted legendary Disco producer Vince Montana Jr. to work on it, which was a huge inspiration and an eye opener for me.
Andy Butler (Hercules & Love Affair)
It was hard to choose one MAW production. Things like "The Ha Dance" and "What a Sensation" "Deep Inside" or the many many amazing India collaborations immediately jumped into my head, but after thinking about it more Voices' "Voices in My Mind" has to be the one. The sound of Michael Watford Carol Sylvan AND India singing their hearts out about freedom was intense for my 16 year old ears and what can I say? It changed things for me.
I was on a dance floor finding out who I was, and this record was definitely one of my favorite moments when I went out. Simply bringing these three vocalists together is a testament to the adventurous, bold and highly spirited statements that Kenny and Louis have regularly made when they get into a studio together. And powerful voices requires some powerful production — needless to say this release slams.
Our favorite is actually not a MAW track, but a Kenlou track, "The Bounce." so that's probably cheating. Still, it's this track, their Kenlou stuff in general, and their more experimental stuff that stand the test of time better than the full-on 90s vocal tracks.
Choosing a remix probably wouldn't give them enough credits as original producers, but still, their remix of Loose Joints' "Is It All Over my Face" is too good not to mention. So as far as originals go, which one to choose? "The Nervous Track"? That one's kind of a curveball release with its broken beat for Nervous, but a great track nonetheless. Or "Work"? A full body tribal workout that's just super-fun. If we really have to choose, we'd probably have to go for a track together with India, cause it's the combo between the MAW beats and her amazing voice that have really shaped their sound in the 90s.
When I think of the best MAW music, I'd say that from all the tracks they've released it would have to be the entire Nuyorican Soul album, it is in my opinion, their masterpiece. This album broke grounds, merged styles, joined musicians to create an amazing 'Picasso' of a house record. Every song was a fucking bomb and being Puerto Rican I was very proud to have Latinos in the spotlight for their great work. I still remember their Nuyorican Soul Party at WMC in Miami… that was a party: Cuban cigars, Puerto Rican food, partying around a pool with great weather and solid music. Thank you Louie & Kenny, you really are masters at work.
Sonny Fodera and Purple Disco Machine
Sonny Fodera: My favourite MAW track is "To Be In Love", I just love the vocals and — it's soooo smooth. I first heard it at the Electric Circus nightclub in Australia about 6 years ago and defiantly brings back some great memories.
Purple Disco Machine: I bought my first Masters at Work record when I was 19, back in 1999. It was "To Be in Love". After that I fell totally in love with house and this track was one of the driving forces behind that. India's sweet, soulful vocal works perfectly with the smoothed out house beat. Even now it's one of my MAW essentials.
I'm such a fan of both Louie and Kenny and probably have well over 100 MAW records in my collection including box sets, 7", remixes and of course their own productions. It's impossible to pick just one so here's two that are in my record box right now. The first is a dub mix of the Tony Touch single "I Wonder Why" from 2000. It's a great record for the Panorama Bar and has all the trademark sounds of MAW. It's got that party vibe but is still deep and moody and kicks every time. The other record is KenLou's "Bounce." Super good stripped back house music, and this 12" has never left my record box for last 24 years—I love it.
My essential MAW cut is definitely their mix of "Thrill Me" by Simply Red. I managed to grab a promo on a trip to London during the early 90s and it (along with my TTD vs MK) it was a secret weapon for the longest time. I still play it out and it still works.