Hailing from Italy, Vince Vella (aka V V) is one of London’s most exciting producers whose work is a direct result of the city’s rich and diverse music scene. V V’s musical journey spans far and wide, meandering his way through London’s multifarious dance clubs and music culture to collaborating with some of Cuba’s legendary musicians.  

V V has worked with an impressive calibre of talent – 4hero’s Marc Mac, Mala, Shabaka Hutchings, co-produced Gilles Peterson’s Havana Cultura and collaborated with Cuban heavyweights including Roberto Fonseca, rappers Los Aldeanos, Julio Padron, Interactivo and Danay Suarez.

On the cusp of releasing his latest EP, V V tells us how his journey is still ongoing and how CDR has played a part in it. Here’s one track that he first tested at CDR.

When and where did you first attend CDR? What do you recall?  

I remember going to CDR at Plastic People around 2004  – really good vibes and lots of producers. I went down pretty regularly for a couple of years and I remember hearing dope tracks by the likes of Bullion and Floating Points.

How did you hear about CDR?

I used to go to Co-Op quite a lot in those days and I absolutely loved Plastic People. Gavin and Tony were also Co-Op regulars and that’s where I heard about it.

Have you collaborated with any artists via CDR sessions?

I collaborated with the guys from Boglewaltz. D.Ablo and I did a track on my latest Rhymes & Bass EP, which has just been released. I’ve also worked with Simbad on Havana Cultura’s second album.

How long have you been making music and how would you describe your journey?

I started making music using electronics around 2006. Before that I was more into drums and percussions, DJing, going to clubs and stuff.

I was a big fan of Reinforced Records and am very grateful to Marc Mac and Decoy from 4hero. They took me on board, helped me buy my first equipment to make music, then set me up with a PC, drum breaks and Logic software. My music production journey started from there really.

I love percussions so I went to Cuba in 2004 to learn properly, without any contacts out there. Cuba blew me away – so raw. The level of musicians, the vibe, was so crazy. It was incredible how people there were taking percussions to a whole new level. It took me completely out of my comfort zone.

I was lucky to meet the late Tata Guines and Changuito, among many other outstanding percussionists who knew every trick in the book. Changuito is an amazing musician who became my mentor. Later Gilles Peterson and I got him involved in the Havana Cultura and the Mala in Cuba albums. I kept coming back for a few months every year. One year I lived there for almost six months, bought hundreds of old Cuban vinyls and I even became a bit Cuban.

During those years I met so many musicians and developed musical friendships with the likes of pianist Roberto Fonseca, Danay, Interactivo and musicians from Irakere. That’s how my first release came about – Vince Vella’s Cuban Collective with a reinterpretation of the 4hero drum ‘n’ bass classic ‘People always criticize us’.

How did you get involved in Havana Cultura?

I remember meeting Gilles Peterson in a club and giving him a demo of a song I recorded in Havana. I’ve always been a massive fan of his and his shows. I’ve learnt so much from them. He told me that he was going to Cuba to do a project, we clicked and  ended up recording at the legendary Egrem Studio. It was totally mind-blowing – with the help of awesome pianist Roberto Fonseca we finished the first album in one week. There’s something so special about that room Studio 101. Magic! The best Cuban records were made there. Cachao, Buena Vista Social Club,  Los Van Van and Irakere all recorded there.

After that we did the Danay Suarez EP, the second Havana Cultura album with Simbad, and at the same time I played some percussions in the ‘Mala in Cuba’ album.

It really was like a dream come true producing and working with some of my heroes and touring the world with an incredible band, playing at Roskilde Festival, Barbican, Southbank.

Then I got involved promoting Havana Cultura in the UK with Charlie Dark. I put a little band together featuring Shabaka Hutchings, Finn Peters, Jay Phelps, Neil Charles, Graeme Flowers, and Cuban drummer Mich Castellanos. We had so much fun playing at festivals like Glastonbury, Secret Garden…so many drunken memories.

Please give a brief description of your current production set up.  

I have lots of percussion instruments, especially from Cuba and Brazil, an analog synth, some Akai toys a Microkorg, a set of AKG 414, a few Shure 57, a Macbook Pro, a pre amp and few other bits. I’ve been moving around a bit so I try to keep it simple but whenever I can use more  analog stuff, I still prefer that.

Have you a favourite piece of equipment? Something you always return to or at the centre.

It all depends on what I’m working on, but yeah the usual suspects maybe, like Fender Rhodes, Moog, drum machines and reverbs.

Tell us about your studio? What makes it special?

It’s crucial to get a positive vibe where you work. I painted mine, stuck some of my favourite vinyl covers on the wall, and have lots of percussions lying around. Always find your little corner where you can channel your emotions into sounds. I’ve been blessed to have so many amazing musicians come by, always bringing good energy. I’ve recorded most of my vocals there as well as horns.

Any projects or tracks you’re working on at the moment that you’d like to let us know about?

I’ve always also been into electronic music, beats, hip-hop and I wanted to have a go at making more electronic based stuff, so that’s how my latest EP Rhymes & Bass came about.

I’m finishing my second beats EP, am working with Danay Suarez on an EP, and will be starting a more acoustic percussions based project involving percussionist from India, Brazil and Cuba in 2015.

Also in 2012 I was back at Egrem Studio in Cuba doing a project called Indo Latino with amazing tabla player Pandet Dinesh and pianist Kishon Khan from Lokkhi Terra that is coming out in 2015.

Finally, have you any advice or words of warning for emerging producers/musicians?

Listen to as many different styles of music as you can. Practice your instrument. Get out of your comfort zone!

Interview by: Ayian Camcam

Photo: Manuela Henao