Getting to know DJ Sneak

Let’s start from the origin: we all know where you came from musically, but more generally, do you remember your first contacts with music, before the first beats, where your love for music come from?

SNEAK: I was born into music, particularly Latin music from the island of Puerto Rico, which is where I was born and spent most of my childhood. From the very first time I saw a salsa band playing on the beach, I knew I was a musical kid and that music was going to be a big part of my life. I remember the first time I touched a turntable and record, I was only a kid, I was visiting a friends house and his mom had an old turntable and some classic records – Elvis, the Beatles but mostly “Fania All Star” the best of Puerto Rican Musicians from the 1970s. I didn’t know at the time that this would be my calling, but when I ran into the turntable again when I hit Chicago, that was it, I discouvered what I was made to be doing.

When you left Puerto Rico moving to Chicago what was the most profound change you’ve noticed in the relationship between people/the city and music?

SNEAK: There were definetely some big changes and culture shock! I went from paradise with palm trees, sun & beaches to cold, bricks, & sirens. The one thing I did discover during my first summer in Chicago was the Music! House Music was being born around 1984 –1985, some of the best innovative music was being tested in the streets of Chicago before it hit the clubs.

And then, when and how did the skip to electronic music happen? How did you approach to it?

SNEAK: I started like most people did, listening to the radio stations. Before the MTV era, there were loads of great guys on the radio doing crazy mixes, even live sometimes. You didn’t have to walk far on a Chicago street before you found someone with beats bangin’ from a boombox or a car stereo. Sometimes you would find 3-6 cars parked all tuned into the same station, the music would be blasting, we would be dancing and this is how we enjoyed it in the (hood) ghetto.

Before you set up the chance to live in this way, what were your plans and objectives for your lifes and when did you understand that this way was your way?

SNEAK: I was just another Chicago kid listening to others and waiting for the chance to get to DJ anywhere. In the hood all you do is get in trouble, become an athlete or become a DJ. I chose to be a Graff Writer and DJ to stay out of trouble in the streets.

Among the various things you did during your life, you have worked at the “Gramophone Records”. What do you think this job has given to you, besides, of course, to broaden your musical culture?

SNEAK: Well, before I worked at Gramophone Records I had put in my time in several other record stores around Chicago. I was working really hard at the time to make a difference even then, I helped the Radio Djs get their music, I listened to peoples cassettes they would record from the radio mixes to figure out the tracks played the night before so that I could sell them to the regular DJS that would come into the shop. I did about 5 years at a store before quitting to do music and eventually working at Gramophone as a sales person so I could still be in the music scene. My years working in the record shops were some of my most favorite times, it taught me a lot about coming up and finally gettin into the business, I think it was better than a College Education. It was a hands-on experience, dealing with people and learning what they like and most of the times even convincing them they should buy certain records because they would come looking for it weeks later. I was the best at the shops, no DJS were left behind when I worked, I knew all the music and sold all music even if it wasn’t my taste.

In 1983 you moved to Chicago. We can everywhere read of the deep relationship that you had and you have with this city. I really want to deepen this relationship: what did you give to Chicago and what did she give to you?

SNEAK: Chicago was a great experience for me, it is a Big city with lots of things to learn. Chicago showed me to be hard but gentle, it showed me real house music, Graffitti life, it showed me that people respond to great tracks and really get down when they are played right. I learned about UNDERGROUND and the REAL meaning of that word, it’s a culture, a way of life, my life was changed by all of it. I am grateful that I had the chance to be schooled in Chicago.

And today, what do you think of its evolution in electronic music?

SNEAK: Personally I think Music has hit a sad stage, nothing new is good, nothing is innovative, it’s always frabricated and over cooked like a bad salmon steak left on the grill for way to long … DRY!  Electronic music has evolved but not really in the best way. I remember when there were real MUSIC PRODUCERs that used studios and every peice of work they did was created by putting in time so it was the best they could do. Now any idiot that gets themselves a computer thinks they can call themseves a DJ/Producer. I feel that there is no real care for the craft, there is no respect and it’s just become a joke in hopes of becoming famous. Most so-called producers are just slapping shit together, or better yet, paying people to slap it together, and then expecting some credit for stuff they do not even put any input into creating. I feel that it’s not really about the music or the content, it’s all about creating some POP shit track that gets played and supported even though it sounds like crap. I miss the old days simply because peopel cared about the QUALITY – Quality of Music, Quality of Events, Quality of club culture – all of this has been overshadowed by the mass bullshit that the industry is today.

What usually brings you into the studio? What kind of motivating force, what kind of desire? How do you feel when the track is finished?

SNEAK: I go to my studio because it’s my favorite place to be, it’s my passion to make music. There is no real motivating force, it’s just what I do.

Talking about your productions, which programs and hardwares accompanied and abandoned you over the years?

SNEAK: I miss the analog sound, I use to run everything Midi, I mostly miss my out board gear, sampler, drum machines, simple equipment that made magic when it was played with properly. I’m mostly using Mac and Cubase now but I still try to bring that old school analog sound, I still use my Akai S950 Sampler to ripp the sounds and samples from floppy disks that I’ve saved through the years. I’m sitting on a mountain of gold … analog rules.

Which are, in your productions, the ones you get along with most, the ones that really mean something to you and why? Imagine that the all productions have been fundamental to you, but which were the ones that most confered you strong feelings during your listenings?

SNEAK: I really love my first releases that were created back in 1995 ‘till 2000. The original sound of DJ Sneak is still on vinyl somewhere and most people feel the same way as me, them tracks I put out were not all the greatest or even th best but the message behind them will always be there, I made raw DJ tracks for DJ’s to play. I started as a DJ and have always given my real love to the people who went out and spent their cash on my records. I hope they still have them because they are more relevent today then ever.

We know you love cooking… What is your favorite recipe? 

SNEAK: My recipes are usually Puerto Rican cuisine, being born in Puerto Rico had a huge impact in my life and cultural ways – I love my people, my music and my Rice and Beans.

In 2001 you created the “Magnetic Recordings”. Why did you create the label, what is its guideline?

SNEAK: Magnetic was an outlet of releasing my own music on my own label, I just needed to create something that said DJ SNEAK and Magnetic has become that label. The guidelines are simple – good jackin House music a la DJ Sneak flavour.

Nowadays, electronic reality got complicated and manifold, it became a world where you are actually forced  to choose what to listen to and what not, just because listening everything is humanly and unfortunatly impossible. In this ocean of music, which are the artists who are catching your attention,that you’d really define some “artists” (we know the list is endless but what if you should make a selection?!)?

SNEAK: You know, I have tried to help many, even take them under my wing but the problem these days is that this new generation wants everything upfront without putting in the time, love and dedication. I will not mention any names, all I can say is that most of these new producers need help. I will always listen and try to guide some of them but they need to put in time and do real HOMEWORK if they want to make it, I believe the people on top were the last ones to make it. If you did not make it 10 years ago, it’s really not a good time to get into it, unless your mind and sound is AMAZING and you only do it for the love.

On September 20th, you will play at the Space of Ibiza for the Carl Cox 10th Anniversary closing party. There will be others great artists like Loco Dice and Tini, in short, an evening not to be missed! How about this party? What do you think of the combination of your sound to that of Carl Cox?

SNEAK: I have real respect for Carl Cox, he is a great DJ that has been in it for a long time. I’m sure the party will be great and I can’t wait to get on and show people what DJ Sneak has in store. I wish I was playing back to back with Carl cause it would be a crazy experience of real DJS that love the craft. None of this prerecorded ~ fabricated POP show that most DJS in Ibiza and around Europe represent.

Is there some rite, some lucky charm has always followed you before or during your set?

SNEAK: I’m always ready to go to work, I don’t fake it, I just come to do my best, show people why I am who I am. I have no gimmicks, I have no magical fairy dust. I just come prepared and focused to make people enjoy their night. Ocasionally you will see a cloud of smoke and that is just me smoking the greatest herb in the world.

How do you feel the set? Do you Usually follow a more systematic approach or would you rather do all at the time seeing how the audience reacts?

SNEAK: I don’t pre think my sets, I know what music I have with me and I just jump in and do mine, I am very unpredictible but the people know that i will rock it for them, in any situation.

Before leave, tell us what you love most about your job, what does it make you shiver when music, audience and you become only one thing?

 SNEAK: I love DJing, I figured out a long time ago that I had “IT”, that I was put here to do this music thing and be the person that I am. I’m a force that you will feel when you see me, I represent the Real, I am like everybody else but I have the ability to make people feel happy when they see me or hear me. I feel lucky that I am one out of the many thousends of DJs that has survived even through the shittiest times in Music and DJ Culture. I will always represent what I love, I am House Music, always will be. A House Gangster for life!


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