DJ Mineh Ishida

VIPs of West Coast Swing Music – Victor Loveira Interview (part 1)

VIPs of West Coast Swing Music - DJ Victor Loveira

VIPs of West Coast Swing Music - DJ Victor Loveira | Photo by Mineh Ishida

When discussing west coast swing music, there is no name that is more recognizable than Victor Loveira’s.  He’s won many awards, and plays as DJ and Head DJ at west coast swing events all over the world.  Most recently he won the Wetzel Award.  I had the honor of working with Victor as a DJ at the Michigan Classic, and during that event, he graciously made time to sit down for a brief interview.   We spoke about the current state of west coast swing music and dancers, his seminars, and a lot of the history of our dance.

The first portion of the interview I’ve transcribed for you here.   This portion of our interview was a more formal question and answer format, so I’ve just put down exactly what was said.  The second portion of the interview which I will post at a later date was more informal conversation.  Please look for the highlights from that conversation in the future.


Victor Loveira - Headshot

Photo by Mineh Ishida

Mineh: So let me start by saying congratulations on your recent award. (The Wetzel Award – Swing DJ Hall of Fame)

Victor: Thank you! I appreciate it. It’s very humbling, thats for damn sure.

Mineh: That’s quite an achievement but not unusual for you. So you had a relationship with Kenny Wetzel? I belive you’ve referrenced him in the past?

Victor: I didn’t unfortunately. It’s actually one of my biggest regrets. I reference him quite a bit. I’ve known people who have known Kenny for a long time, and I’ve heard stories. He was probably the best DJ, just the things he did and his experiences. He was quite the icon in this community. Not only one of the best DJs, but also a great MC. He was the voice of the US Open when it first started.

Mineh: Wow, that’s quite some history. Again, congratulations on a well deserved award.

Victor: Thank you.

Mineh: So I understand that you’re now teaching classes for DJs and Dancers. What is the primary goal of these classes?

Victor: Well, I don’t know yet what the goal yet is, because it’s something that has been going around in my head for a couple of years. It’s something that I’ve always wanted to do. You know I kind of want to educate all of the kids coming into the dance that are new. Its amazing that the dance is growing the way that it is, but a lot of them are learning west coast swing and are getting their education on this dance from youtube. That’s a great thing, because it’s exposure, but what we’re lacking is what lindy and shag dancers have. They know their roots. They know the history of the dance. People like Frankie Manning with Lindy, Shad Alberty with Shag. These are icons that made the dance what it is, and the kids that do lindy and shag know this history. There’s not a lot of history that west coast swing dancers know.

Mineh: The case could be made that our dance is constantly evolving. How do you think that affects the west coast swing community. How can we maintain our roots while still evolving the dance?

Victor: Obviously this dance is going to evolve, and even when people like Mario (Robau) and Barry Jones and Gary Long were dancing, the dance evolved with them as well. When they were competing, they were evolving and stretching the limits of the dance and expanding it as well. It’s always going to happen. But this dance still came from a certain place. That’s where it would be nice if the roots of the dance, especially with the music, could be taught to the new dancers. It would be nice to expose our new dancers to blues music, and have them appreciate it, and not have every event and local dance just play contemporary music. After all, the dance didn’t come from a ballroom, it came from a bar room, and the essence of this dance came from the blues.

Throw out names of people who are icons in this dance. A Lot of people don’t know who they are.

Victor Loveira playing west coast swing music

Victor Loveira playing west coast swing music | Photo by Mineh Ishida

Mineh: So throw me some names. If you were to address all of the youth of west coast swing, and could tell them who to learn about, who are some of the people they should know?

Victor: Well folks like: (He’s still in the scene) but Mario Robau, but look at his old routines. People like, Ramiro Gonzales, John Festa, Andrea Deaton, Gary Long, Frank LaFamina. These are people who if you search on youtube, you can find them. It’s a not a lot, but they’re out there. Another thing is that a lot of the swing clubs around have video libraries. A lot of them you can check out videos, and get recordings from the US Open in 1987 and watch it. Granted, you might have to find a VHS Talk to your instructor, say that you want to learn about the history of this dance.

Mineh: So back to your class, How are you going to combine the roots of swing and current contemporary music and fuse them in your class?

Victor: I’m going to talk about rolling count music, music that makes you “swing” vs straight count music, which is a lot of contemporary music, and lyrical and acoustical music. I want to educate and let people listen to music which will hopefully translates to their feet. In my opinion, when you dance to music with swinging eighths, your dance should look very different than if you were dancing to Flo Rida for example.

Mineh: Very True!

Victor: Unfortunately, a lot of people who are coming into the scene in the last few years, especially in competition, when you see people dancing to blues music vs contemporary music, you don’t see that difference. That’s where education on the history comes into play.

Mineh: So you think that education in music is a valuable thing for dancers?

Victor: Absolutely. Without the music, there is no dance.

Mineh: For our aspiring DJs out there, what would you say is the number one piece of advice you could give?

Victor: You should do what I did. When I decided to become a west coast swing DJ, i was always in the ballroom, no matter who was DJing. I listened. I paid attention. Why are they playing this song now? Why are they going from a fast song to a slow song? Why are they going from a blues song to a contemporary song? Pay attention. What is it that they do when they’re in that DJ booth? It’s an art being a DJ, it’s not just hitting play. If you’re going to do that, you might as well rent a Jukebox.

THe most important thing, in my opinion, about being a DJ is reading the crowd. If you can’t read your crowd, then basically you are just a jukebox. You’re just playing songs you like and you don’t care about who’s dancing.

Mineh: Any tips on how to read the crowd for our aspiring DJs?

Victor Loveira working the DJ booth

Victor working the DJ Booth | Photo by Mineh Ishida

Victor: Well, look to see who’s in the ballroom. Do you have a mixture of people who like blues or contemporary? Is it time for you to slow it down? Is it time for you to bring up the energy? You’re a puppet master when you’re a DJ, and everyone that’s dancing are your puppets, and you are controlling the room. For me, a good DJ is someone that takes you for a ride, and you don’t know where you’re going to go. Are you going to go up? down? left, right? It definitely needs to be a ride. It shouldn’t be flat lined. What I mean by that is don’t play too much of anything. I don’t want to hear 5 contemporary songs in a row. I don’t want to hear 5 blues songs in a row. The beauty of this dance is, we’re doing the same dance, but we can dance to just about anything. As long as it’s 4/4 time we can swing to it, and there is so much music that evolves our dance. Play a little bit of everything.

Mineh: So who do you think does that really well in the circuit right now?

Victor: There are a lot of folks out there that people might not be familiar with. Louie St George has been around a long time, Anthony Derosa does a good job. I love to hear Beth Bellamy play socially. She’s known as a competition DJ, but I love hearing her play socially. John Festa who is my hero. If it wasn’t for John Festa, I wouldn’t be a DJ right now. He was the King. If John wanted to keep you up all night, he could. If he wanted to put you to bed, he could. There are some old timers who most people won’t know… Ronnie Ray Maxwell from Dallas, Donnie McIntyre. These are people I grew up with when I lived in Houston. They’re the ones who made me appreciate blues music and understand it.

I went with Mario when he took his very first lesson. I walked into that ballroom and it was nothing but blues music. I was like 18 years old and I looked at him and I was like “Dude, You’re on your own buddy, I’m out.” I hated blues music when I started, but someone took the time to sit me down and make me appreciate that it’s musicians making music.

Mineh: That’s interesting because I had a similar experience. When I started DJing, I couldn’t appreciate the blues as much as I could today. As you start to play music, you play a lot of contemporary music, and you start to realize that contemporary music all is very similar, and lacks the variety that blues can offer. I’ve heard similar stories from many other DJs as well.

Victor: Mm hmm. It’s funny because you’ll go to a national event, and you’re being fed contemporary music all weekend long. These same dancers who want contemporary music, when they get home, when they go out dancing, they go to country bars and blues bars. They’ll dance to blues all night long and be happy, but when you get them at an event, they’ll say “I don’t want to hear blues music.” It’s ironic.

Mineh: So let me follow up with this. If there was one thing that you wanted dancers and event directors to know, what would that be?

Victor: Keep an open mind. Listen to every song being played. Dance to songs that you’re not familiar with, and that you “don’t like” and if you don’t like a song, wait 3 minutes, the song will change.

DJ Victor Loveira

DJ Victor Loveira | Photo by Mineh Ishida

 

About the Author:

DJ Mineh Ishida is a west coast swing DJ living in Tampa, FL. He founded WestCoastSwingMusic.com in 2012 and is passionate about contributing to the West Coast Swing community through DJing and his work with this website. You can Find more information about DJ Mineh on the About Page. For booking Inquiries, please use this Contact Form.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=5003928 Pamela Stergios

    That is one thing I appreciate about having been a lindy hopper first. I got a nice compliment from a dancer last weekend that I actually “swing” my dance. I like to dance to Blues but not to some of the types of blues that they play at wcs events. I like “bar” blues or slow baby making blues. I know there’s different styles of blues music…maybe that could be a future article or discussion… What type of blues suits wcs. I like to “blues” dance to blues music. But if a GOOD “wcs” blues song is played, I do really love it, because there is so much to play with. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=5003928 Pamela Stergios

    Also, I thought this video was totally appropriate to put here: 
    http://www.collegehumor.com/embed/6783032/conan-sings-the-blues-with-kids  

  • http://www.facebook.com/Dez.Triple.D Desie Damaso

    Thanks for taking the time to impart your knowledge with us, I love the interview!