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Roger Sanchez on Ibiza Crime, Drugs & Celebrity Fame ::

Reported by Olly @ Trackitdown on September 18, 2006

“Today’s celebrity culture is interesting because I find myself in an interesting position where I have a certain level of fame but I’m not at that level where people want to read about me every day and I think I’m glad about that- I don’t want a million people reading Hello magazine to see a story saying ‘Roger Sanchez put on 4 pounds’. I’m not going to lie; I look at these magazines too, because if nothing else, you get a laugh out of it. But the problem is, it’s a laugh at someone else’s expense. The cult of personality is so dark and deep in Europe these days. It seems much more voracious here.”

Chatting down the line from his Ibiza villa, US funky house star Roger Sanchez admits he’s more than a little interested in celebrity though is the first to concede reading about it is essentially a guilty pleasure.

“I think it’s like watching a train treck or a car crash, it’s a gruesome fascination that’s a bit morbid at times,” he laughs,

“The worst part of it is that people always want to see celebrities doing badly. The nice, nice stories about people having kids aren’t the ones that interest you, it’s the ones about people cheating on each other. I think people want to see celebrities be taken down a peg (humiliated) to feel like they’re on the same level. The average person leads a very monotonous, mundane life with not many chances coming their way and when they look at the lives of these celebrities and see them having problems they can think ‘they’re not better off than I am’.”

Leading a life that’s far from ordinary, Sanchez remains in the upper echelons of mainstream club culture, over 15 years after he emerged as one of the biggest stars of US house. His latest biog begins by describing him as a “Grammy award-winner, no 1 world chart toppers and globally revered superstar DJ/ producer”, though despite such hyperbole, he’s friendly and surprisingly unaffected and down-to-Earth. Currently finishing another successful season of Release Yourself dates at Pacha, Ibiza, he’s shifting priorities to promote his new album Come With Me, his first since 2002’s First Contact, from which he enjoyed a number 1 pop hit with ‘Another Chance’.

Skrufff (Jonty Skrufff): Was Come With Me an easier album to make than First Contact?

Roger Sanchez: “It was probably more complicated because it’s much more song orientated and was more challenging in terms of finding what the right rhythm and vibe was that I wanted to run with. In the end though it wrote itself. The way I do it is to start working on each individual track then as the songs take shape a pattern emerges. I try to start with too many preconceptions to leave myself open to any possibilities that emerge.”

Skrufff: The track that stood out for me was the Again track in which you talk about being fired and caught cheating by a girlfriend, what was the story behind that?

Roger Sanchez: “It’s about funny things in life that happen, some things to me, some to other people though I’ve written it in a first person narrative. It’s a little tongue in cheek but it’s about the situations we all go through. I must say I’m quite surprised that that is the track lots of people are vibing for when it’s the last track that I would have expected to hook people in.”

Skrufff: Have you had any regular day jobs when you were a young contender in America?

Roger Sanchez: “Oh yeah, believe me, I’ve had every job you can imagine from selling shoes for women, to working in grocery stores and an architect’s office, I’ve done them all. I know how it feels to get to work late for the fourth time in a week and to be told by the boss ‘just pack it in, mate, you’re done’.”

Skrufff: Have you ever been sacked from a job?

Roger Sanchez: “I’ve been let go once.”

Skrufff: The music business and club scene is changing a lot at the moment with minimal and electro-house for example shaking up many clubs, what’s your slant on house culture right now?

Roger Sanchez: “It’s interesting because it’s fragmenting to the point where it’s almost coming together again, there are so many different genres and sub genres now. But I usually play a wide cross section of styles of whatever music I like and I try to bring all those different elements together. I think all these sub—genres are getting a bit silly- if somebody does one little different production technique they morph it into a different genre. I think it’ll will reach the point where it’s all one genre again- which is cool for me.”

Skrufff: Your biography starts with the line “Grammy award-winner, no 1 world chart topper, globally revered superstar DJ/ producer”, how easy is it for you to stay motivated?

Roger Sanchez: “It’s very easy for me to constantly try to do something different because I love what I do, the difficult part is the execution, you’ve got to be on top of the game. There’s always a lot of new competition and areas to keep on top of but I’m always hungry, always have been and think I always will be so I’m able to focus on it and always try something new.”

Skrufff: Does it get harder to stay at the top over time?

Roger Sanchez: “It’s not a matter for me of trying to stay at the top it’s a matter of trying to stay at the top of my game of what I do. There’s no point in actually trying to stay at the top because there are so many things that are always changing- this year trance might be popular, next year industrial, minimal or whatever- you try to stay on top of what you do personally.”

Skrufff: Looking on the surface, you appear to have enjoyed a career of relentless success, have you had any major failures or times when everything’s gone horribly wrong?

Roger Sanchez: “There’s been hundreds of times things have gone wrong, I’ve just been fortunate enough to have made the best out of whatever situation has happened to me. I’ve had managers and best friends who’ve passed away and career changes that a lot of people don’t even know about. I think I’m a bit relentless as a person so I refuse to allow anything to put me down or hold me back. I’ve had to fold a couple of record labels for example, that’s cost me quite a lot of money but it’s a matter or viewing everything as a learning experience and making sure you learn from them- and to not make the same mistakes again.”

Skrufff: Sandy Rivera told us recently about being jailed as a teenager for carrying a gun to school and Todd Terry and David Morales moved in gangs in their youth, did you go through a gang phase, growing up in Queens?

Roger Sanchez: “Living in New York it was difficult to avoid gang culture at one point of time I was hanging out with the cats from Zulu Nation, there were gang wars in my area around Queens, I used to live in a rough area called Lefrak City. I’ve been held up myself and had to fight quite a lot when I was growing up, it was a fact of life.  But I was fortunate not to have gone to jail, at least not for any length of time. I got locked up once for writing graffiti and was charged with juvenile delinquency but I was never a stick-up kid. It was just one of those situations you grew up with, survived and became stronger. I wasn’t doing gang graffiti I was a writer with my own tag and I used to do stuff like that.”

Skrufff: Your press releases always emphasise your spiritual interests, how do you see the state of the world today, are you very politicised?

Roger Sanchez: “The world is one of the strangest states it’s been in then at the same time, it’s really not. If you look back in history, which is something I do a lot; I love reading about history, we’ve been living in much more perilous times in the past but the difference now is the level of communication that shows you what’s going on. We all know what’s going on now in every remote corner of the world. So it affects us much more, because the world has shrunk. I travel constantly and it affects me directly when I can’t even bring toothpaste on the plane. It’s annoying but also eye-opening to see exactly how precarious life is in so many different places. It’s also something you can’t reason with, which sucks. Many people are made to suffer because of the actions of the few.”

Skrufff: Do ever feel any sense of guilt with the privileged life you lead as a DJ?

Roger Sanchez: “No I don’t feel guilty because I work very, very hard for what I have. What I do try to do it look after the people that are closest to me and I try to be a positive influence. I take care of my family, I take care of other people in the latin community sometimes and I try to give back some of the good luck I’ve had. I also give thanks to god for everything I’ve got. There are other people that haven’t been presented with the same opportunities I have but at the same time, others have much more than I do, so there’s a balance.”

Skrufff: You mentioned thanking God, some of the original house music pioneers such as Farley Jackmaster Funk and more recently Jorge Jaramillo have become born again Christians, is that a route you’ve ever actively explored?

Roger Sanchez: “I was raised in that environment, my mother is a minister so that’s always been a part of my life. I think I’m very open-minded to different creeds and beliefs around the world in the sense that I don’t disparage anyone’s beliefs. I’ve also never been into drugs or anything like that so I have a slightly different lifestyle from a lot of people who do what I do.”

Skrufff: Do you find by not doing drugs that you’ve ever been excluded?

Roger Sanchez: “Not at all. I don’t feel excluded I think what happened is that a lot of other people have connected with different aspects of the music whereas for me I don’t need drugs as an access point- Ive always been able to feel the music naturally. I’ve never felt the need to try something chemical to get me to that state..”

Skrufff: So you never, ever taken drugs at all?

Roger Sanchez: “Not once, I swear to you, not once. I’ve got no curiosity for it, either.”

Skrufff: Do you drink alcohol?

Roger Sanchez: “I drink lightly a little wine and the odd shot here and there but I never get drunk or drink to excess. I think for me I’m such a person that likes to be in control of myself and fully aware of what’s going on around me, I assimilate information all the time and I need to be in control of my psyche. I never want to ‘get off my face’, it doesn’t serve any purpose for me.”

Skrufff: Do you find it difficult at all to mix with others ‘off their faces?

Roger Sanchez: “It’s interesting because I like to observe. A lot of people that I know aren’t on drugs but some of them do take drugs occasionally and when they do the change in their behaviour is very evident. I try not to surround myself with people who are caning it constantly. You see it on the dance floor when you’re DJing, you can’t be blind to it, but at the same time I can observe a crowd without having to partake in it.”

Skrufff: You’re living in Ibiza in the summers which has been struck by some serious ultra-violence this season, such as the shootings in San Antonio, what’s your take on what’s happening?

Roger Sanchez: “Those shootings happened on a certain section of San Antonio that’s really gone down hill whereas the rest of the island seems to be doing really well. Unfortunately there’s also been a spate of robberies. Any places that develops and has a measure of success will always attract people who want to take advantage of it, you’ve got all these multi-million pound villas up here, it’s only logical that at some point someone’s going to get the idea of ‘hey, let’s clean them out’. It’s a bit of a problem in paradise but people will just have to learn to deal with it.”

Skrufff: Do you have loads of security guards at your villa?

Roger Sanchez: “I’ve got security though not guards. I was broken into last year, it happens. They didn’t get an incredible amount, just laptops. I don’t keep money in my house. I don’t have a whole lot of stuff here in Ibiza. The things that are really important to me are my wallet, my passport, my ipod and my telephone and I always take them with me. I keep my money in the bank.”

Skrufff: You remixed Michael Jackson in the past, what do you make of his life these days?

Roger Sanchez: “He’s had a very interesting life, Michael, he’s an anomaly. He’s an incredibly talented person that I’m just not sure whether he can recover from the position he’s in. I have a sneaking suspicion it’s going to be a bit difficult for him to come back. Everything is so transitory nowadays, I don’t think he’s as relevant as he used to be. He’s gotten relegated to this freak hall of fame which is a shame because he’s such a talented individual and he’s made some amazing music. But unfortunately, sometimes things take the course that they do and people lose touch.”

Skrufff: What advice do you have for DJs wanting to follow in your footsteps?

Roger Sanchez: “The key tip is you need to be very diligent and ready to do a lot of self promotion, you’ve got to love, love, love, this life because it’s a hard road if you really want to get anywhere- if you really want to get anywhere, there’s a lot of competition. You’ve got eat, breathe and sleep it. Presentation is very important, and be persistent.”

"Come With Me" is out now on Stealth Records


Jonty Skrufff (