One More Time: Interview with Sasha

Sasha says fun-DASS-eeon, I say fun-DAY-shun. But we called the whole thing off when I talked to the internationally adored and revered DJ in advance of his final Fundacion night at Avalon Hollywood. Not only is the man wrapping up his first ever bicoastal US residency, but he's giving us all a party favor to remember him by in the form of the mix CD, Fundacion NYC in stores on June 21st in the US. I caught up with Sasha in London to querry him about New York City, his protégés, and of course, Beyoncé. He plays Avalon for the final Fundacion in Hollywood on Saturday May 28th.

ZEL McCARTHY: We're talking in this particular instance because you're getting ready to do the final Fundacion in Hollywood, and the disc is about to drop. Everyone here in LA is excited about it. We've been enjoying your visits.

SASHA: It's been a real success. I've been blown away by the response, really. The idea to do a residency in the first place was something I was always a little unsure about, you know? Up to now I've never come on a regular basis, so it was definitely more of a gamble than the New York show. It's been tried and tested in New York, but both of the residencies have been phenomenal. New York has been great, it's my home city right now, for this part of the year anyway, and it's great to be there with my friends every month. The response around the LA show is different, but I've just been going from strength to strength and I'm sad to see both residencies end. The idea of doing it in short bursts and having a big beginning and an end – it leaves it open to come back maybe in the future, but it also makes it more special, I think.

Z: And you're always welcome in Los Angeles. But as for that NY/LA thing, the new disc is Fundacion NYC and not Fundacion LA. I have to ask, why LA got dissed?

S: It didn't get dissed! This is going to be a series…it's just the first in a series and I had to pick one city and New York is home at the moment. All the cover art was shot within a block of my house. It's a really personal album and a lot of stuff on there has been really big in the New York club. And I really like the idea of messing up the New York graffiti vibe and having that as the cover rather than the normally really slick artwork. There will be Fundacion LA at some point in the future.

Z: Well, I should hope so! But in the meantime this album is excellent, it's very electro at times, too. You've got a diverse selection from Goldfrapp to M83 to Swayzak. How did you go about choosing these particular tracks?

S: DJing at home and playing around, seeing what works. Definitely there are tracks on there that are real parts of the residency – like the Behind the Wheel track and the James Holden stuff – that have definitely been signature records for the residency. I wanted to capture one of those nights and allow me to flex my muscles a little bit in a DJ style rather than how I did with Involver. Even though it was a compilation, we approached it as a production record. Whereas this album really kind captures what you can do from a DJ point of view.

"The cover art was shot within a block of my house... I really like the idea of messing up the New York graffiti vibe."

Z: Did working on this make you hungry for your next artist album?

S: Absolutely. We really want the next Involver album to push the boundaries of that mix/production hybrid album even further, and for the tracklisting to be even more diverse. I've definitely called on a lot of electronic tracks and a lot of friends like the Luke Chable track and the Felix and stuff like that. I think the next album is going to have a much more diverse tracklisting in terms of the source of the records. I've already got about half the album mapped out in terms of what I want to use. That's going to be a fun project, when it comes together.

Z: When do you think you'll have time?

S: I don't know. Depends on what comes up, you know? I've got a lot of different things. I've got this album, I've done the music for TV with CSI. I've got a few different things this year. We'll see what happens.

Z: What was CSI project like?

S: It was great. I just provided them with loads and loads of raw material, little ideas, about 45 second bursts of music that we composed for them. It was really fun to see it come together.

Z: Had you watched the show before working on it?

S: No, they just mapped out what the show was going to be about and the intensity of it. The production schedules for TV shows are so quick. They turn around so fast. So it was really just a case of vibing with the music supervisor. It was the first time I had done a project like that and it's definitely something I'd like to be doing more of.

Z: I'll alert the people out here.

S: And we'll be doing a press release when we find out what date the show will actually be airing and stuff like that.

Z: To go back to Fundacion for a bit… last month you yielded much of your time to Steve Porter and then you guys did that amazing spin-off at the end. I had actually talked to Steve a few months before that and he had said how wonderful of a support you've been for him in the past few years.

S: He's a good guy. I love Steve.

Z: He's so cool!

S: Such a nice fuckin guy. He's got such a great energy. It's really a two way street when you talk about the support I've given Steve and people like James Zabiela because I get such a buzz DJing with Steve and James and people like that. So even though I help those guys out they energize me as well.

Z: Have you thought about doing a collaboration with him?

S: Musically? Yeah, I'm sure we'll get together at some point.

Z: When it comes to collaborations, fans are always asking and speculating if you and Digweed are ever going to recombine for a remix or something?

"I'm definitely going to be getting back into remixing. The Involver project, that's ten remixes in one go... but I just did a mix for Faithless. "

S: I don't know. We're both so busy, we've both got our own mini empires on the go. I'm sure we'll get together at some point, but I don't know when.

Z: Every time one of you comes to town – he's been around with Liquified, and you've been doing the Fundacion – people are always wondering.

S: Oh, I know. In fact, because we do play together so rarely these days, when we do come together it really is a special occasion.

Z: Being on the road so much, do you have any touring rituals?

S: I'm a complete foody. My ritual is logging on to Zagat's or getting a local food guide and finding the perfect meal in every city that I go to so I can recommend places to eat to my friends. I really spend a lot of time finding the perfect meal.

Z: And you never get fat either!

S: I don't know… my beer belly is definitely starting to come a bit as I'm getting older. I really need to get down to the gym a bit more.

Z: Hopefully there's a good one in your hotel. Speaking of the gym, well this is totally a change of subject, but I read not too long ago that Beyoncé has an onstage persona that she calls Sasha. I don't think it has anything to do with you.

S: I didn't know that! I have an onstage persona called Beyoncé.

Z: That's what I thought! But seriously, are you like another guy when you play? A bootylicious popstar, perhaps?

S: I'm definitely in my own world. When I'm DJing, when I'm locked into what I'm doing I definitely go to a different place in my head. It's definitely a higher state of functioning. It's not black and white like a complete Jekyll and Hyde situation.

Z: What part of yourself have you been bringing to the Fundacion experience?

S: I've never really hosted a night before and it was something I was really keen to do. I always play for other people's nights, and it was a chance to bring my friends to DJ with me, and for it to be my thing.

Z: How do you go about picking people to work with?

S: Just people I buzz off really. Just DJs I respect, people I have fun with… all of the above.

Z: When it comes to collaborating, a lot of non-electronic music fans got to know you from your work remix work. Do you still fancy doing any of that?

S: I'm definitely going to be getting back into remixing. The Involver project, that's ten remixes in one go. So that takes up a lot more time. But I just did a mix for Faithless and I did a mix for Cirque du Soleil, but those are sort of random tracks. It's not major label stuff. But as I said before I've got my fingers in a few different pies, you know? And projects like Fundacion and CSI – they take up a lot of time.

Z: Who are you listening to these days, electronically or non electronically?

S: Let me see… always a difficult question.

Z: It is because it's a shout-out you've got to be wary of.

S: I've actually got a little playlist of stuff on my iTunes. I definitely like that Egg album that came out, I can't remember the title of it because I had it on promo. There's an album by Gonzales called Solo Piano. It's like an acoustic piano album, and it's just so beautiful I keep playing it at home, it's really peaceful music. I've been watching that Chris Cunningham thing as well, Rubber Jonny. That thing is fucking insane.

Z: You've seen the DVD collection of his work, right?

S: I actually have that. Somebody sent it to me and it ended up in my storage unit and I never got to actually watch it.

Z: The whole series is great. You mentioned iTunes… are you an iPod person?

S: Yes. That's how I stay up with my music now. I've got FTP service up in London and wherever I go I just log into the server and people upload music for me there. It goes straight onto my iPod. I really should have two, one for music to listen to and one that has all my club music on it. My iPod gets full all the time with club tracks.

Z: I read a few years ago that you were dissatisfied with where the music industry was at. Do you feel like, at least for the dance scene, it's headed in the right direction? I know that's a very general question.

S: Yeah, it's a big question. There's been a reality check, you know, within dance music. It got to the point going up to 2000 where people really thought the dance scene was going to take over the Top 10 of the American charts. I mean, I could never see that happening. The American music industry just works in such a different way. I mean, the difference between dance music and everything else is that people go out expecting to hear new music all the time. They could sit in the club for six hours and not know one record that you're playing and that's what they're buzzing off – this new sound the whole time. When you go out to see a rock band you ask them to play the classics. You don't want to hear David Bowie's new album you want to hear Spiders From Mars. That is definitely one of the exciting things about dance music, is that people want to hear that new tune. And tunes have a shorter shelf life, and the thing about American charts is that it takes so long to get music up the charts and things have to be played for weeks and weeks and weeks. Dance music is moving forward all the time and very rarely do you have a tune that will last and last. I guess that's the beauty of it, and I guess sort of the problem.

"It got to the point going up to 2000 where people really thought the dance scene was going to take over the Top 10 of the American charts. I mean, I could never see that happening."

Z: Does it matter to you when you chart well? You've had some good success.

S: It's always a surprise and it's always fantastic. It's always a buzz to get something on the charts. But it's not something that I ever really thought, “oh, I want to make a Top Ten record,” though maybe it's something I will do in the future.

Z: You know, you could.

S: That's a real art, making great pop music.

Z: Making any kind of great music, whatever genre, is an art. It takes skill, Sasha, not just the pop stuff. You're a skilled artist yourself.

S: Ha!

Z: On that note, is there anything you want your Fundacion fans, especially the Los Angeles ones, to know?

S: No, I'm just going to miss them basically once I'm gone for the summer. I'll be thinking of them when I'm hosting Space in Ibiza with Fundacion.

Z: We'll miss you too, but you're always welcome to come back!

S: I'm sure I'll be back.

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