From humble beginnings in New York City, diggin’ in dusty crates of old vinyl and spinning at house parties in Corona, Queens, to dominating huge dance floors and headlining festival main-stages in every corner of the globe, Roger is truly a self-made man and a house music legend. The crafting of Roger Sanchez, the DJ, started in the late 80s, where as a young man he was enticed by the explosion of hip-hop that was taking over the city. Embracing the culture as a b-boy and graffiti artist, he would hit parties on the Bronx River and before long, his friends had him trying his hand on the wheels of steel. In a time and place where hip hop, house music, and “turntablism” all collided in a perfect storm of creativity, opportunity, and sick beats, Roger seized his moment and began to build his empire on vinyl and slip mats, starting with a few singles and expanding into a massive collection of over two thousand original productions and remixes.
You started DJing when you were 13, do you remember sneaking into your very first raves and what was your earliest moment of wanting to become a DJ.
I think for me it was watching a friend of mine who was a DJ at the time [playing] house at the neighbourhood block parties and I used to see him and I was a dancer at the time and watching him DJ made me want to do what he was doing which was moving the crowd.
Do you think kids making music now have it too easy and do you think producers were forced to be more creative when you were starting out?
See for me I think that whatever the tools that you are given the creativity lies in how you utilize them. So it’s not that now they have it too easy – they have a lot of resources available, back then we had to hunt a little bit more but that was part of the fun, it can be fun this way now but it all depends on how creative the individual is. So it’s not a matter of better or worse it’s just different.
How would you say being born and raised in NYC affected your drive to become a DJ and a creative person, in general?
I think NY is a very rich and diverse city with many cultural influences and mixtures of art and music. This has helped me develop a large palate of influences to draw from for my own creative ideas. The architecture of NY alone inspires me.
Despite the touring, you also maintain a rather prolific studio schedule. What would you say is a vital piece of production gear to you? If I asked you that question 10 years ago, what would your answer have been?
Now my answer is very different from 10 years ago. I travel with a mobile studio set up- My computer, microphone, apogee sound cards and 6 terabytes of portable hard drive. 10 years ago I needed a full studio setup with an Sp 1200, banks of synths, ect – production equipment has really become miniaturized and mobile!
You’ve won many prestigious awards in the past for being a DJ and Producer, but if we had to take it back to the fundamentals and also for young DJs reading this, how would you describe your own way for “reading the crowd”.
For me the most important thing is to look out on the floor and pay attention to what people are responding to, that will give you an indication of the direction you want to go in. As a DJ part of your job is to entertain and to educate the crowd. You can LEAD the crowd if you understand them and the only way you can understand them is by looking at them and paying attention to what you play that works. If you see something work then you know that this is the thing they like, if it’s not working chances are you should try something different.
Working with Billboard and running your own label you must go through so much music on the daily, who are some producers you’ve been keeping your eye on lately?
Carnao Beats, Andrea Oliva, &ME and Cocodrills.
Two great vocalists that have more recently featured on Stealth are Mr V and Robert Owens. Do you have any particular singers you like a lot who you would love to feature on the label?
Like all time favourite artists, like Bjork? I like Sade. I like unique voices. Sometimes I like a big powerful vocal, but sometimes I like more intimate voices. I see them like different colours and you put them on different palettes. I really like James Blake, he has a very distinctive voice. Florence Welch.
Quite a few big tracks from recent times have also used some more muted, understated or, like you said, a more intimate sounding vocalist. Is there not room for a big voice like a Chaka Khan or a Loleatta Holloway on today’s floors?
Absolutely. Chaka’s one of the most amazing, ever. Of course there’s room for voices like that. It’s all about finding the right palette.
How you describe your last 2017 for Roger Sanchez and Stealth Records?
It was a very busy year, finished a lot of collaborations and productions and on the last summertime has been very intense tour wise so a lot more tours and new music.
After all these years, what inspires you to get up and get on that plane to travel around the world to DJ? Are there any locations you have yet to visit?
I love what I do. Its that simple. I love being able to play for different crowds and see how music touches them and be a part of that experience. It inspires me.