Roger Sanchez is, for many, the embodiment of House music. From humble beginnings in NYC to high profile residencies in Ibiza; from digging in dusty crates to headlining festival main-stages around the world, Roger is truly a self-made man and House music pioneer. The crafting of Roger Sanchez, the DJ, started in the late 80s in Corona, Queens, where as a young man, he was enticed by the early roots of hip-hop sprouting all over New York.
Attending parties by the Bronx River and other jams as a break-dancer and graffiti artist, Sanchez was introduced to DJing through friends, trying his hand in an organic environment where his creativity behind the decks flourished from a few singles into an ambitious catalogue of over two thousand original productions and remixes.
Grant Richards sat down recently with the S-Man to talk about his new single (out today), his classic look and more.
This year I really wasn’t able to head to many events and I think the highlight for me was our UTR event at Escape – fantastic vibe and all of the DJs that played rocked it that night!
Do you think ADE has replaced WMC as the industry event to attend in this way? Sure, Amsterdam doesn’t have the sunshine but ADE seems to have the right levels of business and pleasure and they sure have great venues too.
I think ADE is definitely the most relevant industry event for Dance music at the moment. There are real business meetings and panels and the way the entire conference is run is very professional. It’s a not to be missed event.
Back to your label UNDR The RADR, do you like to keep it running mainly with friends of the S-Man or are you open to taking on tracks from someone you don’t know?
We listen to tracks from everywhere and everyone who submits to us. If I hear something I like and we all love it, we look at signing it. Hopefully, if we didn’t know them, they will become friends soon after!
Tough Love have become good friends of yours over the past few years and you are collaborating on a fresh take of your track Hold On with Boy George on vocals. Hold On was first out nearly a year ago in its original guise on UNDR The RADR so what’s the story with the update?
When I first started collaborating with Tough Love, we decided we wanted to do more together and I already had a more extended vocal performance from George that I was going to work on. The first version was intentionally a dub as we wanted to keep it very underground. I got together with TL in London and we knocked out the new production and I love where we took it to!
Did you actually get to sit in the studio with Boy George? I bet he’s got some party stories that may even eclipse your own…
On this one, we had to do it remotely because of our schedules, but I have sat down with George on other occasions and always wanted to work on something with him. He is a legend!
Whilst mentioning that, can you think of one of the craziest situations you’ve found yourself in over the years of touring the globe?
I have had quite a few crazy experiences and strange situations, none of which I can mention due to non-disclosure agreements with various Government agencies… but let’s just say they involve several pop stars, a Brazilian Samba troupe and 3 llamas!
One of the things I think of when I think of ‘Roger Sanchez’ is your ‘look’. One of the tidiest beards in the business and often your headwear/sunglasses. Is it a conscious thing to look the way you do?
Thanks! I think the way I look and dress is just another form of expression and being myself. I have evolved from several ‘looks’ over the years and, really, they weren’t that calculated – I just went with what I felt suited me. Somehow putting a giant Marshmallow over my head wasn’t one of them…
Do you think we’ve we become too obsessed with the whole image side of things now, what with the whole bottle service type clubs and the Instagram crew putting out the perception that they are rich and having the times of their lives?
I think the entire world is too perception conscious – it’s more insidious than just image conscious. I think if you are conscious of your image, you want to make sure you project who you are. Most people are too concerned with who people think they are. In the end, I’m more concerned with being myself and being true to that than who I think people perceive me to be.
I’m going to take it back a bit, well quite a long time and ask you about your UK #1 ‘Another Chance’ that topped the charts back in 2001. I believe this is one of only a few number ones Defected Records have across their illustrious 500 releases. At what point did you and Simon Dunmore know you had a hit of that size on your hands?
That one I have to tip my hat to Simon, as I was thinking that the track was “just a little underground track to round out the album” Simon actually saw the potential and he was convinced they should release it as a single. The rest, as they say, is history…
Defected also look after Strictly Rhythm now and you mixed and compiled ‘Strictly Roger Sanchez’ that was out earlier this year. Does it feel a bit crazy working on a retrospective body of work like that? Or do you just think ‘Damn I’ve made some fine music over the years’?
Honestly, at times I forget much of what I have made over the years, since I’m always looking forward and working on new ideas, but when I stop to look back it’s humbling to see that much of what I have done has influenced a new generation (or two) of new DJs in some small way. I am blessed to have been able to do what I love for a living.
I doubt it crosses your mind much, if ever, but how do you think life would’ve been if you’d got your degree in architecture?
I think it would have been much different – maybe I would have gotten more sleep haha!! Actually, I think creatively it would have a similar arc, but I can’t really see myself not doing music. It’s part of my language and how I experience the world if that makes sense.
I read that your Father encouraged you to follow the DJ path, which is very interesting as Decoded published an article I’d written a while back where quite a lot of parents mentioned they’d prefer their kids to get a ‘proper job’. What’s your take on that?
My father is an amazing man who is very intelligent and extremely hard working. All of my brothers have inherited that hard working streak from him. However, he is also someone who has always believed in following your dream. Most of that speech he gave me was really saying: “Be your own man. I have raised you to stand on your own two feet, but this is your life – make it what you want it to be.” I have taught my kids the same and support them the same way.
In closing, when I look at your accomplishments over the years, it’s awe inspiring. National Chart-topping, Grammy award winning, remixer of Daft Punk, Michael Jackson, Madonna and loads more and you remain as current now as ever, so what is there still for Roger Sanchez to achieve?
There is always more to achieve! Right now, I’m starting to look at ways of how to positively impact the world beyond music and hopefully address social issues using music as a platform. I want my kids to grow up in a loving and supportive world and know that dad had some small part of helping it be that way.
01// Flashmob – Do You Do (Stefano Esposito Remix)
02// Tough Love & S-Man ft Boy George – Hold On
03// Andrea Oliva – Scream
04// Cocodrills – Chemical Reaction
05// Mighty Dub Katz – Let the Drums Speak (Butch Remix)
06// Emanuel Satie vs Roberto Rodriguez ft Max C-Ride Your Body (Sabb Afterdark Mix)
07// Emanuele inglese – Black Marimba
08// Roger Sanchez & Carnao Beats ft. Gifty – Make Me Wonder (Man Without A Clue & Jerome Price remix)
09// Flashmob – The Chord
10// Oscar G – Rain (Cocodrills Remix)
11// Supernova – Don’t Stop
12// Groove Armada ft Parris Mitchell – House With Me