“I didn’t speak much English”, says Sneak, “so I listened to a lot of radio. I found a couple of stations that played house music and I recorded it”. Sneak and his family first migrated to Chicago in the early 80’s and he found himself isolated due to not being able to speak English – he found comfort in music which would in turn become his full time occupation. It wasn’t long after that he picked up his own turntables and became a DJ - “From then on I really became interested in house music and I’ve been DJ-ing since 1986”. As for where he got his name? He simply states that “I was a writer at the time – movies like Beatstreet and breakdancing was popular at the time and I needed a tag name. I saw a copy of the TV Guide and there’d be a section called the Sneak Previews so I took my name from that.” Originally he was to be known to the world as Sneaky Hands Sosa which then shrunk itself down to DJ Sneak.
While listening to house music on the radio, Sneak found himself influenced by the radio station DJ’s at the time – early Chicago house pioneers like Farley Jackmaster Funk, Ralph Rosario and Steve “Silk” Hurley all played part in creating the Sneak sound. “WBMX’s Hot Mix 5 would have all different kinds of mixes throughout the day – they really helped to push dance music!” In the early 90’s, DJ’s like Derrick Carter and Mark Farina would play a big part in Sneak’s sound – “Carter and Farina were playing warehouse and loft parties at the time. This really changed my lifestyle because I wanted to play the same style of music. It’s fun to play with them now, kinda like being a rock star and getting to jam with the Rolling Stones!”, exclaims Sneak about his heroes.
Everyone seems to be able to label the Sneak sound, but how does Sneak himself label the sound that he plays? “Growing up in Chicago and becoming a producer after so many years, I play anything from deep vocal house to Chicago style jackin’ beats – drum machines and keyboards – nothing crazy, nothing too overproduced!” says he, even adding that there’s a Detroit techno influence, also drawing on his own moods, feeling and whatever crowd he has in front of him. “I like to play some 70’s music like Michael Jackson, and even 80’s music like Duran Duran and Men At Work in my sets”, he remarks, “When I travel to other countries, some of these classic tunes really work! I’d have people coming up to me saying ‘Wow! I haven’t heard this tune since the 70’s!’” He can basically attribute this to being from Chicago, a city which he says “has had influence from blues, jazz and dixie.” Chicago has always been known for its jazz which in turn helped flavour the Chicago sound of house music - giving it that faster rhythmic pace, grooves and basslines. “There’s a scatty type flavour to the music - it’s not really techno and it’s not really deep house!”
While working at a local record store, Sneak met Cajmere AKA Green Velvet (of La La Land fame) in 1994 which in turn produced Sneak’s first two albums “Rice & Beans Please” and “The Blue Funk Files”. Even though they brought him international recognition, he says that “the first two albums never really had the push behind them, so I dismissed them.” So what can audiences expect to hear from Sneak in the future album wise? “This album coming out will be a mosaic of music that I’ve been influenced by. It will also coincide with my tenth year being a DJ next year. The sound will be a cross between Bootsy style funk, Common’s (hip hopper hailing from Chicago) funkadelic hip hop style and Outkast’s The Love Below.” He likes to incorporate a lot of funkiness into his music and he worked with session musicians to create the live elements. He adds, “If you liked ‘Fix My Sink’, you’ll enjoy the rest of the album! A bit of house, a bit of funk, a bit of disco and a little R&B/Hip Hop – A salad with a nice dressing on top!” as he calls it.
Speaking of Fix My Sink, did he know that it was going to be received so well? “I had a funny feeling about the track from the beginning!” he explains, “Bear first came out with the vocals and I knew it was going to be a good party track – something I could build from, I wanted it to be a party record!” Turns out that it was picked up by club audiences world wide last year, became an instant smash hit and even latched onto commercial radio playlists – he’s definitely got something good going on here! But what’s with the lyrics? It appears that Sneak himself likes to have fun with the naming convention of his creations stating that the inspiration for naming a track “could come from anything really! The lyrics for ‘Fix My Sink’ were done by Bear – he has a big imagination and likes to have fun. He was single at the time he wrote it and he had his way with women so he got inspired by that!” As for his other tracks, the same principle applies, he’s usually serious when it comes to producing his music so when it comes time to name the track he wants it to be funny. “’You Can’t Hide From your Bud’ isn’t about Budweiser! The track was named because when I’m in the studio I’m constantly looking at dials, switches and knobs and after a while I need to have a break and light up a spliff to help settle down”
Sneak is billed to play New Years Eve in Sydney at mobilehome on Wharf 3 and Melbourne at Together. So what can Australian audiences expect to hear from Sneak when he plays? He simply states “To make that an easy answer I would say a good ASS STOMPIN’ BOOTY SHAKIN’ FUNKY DEEP JACKIN’ CHICAGO STYLE HOUSE BEATDOWN! I’m coming to finish what I started in April when I rolled thru Australia, good beats, good vibes and great times...”
Sneak's current top 5 tunes:
Superlongevity Vol. 3- Markus Nikolai- Mr Big star- Perlon
Mark Farina- To Do – Derrick Carter mix- Om
Mista D- Mr Dobilina- white label
Filthy HotJizz- Jurrasic Filth! White label
The Rapture- house of jealous lovers – DFA Records