What was your first set-up as DJ like? How and for what reasons has your set-up evolved over the years and what are currently some of the most important pieces of gear for you?
My first set up was a mess, only one deck with roller pitch, the other with no pitch whatsoever, a crappy pyramid mixer from an electronic store that sold parts for computers etc. Eventually one of my neighbourhood friends with middle class income grandparents got him a technics 1200 set up with a Numark Mixer, top of the line for 1986. I basically am a music hunter so I took trips to buy records everywhere they sold them in Chicago. Eventually I got jobs in a couple record stores which lead to the evolution of DJ Sneak. These days I play on Pioneer CDJ 2000 CD players with USB drives loaded with music powered by Rekordbox. I still freestyle till this day.
How do you make use of technology? In terms of the feedback mechanism between technology and creativity, what do humans excel at, what do machines excel at?
Honestly if I could still play records and drag around my record box with 100 dope pieces of wax I would. So weird saying that but it's true. DJing is using turntables and vinyl, it still sounds better and there are no tricks you can pull on people. We used to let the track play till the break to mix in and out of it to the next. These days I use CD players by Pioneer, they’re all you need to play with USBs or hard drives attached to them. I have a crazy library of music so I play like I was playing on decks. Sure I’ve adapted to the new technology available but it’s really out of convenience. I don’t mess with laptops and programs to make you sound like you’re a perfect robot. That’s not my vibe.
Could you take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work? Do you have a fixed schedule? How do life and creativity feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
I wake up everyday at 6:30am, I handle breakfast and lunch for my kids, get them to school at 8 am, then I roll back to my man cave aka studio and handle emails to catch the rest for the world because I live in LA and most places are closing in Europe. Then I dedicate my time to making music, chopping beats, listening to music, arranging and editing music, cutting samples, writing songs etc. etc. etc. everyday! This is what I do till the kids are back from school and then its dinner and homework and family kick it time.
Let's say you have a gig coming up tonight. What does your approach look like – from selecting the material and preparing for, opening and then building a set?
Because I spend most of my weekdays working and updating music to my hard drives to play out, I am almost always ready to handle any scandal. If it’s a special event, or different music than I usually play, I’ll take a couple of hours to make sure things are where they supposed to be. I’m a 100% freestyle DJ, I make things on the go when on the decks, no pre programmed set.
Can you describe your state of mind during a DJ set? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
This is hard question but a good one. Most DJs on my level & schedule, travelling 200 plus days of the year for more than 20 years have this thing called veteran miles, we can light it up when and where needed to do our job. The professionals always try to do their best even if we have flown or driven miles to get to the party, we try to show up and give you all smiles and great music. Many times sacrificing sleep, food, family time etc. The state of mind changes for every occasion and you need to learn to adapt. DJ life is not an easy one, like many people think it is. It’s hard work but for the OGs that have been doing it for years, we have the miles and stamina to get it done with pride.
What are some of the considerations that go into deciding which track to play next? What makes two tracks a good fit? How far do you tend to plan ahead during a set?
My plan has always been to never have a PLAN!
I swear, I never think of the way I’m going to play till I’m there and someone hands me the helm. The best way for me has been that way, I have to visualize and then attack in the first 10-15 minutes to then hit them hard with all I’ve got. I play music the way I make tracks, raw and hard hittin’ gangsta House.
How would you describe the relationship between your choices and goals as a DJ and the expectations, desires and feedback of the audience? How does this relationship manifest itself during a performance and how do you concretely tap into it?
For me it’s always been simple, pour your heart out doing the best you can to entertain the people in front of you or even when the parties are not so crowded you still give it 110% for the people there. From the public all I want is smiles and showing of feelings cause what I’m playing for them is making them feel euphoric, the crowd will always tell you how they feel, this is why I don’t plan my DJ sets because I’m there to create live, not play the same set I’ve played for others before.
Especially thanks to the storage facilities of digital media, DJ sets could potentially go on forever. Other than closing time, what marks the end of a DJ performance for you? What are the most satisfying conclusions to a set?
Basically when the lights come on and they tell me to kill the music, that’s when the party is over. And even then I have had people shout and chant songs for another few minutes. There is never a conclusion to a dope DJ set.
Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?
Truthfully I have always felt like an artist from my early toddler years, to later as a teen doing graffiti, to eventually getting into DJing. My evolution has been a great journey that I truly appreciate. I have been lucky and in many ways have chosen to be a curator of music, a DJ unlike no other with a shaolin styles of more than 36 chambers. I’m not claiming to be the best. But shit, I put my life into this passion and have the drive needed to still be into it and still be here in a new world, new game, new DJ culture, and still doing it for HOUSE MUSIC.