My roots in music and life come from Puerto Rico where I was born and raised. When I was 13 years old, we moved to Chicago. Musically I grew up with Latin music, Salsa & Merengue. I remember being a kid and going to the beach where Beer companies would sponsor big events, this was my first taste of good parties, they had massive beach events with some of the very best of the Islands music in the 70’s and 80s. It was there where I picked up on rhythm and beats, I have a strong bond with the beats I produce because of this. It was when I landed in Chicago that I started exploring and being schooled in electronic music, specifically early Chicago House music. Logistically I live a very simple life, loving things and enjoying all the experiences that life brings my way.
Growing up you landed a job at a record shop? what was it like surrounded
by the music you love?
I started searching out some of Chicago’s best record stores when I was fairly young and would go to whatever ones I could access by bus or train. I was very lucky to get into the business but I actually started in record stores as a GRAFF artist designing Airbrushed T-shirts live. I started working at a store near my house called “The DJ Shop”. At the time, I was mostly designing t-shirts but started selling records when I was not busy with my designs. My love for vinyl was instant. My life long journey with records continued when I heard of another store opening and they had a dope store front, so I sold them my idea of the t-shirt designing and my wicked ability to sell records, they hired me, this store was called “the Hip House”. I did about 4 years there, where I sold everything in the store and had become manager and the main buyer of all music sold at that time. I sold many of Bad Boy Bill Mixed Tapes in the early 1990s. After putting in my hours I decided to make a bold move and try producing and doing the DJ thing around Chicago. I quit retail and focused on production to then take a part time job at the world famous “Gramophone Records” where I worked for a while as I was fine-tuning my DJ skills and production knowledge. The retail knowledge I learnt by working these jobs was priceless and gave me what I needed to know about the music industry, selling records was one of my most favorite things to do, I was a fierce sales person before I was DJ Sneak.
How did the people you met at the shop influence you?
Working at several records stores around Chicago influenced me a lot, it’s sorta the baseline to what I do and how I do things, it’s my grass roots. Well thought out plans with executions to see things thru came from the retail days. I tell you this, I had the time of my life at Gramophone Records, this record store was so special and at any time you would have the right people all there shopping, talking, drinking, smokin’ or just hangin’ out. I was surrounded by some of Chicago’s best as well as DJs from all over the world, because if you loved vinyl, Gramophone was the spot to be. I was very blessed to be part of that history and I miss it, the days of records stores were priceless.
You’ve remained a constant force and advocate for house music.
What drives you?
I am very inspired by other music in general, I listen to a lot of different stuff at different times, at home, in my studio, on the road, wherever I am I’m listening to something musical. But the most important thing about being a “constant force” is that I am very disciplined when it comes to my time in the studio. I wake up everyday at 8:30am, have coffee and get online and live on the Mac. I check in, I listen to what’s out there and then I get to serious work. I am a very dedicated person when it comes to making music, this is the only way to survive these days. Making music is what I love to do, then I share it and then go and tour to play it live … ain’t nothing wrong with that! A lot of times people think I’m on top of the world just chillin’ enjoying champagne and caviar and not working, but that is not the case, I work everyday that I can, I get what I put in everyday. Real talk, and this is why there is so much DJ Sneak out now, and for the last 16 years … I’m constantly working at it!
Who are some up-incoming talent you’ve brought under your wing? What’s it like to be a mentor for many and what type of advice to you give?
I have tried to bring many people under my wing, sadly most of them wanted the free ride and not put in the work needed to make it and succeed. These days I support many people but I do not like saying I have a crew, I have many good close friends in the industry and many more I meet on my tours. I am very open to listening and responding to people I meet and I do give the love and support. I am not untouchable, I am very much for the people and part of them. I feel honored and blessed that many young producers look up to me but I really want them not to focus on my success as a DJs, but more so on their own work, talent and passion. I always tell people to do it because they love it and for no other reason. Truly the best advice I can give anyone in this industry is to always try harder, work harder, create more, share with others and do it for the love, if you do this you will receive all you want from true admirers of the music. House Music is a beautiful craft that should be respected and put in front of all the glitz of the industry. I want people to be doing this for the right reasons, not to be a famous Douche bag. Learn the history, get inspired, get creating and challenge yourselves to make the best you can and you may have a good chance to get somewhere in this industry.
1. Can you explain the “I’m a House Gangster” concept
2. It’s evolving into more than a slogan but a sub-culture within the genre.
what is the direction and goal?
Great question! I want people to finally hear about the idea behind this concept, how it got started and what’s happening with it now. It all started about 4 years ago while putting together a game plan for WMC. I was still buzzin’ from a Blog I wrote about House Music, the state of the scene and industry, and how whack it was all getting. The idea was to create something simple, a statement piece that would let others know that it’s not about the glitz, the glam and the BS of the industry, but about raw love for TRUE HOUSE MUSIC. The concept had to be something that everyone who truly loved and respected HOUSE could be a part of, a way of creating a worldwide movement of people who are ready and willing to show their passion for the sound … The concept is not about one single person but a collective. It was then that the HOUSE GANGSTERS were created and they have been growing worldwide ever since. I know some people think Gangsters are criminals that are up to no good but I see it differently, I see a Gangster as someone who has passion and love and will stick by something no matter what. That is exactly how I feel about House Music. Even when everyone was saying that House was dead and it was trance, electro and all the other crap flooding the sound waves, I stood by my sound … I could seriously care less about what everyone else is following and will stay true to HOUSE. By saying “I’M A HOUSE GANGSTER” I am saying that I love and support true House Music no matter what!! When you are a HOUSE GANGSTER you are showing your love for the true sound, not all the other BAD music that it out there that is being labeled as House …. It’s actually getting kinda ridiculous and I have to tell you that more than 80% of the music out there that is labeled as House Music is NOT HOUSE MUSIC!! … not even close. This is why the HOUSE GANGSTER concept is so important to me, I feel that now is a crucial time for people who know and respect true House music to take a stand and take their sound back. I will continue to do what I can and will NOT allow Chicago House to disappear because of some trendy new jack style. True House Music is here to stay!!!!!
Over the years you’ve established three labels: Magnetic, Oomph, and Leg
can you discuss the difference and what your plans are for the future?
Magnetic, Oomph and Leg are all lined up with releases for the rest of the year. I have plenty of great collaboration projects for Magnetic with a whole load of new Sneak Joints, along with love from Chris Simmonds, Jay haze, Monoman, Hector Moralez, Phil Weeks and few others. Oomph is still developing and I am always looking for the right tunes for this underground label, there is a nice selection of EPs coming in 2011. Leg will have many legs walking around soon, the game plan is pure House Music, the best of the best!
Recently you’ve obtained masters from a few of your original productions
can you share what’s happening in the studio?
Ohhh Yeah!! Now this is also something I am very excited about! I’ve been a mad man in the studio sampling stuff from my old floppy disc from my old Akai S950 sampler and came across some of the best of DJ Sneak Classics, so I started a new label to feature some of the 1990s classics and added a twist with new remixes plus original mixes remastered. Last year I re-released “You can’t hide from your bud” which kinda started it all. So now I have a new label called DJ SNEAK CLASSICS which features some of the favorite tracks from the past. Get ready for a whole year of new EPs releasing very soon, don’t miss it this time, some of these will be very limited and exclusive. I am always working on the next one so don’t worry the good old nineties style house is back jack!