Normally when you graduate college and tell your parents that you want to start spinning drops for a living, they might be total losers and inform you that they would like to see a prepared backup career before they resume paying your rent. Maybe you take a few shifts at the nearby Grumpy and use the opportunity to inform passerby that you’ve got the info on who Marshmello really is.
“I want to make music that my parents can completely relate to”
But not so if you’re Austen Afridi, who spins under the moniker Viceroy, which I believe is a much-mythologized brand of cigarettes, you don’t have to worry about that at all. In between giving a tropical spin to Biggie Smalls and releasing his own, his latest single “Improvise,” features London R&B crooner Tom Aspaul, Afridi also has been putting some serious money into the San Francisco restaurant business. Nominally a pursuit of the evil and nefarious, New York amateur restaurant Gary Sernovitz glibly referred to himself as “employed in an industry that Bernie Sanders dislikes,” Afridi brings a level of cool to owning your corner joint selling the delicious vibe of the of the tropics. He did, after all, once go as “The Sultan of the Summer.”
I had the chance to chat with Afridi, who’s doing press for his track with Aspaul. We started talking about the music and all that jazz but I got hungry, so I started asking about his business matters. Yum.
Popdust: So, your new single. “Improvise.” There’s a lot of looking back to old school disco and funk on that. What do you think it is about the past that feels so comforting?
Viceroy: I think when I started Viceroy I just was still learning what I truly wanted to produce. Overtime, I realized that producing funk and disco-influenced dance music simply brings me the most pleasure. I love music that is timeless or multi-generational. I want to make music that my parents can completely relate to, while maintaining a modern sound. Plus nothing makes you dance like disco and funk.
P: You’re also a prolific remixer, giving everyone from Biggie Smalls to Maroon 5 that tropical spin. Are there any artists that you’re dying to remix?
V: When I started my career I was making bootlegs of whatever came to mind, but these days I do most remixes with strategy in mind. But If I could remix a Hall & Oates song, I wouldn’t be mad. Chromeo would be super fun.
P: Anything you wouldn’t want to touch?
V: People make such a big stink about touching classics, but if you are maintaining the original vocals and putting a fresh take on it, I don’t see why it’s such an issue. It’s worked for me over and over again. My favorite part about remixing is taking something very different than my style and giving it a new flavor.
P: Speaking of flavor, I wondered if your aptitude for ‘feel-good music’ translated to a taste for feel-good food, as a restaurateur.
V: If you don’t love feel good music and feel good food, then I just don’t think we could be friends! Both speak to who I am. I am a pretty care-free person and I don’t take myself too seriously…
P: Noted. How did that whole business start?
V: Opening a restaurant and investing in one really felt natural due to my experience over the years as a traveling musician. I’ve been to all corners of the world and am lucky to be able to experience numerous cultures and cuisines. I became close with the fellas over at Crossroads Entertainment in San Francisco and they brought me to invest in Palm House, and then later asked me to be a General Partner or owner at the Dorian. Both are in the Marina district [in San Fransisco] and are thriving.
All in all, it’s nice to take a step away from music sometimes to clear my head and get involved in the San Fran restaurant scene.
P: Tell me about the appeal. Food, atmosphere all that.
V: Palm House is a tropical rum bar and Caribbean restaurant… aka right up my alley. It’s super lively and the food is great! [But] Dorian couldn’t be more opposite in aesthetic, but it speaks to who I am as well. It’s more of an elegant Oscar Wilde vibe – very spacious, with old fashion cocktails and classic American fare. I think they both speak to different sides of my personality.
P: What’s your dream restaurant?
V: Tasting menu restaurants are always considered the end-all be-all of the fine dining world, but take me to a mom-and-pop classic Italian Trattoria and I’m in heaven. I enjoy a restaurant that feels homey and has no pretentiousness to it. My favorite restaurant hands down of all time is Chubby Noodle in San Francisco.
“Improvise” is out now on Dim Mak. Check it out.
Andrew Karpan is hungry. Feed him with your love and follow him on Twitter.