In Conversation with… Roger Sanchez
A staple in the rise of New York City nightlife in the 90s and 2000s, and a legend in his own right. Roger Sanchez a.k.a. S-Man has been conquering the dance music circuit since the late 80s riding the wave of creativity, passion, and major success. He’s collaborated with a plethora of music icons including Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson, Madonna, Maroon 5, One Republic, and No Doubt. He is a four-time winner of the DJ Awards ‘Best House DJ’, has produced countless chart-topping hits including ‘Lost’ which reached #1 on the Billboard dance chat, AND he won grammy for his remix of No Doubt’s ‘Hella Good’ in 2002. His name is known and respected across the globe with residencies in Ibiza’s finest clubs for nearly two decades. In Roger Sanchez’s eyes, music is cyclical. ” It’s about drawing influences from the past and re-imagining it in a completely different way.” It taught us to “Release Yourself” and year after year, his resounding, soulful sound keeps us coming back for more.
Data Transmission was lucky enough to catch up with Roger on an off day in Ibiza amidst his crazy summer schedule.
First off, I’d like to thank you for taking the time to speak with Data Transmission. It’s an honour to chat with one of the first DJ’s that I was exposed to growing up in New York City. I’m sure a lot of our readers and listeners are excited to hear about what you’ve been up to these last few years and what you have in store for the coming months. So how has the summer been treating you so far?
Well, at this exact moment I’m lying down by the pool in Ibiza so i’m not doing too bad at the moment.
Oh that sounds terrible!
It sounds horrendous, doesn’t it (laughs) ? It’s actually been a very busy summer so far and it’s been great. I’ve been doing hardcore touring around Europe. I’m doing my summer residency at Glitterbox and Hï in Ibiza. I also played at Amnesia and did the opening at Privilege. I’m touring quite excessively, a lot of movement, a lot of work in the summertime. I just did a back-to-back set with David Morales for Southport Weekender which was pretty massive, it was a lot of fun
Good to hear you’re keeping busy. So where is home base for the summer amid all the touring?
Over the summertime I’m based in Ibiza, I have a house out here. I move around Europe quite a bit but Ibiza is home base.
What are some of the best/must visit spots in Ibiza?
If you’re talking club-wise, you definitely want to check out Hï which is the re-done Space. They did an amazing job refurbishing the space. I also think Pacha is a must visit, especially when Solomun is playing, he’s got a great night there. Find out when the Elrow parties are going on, I believe they’re doing it at Amnesia this year. Those parties are always fun. I also like this party called WooMoon that they do in Cova Santa which is really reallly interesting. Very interesting vibe, different kind of music and a really cool crowd.
That sounds exotic, we’ll have to check it out. After all this partying you must build up some hunger… What is your go-to food spot in Ibiza?
(excitement) There are a few places that are realllly amazing. I think my top pick this year is going to be Coricancha, which is a Peruvian restaurant that the owner of Blue Marlin just opened up. It’s in Las Salinas and it’s definitely my number one pick of the year for amazing restaurants. Another one that’s really interesting is called Heart Ibiza – it’s more of a restaurant/live show. It’s a collaboration between Guy Laliberté (founder of Cirque du Soleil) and his long-time friends Albert and Ferràn Adrià. Albert was the number one chef at el Bulli for years. Heart is an interesting take on street food and they pair that with this kind-of, hmm what’s the word i’m looking for? It’s like burlesque, but it’s not a burlesque show – it’s really interesting! They move you around to different places in the restaurant and it’s an experience to eat there. That’s one experience I would say is definitely worth doing. I have to tell you though, Heart is an expensive night out so you’re going to have to reach into your pockets for that one. Coricancha is not as expensive… its not what I call “street food”, but definitely worth experiencing the atmosphere and food. They’ve got a great Maître D; she guides you through the food so its really worth checking out.
You definitely sparked some interest here, thank you for the recommendations! Peruvian food is always a top pick… will have to visit both spots when we return to the isle. Moving onto some exciting music news…. Some congratulations are in order. Your record labels Stealth and Undr the Radr have recently been welcomed into the Armada family. How did this relationship come to fruition and what motivated this move?
Thank you, thank you! Very exciting news. What’s interesting is that I’ve had these labels for quite some time and I’ve been really focused on A&R and making sure that the music is right. I’ve been noticing that Armada had been reaching outwards trying to get more involved with house-oriented labels and they have a very specific lot of people that they want to work with. They approached someone that I was working with and said “We would be very interested in discussing a possible label deal with Roger”, so I said okay and I sat down with them. We had a great conversation; I saw the business model that they use and we came to an agreement. They have great distribution power, they have the ability to really place things where they need to be, and I like the organization and the way they work. One of the most important things is that I maintain autonomy and make sure that it is a joint venture. They are involved, but everything is about what my vision is for the labels – that is my number one thing – my labels are my labels. I want to make sure that no matter what I do, my vision is respected. Armada embraces that idea and that vision, which is great! And they’re being very supportive of house music which is really great to see, especially with the transition that the electronic music scene has gone through the past few years.
We’ve been following Armin van Buuren (founder of Armada) since the middle school days and its evident that Armada has expanded greatly from their original trance roots. Armada has flourished as a label and the ways they’re expanding, music-wise is very exciting. We believe you’re in good hands so we look forward to more releases from you on the Armada label. Secondly, congratulations on your newest release AND first release on the Armada label. A collaboration with Cari Golden, ‘Work 4 It’ is nice dancefloor ready tune with a lot of soul, perfect for the summer. And it’s making a lot of traction with just one month since its release. How did you and Cari come to meet and how did the idea sprout to produce a track together?
Cari and I have been speaking for quite some time… I’ve been very aware of the things she does and I love the appearances shes had on other artists’ tracks. We actually met in Los Angeles – she came to one of the gigs I was playing because that’s where she lives. We got to chatting and said “we should definitely work together.” I had started working on this track, it was all about the bassline. It had a really dirty, funky bassline… it was very soulful and very gritty. I sent her the track and said, “well what do you think about this?”, and she said “I love this, this is different than what i’m working on.” Then she just nailed it with the song and the vocals. I love the hooks and the catchy vibe that she created. I told her that the most important thing to me is to tell a story and she agreed, so we vibed on that. She laid down the vocals, send it back to me and I completed the production. And there it is.
The passion behind the project is felt from both of your throughout the entire track. We’ve had the latest Stealth records release on repeat since it dropped in late-May, so kudos to you guys. We hope to hear more collaborations between Roger Sanchez and Cari Golden in the future. Can you share with us your approach to separating productions released on Stealth and those released on Undr the Radr?
Stealth tends to be more oriented towards vocals; what some would term as a “classic house” approach, which is narrowly defined in the sense of sound. But it is very much house and it is big on vocals. I try to develop more of “the artist side of things” and try to look for the longer-term artist build with Stealth. Undr the Radr is very much my underground baby; it’s really about putting quality music that moves me from the underground. It could be deep, it could be techno, tech… it’s where I turned to re-introduce my S-Man alias. I felt it was the perfect vehicle for the return of S-Man because I wanted to make a distinction between Stealth and Undr the Radr. Stealth is what people traditionally associate my Roger Sanchez sound with, the soulfulness, the Latin-side of things. The S-Man is very closely associated with Undr the Radr for the grittiness, the grime, the going-right for the jugular; for anything coming from the underground, below the club level.
The grittier the better! You must receive thousands of demos a day… what sticks out to you in a track that makes you want to sign it to one of your labels?
My first determining factor is “Which label will it fit on?” Is it leaning more towards Stealth, or does it fit with Undr the Radr? For example, let’s say i’m listening to that may be more closely associated with Undr the Radr – the first thing is, it’s gotta have something that sets it apart in terms of vibe and the sound of the track. It could be very dirty and rugged, or it could be “cleanly” produced. But there has to be something unique about the vibe that works for the label. The next thing I look for is the ability for a track to hang within my sets. I think about if I drop it in a set, how it will make me feel, and how it will make the crowd feel. if it’s something that really works for me then I know it’s something that will work for a label. Individual styles are very important, I don’t just want to keep repeating the same thing. The other thing that I always looks for is growth. if an artist is sending me different tracks, I want to see how they’re growing and maturing with their productions. For Stealth, if a track feels like it has another dimension to it, it could be a vocal, it could be an instrumental, but it has to have a certain vibe that transcends only a narrow bandwidth of listeners and its something that touches my soul, that’s something that I would gear towards Stealth. It’s about the execution, it’s about the vibe and i’m very personally involved with all aspects of A&R for y labels.
It’s great that you’re deeply, personally involved with every release on each label. You are a pioneer in your own right at delivering tracks that make people feel good and killll it on the dancefloor. You are also THE pioneer of internet broadcast radio having received the first-ever BEST PODCAST Award at the International Dance Music Awards in 2007. The Release Yourself radio show,which began more than one decade ago, has more than TWENTY MILLION world-wide listeners today… How do you keep the show fresh and relevant? How do come about choosing artists to showcase on Release Yourself radio?
I am 100% in control in choosing all the music for the show. I mix it myself and I make sure I take the time out of the week, each week to dedicate to the show. It’s what drives me, it’s my passion for music that keeps the show fresh. I’m constantly hunting for new music. Each week I’m going through hundreds, sometimes thousands of tracks in a week to be able to exactly what I want to do with the radio show, which also translates to the dancefloor. The show is very much a reflection of the dancefloor. I make sure I’m constantly on top of going through new music and i’m really passionate about it. That’s how I keep things fresh.
In terms of where I meet artists that I include in Release Yourself radio, it’s a combination of meeting artists around the world at shows or industry events, and also sorting through demos that I receive. I meet some people on the road, but I also connect with a lot of people online. Many people reach out through social media and I make it priority to constantly stay connected with artists and fans through social media.
That’s great! It’s important to stay connected to your community – artists and fans – through social media; not all artists do. The fans are what keep artists alive. You have a busier tour schedule than most. You’ve touched down in more than 80 or 90 countries, maybe more. BUT — what is one thing you miss about your hometown of Queens New York?
FAMILY is the thing that I miss the most. Not being able to constantly see them all the time. Specifically, I have a lot of family members in Queens that I haven’t seen in quite some time. It’s all about family.
Can we expect a return to New York anytime soon?
Definitely, I’ll be back in the fall. The last NY venue I played was Space; there are a few venue I’m looking into playing when I get home. Possibly something in Brooklyn, but I’ll keep you posted.
Please do, we’re looking forward to your return! Would you say your Dominican background and New York upbringing helped shape the range of your music taste and production style, and if so, in what way?
The Latin sound, the sound from my childhood – the percussive side of Latin music has very much influenced my taste and production style, and what I play on the dancefloor. The beats, the vocals, you could feel my Latin-heritage come through with almost all of my music.
We love the Latin flavor so keep it coming! So for our final question, what would 2017 Roger Sanchez a.k.a. S-Man say to (circa) 1990 -1992 Roger Sanchez a.k.a. Egotrip a.k.a. El Mariach (and the list of aliases goes on and on) say to 1990 Roger Sanchez?
The first thing I would say is, “keep doing what you’re doing because you’re going to get to where you’re going exactly how you’re going. But be careful of some people along the way that might look too good to be true. Just keep on doing what you’re doing. BE YOURSELF.
That is genuine, honest advice and we appreciate you saying that to 1990s Roger Sanchez…
I’m sure he would have appreciated it too 🙂
Roger Sanchez featuring Cari Golden ‘Work 4 It’ is out now on Stealth Records – PURCHASE HERE, make sure you vote for Roger in the DJ Awards this year and If you’re in Ibiza this season be sure to catch Roger Sanchez during Glitterbox Friday’s at Hï Ibiza or chat him at Defected Croatia from 10th – 15th August which includes our Data Transmission Stage for more info head to http://defected.com/croatia/