Vinx: From Triple Jumps to Triple Platinum
Apr. 01, 1991
NEW YORK (AP) _ Even when he was setting records at Kansas State University, track star Vince Parrette was thinking more about making them.
Eleven years later, the former Big Eight triple jump champion has a new moniker - Vinx - and a debut album, ''Rooms in My Fatha's House,'' a collection made possible by the help of his new friend, Sting.
Although Vinx has excelled both on the track and at cutting tracks, he has no doubt about which is the most difficult task.
''Track is a lot easier, because all I have to do is run faster than everyone and jump farther. In track, like a math test, there's a right answer,'' said Vinx, a powerfully built 6-foot-2 percussionist.
''If you win, you beat everyone. It's clear, there's no discussion, no debate. Music - I can go out there and sing better than I have in my life, play incredible, beautiful things, and it's up to someone's opinion whether I'm valid or not.''
Sting confirmed Vinx's validity after seeing his show at a Santa Monica, Calif., nightclub in February 1990, and quickly offered him a solo record deal. Vinx also wound up playing in Sting's band and on his current album, ''The Soul Cages.''
Vinx recalled that at their first meeting, Sting was amazed the percussionist had no record contract.
''I said, 'No, I've been waiting for you to come and save my life.' He said, 'Perhaps I can help you,''' Vinx recounted. Sting wound up producing the album, which also features cameos by saxophonist Branford Marsalis, keyboardist Herbie Hancock and guitarist Taj Mahal.
The album was the culmination of a musical career that began during Vinx's days on the track team at Kansas State, when he juggled training and tunes.
While in college, Vinx met and played with Mahal at the Montreaux Jazz Festival. But the athlete won out over the musician: Vinx opted to try out for the Olympics rather than join the guitarist's band.
''I chose to stay in school, stay in training, and make the Olympics my goal. Which didn't happen because of the boycott,'' said Vinx, whose track career had almost ended three years earlier.
A New Year's Day fire in 1977 left the lanky athlete with burns over 45 percent of his body, including his legs and back. By August 1980, his comeback was complete: Vinx had the third-best triple jump in the world with a mark of 55 feet, 10 inches.
He attended the U.S. Olympic Trials, making the finals before falling ill and dropping out. But the threat of a boycott hung over the trials, and Vinx still remains bitter about President Carter's decision to skip Moscow that year.
''I felt as though I was drafted into an unjust war, and I went to the front line, and I gave my athletic life for my country for no apparent reason,'' Vinx said. ''I wasn't for it.''
Yet Vinx looks back on his track career as extremely beneficial to his work as a musician.
''The good thing about track was I was a champion, and in being a champion, there are certain traits that are very important for the rest of your life,'' Vinx said during a tour stopover in Manhattan.
''I had the ability to go inside and call up this certain intensity. I'd just dial into my passion and say, 'OK, I'm down, I need to do this.' Music is similar in intensity.''
Track, to Vinx, is as much an art as his music. ''Absolutely. It's the art of movement, a dance. Body control. It's a very beautiful expression of power, and passion, and strength, and grace.''
As for his album, Vinx is musically a bit off the beaten track. His band, The Barkin' Feet, features nothing but percussionists and a background vocalist.
''Rooms in My Fatha's House'' includes a song about the murder of Vinx's father by crackheads in Detroit (''Don't Got to Be That Way''); another tune deals with the hypnotic power of the boob tube (''My TV'').
''I'm not out there trying to be a Top 10 hit, mega-rock god,'' said Vinx. ''I just want to have a place where I can express my point of view. Whether it's mainstream or not is not my concern.''