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Q&A: Roger Sanchez

Today, we are chatting to Roger Sanchez about his background in music, how he got started in mixing, and more...

Where did you grow up as a child? Was there always music in your house?

I grew up in Queens in New York City. New York itself is like a melting pot of different ethnicities, different cultures and different forms of music. In my house, there was definitely music. But, my family, my mom, particularly was the church going kind.

My mother really wasn’t really into ‘worldly music’ lets say and we got that kind of music through the radio. I think the music that was played had that Latin influence on me.

How old were you when you first started to take an interest in music?

I would say as early as 8 years old – I really loved music.

Who were some of the DJs and producers inspiring you?

From a DJ perspective it was guys like Red Alert in the Hip-Hop days because that’s where I very much started my career. Then as the years progressed, DJs like Tony Humphries, Larry Levan, and David Mancuso – These guys were legends in New York and their musical influences really embodied what the spirit of New York was. I’ve drawn from different elements of Latin with my background, early Hip-Hop, some Funk and really kind of mashed it together.


When was it you started to mix records?

When I was 13 years old, prior to that, I was a break-dancer and I actually got into music through dancing and that’s really where my love of music comes from and really started blossoming into something that was more structured. It was a love of being on the dance floor. My friend was a DJ and I seen how he could control the dance floor in front of him and that really influenced my vibe. From that point that’s when I knew I really wanted to get into music.


Was there a group of you who would break-dance together?

There was a bunch of us doing it! A few guys from my high school that I would dance with. We had a crew of people, we would break-dance on the sidewalk in Manhattan. You know, it was fun!

Can you talk us through some of the clubs you started to DJ at? Who were other DJs on the line-up?

Well initially I did a lot of residencies where it was just 1 DJ on the night. In my early DJing days I was playing at places in Queens. One of the clubs was called club Bora Bora. I was promoting my own event called Ego Trip at different clubs, starting at Mars and then going to the Octagon and that’s really where it grew and became a big thing in New York at one point. This is when I started to make records too.

Can you remember what the first ever record you bought?

The first record I bought was when I was a kid was called ‘Chocolate Train’ or something like that; I don’t even remember what it was! But, when I actually started to buy records properly, I believe it was, ‘Let No Man Put Asunder’ – It was the first Disco record that I bought.

Your vinyl collection now, how many records do you think you own?

Well to be honest, I have reduced it dramatically. There was a time when I had 30,000 records.

WOW! 30,000 records? That’s insane. Where do you keep them all?

It really was insane! First I had to keep them in a room when I lived in Manhattan and then I got a storage room when I moved to New Jersey. Then I reduced my collection dramatically. Right now, I have about 2,000.

And what about all the others? Where did they go?

I gave a lot of them away, I sold some, I swapped some records with friends, some I lost, and some I just never got back from people! There are some vinyls where I’ve tried to track people down to get them back and they just vanished!

A lot of them were doubles, triples, I used to belong to a Record Pool and I used to get rerecords every single week. What I’ve got it down to now is the essential records. The ones I really want and need!

Your most prized records?

The ones that I’ve kept from the original 30,000 are ALL prized records to me now. They’re all so special. But if I HAD to pick 3, lets see…

What’s your longest set to date?

I believe it was 17 hours.

Wow! How did you prepare for that?

A lot of the preparation for sets like that comes from organisation of music and pace. You know, it’s a marathon and you need to have the right mentality. You have to mentally put yourself in a place where you can last. The way I pace a set is very important, I might make some records last a little longer. I will change the tempo as I’m going through the night. All those things are so important because it allows you to draw out the experience. ‘Tantric’ for a better word.

If you could collaborate with anyone who would it be? Producers, bands or artists, dead or alive… anybody!

Producers like Trevor Horn – His compositions, the way he spaces elements and sounds.

I love Bjork; I’d love to work with her.

The Alan Parsons Project, that was an amazing band. A bit ‘prog-rock’, they did some very interesting things with sounds with the technology they had at the time.

‘Another Chance’ is STILL a huge record, not to mention the video, did you ever expect it to blow up to be as big as it is today?

Not at all. When it came to making the track, I really wanted something underground to finish the album… and some how ‘Another Chance’ came out.

How did the video come about? Did you have the vision for it?

In that instance, the director Philippe André, a French director, had a vision of how the song emotionally made him feel. He told me the idea and I said ‘This is perfect!’ It captured the real emotion of the bitter sweetness of the track. He got everything perfect.

I think everything about that record and video goes together so well. The lyrics, the red heart, the emotion of the track.

100%. He gets all the video kudos for that! It’s something that resonated with a lot of people, you know? And I felt he captured that vibe perfectly.

Why is it important for you to inspire the next generation of DJs?

I think it’s important to be able to pass the torch on. Also, another good thing is, I learn from people too, just as much as they learn from me. They have a different perspective, a different approach to music because they’ve come from a different era than I have. I like to listen back to how people have interpreted what I’ve done and then take inspiration from that to push myself. It’s always good to see what inspirations I’ve had on another artist – Kind of a boomerang effect.

If you could offer anyone any advice to budding DJs, what would it be? Network? Work non-stop? What would it be?

My main thing is, you have to really focus on your love of music. Nurture it, grow and treat it. Make that your priority. Focus on that rather than the trappings of what people feel they can get out of it.

If you focus on the music, that’s always going to be what leads you forward and what gives you a longer career. People come in and out very quickly because they lose sight of what’s important. You always have to have your ears and eyes on the music.

So dig deep? Research tracks, artists as well as genres?

Yes and always making it the priority for the motivation for making and playing.