Sneak recently spoke with Italian dance music website Soundwall about Puerto Rico, Chicago, Twitter, Magnetic Recordings, Glastonbury and everything else in-between!
For more than 20 years DJ Sneak has been almost a synonym of a special kind of house music, pasionaria, straight from the heart. In order to protect the integrity of his music, he pushes forward a quiet revolution, yet maintaining the attitude of the real House Gangster. As an immigrant from Puerto Rico, he moved to the Chicago suburbs in search for experience and started his career early on, growing up very rapidly thanks to his hard work. Nowadays he has a lot of upcoming projects, also with his label the Magnetic Recordings: ‘Moody Warehouse Music Vol 2‘ will be out on Beatport promo on August 18th and the full release on September 1st. This record provides his personal perspective on such unconventional spaces, embodied by the careful track selection. For those interested in seeing his live dj sets this summer will provide plenty of opportunities, especially in Ibiza where he will take part in Carl Cox’s ‘Music is Revolution‘, hosted every Thursday at Space. DJ Sneak is a very generous man and does not spare himself: even over a brief chat he was able fully to convey his personality and the elements that contributed to his rise in the scene up until today.
You were born in Puerto Rico, do you ever go back there and is there ever any influence from Puerto Rico in your music?
Come on now, it’s what puts the soul n rhythm in my beats, Puerto Rico is with me wherever I go! Musically I was very inspired by the Puerto Rican sound of Salsa, in the 1970’s, even though I was only a kid, I knew the music, my uncles and mom used to play them all day around our family home. Incredible times for me. Later in Chicago I became another kind of pupil to a new sound in the states, mostly in Detroit and Chicago. I was there when it all started to evolve from disco into warehouse music, now best know as House Music.
You have received many awards in your career, or for sure, you have achieved important goals as a dj. Which of these has made you most proud of?
I’m still here doing the do! I am very proud of my achievements and goals accomplished, no one served me up a career in djing or producing, that was all intuition and a drive that kept telling me I could overcome the obstacles in life. I got into djing for the love of it all, I started at point zero to get here, I truly enjoy it and I know it shows in my performances, I put my heart out on the table and say let’s play! To be honest I think this is my true career accomplishment, there are few djs who still do this for the right reasons and I’m proud to say I am here doing it for the love and with passion.
At the Kappa FuturFestival in Turin you played b2b with the Martinez Brothers, how was it? If you can choose with whom share the stage, who would it be?
Truthfully we had a blast, we just carry this vibe and we connect as soon as we see each other. Chris & Steve are good kids and they have what it takes to be great in this industry, they are the future and are rising fast. Playing with them is like playing ball in the hood, it’s all love, laughs and good times, I may be the more experienced in the field but these boys are quick on their feet and they know how to play, this is what creates a vibe and I know people enjoy watching it. We actually never plan these things, we just jump in and trust each other to do our best. Most of the b2b I have been part of have been very much like this, recently with Cajmere in Glasgow, last year with my friends and colleagues Derrick Carter & Mark Farina on a tour we did, and most recent with Doc Martin which is my favorite DJ to b2b with cause he’s a dope ass dj.
What is a ‘house gangster’?
This collective of amazing people represent REAL house music, played and produced by some of the most talented but often overlooked dj’s/producers in the world. At a time when everybody was shitting on deep house and house music in general I was staying firm that House music was not dead and would not let it die. I started writing blogs and being very outspoken about the music I love, so for me its being passionate about my style of house music, the one with soul, with rhythms, with vocals, with great concept, not some over saturated over mastered piece of shit sounding track with massive hype from a PR team trying to make you believe it’s the best thing in the world. For me being a House Gangster is standing up to everything and everybody who dares to disrespect something I hold dearly in my heart. I’m a House Gangster for life till the end of time.
You have lived in Chicago, how was life there? did you witness any gang violence at the time? tell us about one of your fondest memories of the Chicago house scene and how living there had an influence on your music. How does that compare to living in Canada now and the scene there?
I lived in Chicago from the winter of 1983, it was the first time I encountered the craziness of snow, bricks and sirens – the shock of Chicago. In the summer of 1984 I started to encounter gangs activity and quickly had to learn to survive without getting capped by some fool for wearing the wrong colors. In LA there were only 2 colors to follow, blue and red, but in Chicago these fools loved colors so they actually got fancy with matching them into gangs. I never really fell deep into the negative side of this lifestyle, it was a shitty way of living really, not much to do but watch your back, but I learnt quick (and with strong guidance of my mom) that if you kept your nose clean and did your best to stay away from the bullshit there was a possibility of coming out alive and well. I really used growing up around gangs to learn how to survive. The first gigs I played where held in city halls full of kids ready to get crazy over someone stepping on some fools new Jordans. The stomping grounds were hard coming up but it made me the man I am today, hard ass and not taking shit from no one. Chicago was one hell of a huge influence on me and once I put my mind on the music I was ready to achieve great things, it just took a lot of hustle and a hard ass attitude. I was turned out by a great group of really artistic and talented people that actually cared about each other and what they were doing, we created our own gang, I guess you could say we were the original House Gangsters. We would get together to party and bond, there was a special group of us that really enjoyed each other’s energy and we were totally influenced by each other. I will forever be grateful for my time in that city. Living in Canada is a different thing, for me it’s not about the scene, it’s about my home life, my family, my studio time; all those great things I hold closest to my heart.
You’re definitely a fan of twitter, or at least you use it a lot, and with no filters. Don’t you care about the fact that maybe this exposure can damage you in some way?
I do care, but not about loosing fake friends and likes. The internet has created a very insecure society that depends on this false alter ego people often use to make themselves look cool or feel special, online friends and likes are not real and they mean absolutely nothing in the grand scheme of things. The internet is a very strange place but at the end of the day I have the right to put my opinions out there just as anybody else does, if people get offended most of the time it’s because they don’t like to hear truths and it makes them reflect on themselves. I try to always say it how I see it, or put things out there, simply because I feel if I don’t no one has the balls to do it, but also because that’s how we all should be, honest, truthful, accepting of who we are or who we’ve become. I’m just human, honest and proud, that’s me, if you don’t like it, we don’t have to be friends, plain and simple.
You are certainly a cornerstone of the parties of Ibiza, how is it playing there? What has changed over the years? What is/what was your favorite party?
My favorite parties are the ones that people come to really get down and not just be on their phones looking and posting like they are having the time of their lives. Ibiza has changed but there are still lots of great little events and parties that still feel right to be at. I have been around every summer since 1996 and have got to enjoy plenty of great parties, all you have to do is wonder off to things that most locals know about but really don’t want to share cause they will all get tainted by the bad rep this island is getting. From the big events, I mostly enjoy Sankeys & Space, they’re always bumpin.
3 favourite songs?
It’s unfair to just ask for 3 songs > as you can imagine after 20 something years of DJing it’s really impossible to just choose 3 tracks, I love good music and all tracks have their time and place, I can’t say I play the same 3 in all gigs. The good thing about good music is that it’s timeless.
With your label Magnetic Recordings you have the freedom to publish and choose to work with artists that you prefer. What characterizes your label? How are these collaborations born? What is the lowest common denominator to be part of your team?
I launched Magnetic Recordings back in 2000, it was really a label to call my own and a place to release my own music, and it became an outlet for DJ Sneak Beats. Through the years I have also released music from a few producers that I think really fit the (MO)… I don’t have a rule book, the music has got to touch me in some way for me to want to release it, things and sounds change but the Magnetic Beats have always gotta stay Jackin Funky! All I really look for in music from people is that they put their all into it, to the point that it’s the best they have done. We got many more projects on the way, some on Vinyl most Digital but were back in it stronger than ever.
With all of the labels that you have collaborated, what was the release that you are more related to?
Truthfully I miss the early years of the releases I put out, starting from 1994 – 2000, music was great, house music was awesome to buy, play and enjoy. I really did enjoy the Henry St, Strictly Rhythm, Classic & Casual Days when I was droppin’ the beats and they were all on vinyl, plus played by some truly amazing djs.
It’s well known that what moves you in this work is your passion for music. More than once you have blamed these young djs and producers to be focused only on the business side. Do you think it is possible to improve this situation? And if so, what would you say or advice to these people?
I advise all to step up their game when it come to music production and playing live, challenge themselves to be more creative, get of the bandwagon of these wannabe Superstar DJs. I can truly say most of these so-called DJ stars hate the music they play, they just play it to get famous and rich. I really believe that most of these guys at one point in their dj lives probably were in it for the right reasons but then the business of it drove them to try for bigger fees and more fame, in return they all trade the love for the art for money, then once they’ve got their status they act like serious Douche Bags walking around like they are bigger than Prince (PRINCE is a REAL STAR BTW). I often stand around the same festivals, or around Ibiza, where I see the attitudes of some of these very NORMAL insecure brats who have become DJ Stars over night by being pre-packaged like a marketing experiment. The next time you look up to these kinds, and you may get lucky to have a word to ask them, ask them if they really love the music they play.
What can you tell us about ‘Moody Warehouse Music’ project? As you said: ‘This project is all about my mood when playing in warehouses and unusual venues’.
Most cool events are happening in Warehouses across the world again, I think people want to be free from the bottle service and VIP shit. Most people want to feel like they’re not bound to all the rules of nightclubs and deal with the “you’re not cool enough to get into my place” attitude. The Moody Warehouse Music goes along with the same attitude of freedom> moody, grimy, deep, jackin, raw sounding music, to make you want to find a groove and a “shorty” to dance with.
How was playing at Glastonbury? And in general, what is your favorite festival?
Glastonbury was definitely an experience, I was actually coming from another daytime party I played in Palma and I just got in on time to make the trek from Gatwick to the Festival area. As I had expected, it was a really muddy wet place, as I rolled thru the several areas to find my Stage I saw something that looked like a Mad Max movie with fire balls in the sky, zombies, vampires, red eyes, people really intoxicated to the tits, but what can you expect at 4-6am on a mad weekend! Over all it was a trip to the deepest deep in the rabbit hole, it was fun to play triply west coast style psychedelic hypnotic rhythms, it was very fun indeed.