The Glitterbox Interview: Roger Sanchez
Roger Sanchez is riding high, once again, as gritty dance alias S-Man. The sounds of the Nineties’ house boom are back in vogue, providing Sanchez with a welcome springboard from which to do his thing in front of millions of new fans. S-Man isn’t, however, Sanchez’ only heroic exploit in 2015. The veteran US DJ-producer is also back in business as, well, Roger Sanchez, highlighted by an upcoming appearance at Space Ibiza for Glitterbox.
Sanchez, for the uninitiated, is one of house music’s original kings. He started out in late Eighties Queens, New York, DJing hip-hop and breaks to ecstatic ‘Block’ gatherings before developing his own percussive, utterly hypnotic take on house – a sound gaining unstoppable momentum across the Big Apple. Funding early gigs by selling his own mixtapes on the sidewalks of Broadway, Sanchez made remarkable headway. His DJ dedication swept him around the world to some of clubland’s biggest dancefloors throughout the Nineties, and complimented a prodigious discography. Under a variety of aliases, and shades of light and dark, Sanchez recorded several classic house tracks – ‘Luv Dancin’’ (1990), ‘Release Yo’Self’ (1996) and ‘The Deep’ (1996) among them. He launched respected imprint Narcotic and remixed everyone from Frankie Knuckles and Daft Punk to Michael Jackson and Incognito
Output and reputation have more than persisted in the 21st century. Early Noughties crossover hits ‘Another Chance’ (a national no. 1 in the UK) and ‘You Can’t Change Me’ paved the way for efficient house productions on Sanchez’ follow-up label Stealth (‘Lost’, ‘Again’, ‘2Gether’) and reinforced a continual stream of international club and festival bookings. And yet with the recent rise of EDM, so Sanchez’ momentum – certainly his production work – has slowed. Until last April’s S-Man resurrection ‘Dangerous Thoughts’ (an EP christening new Sanchez label Undr The Radr) there hadn’t been any new material, under any moniker, for nearly four years. Reassuringly, ‘Dangerous Thoughts’ has kick-started the artist back into life. Sanchez dropped two more S-Man EPs last autumn, ‘2 Close’ and ‘Runnin’, and this month drops a third, ‘New Evolution’, alongside Tom Flynn and Cevin Fisher.
The title of the latter release couldn’t be more apt. Sanchez, in conversation with Defected during a brief visit to the UK, promises a lot more new music in the coming months – on a number of different fronts. A new chapter in one of house music’s most captivating careers is about to unfold....
How are you Roger? What are you in the UK for?
I’m playing Swoon at Couture in Stafford and then rushing over to Sankeys Manchester as S-Man for the Covert Weekender. I’m really geared up for my visit to the UK. It’s hot on the heels of gigs in New York and a tour of Brazil. Afterwards, I fly to Amsterdam to play. Things are busier than ever but I love playing for the crowd.
What are you expecting from the Glitterbox crowd when you play there this July?
Glitterbox fills a gap in the marketplace. Ibiza is polarized between the deep house and EDM scenes so Glitterbox offers something fresh. It’s about the discerning side of the island...about bringing the disco, soul and glamour back which I love. Simon [Dunmore] isn’t afraid to experiment, even if things may go pear-shaped, but clearly Glitterbox has been successful. I’m preparing a specific set for the crowd there, full of special edits and productions. I’ll be reaching back to the golden era of house but mixing that with something very contemporary. The vibe will feel totally right...sexy and soulful. It’s going to be an excellent night.
And you’re playing elsewhere in Ibiza?
Correct. Glitterbox is about Roger Sanchez but my residency for The Redlight at Sankeys (10 dates across June, July, August and September) will see me perform as S-Man. Ibiza is a second home, I love it. Ibiza has helped me grow as an artist over the years...it’s an important place.
Roger Sanchez and S-Man – explain the difference....
S-Man has always allowed me to experiment with darker sounds. As Roger Sanchez, the house sound has always been more traditional and uplifting. But now specifically? S-Man is allowing me to explore sounds from the UK bass scene as well as some deep techno roots. It’s a bass-driven thing, which actually takes me back to the S-Man stuff I was doing in the Nineties...only it’s even grittier. As for Roger Sanchez, I’m still about those vocal, uplifting records...very soulful and maybe with some Latin elements. It’s proper house music.
Before ‘Dangerous Thoughts’ last year, you hadn’t recorded in ages – why?
I was still DJing around the world but, for me, it was transition management. There was a sonic challenge when EDM took over and it was good to hang back and return to the sounds in my heart. The music I had been doing before was as Roger Sanchez so it felt right to start exploring darker sounds again, just as I had the first time round with S-Man. The timing was perfect; it was a real return to my roots. I went further underground and started collaborating with new cats like Tom Flynn, Tough Love and Carneo Beats. For me, it was the right way to bring things back.
And in turn it’s prompted new material as Roger Sanchez...
I’m about to release a single called ‘Remember Me’ featuring the vocalist STEALTH. He basically sent me the lyrics and they really resonated with me – as did his name! The lyrics manifested musically for me as this powerful, emotionally-based track. ‘Remember Me’ puts me into the headspace of ‘Another Chance’...that kind of powerful record. I was taken back to my roots as a producer but also inspired to do something fresh...contemporary evolution.
Are you daunted by the rise of EDM? Today’s dance landscape is so different from that of the Nineties when, really, it was just a few artists like you, Louie Vega and Todd Terry in the limelight....
In the Nineties era we were the kings. But today, EDM has evolved into such a commercial state that artists like Skrillex and Kaskade are more than just stars, they’re huge pop stars. The commercialisation of EDM has become so apparent that a lot of the sounds now are a parody of the dance sounds from before. And a lot of it sounds the same; the originality and flavour has been lost. Many of the artists within EDM are actually starting to move back to deep house now so perhaps they realise the half-life of EDM. It’s still viable, yes...it’s huge. But I’d say it’s facing financial decline in the years ahead.
What’s your overall view of the electronic dance scene in 2015?
Look, overall I think it’s great. A lot of people have re-discovered house music recently. And the EDM generation, too, are starting to find house having listened to EDM for a while. That’s really great. When I play some gigs, I’ll be on after an EDM DJ and the crowd’s respond is equally massive. I think that this is a good time for our music. It’s Nineties house 2.0!
So what’s next?
I have Ibiza, of course, and plenty of other gigs. I’m still growing Undr The Radr. I’m also in the studio as S-Man working on records with cats like Oliver Dollar and Tough Love. That follows S-Man remixes of Madonna [Sanchez has just remixed ‘Ghosttown’, Madonna’s 45th no.1 on the Billboard Dance chart] and Mendoza. As for Roger Sanchez, I’m back working on a new album which I hope to release next year. I actually started the project two years ago but now I’m speeding the process up. I’m going back to my roots here. ‘Remember Me’ will set this whole thing up.
Exciting times.... What is the secret to your longevity? What keeps you interested?
For me, music is based on cyclical periods of activity. At one point, my gigs as S-Man and Roger Sanchez will fuel remixes and productions; at another, it’s good to hang back...re-charge, take stock and come back with something fresh. That’s an important cycle if you want longevity. But at all times there has always been a passion for the music. As I say, I’m constantly inspired by playing for the crowd and watching how the dancefloor reacts to the music. These feelings motivate everything I do. 2015 is a new beginning yet I’m able to draw on the experience of everything I’ve achieved before now. I remember my roots but get to embrace a new generation of artists and audiences. That’s really exciting and a big motivation for the future.
Words: Ben Lovett
Glitterbox is at Space Ibiza every Friday from 12 June - 25 September, with Roger Sanchez appearing 17 July - full line-up details and tickets here
S-Man & Tom Flynn feat. Cevin Fisher’s single ‘New Evolution’ is out now on Undr The Radr
Glitterbox makes its London debut at Ministry of Sound Saturday 25 July - full line-up and tickets