Interview: Multifaceted Music Man Jake Vicious
Jake Grotticelli, better known as Jake Vicious is a can do music pro with a lengthy résumé at just the age of 27. Through teaching, engineering, producing, songwriting, and touring roles, Jake has spread his wealth of knowledge and used his talents to help individuals reach their dreams at D.C.-based House Studios. As you read further you’ll find that Jake is man that knows his purpose and carries plenty of wisdom and experience that the music industry has taken notice to.
Thanks for taking the time to talk with us Jake! First off, you seem like a pretty humble and innocent dude so I gotta ask, how did the name Jake Vicious come about?
JAKE VICIOUS: I’m actually the MOST humble and innocent. But no really it’s actually an amazing story. House is a HUGE hub for Pop, Rap, and Hip Hop artists in the DMV (DC, Maryland, Virginia), and about… 5 (wow) years ago we had a big session with Waka Flocka and this artist named FLOWN that was shot for a Worldstar.com video. It was about 30-40 people deep in the studio room, smoke billowing out from every corner, and me and another engineer were tag teaming the session.
Well the video ends with Waka saying “BOW BOW White boy VICIOUS” referring to me. The video went semi-big, and I got the moniker ‘WhiteBoy Vicious’ for about 3 years. Eventually I earned the “Jake” back.
Tell us a little bit about your start in music. Did you discover your love for music early on? How did you ultimately find a way to turn music into a full-time career?
JAKE VICIOUS: I’ve been in love with music my whole life, and always wanted to write songs and play guitar, but it took until high school to find “engineering” and “production.” I was in a Heavy Metal band all through school, and my best memories are of me working on our albums in our friends basement studio. I thought to myself, “if i could be in that environment everyday, I would be happy.”
After that I started recording as much music as I could. I eventually turned that into a few internships, and eventually, a paid position.
I love the whole basis around House Studios. It’s driven by the passion to enable creative individuals and focuses less on being a business. Tell us about your role at House Studios and the impact it has had over the years.
JAKE VICIOUS: House Studios is an amazing place. The guys and girls there truly believe in liberating, empowering, and celebrating the arts and the artists that create them. I have had many roles at House, from teacher and engineer, to producer and songwriter, to musician and road-manager, but ultimately House has always allowed me to use my gifts to help others, and to create a better world through the beauty and the power of the arts.
— House Studios (@HouseStudioDC) October 2, 2017
The studio is unique in that it takes on a “pay-as-you-go” approach. For newer artists, the financial aspect of the music business can be stressful and I’m sure at times hinder an artist’s creativity. How do you feel this business model is working for creatives? Do you see a difference in the environment and productivity compared to traditional studios?
JAKE VICIOUS: Without getting into too much detail, in the next few months House will be unveiling a new structure in how artists can be paid and thrive in the music ecosystem.
Right now getting paid as an artist is TOUGH. Artists rely on making their money through merchandise and touring, but turning those into substantial revenue drivers is difficult to achieve if you don’t already have brand recognition. Same with Sync and licensing. Streaming is growing, but at .003 cents a spin, you have to strike gold to have substantial income. The world is hungry for a new creative career model. It’s coming.
But to answer your question more directly, yes traditional studio models are the WORST. Nothing is tougher then being in a session, and having someone come in and say “hey guys, 15 minutes left, time to wrap it up.” It kills all the creativity in the room. I hate working in those kind of traditional environments.
— House Studios (@HouseStudioDC) September 20, 2017
Describe your DNA as a producer. What artists and producers carry an influence on your sound? Would you say you have a signature element?
JAKE VICIOUS: I GOT LOYALTY AND ROYALTY INSIDE MY DNA!:)
I just love music man. From Rock and Pop, to Hip Hop and Country, everything inspires me. I’m not sure I have a signature element, but I want my music to make you FEEL something. Good or bad. You can HATE what I do, but I always want you to feel something.
I gotta put you on the spot here, list us about 10 songs that have made a big impact on your music.
Ten songs is toughhhh, but here I go!
This was so difficult to put together. I listen to TONS of music. But these records just all have such STRONG production in their own way.
What is your general approach to making a track? Do you feel the pressure to create a song that will appeal to radio and The Grammys?
JAKE VICIOUS: At this point, I don’t really LOVE to chase other peoples standards and records. You end up just making something watered down and untrue. I prefer much more to talk with an artist about what THEY want to make, and try to make that a reality and unique.
Describe the DMV music scene to those living outside of the area. How has it evolved over the years? Who are the local legends? Who are some new local acts we should keep a look out for?
JAKE VICIOUS: The DMV, its a wild place. It used to be the home of Punk and Gogo music, but has recently transitioned to some really dope Hip Hop, Rock, and Pop artists. We champion legends like Pharrell, and Timbaland, Wale, and Dave Grohl, but their is a whole wave of amazing new artists coming out of the area, from GoldLink to Mannywellz, to pop acts like SHAED and Prinze George. Keep your eyes on the DMV, theres a wave coming.
Music can carry a different meaning to each individual. From pure enjoyment to healing and being a way to escape from reality. What does music mean to you?
JAKE VICIOUS: Music is the translator to the soul. The human condition is hard, and everyone has their own mountains to climb and demons to slay. Many of us turn to music in our times of trouble, and when I was growing up music was that for me. A release and a relief against the darkness that sometimes sneaks up on us all. Regardless of genre, music for me is a connection between people.
I first came across your work last year when I heard Jen Miller’s single “My Type.” It’s a catchy single where you both seem to step outside the box and let go. That was one of a series of singles you released with Jen in 2017. In our interview with Jen spoke glowingly on the chemistry she has in the studio with you. Talk about the connection you have with Jen and how both of your styles are a great fit for each other.
JAKE VICIOUS: Jen Miller is an amazing human. She inspires me everyday to try and be a little better then the day before. Theres a lotta love there. I appreciate Jen because not only does she let me be ME, but she pushes me to go far beyond the line of what is normal. It’s actually creative freedom, and its SO rare to find an artist to trust a producer like that. All of our records are really different, but when we get together, its always special. I’m really excited for her future.
When you listen to ‘SoulFro’ you sense a realness coming from Mannywellz. Describe the process of working with Mannywellz to help bring his ideas and experiences to life on this album. What are some tracks you worked on together that are most special to you?
JAKE VICIOUS: Manny is another guy who inspires me a lot. He has a VERY specific vision and gift, and he knows EXACTLY how to deliver it to his audience. It’s really a privilege to be able to work with him.
Our process is always different depending on the track. Sometimes he brings me stuff that is mostly finished, and I’ll just help him get it as impactful as possible. But sometimes, like on the track “Do Not Disturb” (from his recent EP Soulfro) we create the whole thing from scratch, and I am able to layer guitars and concepts into his ideas to create a really unique blend of sounds and backgrounds.
On occasion you send out Tweets looking for artists to work with. What kind of artists do you look for? Any new artists you’d like to work with? Any dream collaborations?
JAKE VICIOUS: I love Twitter. Everyone in the world is only 150 characters away. I like looking for artists who aren’t afraid to stretch boundaries. We can have a Pop song with a trap 808 in it. It will be ok, I promise.
There are a TON of artists I would love to work with. Just a few would be Grace VanderWaal, Ryn Weaver, Sam Smith, Jessie Reyez, Zella Day, Yebba, James Bay, Lewis Capaldi, Troye Sivan, Darius Rucker… I could go on for HOURS.
Describe your most interesting studio session.
JAKE VICIOUS: I used to be in TONS of crazy sessions. I won’t mention the artist by name, but I was in a session with a big hip hop artist known for bringing a huge posse with him, and thats exactly what he did. There must have been 50 people in the building, with people riding hover boards everywhere, the guys set up a make-shift barber shop upstairs, people were sloppy drunk, it was insanity. It’s always a lot of fun, but studio sessions can be crazy hectic as well.
I saw on Twitter that you attended SXSW this year and brought your production equipment for impromptu studio sessions. I believe you’ve taken this approach in previous years as well. For those natural born hustlers like yourself describe the various opportunities artists and producers can expect at SXSW and what steps should they take to make the most of this event? What were your favorite highlights from this year’s event?
JAKE VICIOUS: SXSW is always a good time! Every year is a different experience. It’s all about going out and seeing / being a part of as much of the festival as you can.
For someone with more eclectic music tastes, its awesome. I’ve been able to see Kevin Gates, John Legend, Killswitch Engage, and Kehlani all in the same day.
The opportunity lies in being out in the city and connecting with as many people as you can. There are literally hundreds of amazing musicians walking around the city, so you may bump into Smino or Stro or anyone else just walking around! I would tell anyone who goes to the festival to just be open minded and not bashful. It’s a fun week, so have fun, and meet as many people and brands as possible!
This year was cool because I got to work as road manager for two awesome bands (Sydney Franklin and Mannywellz / his band), so it was cool on a different level. I loved seeing some of the Synth-Pop acts come out and kill shows this year (SHAED, Snoh Aalegra). Also being there for the Lyor Cohen keynote was SUPER special.
I always look forward to SXSW. (pro tip: Get an artist band if you can!)
So you’re stuck on a deserted island and you’re able to pick one famous person to talk to, one album to play, and one tv show to watch. What will it be?
Living: Elon Musk/Obama Hybrid (Or Bear Grillz if I’m trying to, ya know, escape the island)
Dead: Bejamin Franklin
Fictional: Professor X
Kanye West: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
(this was tough).
It’s super long and hilarious, so I think you’d never get bored.
We gotta get your top 10 hottest new tracks out there. Who’s bringing the fire Jake?? Do you see any trends in music for 2018?
JAKE VICIOUS: Woah. Music right now is SUPER hit or miss. But I’m hoping as the year continues to roll, well have better and better music coming. These are just some new tracks that I think are bonafide HITS.
With a lot on your résumé already what keeps you going? Is there an ultimate goal?
JAKE VICIOUS: You have to think back to why you started making music in the first place. The goal is to touch people, and make music that inspires. Trophies are nice, but they don’t feed your soul. At least, they haven’t fed mine 🙂
You’ve already made big moves in 2018 with the release of the Mannywellz album ‘SoulFro’ and also produced brand new singles by Emma Remelle and Jen Miller. What else can we expect from Jake Vicious in 2018?
JAKE VICIOUS: 2018! Year of the Jake!
So this year I’m really excited about a few other projects that are about to come out. Jen Miller just released a new single “More” that we are getting TONS of love on. Expect more from Jen Miller and Emma Remelle this year. I also have co production credit on a few albums that are coming out of House that are super special, but I think my best collaborations of 2018 are yet to come. Just wait and see!