In a special Super Bowl weekend kickoff performance this Friday (January 31), Junior Sanchez will headline at Highline Ballroom for its weekly 'Cirque Fridays' series. Promising to bring back the old school days of rave, Sanchez sticks to what some may call an ancient art form of DJing (something that hasn't been seen since Limelight was in the spotlight) where music reigns as top priority and the glitz and glamour of LED screens and over-the-top light shows are put in the back corner.
To witness such a performance, get your tickets at theDreamVine.com and check out our exclusive interview with the Jersey native where he talks about his early days of New York clubbing and where the scene has gone today:
VIBE: Starting off with some background about yourself, do you think that being a New Jersey native, and the proximity it has to New York City, has had an impact on your musical style? Where did your interest in electronic dance music come from?
Junior Sanchez: Yes, absolutely. I grew up 20 minutes from NYC and practically grew up in the city just by being there everyday and every night. So yes, it has totally influenced my style. New Jersey has the soulful house sounds of Moving records, Jovann, Kerri Chandler and Tony Humphries, while New York has everything from Moby to Masters at Work, Todd Terry to Armand van Helden, etc.
In your video biography published by Size Records last year, you spoke about how you feel that everything comes full circle. How do you feel the scene has progressed since the days when you were attending clubs like Limelight “back in the day” as a fan and striving artist? Do you think the dance and rave scene has come full circle and back again?
Yes, everything goes in cycles. The wheel never gets reinvented - it just gets spun harder. Ask someone like MK [Marc Kinchen] who literally has a new life in the scene because kids are discovering house music or what they like to call deep house today, without any idea of his body of work in the 90’s where he dominated the remix. Plus, places like EDC and Electric Zoo are basically giant, legal raves that has been going on forever in Europe and the U.S. for decades.
You’ve manage to connect with some great artists very early in your career. Armand van Helden seems to have had a huge impact on your early beginnings. And then later meeting and getting advice from Laidback Luke had some influence on your first release of “Where You Are” on Steve Angello’s Size Records. Do you feel it's important for aspiring DJs to learn from mentor figures and bounce ideas off each other?
Yeah well, Armand was definitely a mentor and a brother to me - I love him dearly. There has been alot of key figures in my life who have guided me and given me their time. Friends like Todd Terry, Kenny Dope, Eric Morillo, Roger Sanchez and Louie Vega have all embraced me early on and were always there for me. [Laidback] Luke, actually us being the same age, we inspired each other and I always gave him creative advice and he returned the favor. When I wanted to just concentrate on making dance records again after some time focusing on producing artists and bands like Katy Perry, Morningwood, Ima Robot, etc, he was the first person I turned to for some guidance because I felt the scene had changed and he was right in the middle of it.
“Where You Are” was released on Size Records in 2010 and was the start of your relationship with Steve Angello. Were you taken back that he has openly confessed that your own label “Cube” influenced him to start the current powerhouse that is Size Records today?
Yes, I had no idea that Cube had any influence on anyone. I just started a label and wanted to release as much diverse electronic music as possible. We had alot of amazing releases by the likes of Rhythm Masters, Felix da Housecat, Stuart Price, Kasmir (Tim Mason) to bands like Moving Units. It was a super fun project.
On the topic of your newest record label endeavour “Brobot,” which is now a division of Size Records, what is your vision for the label? Is this an reincarnation of Cube or will you be taking it in a complete turn of direction?
It has the principle as Cube: if I like it I'll put it out. I just want to release music I enjoy without limits or boundaries, without any fear of any charts. Just put out a producer's art and what they love.
You are big on music as an art form and come from a time where DJing was predominantly focused on only the music. You seem be an artist who strives to keep that purity alive. What do you feel about the so-called gimmicks in dance music these days? (And by gimmicks I mean anything from floating rafts to over-the-top LED screens and productions).
Well there’s entertainment and there’s artists, and there’s a place for both. I wouldn’t necessarily call a Britney Spears show art or her an actual “Artist” as she is more to me an entertainer. She sings songs that were written for her, she dances to choreographed dances that were made for her; everything about that is compiled and made up. The only time she had a true artist moment is when she had a mental breakdown and shaved her head. There’s a difference between her and lets say a Bjork, someone who marches by the beat of her own drum and makes music she believes in regardless of influence of a scene or media charts. She’s a person who even her videos tell a tale and are art pieces in of itself. In dance music, it’s the same. Some DJ’s are Britney Spears, some are Bjork.
What is your take on the young emerging artists of today exploding onto the scene and into the mainstream? Do you feel that so much has changed since the days of turntables that the DJ art form is lost?
I feel that most don’t understand music and creativity; most don’t understand that being yourself is the key to art and individuality. There’s too much cloning and following and that’s because of the exponential growth of technology. Also because kids lose their identity to social media and want to follow the heard, and want to be liked and followed by shit that doesn’t exist and create these ghostly personae and be famous on Facebook. So yes, in essence the art is dying, but I’m confident that it will survive and thrive in the kids who learn, and want true art and music to prevail!.
Your upcoming gig at Highline Ballroom is this Friday. Not only has the venue played host to some of the biggest names in music, are you excited to play for the city that started it all for you?
Totally. I love New York City, and playing here is always fun. I’m interested to see the type of crowd that this event will bring out - Super Bowl and underground beats! That’s a recipe if you ask me.
For both your long time fans and those who are just now getting into the music, what can they expect from your set this Friday?
Expect realness, great music and to have fun! It is the Super Bowl you know.
Photo credit: Getty Images