Vincent di Pasquale ’00 closes his eyes and loses himself in the song. His thoughts meander among the beats, the instrumentation, the melody. In the dance club of his mind, there are bodies moving rhythmically between shadow and kaleidoscopic light. He listens to the song again. And again. Sometimes beneath headphones. Other times, blasting the track as loud as he can on his studio’s monitor speakers. He listens until he hears and feels his own song emerging within the song. And then, it’s time to go to work.
Di Pasquale is a music producer and remixer. But make no mistake: He is an artist, first and foremost.
“Although a lot of what I do is technical, the studio stuff,” explains di Pasquale, “at the heart of it, it’s all about getting a creative musical idea out of your head and out to the world to hear.”
When remixing a song, di Pasquale becomes a master dissector. He breaks apart a song to its simplest elements – tempo, key and rhythm – and then determines the structure of the piece, in order to layer it with his own sounds, rebuilding it into something new, something club-goers can dance to into the early morning. When working as a producer, he finds the process of crafting a song similar, although “it’s always a blank canvas, and the challenge is to go from silence to something cool,” he admits.
But he does come up with something cool. Time after time. At least, if international chart-topping tracks and multiplatinum and gold records are your gauge for cool. And if they are, then he’s the DJ of cool. Just check out the glistening records framed along his hallways, representing industry breakthroughs with the likes of Missy Elliott, Nelly Furtado, Mariah Carey and Madonna, among others. Not to mention his work with Lauryn Hill, which launched his career in the music industry back in 2002.
In a business known for its revolving door of talent and overnight booms and busts, di Pasquale is an anomaly of sorts. From his first job as an assistant engineer in the Miami studios of The Hit Factory, he always saw himself as running a marathon rather than a sprint.
“You may have the best musical chops,” says di Pasquale, who has since relocated to Denver, Colo., “but you have to start at the ground level and work your way up. And that means you’re going to be pouring some coffee along the way – until you prove yourself.”
He credits that maturity of approach to his days as a business major at the College, where he learned to take the long view in shaping his career. Whereas many of his peers expected fame and fortune, along with an easy work schedule, to come immediately, di Pasquale knew (and knows) better.
“If you want to really make it in music today, you have to be willing to work 9 to 9 – that’s a.m. to a.m.,” he observes. “I’ll be in the studio early in the morning, which is insane for most music producers, doing the more technical aspects, such as engineering or mixing. I then take a break late in the afternoon, go to the gym, have dinner and then do another session, usually from 8 to whenever.”
In those late-night studio sessions, he’ll tinker on his piano or perhaps pick up a guitar to find a chord progression he finds interesting. He’ll listen to percussion sounds on his computer, manipulating them for feel and mood.
“I always try to change it up in my remixes,” he says, “throwing in live instruments and giving the track a human factor.” Like having a local saxophonist jam on his extended DJ remix of Maria Carey’s “Say Something.” Or incorporating a live bass guitar in his remix of Madonna’s “4 Minutes,” which went No. 1 on the Billboard’s hot dance/club play chart and even outperformed the original.
That organic touch informs much of his musical sensibility: “Many producers get stuck trying to make that bass line, or whatever sound, just perfect. For me, I make a musical decision, capture the moment and move on. The imperfections are a slice of it. In fact, perfection is always an accident.”
But accidents don’t make a career.
“And then there’s the business side of it,” he adds, the slightest bit of a sigh lingering in his voice. “You need to understand marketing, promotion, record contracts, distribution. Today’s artist has to be an entrepreneur.”
Here again, di Pasquale breaks the mold. A few years ago, after being asked by companies such as Apple to give seminars and demonstrations on how to use the leading software packages to make and mix music, di Pasquale co-founded FaderPro, a company that produces online training tutorials for those interested in music production.
“It’s kind of like Bob Ross’ paint by numbers,” he laughs. “But our students and clients love to learn this way. And the teaching actually helps me to think differently, and that helps me creatively.”
And creativity, ultimately, is di Pasquale’s stock and trade. This past year has seen di Pasquale’s musical evolution continue as he moves into composition and producing original material. He’s written, produced and supervised a new album of 15 songs in collaboration with singer Luis Lauro, which fuses pop, dance and electronic music.
“It’s a new frontier for me,” di Pasquale says, “but it’s an important next step in my career. I’m not at my zenith yet – not even close. I’m always learning, especially in this shifting tide of musical genres and technology, and I know I’m getting better and growing as an artist.”
And if that’s the case, di Pasquale had better make a lot more room on his walls for those framed records. He’s going to need it.
– Mark Berry