ROGER Sanchez’s illustrious career continues to delight, spurred on by the current resurgence of house music in Ibiza, Croatia, the US and UK and in the wake of the EDM-inspired commercialisation of dance music.
Like many of the pioneers of the scene, he has stuck to his guns and adopted a long game perspective of what he’s playing and producing, preferring to focus on the music that’s true to him. His default setting for proper house music with Latin rhythms is complemented by the darker, tech-ish sounds of his underground project, S-Man.
He explains here how staying true to your sound sustains longevity in a scene subject to changing trends, technology, uncertainty, short-sightedness and commercial expectation. He has also recorded an exclusive mix which you can listen to on The Night Bazaar mixcloud, just click here.
Where are you today?
I’m in Croatia, playing on a beach and it’s very hot, in a good way. I’m certainly looking forward to returning for the Defected Croatia festival in Tisno on 11th August.
Where are you based?
My home is in New Jersey, where I reside in the winter, however as you can imagine I’m on a plane all the time. As a consequence we always spend the summer on the Mediterranean because a lot of my work is in Ibiza and Europe. I have a house in Ibiza and spend time there every year and this summer we’ve pitched up in Barcelona for the season and the family are really enjoying the laid back city life, plus it’s only a short hop to the white isle.
What’s your take on Space closing?
I’ve always loved playing that club. I’ve a lot of history with Space having played there since the nineties. Owner Pepe Rosello has always brought the real vibe to the party being a music lover and a man of taste and style. Of course, the venue will be continuing under new ownership so will still exist as an entity, however there has been a certain ethos and it will be interesting to see how that changes. One of the big successes has been Glitterbox, which has re-enthused the house vibe for the final season and I am delighted to be a resident this year as the night ties in perfectly with the music that I play. In fact I’m also there for the Radio 1/Creamfields/Defected In The House party on Friday 5th August.
What is happening with the radio show?
My radio show is called ‘Release Yourself’ and it’s syndicated every week to 33 countries with an audience of 19 million per week. To date I have done 722 shows! Before the show started I had a show on Kiss FM and occasionally sat in for Pete Tong on Radio 1. I really enjoy broadcasting and I’ve done some TV presenting too for I Love My MTV.
What’s the update on the labels?
I have 2 labels: Stealth, a house label that focuses on the proper house sound. Some with vocals, some with the NYC/New Jersey soulfulness but always trying to retain the essence that makes house music such a spiritual experience. UNDR THE RADR is the underground counterpoint of what I do and home of my S-Man project.
Tell us about S-Man?
S-Man allows me to focus on the underground and my love for deeper, darker, tech-ish sounds. This has gained incredible momentum since its inception and has also given people a passport to discover my Roger Sanchez material. Ultimately S-Man creates a balance in my output and helps satiate my deep creative interests. I am always recording as I have a studio on my laptop and work on stuff all the time programming and producing tracks on flights, in hotel rooms and generally working on stuff while I am travelling.
How was your gig at Morning Gloryville, the breakfast club!
It was a lot of fun at the morning club workout session. It was also amazing to see that level of energy being released at 8am or 9am on a school day. I don’t take drugs and I’m light on alcohol so it was inspiring to see so many people going for it on pure adrenalin. It reminded of a hot yoga session in New York with a heavily female presence, very receptive crowd and classic sexiness. For this event I played classics I’ve remixed or edited such as Ultra Nate ‘Free’. I deconstruct the tracks and edit in different beats with rolling build ups and although I create loops and do everything on the fly, I like to prep the beats before I start so that I can maximise the result. For my Roger Sanchez gigs I dig out house classics such as Afro Medusa, Armand Van Helden, Barbara Tucker, Bucketheads, Blunted Dummies, Chocolate Puma and give them the treatment.
You’re playing worldwide. Where are your residencies?
Apart from Glitterbox and Defected In The House gigs, I also play at Space Ibiza where I played this year’s opening, Ministry of Sound in London and Cavo Paradiso on Mykonos. Under my S Man moniker, I play at Escape, Amsterdam, Heart, Miami, Space, Ibiza and Space, New York where I host UNDR THE RADR parties with Cocodrills and special guests like Huxley, Yousef, Bontan, and Green Velvet.
Are you a big festival player these days?
I’ve always enjoyed playing festivals and have spun at most of the key ones. I love the fact that there are no inhibitions, people just go for it. This year I played at Glastonbury in the NYC Downlow, which was amazing, plus WeAreFSTVL in the Glitterbox arena, 51st State in London and Defected Croatia festival this month.
What’s your take on Glitterbox?
The classic house and disco element had been missing in the Ibiza landscape for some time with the commercialisation of dance music that is EDM in its various forms, and the European demand for techno as the only serious clubbing music form. Glitterbox presents traditionally popular Ibiza house and disco sounds delivered in a modern way and it’s impossible not to enjoy the euphoria this synergy creates. The resurgence of classic sounds melded with the latest technology and production styles has provided some of the world’s greatest DJs such as Sneak, Todd Terry, and Josh wink the platform to prove their mastery in what is currently a post-EDM period of reflection.
Defected has taken up the challenge of hosting its own festival in Croatia this summer, what is your view on labels looking to branch out into events?
Defected has always run hugely popular parties with a sold out summer season in Ibiza so its a natural progression for the label. Croatia is a great choice as it’s growing as a party destination for discerning clubbers, ravers and festival goers. There have been a growing number of clubbers looking to travel to new destinations and the country welcomes clubbing tourists without the same licensing restrictions as other resorts and the country is incredibly scenic, so it is like paradise found. The Defected crowd is clued up musically so you have to pull something special out of the bag for them.
What’s the status of your relationship with New York label Strictly Rhythm?
Strictly Rhythm is the label where I cut my teeth, so it was great releasing a compilation album with them this year. The album represents the beginning of a heavily active period for the label and aims to reach back and reintroduce or introduce themselves as the original house label in all its guises. My project combines my own back catalogue with the label in relation to now and I’m pleased to say has been well received. I’ve also recorded a track with Harry Romero for them, however I’m focused on my own label now and I’m in a much more prolific period now because of the technology.
What’s your view on EDM?
In the U.S. EDM has become a very big festival sound. However in the clubs the younger audience is starting to get into techno and house, which is very exciting and proves that more mainstream dance sounds act as a gateway for educating people to discover a variety of different music styles and musical experimentation. The older club crowd has always enjoyed house, techno and more sophisticated, sexier music and all this goes to prove that everyone and everything evolves. Unlike some of the other US DJs, I never wanted to sell my soul to EDM for fame, popularity or money, I would rather continue on the path that brings me the greatest creative fulfilment regardless of the financial consequences. I need to be true to myself and as predicted EDM cannibalised itself.
Where did it all begin? Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Queens, New York, and I went to school in Manhattan. I was from a Dominican Latino household and grew up listening to hip-hop, jazz, soul and Latin music. I had a home DJ set up and began throwing house parties in Queens. From there I organised and promoted little parties locally and in Manhattan and went in the studio to create some productions. At the same time I was studying at the High School of Art & Design in New York and selling mixtapes on Broadway to pay for studio work. As more DJ work came in I became a Billboard reporting DJ with my music being used to comprise the dance chart, which led to regular gigs at Octagon, Mars, and Red Zone from the late eighties to the early nineties. My breakout record happened in 1990, when Gladys Pizarro at Strictly signed my ‘Luv Dancin’ track, which began my long association with the label. This led to me remixing for many different labels and I went on a remixing streak for much of the 90s and was in the studio 5 or 6 days a week in New York with gigs at the weekend. Tours would come and go and I’d be straight back in the studio. Simon Dunmore from Defected recognised my talents early on when he was at Cooltempo Records and I remixed a lot of tracks for him including Juliet Roberts ‘Caught In The Middle’, which along with Incognito ‘Givin’ It Up’ really solidified my base in UK.
Obviously the major break came in 2001 when Defected signed my ‘Another Chance’ single. It provided the chance to crossover to a much bigger audience and was borne out by hitting No. 1 in the UK and internationally. This inadvertently led to winning a Grammy Award in 2003 for my remix of No Doubt. Although it was great to receive the attention, I was not trying to be mainstream; things just came together at that moment creating the right energy. To be honest the crossover path was not something I was overtly comfortable with, as I prefer to retain my credibility and be a creature of reinvention.
Please tell us about your interest in Latin music and its effect on your productions?
Latin music is in my blood and it’s the pulse and heartbeat of my sound. It’s the DNA Latin rhythm reference to my roots and it’s imprinted in my memory. My family immigrated to the US from Dominican Republic and I have been surrounded by merengue, Latin jazz, salsa, and Brazilian music such as samba. I enjoy listening to Latin, world music and things that are different percussively. I’m a big fan of artists such as Celia Cruz, Tito Puente, Alejandro Sanz, Bebel Gilberto and Manu Chao.
Ultimately I like to stay true to myself, be professional and enjoy my journey and I totally appreciate anyone who wishes to join my on my travels. It’s all about the music.