Our House Magazine interviews DJ SNEAK
A man like DJ Sneak needs no introduction to the House music fraternity, he’s a true Chicago legend and can rustle up one of the baddest BBQ’s in the business. Apart from flipping the meat with the spicy salsa and rocking dance floors the world over with his trademark Jackin’ sound, he’s partial to the odd manicure and pedicure at his health spa that he and his wife part own in San Francisco, but what else has Puerto Rico’s most famous House export been up to?
Sneak, thanks for finding the time to chat, how is 2009 treating you so far and what‘s been happening?
Thanks for asking me to be part of your interview. 2009 has been great so far, I’ve been working in studio like mad, recording loads of new traxx and doing some side work, I’m always working.
You were born in Puerto Rico but moved to Chicago where you learnt your craft. When did you move there and where do you call home right now?
My family moved to Chicago in 1983, I lived there till about 1997. Now I live in Toronto Canada, I’m a Canadian man and loving it.
What’s your earliest childhood memory in terms of your connection to music?
I guess it was when I was like 4 or 5 years old, my mom loved to go to family parties and events, we did a lot of dancing. Latin music was my first love, then eventually some stuff like the BEE GEE’s and “Stayin’ Alive”. I remember when I was still in Puerto Rico, the movie Saturday Night Fever hit the island and everyone was loving Disco, I really got into that stuff too.
When did you first discover House music, and at what stage did you make the transition to DJ and produce?
I first heard HOUSE music in 1983 on the Radio, the music grew in me and I spent every Friday and Saturday night recording mix tapes from the weekend shows. After a few years, I’d say around 1986, I bought my first records and starting DJing. I believe it was in early 1991 when I bought my first drum machine, the Roland TR 909, and then I was in it full time.
A lot of the Chicago heads we speak to name check Ron Hardy as one of their early heroes and influences, who were yours back then and who are they today?
I was mostly influenced by the DJS on the radio, Wbmx 102.7 fm was the best DANCE music Station for like 10 years and a lot of great Djs and producers were playin’ every weekend live to Radio. Farley JM funk, Ralphie Rosario, Mickey Olive, Mario Diaz, Kenny Jason, all the HOT MIX 5 DJs were great man, I was hooked to the radio all weekend long! My personal favorite at this point in my life is Derrick Carter.
If you had the night off and you could check out any DJ of your choice at any venue in the world, who and where would that be?
Derrick Carter, he does it for me, he’s my mentor in many ways, and he’s also a great friend. If I had to pick a location to see him play, I’d have to say at an underground warehouse or loft party in Chicago.
You were recently spotted playing back to back with Ricardo Villalobos, how did that work out then because you two have very different styles don’t you?
I have known Ricardo for some time now and we both have great respect for each other. The idea of playing together was unplanned and just sorta happened. It was actually the promoter from Sunrise/Sunwaves and our friend Catalin who suggested it, he felt like experimenting and so did we, so we went for it. It was a great experience for all involved, we just played stuff to compliment each other for the full 4 hours. We both like good tracky stuff and we both love Latin so our music worked well together. It was great fun, the way it should be! We rocked it and we’ll hopefully do it again.
On a lot of your graphics over the years, there’s been a strong graffiti presence, do you have a bit of history being a graffiti writer?
I love the Culture, Hip Hop, Graffiti and House Music, it’s all in my blood and they were all a big influence on me growing up. Whenever I get the chance to incorporate it in my records or releases or just anything, I go for it. It is very much a sneak thing.
What format do you use as a DJ nowadays, do you still use vinyl or CD’s or have you switched to using software such as Ableton Live or Serato?
Come on now, I’m old school!! I’m not going to knock the new ways of DJing but It seems kind of not fun to be staring at a frikkin’ laptop while you are trying to play, drink and have fun too. I’ve created a good system with CDs that works for me, I’m very happy with that. No LAPTOP DJING for me thanks.
I do really miss playing out with vinyl but I definitely don’t miss carrying it around! I still have all my records so I spend a lot of time recording and cleaning up old classics as well as doing edit of things to recycle the lost great music. I love playing the classics that the new generation of KIDS may have missed.
If you hadn’t of taken your chosen path in what you do today, being a DJ and producer, what do you think you may have ended up doing?
I would probably be some sort of Teacher; I love kids and teaching people how to do the right things.
I’ve just got the new Loco Dice wax ‘Pimp Jackson Is Talking Now’ and your remix is ace, are you feeling any other styles of house of late other than what your known for?
I’m really reaching out to everybody that loves House; I often find that minimal is just funky TECH HOUSE or even Deep House. These days I find myself re-educating and trying to get new people into my style, and I find that when I branch out and explore working with others it is a great way to bring people over to my side, it gets people who love other styles into exploring CHICAGO HOUSE and I love that! It’s all about HOUSE MUSIC, the true source cannot be denied.
What new tracks can you put us on to that we may not know about and are likely to crop up in a recent DJ Sneak set?
Humm tuff question, I’m full of music and I’m like JAY, I don’t write shit down, I just go with the flow. Whatever I’m feeling at that moment is what I’m laying down for you all. Every Set is a new Story.
Have you any new material due out or mix comps that we should know about?
I’m currently promoting and touring for this new compilation called BACK in the BOX for NRK records, it is the best of SNEAK SOUNDING music you will ever get to listen to. I love this double-pack as it really represents the style of music I have been known to be part of. I think for some this will be a great THROW back CD, but for others it will be the representation of the best ERA of House music. I’ve also got many other projects on the Burner but I’ll fill you in on those in the next interview.
If all else fails, what one record past or present will guarantee you get the dance floor back and what’s your favourite record of all time?
I would most likely use one of my own cause I know how to get a party going, no matter where or how big or small, I come to do work. “U can’t hide from your bud” still sets the crowd off!
What does the future hold for DJ Sneak?
The future holds to much to mention at this time but know that I still have a million more beats to make and so much more to release … all I have to say is “get ready to shake your asses off!” At present time I have an Album on the way and I am working on my Digital takeover with a huge Catalogue of great house jackers. Get ready for it cause it comin’ your way!