When one thinks of electronic music and its rise to popularity in the States, two names are at the forefront – Bad Boy Bill and Richard Vission. These names are synonymous with the ascent of what is now considered EDM, and its inexorable climb to the top of dance and party culture.
Bad Boy Bill is a 30 year veteran, hailing from Chicago. He is the founder of Moody Recordings and International House Records, co-founder of Beatport.com, host of the monthly podcast: “Behind the Decks” Radio Show, and has won numerous awards and hearts of electronic music fans all over the world.
Richard “Humpty” Vission is Canadian born, LA-raised. He’s a Grammy nominated DJ/Producer with over 40 #1 Billboard Dance Chart remixes, the founder of Solmatic Records, and hosts the longest running weekly radio show: “Power Tools,” which has hosted veterans such as Tiesto and Laidback Luke.
Together, they combine their herculean talents to bring us “Back to Vinyl Tour,” which focuses on getting back to the roots of electronic music, when everything was played on records and the “Sync” button was yet to be envisioned. I had the rare opportunity to sit down with these two humble heavyweights at Studio Paris to discuss their vision for the tour, their passion for the music, and their combined commitment to bringing back that old-school vibe of the late 80’s and 90’s.
What inspired the “Back to Vinyl Tour?”
Richard Vission (Richard): Couple things inspired the tour. One day, Bill and I were having a conversation one day, and we felt we were getting bored, it wasn’t challenging enough. Technology has made it too easy; we didn’t feel like we were really getting down. There were a couple vinyl parties that were popping up in LA and I was getting asked to play them, but I really didn’t want to play old music. So, Bill and I thought it would be really dope to play on vinyl again and he just said what about new music on vinyl? That just lit up the idea, and I thought it would be rock and roll. So we called up a couple of pressing plants, and one of them in particular – Capsule Labs, who were a big fan of ours, said they’d press the vinyl for us. That’s really how it all got started. The other big reason was that we realized that some people, like my intern, have never seen anyone play on vinyl before. He’s 22 years old and he told me, “I think it would be the dopest thing!” I go, “You’re just saying this because you’re my intern.” And he just responded, “No! I’ve never seen it! I’ve seen Serato, but I have never seen anyone ever play vinyl.” So we wanted to give back and allow others to experience that.
Bad Boy Bill (Bill): For me, when I started DJing, it was all about two copies of the same song – remixing and scratching. USB’s are not the same feeling; it’s not having two copies and really playing with it. You can do it with USB’s, but again, it’s not the same as vinyl, at least for me.
What makes the vinyl art form so special to you?
Bill: The art of DJing is getting lost, in my opinion. It wasn’t being valued any more. People were up there, jumping up and down, pumping their fist, thinking that’s what DJing was. This wasn’t what made me passionate about becoming a DJ. It wasn’t about jumping up and down, it was about coming up with a perfect blend, taking these two records and making them create a third, almost a new song that didn’t exist before; being able to remix on the fly.
What makes your partnership so unique?
Richard: We’ve been working together for 20 years. We’ve done mix CD’s in the 90’s and 2000’s, toured together. Both of our work ethics are through the roof. We both strive for excellence. We pick each other up and push one another forward. It makes it exciting to work with Bill.
Bill: We have similar backgrounds. Richard has a radio mix show in LA, one of the longest running mix shows and me being from BMX, WGCI, B96 and all the other mix shows I’ve done here in Chicago. So we have that in common. We both started producing at young ages, making our own tracks. We really bonded on that history, in general. Stuff that I might like, he may not like as much and vice-a- versa. We turn each other onto new music, it’s just very synergistic.
What was the first vinyl you ever bought?
Richard: I remember my mom took me to the store and she told me I could pick two records. I bought Kiss’ “Alive” and “Saturday Night Fever” soundtrack. I was listening to this disco record and I think that was really what turned me onto this kind of sound. I didn’t discover House until about ’88, it was all Chicago then. The first records I got were, “I’ll House You,” “This is Acid,” and some Tyree Cooper song. Those three songs changed my life.
Bill: The first 12 inch I ever bought was “Rapper’s Delight.” I went back home and wrote down every word of the song. I actually wanted to be a rapper first. I knew that song backwards and forwards.
Tell us a little bit about difficulties in making this tour happen.
Bill: The biggest issue we’ve really run into was logistics, getting the vinyl to not feedback. One club actually brought out a folding table and we went, “This isn’t going to work.” We are doing four decks and that can be challenging at some venues. So we have one mixer and 4 decks. Sometimes we go back-to- back or doing stuff together simultaneously. We’ve had 3 to 5 hour sound checks. Going through turntables and sometimes those don’t work.
Richard: Clubs think their tables work because they work for Serato, but it’s not the same for vinyl, so we have had to call and replace equipment because of the tables not working for actual vinyl. So we go through and bring our own paver and put special feet on the decks. EQ the system slightly differently on the monitors, it’s really a process.
During your travels, do you have any favorite record stores that you like to visit?
Richard: That’s the thing – our whole collection is pressed fresh. We called up our friends and told them we need new stuff that isn’t out yet and we got those pressed for the tour. The classics that we like to play, we had to tweak and re-master to make it sound right for today’s systems. If I do go vinyl shopping, which I like to do now and then, Amoeba and Hollywood records in LA.
Bill: Gramaphone Records, obviously. He’s the last man standing, out of all the stores. Shout out to Benji Espinoza as well, because he still has DJ records and is still doing stuff. If you’re looking for some classics, Benji is got some real good stuff. He gave me my first job in the music industry, as a record shipper at DJ International.
Give me some records that never leave your respective collections.
Bill: For me, it’s probably the record with my drops and scratches on it. “Bad Boy Bill is in the mix,” or the “Bad Boy Bill” scratch. “Music Sounds Better with You” is another one or “In the Beginning, There Was Jack” acapella that we use a lot.
Richard: That “In the Beginning There Was Jack” never leaves my crate.
I sat down and really listened to your collab “Everybody’s Jumpin.” It brought me back with its retro feel. What inspired this track?
Richard: We talked about doing a collab together, and we both wanted to do something that we really liked. We really loved the vocal, so we asked Jackie Boyz to re-sing it. We did work on a couple different ideas this was the one that really stuck out. We wanted that House feel again, where it’s just a bass line, and some fucking drums. It wasn’t about making a radio record, it was more about that moment when you hear the record and just go “Woooo, that’s what we’re going after.”
Bill: That was the thing for us, it was about dancing. So many kids now days are just jumping around waiting for that big drop. We wanted to go back to what it was really about: your own little space. We had circles on tour, and people battling each other. It’s really finding that groove.
You played a few venues since you started in Cincinnati. Do you have any favorite spots that just stood out to you?
Richard: It’s been special in almost every city. There’s something that happens in every city that I think is just really amazing. At our first show, we had a guy come up to us and he had tears in his eyes. He just said, “Sorry if I’m so emotional, I never thought I would see DJ’s playing on vinyl in my lifetime.” That really hit us. Denver was outstanding; Sound in LA was sold out before we opened the doors – the energy was incredible. If we put one more person in that club, the walls would have exploded.
Bill: San Francisco was really something. We saw all these people battling, dancing and getting really into it. Every place had something really special; we have great memories from each venue. It’s hard to pick a favorite.
Is there anything cooking in the lab right now that we can look forward to?
Richard: When we first started the tour, we thought we’d do 6, maybe 8 shows. Now, we’re at 26 and still going! So now we’re talking about extending it to the end of the year. We’re having so much fun with this, and getting such a great response.
Is there anywhere we can hear your recorded sets or some new jams that you’ve put together?
Bill: We’ve got some snippets and short videos that you can find on our social media, but everything else we’ll probably release after the tour. Main reason is because we really want people to come out and see the show. Anything we do put out will be linked on backtovinyltour.com and we encourage people to come check it out live, since performance is really a big part of it. You can also buy our EP there, scratch pads and other things.
Richard: Like Bill said, we really want people to come see the show. We understand, not every city will be on the tour, but road trip! We just ran into some people that were at our LA show and they used the tour as an excuse to make a trip to Chicago. If you want some teasers, check out both of our social media pages and we’ll see you at the show.
It was an incredibly eye opening experience talking to Bill and Richard. They were kind enough to take a minute and give us a peak into their process and an inside look into their project. I stayed after the interview to check out the show at Studio Paris and was not disappointed, although a little sad about the lack of dancing room. Even after all these years, these guys are still so into their art, and really have unmatched skills on the decks. A big thank you goes out to both Bad Boy Bill and Richard Vission for being such good sports and taking the time to meet with me! A special shout out to Chris Lawrence for his professionalism and courteous hospitality. Any further information about the tour can be found on backtovinyltour.com.