Todays celebrity culture is interesting because I find myself in an interesting position where I have a certain level of fame but Im not at that level where people want to read about me every day and I think Im glad about that- I dont want a million people reading Hello magazine to see a story saying Roger Sanchez put on 4 pounds. Im 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, its a laugh at someone elses 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 hes more than a little interested in celebrity though is the first to concede reading about it is essentially a guilty pleasure.
I think its like watching a train treck or a car crash, its a gruesome fascination thats 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 arent the ones that interest you, its the ones about people cheating on each other. I think people want to see celebrities be taken down a peg (humiliated) to feel like theyre 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 theyre not better off than I am.
Leading a life thats 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, hes friendly and surprisingly unaffected and down-to-Earth. Currently finishing another successful season of Release Yourself dates at Pacha, Ibiza, hes shifting priorities to promote his new album Come With Me, his first since 2002s 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 its 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: Its about funny things in life that happen, some things to me, some to other people though Ive written it in a first person narrative. Its a little tongue in cheek but its about the situations we all go through. I must say Im quite surprised that that is the track lots of people are vibing for when its 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, Ive had every job you can imagine from selling shoes for women, to working in grocery stores and an architects office, Ive 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, youre done.
Skrufff: Have you ever been sacked from a job?
Roger Sanchez: Ive 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, whats your slant on house culture right now?
Roger Sanchez: Its interesting because its fragmenting to the point where its 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 subgenres are getting a bit silly- if somebody does one little different production technique they morph it into a different genre. I think itll will reach the point where its 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: Its very easy for me to constantly try to do something different because I love what I do, the difficult part is the execution, youve got to be on top of the game. Theres always a lot of new competition and areas to keep on top of but Im always hungry, always have been and think I always will be so Im able to focus on it and always try something new.
Skrufff: Does it get harder to stay at the top over time?
Roger Sanchez: Its not a matter for me of trying to stay at the top its a matter of trying to stay at the top of my game of what I do. Theres 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 everythings gone horribly wrong?
Roger Sanchez: Theres been hundreds of times things have gone wrong, Ive just been fortunate enough to have made the best out of whatever situation has happened to me. Ive had managers and best friends whove passed away and career changes that a lot of people dont even know about. I think Im a bit relentless as a person so I refuse to allow anything to put me down or hold me back. Ive had to fold a couple of record labels for example, thats cost me quite a lot of money but its 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. Ive 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 wasnt 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 its been in then at the same time, its really not. If you look back in history, which is something I do a lot; I love reading about history, weve been living in much more perilous times in the past but the difference now is the level of communication that shows you whats going on. We all know whats 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 cant even bring toothpaste on the plane. Its annoying but also eye-opening to see exactly how precarious life is in so many different places. Its also something you cant 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 dont 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 Ive had. I also give thanks to god for everything Ive got. There are other people that havent been presented with the same opportunities I have but at the same time, others have much more than I do, so theres 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 youve ever actively explored?
Roger Sanchez: I was raised in that environment, my mother is a minister so thats always been a part of my life. I think Im very open-minded to different creeds and beliefs around the world in the sense that I dont disparage anyones beliefs. Ive 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 youve ever been excluded?
Roger Sanchez: Not at all. I dont 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 dont need drugs as an access point- Ive always been able to feel the music naturally. Ive 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. Ive 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 Im such a person that likes to be in control of myself and fully aware of whats 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 doesnt serve any purpose for me.
Skrufff: Do you find it difficult at all to mix with others off their faces?
Roger Sanchez: Its interesting because I like to observe. A lot of people that I know arent 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 youre DJing, you cant be blind to it, but at the same time I can observe a crowd without having to partake in it.
Skrufff: Youre living in Ibiza in the summers which has been struck by some serious ultra-violence this season, such as the shootings in San Antonio, whats your take on whats happening?
Roger Sanchez: Those shootings happened on a certain section of San Antonio thats really gone down hill whereas the rest of the island seems to be doing really well. Unfortunately theres 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, youve got all these multi-million pound villas up here, its only logical that at some point someones going to get the idea of hey, lets clean them out. Its 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: Ive got security though not guards. I was broken into last year, it happens. They didnt get an incredible amount, just laptops. I dont keep money in my house. I dont 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: Hes had a very interesting life, Michael, hes an anomaly. Hes an incredibly talented person that Im just not sure whether he can recover from the position hes in. I have a sneaking suspicion its going to be a bit difficult for him to come back. Everything is so transitory nowadays, I dont think hes as relevant as he used to be. Hes gotten relegated to this freak hall of fame which is a shame because hes such a talented individual and hes 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, youve got to love, love, love, this life because its a hard road if you really want to get anywhere- if you really want to get anywhere, theres a lot of competition. Youve got eat, breathe and sleep it. Presentation is very important, and be persistent.
"Come With Me" is out now on Stealth Records
Jonty Skrufff (JontySkrufff.com)