This story is over 5 years old.


Sasha Discusses His New Remix, and the Importance of Breaking the Rules

The deep-house legend opens up about the difficulty of perfecting a track, and how he’s avoided the mainstream EDM crush.

Last week, Sasha graced Toronto's CODA nightclub for a sensational, driving set that had the entire room packed and moving. Before he stepped up to the decks, we sat down for half an hour to talk about his career, the upcoming release of his remix of London Grammar's "Hey Now" and what he thinks of the electronic music culture today.

As an artist who has pretty much seen it all, from the early days of acid house at the Hacienda to the super clubs of Britain in the early 2000s, Sasha has had a unique position on the cusp between mainstream success and underground relevancy, always playing the fine line between the two with flair. The way he explains it, it's about always needing to maintain a certain balance.


"If I just played the very coolest parties, only 300 person-clubs in Berlin, if I was just that obsessed with doing the coolest things, I wouldn't have the level of success that I've had," he says. "I think it's important to embrace the mainstream things that come along—I've always tried to approach them a bit differently, to try to bring something new to the situation or my own reading of it."

Over the years, Sasha has become a part of and influenced by many genres and major movements in dance music, but has never been swallowed up by mainstream commercial success. He just knows how and when to pick his gigs.

"There was a time when I belonged on the main stage, but that was also when the main stage audiences were a bit more accepting of different sets—it's a very different audience now," he says, considering the question of how he's managed to escape the pitfalls of mainstream EDM.

"I think ten years ago, you would go to a main stage and expect to hear a house set, a techno set, all mixed up together, whereas with the sonic relentlessness of EDM, there's nothing that can work alongside it. It really is about the biggest breakdowns, the biggest drops and the biggest buildups. I just don't fit in there anymore."

Sasha goes on to explain that the commercializing of dance music was exceeded what even a veteran like himself had expected. "You know, it did its thing in England and kind of died out, then America got a hold of it and went ballistic," he says in observation of the recent wave of interest in DJs. "There are always those parties and those people making this scene unique. Those are the ones I focus on."


Aside from being highly selective about the gigs he plays, Sasha's expertise at navigating the instability of fame in the electronic music world comes from his ever-evolving sound. Never shy to embrace the new, Sasha finds himself inspired by the up-and-comers who are constantly changing the music landscape. His musical coming-of-age steered him away from eventually being branded into any one particular category or genre, all the while "carving my own path through it, providing my own interpretation."

"I straight up refuse to be pigeon-holed, essentially," he asserts. "You know I grew up in the Hacienda where they mixed up De La Soul, hip-hop records, Italian house with piano breaks; it was one big, glorious mishmash. That's how I learned to DJ."

With his remix of tech-house trio London Grammar's track "Hey Now," Sasha pays homage to the eerie, haunting quality of lead singer Hannah Reid's room-filling vocals while rounding out the sound to create a dreamy yet driving dance track that fits perfectly with visions of late, hot summer nights. "It's funny, I had already heard the first four tracks of London Grammar's EP at home before they brought it to me—I've always been a fan of that distant, melancholic sound. I really try to inject that into what I do, so this was a perfect match."

The "Hey Now" remix is a prime example of Sasha's ability to identify the zeitgeist of current sound, while bringing his own signature flair to the table. "When I was asked to do the remix I was really excited for it. It actually ended up being a lot harder than I thought it would be—whenever you're working on a remix, and you love the original song, sometimes there's a danger of you being a bit too reverential and getting caught up with what their intention was originally. I wanted it to be perfect."

So where are all the good parties now? Sasha says he finds many in his country of origin, the UK. "I think there was really a reaction against the big commercial sound, and people really enjoy going out and listening to underground music again. I think between the UK and Germany, that's where a lot of the sounds are broken, and that keeps their scenes moving forward so well. No one is afraid of breaking the rules, because that's the only way to innovate a sound."