Active As Ever, Sasha Might Be the Hardest Working Icon in Dance Music
The Welsh legend’s got WMC in Miami, his new ‘Vapourspace’ EP, and a hopeful foray into film composition to talk about.
When hopping on the phone to interview one of the bonafide icons of dance music such as Sasha, the temptation to explore his legendary status is great. After all, there is ground that you could cover for days—his acid house roots in the late '80s, the early '90s partnership with John Digweed, the many diverse production and remix credits to his name, and his groundbreaking use of live audio engineering equipment. However, it's just as important to note that the Welsh DJ is as active as he's ever been, and limiting any kind of conversation to mere nostalgia would miss the point entirely.
Sasha's past in the electronic industry may be historic but his present career remains too bright to simply rest on his laurels. He's coming off another cruel winter in New York City—where he has been based for the snow season over the last decade—and has his sights firmly set on Miami's Winter Music Conference to heat 2015 up. Plus, locked and loaded in Sasha's arsenal is a new EP, Vapourspace, which has been setting the electronic soundscape ablaze.
Cold as it remains, the weather in New York is a small price to pay to be at hand for the city's recent clubbing renaissance. "It's fantastic. Absolutely fantastic," he tells me. "The scene is so vibrant at the moment. It was struggling for awhile. The only decent place was Cielo and it only holds 300 people. Then all these warehouse parties started happening and the opening of the new official clubs. I love Verboten and Output."
Overall he thinks North America is in a massively healthy state. "Yes, of course, it's dominated in places by the EDM lot and commercial end of it," Sasha confesses. "It's still hard to play a Las Vegas show that feels right. But I've seen these fantastic spots all over the continent. Miami especially. Los Angeles is tremendous and Beta in Denver. I've been having great gig after gig. Some small places, some bigger spaces. In Canada, I did a fantastic show in Vancouver. It's all really positive. It feels like there is room for everyone to get along with each other."
In general, it seems hard to make it through any DJ discussion period without the topic of Miami popping up, let alone right before WMC. But that's just how important the Miami Music Week is, especially to a decade old veteran of the event like Sasha. Even the prelude excites him. "The two weeks leading up to Miami is my favourite time of the year for music. Everybody collectively starts getting their shit together. I get sent so many records that it's almost overwhelming. I'll get three or four months worth of material in the space of five days."
This year, the onslaught of new tunes has Sasha primed for three completely different WMC sets to prepare for. "At my Last Day On Earth boat party, I need to keep it pretty light and funky with vocals and stuff like that. It's just one of those gigs where there is no pressure, there's an open bar, everyone's liquored up at 3 PM... it's the first taste of sunshine after a brutal winter for a lot of people. It's one of my favourites to do every year. Then I think the Ultra show is going to be big room where Vapourspace will definitely be getting dropped. And with Crosstown Rebels at Get Lost, you can, well, get lost and a bit weird."
A lot of the time, artists do spread themselves quite thinly at WMC and you see some playing at five or six different parties. Sasha tried to actively avoid that. This year he really wanted to focus in on people connected to the Last Night On Earth label showcase. The Ultra appearance positioned between Guy J, Dixon, Tale Of Us, and Maceo Plex on the Resistance platform is also of great interest to him. Sasha played many of the festival's earlier editions but it's been awhile since he's been back. "I'm happy they've incorporated a stage with such a fantastic grouping this year. I think the lineup speaks for itself. It doesn't feel out of place either."
Sasha's recently released EP Vapourspace—keep your ears out for it in Miami—has become a huge talking point for him. While he's still active with remixes and an Involver compilation mix series, it's the first true piece he's done as a solo act in the last few years.
"The thing is, I decided this year that I was going to release some out-and-out club kind of peak-time records," Sasha reveals. "There's a lot of stuff we've been working on in the last little while. We've been pitching for film and TV work, we've been doing a lot of melodic and ambient stuff, we've been recording a lot of vocals... but we hadn't actually been making much music I can play. So in January we decided to get our techno trousers on and create some dance floor weapons. This is the first one."
So far, the reactions to Vapourspace has already left Sasha quite overwhelmed; taken aback even. "The response has been brilliant. We weren't trying to make anything too clever with this record, we wanted to make something that would be big. It's nice to have something that I can play out at the peak of my set. To just unleash it, really."
Sasha has always been drawn to music that has a sort of introspective, melancholic melody to it. Be it a banging techno track or an abstract and funky euphony, it's always stuff that grabs you emotionally. This accounts for the foray into film composition, something Sasha has wanted to attempt for some time.
"We have been pitching for certain things in Hollywood. I've actually really, really enjoyed the process of constructing those kinds of themes. It's like writing club music without the beats. A lot of the time, with my records, we would spend far too long just obsessing over the kind of ambience and the details. A lot of stuff gets lost once the beats start pounding."
He's been inspired by the more left-of-centre soundtracks rather than the big action movie ones. For Sasha, it's composers like Cliff Martinez who did Drive and Traffic, or Trent Reznor from Nine Inch Nails who now scores David Fincher pictures. Those are the guys he is aspiring to be like and the mood he desires to create. "They really fit with my music. So we've been experimenting with a lot of that."
At the rate he is going, it's like Sasha is operating without the legendary status attached to his name. As if his legacy was still unsecured and feverishly in the making. The fire still burns in the 45-year-old superstar, which means there has been zero chatter of him taking his foot off the pedal. "I've got to keep doing this. It's weird, I feel like taking time off, your energy runs down. But working every weekend, touring every weekend, and exploring new avenues keeps me fresh."
Sasha will be appearing over the Winter Music Conference in Miami at the Last Night On Earth Sunset Cruise, Ultra Music Festival, and Crosstown Rebels Present Get Lost. You can purchase Sasha's 'Vapourspace' EP by clicking here.
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