Victor Calderone Interview
Summer 2003

"Just so you know up front, I'm not going to ask you about Madonna," I said to start a recent conversation with Victor Calderone. "Oh thank Godů" he replied in a tone that was good natured but clearly relieved.

Victor Calderone gets asked too often about pop stars because of his genius for turning their pop singles into fantastically delicious club anthems. He has remixed songs for everyone. If you don't believe me, go to his website (www.victorcalderone.com) and see. An extremely abbreviated list includes Madonna, Sting, Sheryl Crow, Destiny's Child, k.d. lang, Towa-Tei, Elton John, 08 State, Garbage, Lisa Stansfield and Orbital. Many of those aren't (or at least weren't) names that people associate with dance tracks. I certainly never thought of Sting's sound being particularly remix-friendly until I heard Victor's unbelievable treatment of "Desert Rose."

That is why record companies hire him - his understanding of the elements and construction of dance music allows him to assemble tracks that are greater than the sum of their parts. He is an alchemist that can turn lead into gold. There is no better example of this than his transformation of Madonna's "Beautiful Stranger." Don't get me wrong, I think William Orbit, who produced the original track, walks on water - but that song in its original faux-psychedelic British invasion form bores me to death.

Victor's mix is another story - and he considers it, along with "Desert Rose" to be his finest work. He reinvents the song into something expansive, compelling and fearless. About four and a half minutes into the song, he starts a build that, when released two minutes later, is club music epiphany.

But when he spins at clubs and major circuit parties you don't hear many diva anthems. His sound is tribal - harder and less vocal than the tracks he produces. His latest release, a continuous mix cd titled "Resonate," of which two songs are his compositions and a third he co-authored, furthers his movement away from the screaming of divas.

I didn't have the chance to listen to the disc before I spoke with him. We spoke about the role of technology in music production - something that he considers important not only because it allows for a greater range of expression, but also because it has the democratic effect of making music production more available. "What used to be a million dollar studio can now be put on a computer."

So with this in mind, I expected to hear spare vacuum-tube lamentations backed with silicon cacophonies. But the tracks turn out to be far more organic than that - warmer, human. Don't get me wrong, this isn't a Peter Paul and Mary release, it's Victor Calderone - it's got every buzz, boing and bleep you would expect and some of the tracks are huge, but instead of an intimidating and continuous wall of cold, blaring technology as the vehicle that unites the disc, something accessible and understandable drives the progression. I suppose this is essentially textbook tribal, because this cd is a workout - hard, percussive and light on the vocals - but for some reason, it sounds more like Victor is inviting you to join the melee rather than impress you.

Then again, the way he presents himself is refreshing. He speaks without ego or pretense and so perhaps I'm infusing the music with his personality. "I think the whole superstar DJ thing is weird," he said. "I like what I do and don't really understand why I have fans." I believe him - but I do understand.