Don’t Call Him a Celebrity DJ!
Are You Involved?
Leave it to the UK to turn the once straightforward practice of mixing records into a neon-lit myth, where “celebrity” DJ’s roam the earth earning five figures for gigs while gracing the covers of glossy dance publications simultaneously. Fortunately, within this whole glamorous cavalcade, the few whose talent rivals their bankroll supersedes the fashionista tendencies to prove art lies within the mixing macrocosm.
OK, so maybe it’s unfair to place all the blame on the UK, but one can concede that the electronic artists/DJs that have sprung from the country in the last fifteen years have easily influenced the worldview of dance/techno music and its many offshoots. “Club culture started in Manchester,” proclaims DJ Sasha. “Music was being made in Chicago and Detroit already, but the movement, the whole scene, the Hacienda gave birth to it. It’s such an influential place.”
A reliable source if there ever was one, the world-famous DJ/producer began his celebrated career triumphantly enough behind the decks at the infamous Hacienda (spotlighted in the brilliant movie 24 Hour Party People; introduced Joy Division, New Order, Happy Mondays and essentially rave culture to the masses.) Since that momentous era, Sasha used the landmark as a launching point for his own path in music, first having a residency at Renaissance in London, then forging a seemingly lifelong creative partnership with fellow superstar DJ John Digweed.
Relaxed, but spent from traveling after the first gig to support his latest Global Underground mix, Involver, Sasha is as laid-back and courteous as you’d never expect a jet-setting bloke to be. His smirk tells you he’s gone one step further in straying from the herd, as Involver, his first GU mix in several years, marks a unique step in the traditional DJ mix. By remixing and reproducing other artists’ music, then creating a seamless epic, Sasha has evolved not only his skills but raised the bar for conventional vinyl jockeys as well. “After all the work I put into Airdrawndagger (his debut full-length), that whole process and all the stuff I learned, just going to make another mix CD didn’t feel like it was enough,” he admits. “So that’s when I started toying with the idea of remixing and reproducing all the songs. I’ve remixed everything.”
Included in this sonic re-manipulation include Sasha’s friend James Lavelle and his UNKLE project, Felix Da Housecat as well as burgeoning twee-electro artist Ulrich Schnauss. With his studio set up and laptop as his road accomplice, Sasha was well equipped to work on new productions, which he says also distracted him from his renowned DJ gigs. “Yeah, I’ve had to turn down insane amounts of money,” he admits. “The last month of Airdrawndagger, while I was in Amsterdam, I got offered $80,000 just to play a two-hour set! But I had to turn it down because it wasn’t just two hours work. I hadn’t DJ’ed for about six months, so it would’ve meant taking four or five days out and getting my set together. I turned it down. That kind of thing though, when I’m broke and sitting in the gutter later on, I’ll look back and I can go, ‘You fucking idiot!'”
Regrets notwithstanding, Sasha’s created another solid compendium with Involver, melding electro, progressive house and deep, brooding rhythms that have been his MO with or without John Digweed. With the workstation software bible Ableton Live at his side, Sasha has fine-tuned his epic sets without the trappings of traditional vinyl. “It’s going to change everything,” he states. “It’s a very exciting time. It’s changed the way I’ve listened to and played music. It’s going to complete the way I DJ.” While the loop-based program has earned raves, Sasha diehards still long for his vinyl opuses with cohort Digweed. Their show isn’t through yet, he concedes. But it might be a while before the two trade live sparks with each other. “We haven’t done a lot of stuff together the last three or four years,” he concedes. “While I was busy working on my album, John was busy building his empire. We’re doing a lot of stuff separately.” Still, one is aware that the chemistry and competitiveness still exists, whether they work together or separately. “We’re not really throwing curveballs at each other,” he says, “though we are always trying to outdo each other.” A reply Mr. Digweed?
DJ Sasha: www.djsasha.com