Name: Roger Sanchez
Occupation: DJ, Producer
Current Event: Roger Sanchez plays London's Southport Weekender Festival on Saturday 9th June as part of 'The S-Men' which also features DJ Sneak and Junior Sanchez. For more info please visit http://southportweekenderfestival.com
Recommendations: I’m a bit of a sci-fi nerd so I would recommend Philip K Dick's “Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep” which was the basis of Blade Runner. For art, my favorite has always been Salvador Dali - Galatea Of Spheres is one I have always been drawn to.
Website / Contact: If this interview with Roger Sanchez sparked your interest, visit Roger's facebook page or soundcloud profile for more music, news and tour dates.
When did you start DJing - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What what is about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I started at 13 years of age - about the time I was breakdancing and fell in love with the idea of controlling the crowd rather than being just in it. I always felt able to connect to others through art and music, and DJing just drew me in.
For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you? How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice? What is the the relationship between copying, learning and your own creativity?
In the beginning I wanted to have grooves and beats that no one else had, but that reminded me of what I was heading. Latin rhythms, hip-hop and disco were all influences. I would sample beats and bass lines and then reconfigure them to give me a vibe.
What were some of the main challenges and goals when starting out as a DJ and how have they changed over time? What is it about DJing, compared to, say, producing your own music, that makes it interesting for you?
When I started, the technology was more limited but it allowed me to focus on creativity. I had less options to work with so I had to use the turntables or the limited synths and samplers to create ideas. Now everything is digital, more compact, and also a lot easier to use and that allows more people to be able to play and make music.
How would you define the job and describe the influence of the DJ? How are the experience and the music transformed through your work?
The job of the DJ is to take their audience on a musical journey and connect with them. Personally, I remix everything on the spot to create a unique experience every time I play so that no two sets are exactly alike.
What was your first set-up as a 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?
I started with a Technics Sb 100 turntable and a Rotel turntable and a Gemini mixer. It was very ad-hoc but I learned how to adapt myself to any setup from that experience. At the moment, the CDJ Nexus 2 and Nexus 2 DJM 900 mixer are my main gear.
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?
Machines excel at amplifying and accelerating the rate of productivity - it’s up to the human to provide the creativity and that’s where we excel.
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?
My schedule changes depending on my tour commitments. But I try to be consistent with getting up in the morning and going to the gym, breakfast, and work in the studio on music and then spend family/personal time later in the day. It’s important to have personal time - no matter how hard I work, I try to maintain something for myself to give balance to my life.
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?
I listen to a lot of new and also hard to find tracks before my sets and create a playlist of music that I might play without constraining myself to a fixed and predictable 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?
When I’m playing my state of mind is open to receive the vibe of the audience. What I play will often be determined by who is in front of me and how I vibe with them.
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?
I layer loops, accapellas and different tracks throughout my set. When two tracks are well balanced, they each provide some element that the other doesn’t have that compliments it. When I see the crowd in front of me I feel their vibe at the moment and that will lead me to the next few tracks.
Would you say you see DJing as improvisation? As composition in the moment? Or as something entirely different from these terms?
DJing can be a combination of improv and structure. A good DJ understands how to pace his set according to the crowd and where he wants them to go emotionally.
How do playing music at home and presenting it in the club compare and relate? What can be achieved through them, respectively, and what do you personally draw from both?
Home listening to me is indulgent and also about research. Playing it at a club, you can see the effect your selection has on the crowd and refine your selection accordingly. I allow my ideas to come at home, test them out and take that experience to lead me creating new music and further expanding my sets.
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?
I always start out with feeling the vibe of the crowd and attempt to connect with them that way. It allows me to choose what I play based on feeling and emotions. I can feel when the energy in the room spikes or goes flat and from there I decide what I want to play to take it up or down.
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?
For me closing time is usually marked by the venue saying “that’s it!” But I mostly play until I feel like I have musically said all I could and told my story and I close out then.
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?
For me art is like food - it’s a necessary and wonderful element of life. It’s expression and communication and my approach is to do whatever feels honest and in the moment - be it a set, a production or background music.