Sasha Pushes Boundaries On 'Involver'
If his latest Global Underground album, "Involver," is any indication, DJ/producer Sasha has embarked on a brand new phase of his career.If his latest Global Underground album, "Involver," is any indication, DJ/producer Sasha has embarked on a brand new phase of his career. Already known as one of the world's top DJs for more than 15 years, Sasha channeled his boundless creative energy into producing not only one of 2004's best albums, but also pioneered a whole different way to create music along the way.
After cutting his teeth with the 2002 album "Airdrawndagger" and a two-year world tour, Sasha settled into his Florida home studio last fall to begin work on "Involver." What started out as a compilation mix for Global Underground took an evolutionary turn after Sasha decided he was craving something more in the recording process.
Instead of simply compiling a set of songs and beat matching a mix, he took some of his favorite records, stripped them down to the individual tracks (thanks to the original artists graciously handing them over) and completely rebuilt them.
Such tactics are hardly revolutionary, but Sasha became one of a few producers to implement a relatively new software program that literally has the potential to re-invent electronic music. It's called "Ableton Live," and according to the man himself, his new album wouldn't exist without it.
The software allows users to "create on the fly" -- in other words, record or drop pre-existing sounds into the mix without stopping the music. Much like a great jazz musician, DJs and producers now can improvise in real time. The song remains a wet canvas, allowing one to manipulate countless sounds, as Sasha did by cutting the vocal from U.N.K.L.E.'S "In a State" into a thousand pieces before reconstructing it to his exact desires.
And while the software was the keystone to recording "Involver," Sasha hopes to soon incorporate the program into live gigs. His first and only gig thus far using Ableton Live, a computer and a mixer occurred at a party during last year's Winter Music Conference in Miami.
"I can't wait to start using it out to DJ because it's going to change everything," he says. "If you want to play 100 hundred tracks in half an hour or bits of tracks, it's possible to do it. I think there are certain things you just can't do with a pair of decks and a mixer."
Not that Sasha plans to abandon vinyl altogether (one look at his seemingly never-ending world tour stifles any goodbye to standard DJing) but it's one more way to evolve music.
Indeed, some critics say England and the United States have lost their love affair with the genre. Or that the magic of the warehouse days in California and New York are long gone. Yet, places like Buenos Aires, South America and Asia can't get enough. It's not so much that the scene has died or reached a plateau as that it's spreading out over the globe.
Ask Sasha (who named the aforementioned sites as currently his favorite spots) the state of music today and he'll give you a straightforward, yet passionate answer.
"There a lot of people just sitting back and going 'Oh well, we had a good time for the last 15 years and now I'm going to do something else,'" he says. "I'm not prepared to do that. I think that the culture is still thriving in places and it's our responsibility, being the kind of bigger DJs, to lead the way forward and push things forward."
As with "Airdrawndagger," Sasha allowed fans and other artists to remix one of the tracks omitted from the new album as part of a contest. "It's a breakbeat track that we were working on that has some really amazing parts to it but it didn't actually make in onto the album in the end," he says.
Next up for Sasha is a permanent move to New York, as well as finishing tracks that didn't make the final cut for "Involver," including "Itchy Trigger" with Junkie XL. He also says there's a possibility he may work again with longtime partner John Digweed.
"The last couple of years we've had our own projects but I'm always open for ideas for working with John because we've got such a long history," he says. Fans will be tided over by the release of a 10th anniversary edition of Sasha and Digweed's "Renaissance: The Mix Collection," due Jan. 25 via Renaissance/Studio Distribution.
Sasha will drop in Jan. 29 on Los Angeles' Avalon with Lee Burridge, and will also appear Feb. 4 at New York's Crobar with fellow Global Underground artist James Lavelle. Topping off this fresh round of activity is his nomination for the best remixed recording Grammy for his remix of Felix Da Housecat's "Watching Cars Go By."