Sasha Delta Heavy 2002
by Brett Abramson
photo courtesy of Formula PR
The name Sasha sparks an immediate reaction when mentioned to any follower of dance music, from the hardcore raver to the casual clubgoer. With so much notoriety for so many years now, Sasha's infamous past has been hashed to death. Anyone can read chapters upon chapters about his legendary nights at the Hacienda or how he and John Digweed spent years breaking into the U.S. scene. But I wanted to know what the present and the future holds for this groundbreaking artist, and I had the opportunity to pick his brain on such topics while Sasha was on a stopover in Denver on the Delta Heavy tour.
"The tour is going incredible," he states, as he and partner in crime, John Digweed, gear up for the last few stops of this innovative undertaking. Delta Heavy is unlike any dance music tour previously attempted. The lighting, visual effects, and the sound system are the same on every date of the tour and are a cohesive intense sensory experience. Sasha tells me that he had a huge part to play in its conceptual planning. "I came up with a lot of the ideas of how the night should go. Then I handed it off to Jimmy [Van M] to make it happen and find the people we needed on the technical side, like Imaginary Forces, to make it a reality."
After I attended the tour's opening party in Miami at this year's Winter Music Conference, I understand where all this hard work went. This full-on production creates such a unique vibe; I ask if Sasha and John feel that they must accompany it with the same musical program every night. "We are mixing it up a bit," he tells me. "I mean there are some huge tracks that are played every night, but we don't stick to a set formula. John and I just play our sound." Many have tried to classify and emulate that sound over the years, playing an obsessive game of follow-the-leader. I realize it's obviously light-years away from the epic progressive sound, but I wonder what Sasha calls his style of music. "I don't really feel that John and I play trance," Sasha responds. "That word has such a bad connotation. I really don't care what people categorize me into. I just do my thing that sometimes fits into that trance sound."
Sasha's steady following does not come without its drawbacks, as his unique sound is often mimicked. He has been the standard that so many others aim toward, and it seems that the trainspotters have no intention of backing off any time soon. A track that would be passed over by DJs is an instant hit once the buzz gets out that Sasha is playing it. I wonder if this unending emulation is flattering or frustrating. "It is flattering," he answers, "But sometimes I wish people would get their own sound. I mean, there is so much amazing music out there. I get a ton of demo CDs sent to me from DJs, but they are mostly all an attempt to sound like what I am doing. I was really inspired by the first DJs I ever heard at the Hacienda, but I adapted their influence to my own sound."
Because Sasha receives such an incredible amount of up-front material, I ask where he sees the sound heading for him. "I definitely see musicality coming back. After about a year and a half of very dark, minimal records, it is turning back to the records that are musical. People were scared for a while because they didn't want it to be cheesy." Some of the biggest records for Sasha on the tour have come from Junkie XL, including a collaboration they worked on together.
This duo has the ability to make everyone go absolutely insane on particularly special nights. I have witnessed this many times, and ask Sasha the reason behind this. "There is just something that you can't put into words when John and I are playing together and it just completely meshes. Not just playing well on our own, but being on the same wavelength all night long. Some nights don't work perfectly like that, but on this tour there have been a lot of those nights."
That's good news for all those who eagerly await the May 21st show at the Tabernacle in Atlanta.
For such an elaborate production, ticket prices could still be considered steep by some. But it seems in general that the skyrocketing DJ fees these days, even for one-off club nights, are dramatically affecting ticket prices. I wonder if Sasha, one of the world's most expensive DJs, sees this as detrimental to the scene in the long run. "It could be," he responds. "Yeah, it's not fair for the punters that come out to pay so much. With this tour we tried to make it reasonable, with the production costs being so high. But if 3,000 people are showing up to hear someone play, the DJ should get their fair share, and not have the promoters make all the money." Surprisingly, he tells me that when he is booked for an event, the door price is actually worked out with the promoters. Unfortunately sometimes upon arrival, that set price will have mysteriously risen by up to $15 more than amount agreed upon.
So what does the future hold after such an enormously successful and groundbreaking tour? Unfortunately, there are no residencies for Sasha on the horizon. He feels that there are just too many incredible spots to play in the world, and a steady gig would hold him back from being able to travel so extensively. What also excites him is his album that is being released in August on Kinetic. It's his favorite production work to date, which is saying a hell of a lot when you look at the countless, brilliant tracks he has created throughout the years. One single will be released prior to the full album's release, but don't expect many dance floor tracks. This will surely be another step forward for a man that is constantly pushing boundaries. That is what separates Sasha from so many others.
To finish on a completely silly note, I ask Sasha a hypothetical question. "If you were stranded on a deserted island with John Digweed, Danny Tenaglia and Carl Cox, who would you eat first and why?" Laughing at such an absurd question he answers, "I'd probably volunteer myself first. I am so skinny that they probably wouldn't want to eat me. I just can't imagine taking a bite out of John Digweed though!"
Be sure to catch the madness that is Delta Heavy on May 21 presented by Liquified at the Tabernacle in Atlanta. Thanks go out to Jonathan and Betty at Formula PR and to Sasha for taking time out to speak with Lunar.
Air Drawn Dagger
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