'Beautiful chaos'...that’s what DJ Sasha says about India, in a chat, on the launch of his compilation CD, Burn
Since 1997, DJ Mag has consistently voted you as one of the top ten DJs in the world. What does it take to be in that position?
A lot of hard work (laughs). In 1997, the top ten polls were more of a critical review, and now, it’s more of a barometer review. People like David Bellamy have sold many records in America — I can’t compete with that. I play more rave music. It’s changed now; today the top one hundred polls have become more about commercial success.
What drew you to house music?
In 1988, the club Haçienda in Manchestar became the first to play house and electronic music in the UK. I was 18 and I was growing up there. It was an amazing musical movement in Manchester at that time, the Happy Mondays and the Stone Roses — what they called 'Madchester' — and the acid house scene.
Who were your influences?
Well I went to see the DJs at the Haçienda, every week. It was the next thing to worship. I used to go home thinking about them, and I wanted to mix the same way they did. They were my idols, and they were what inspired me.
Apparently, you took classical piano lessons as a child, and you weren’t very fond of it.
(Laughs) I hated it. I wanted to play football with my friends. As soon as I was 16, and I was allowed to give it up, I happily did. But when I was 18, I went to the studio and then, classical music really helped me. When it came to mixing records, I would always try to work things musically. Even though I hated it, I forced myself to do it.
What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced professionally?
Around 1990, I went about four or five months without any bookings. I thought it might be the end. When summer finished, the club I was playing at closed down. I went the winter without any gigs at all. Then, 1991 was a very, very big year for me. But now, I’m not the 18-year-old kid any more. I face challenges in just holding on to my position, with so much new talent coming through. You can never sit comfortably and think, “Okay, I’ve got it sorted”. You’ve always got to stay on top of things.
You were nominated for a Grammy in 2004. Did that help bring house music into mainstream popularity?
In the mainstream, I had worked with Madonna before that. But 2004 was the year when they really looked into electronic music and made it a category at the Grammys. Yeah, it got a lot of attention. It was amazing.
What’s a regular workday like, for a DJ?
When I’m touring, it means getting up, going to the airport, travelling all day, arriving somewhere, meeting the promoter, trying to squeeze in as much sleep as possible during the day, dinner with the promoter, at the club till 5 in the morning and sometimes straight to the airport, to get to the next gig. With three or four back-to-back gigs, it can get very brutal. On the other hand, my life at the studio is very normal. I get to the studio by lunchtime, work till 8 or 9 and then go to bed. Two opposite ends!
Have you had a chance to explore the Indian house music scene?
I’ve had a CD put together, Burn, which is a nice showcase of the underground Indian producers. From what I heard on the CD, and what the DJ played in Delhi, it was outstanding, with very high standards. I was very impressed. There’s been an improvement in the past five years. There’s much more attention to detail now.
What is your general impression of India?
Chaos. Beautiful chaos. With fantastic food and amazing people!
What are the plans now?
I’m getting ready for my summer tour. I’m working on new music too; hopefully, it’ll be ready for release in September-October.