But Santiago is not interested in talking about Radio Slave, and who can blame him? Not only is 2002 ancient history in dance music terms, but Santiago’s subsequent solo career is successful on its own terms, and his sound has pretty much nothing to do with the Radio Slave sound of now. Where Matt Edwards has moved towards techno and hypnotic electronics, Santiago has concentrated on popular house and Italo-disco edits, scoring big success with his huge club hit ‘Atta D'Amore’ (you might not recognise the name, but you’ve definitely heard it), as well as his Color Series, a string of highly collectable Italo-disco re-edits he’s released, each packed in a single colour sleeve. But don’t expect too much Italo-disco trainspotting or genre fascism if you’re out to see him spin; sure he’ll drop in a few of his own edits, but Santiago’s DJ focus is very much about making the room move, with house, electro, big party tunes and underground builders all likely on the menu, genre be damned.
It’s a trick which has landed him big gigs at Ministry of Sound, Turnmills and most recently a new residency at Space in Ibiza. If you can’t make it to the island this summer, watch out for his debut mix CD which arrives in June. ‘We Love Sundays at Space’ will feature one CD mixed by Santiago and one CD by fellow retro-synth fan Riton.
RA caught up with the very dapper Serge Santiago, who’d just got in the door back from Miami.
You look pretty sharp in your press shots. Have you ever worn a suit and tie on a regular basis, like for a job?
Ask my mum. She'll laugh and say "What! MY son, you stupid or what?"
Is fashion important to you or did you just get kitted up for those press shots?
Image is everything, making sure you come across to the crowd is good because they feed off of you. Apart from when you've been up all night and don't know your shirts from your shoes. I'd love to get suited up all the time for gigs but I'm far too lazy! Something I'm going to change in 2007, maybe.
Any fashion crimes you care to report from your recent Miami trip?
The I'm-a-grown-man-but-wear-kids-clothes-crime. Mmm, saw way too much of that there. It made me laugh though. I did a little shopping while I was there - just added some summer shirts to the wardrobe for Ibiza. NOT Ben Sherman!
So how was the Winter Music Conference anyway?
Ahh man, it was great fun. I was a little tired coming off the back of an Oz tour but still raved the way I like to. I ended up all over, really wish I had a better memory these days. I missed the Beatport party, which I really wanted to go to, because I was at the Ultra festival, watching The Cure, drinking Redbull (coz I couldn't find any booze) whilst trying to break into the stage area pretending to be Princess Superstar's manager. We almost got up there too if it wasn't for the darn stage manager spotting us. At least I came back with a tan though.
Closer to home, what's your spin on dance music in the capital? Is there more to it than secret warehouse parties in East London?
You know what, those are still the best parties to go to. They still offer something you don't get in clubs. It's just the grit and sweat that goes into it. You can't beat raving in grime with your friends. Black Rabbit, Mulletover and Secret Sundaze have the east totally jumpin'. I've played at some great ones over the last year.
Who you rate as a DJ or producer locally?
James Priestly is my favourite local DJ, plus he's a fucking good laugh too.
What can we expect from your mix on the 'We Love...' compilation which is coming out in June?
Well, I've got to represent the terrace! To capture all those years of great music without sounding dated and also deliver something that you'll still pick up in ten years and still listen to. It's a hard job but I'm loving every minute of making it. One of the main tracks will be a re-make of an edit I did ages ago called 'It a War!' but this time its getting a re-work on Kris Menace's label Work It Baby. I've got Princess Superstar doing a vocal too. It's gonna tear the terrace apart!
Last year, your podcast for RA had three Carl Craig remixes on it. Who's your "remixer of the year" tip for 2007 so far?
Carl's going to be pretty high up there but I'm thinking maybe Claude VonStroke will keep getting even bigger and even better, Jesse Rose too, I reckon.
A lot of your own productions incorporate parts of other songs or are new takes on older tracks. Do you prefer to create your own original music or do re-edits and remixes?
I like playing around with sounds and beats. It's how I get my sound I suppose. I'm always wanting to try something new out. I never really like writing the same track twice but I think I really should sometimes. Playing around too much works sometimes and other times not. It's something I'll learn as I get older. I think when it comes down to it there's no feeling like seeing a crowd lose themselves to one of your own original tracks that you know have everything to do with. It knocks you sideways.
As a solo producer, you've gained attention for your re-edits of obscure Italo-disco classics. What is it that appeals to you about Italo-disco?
It's because it doesn't sound like everything else. I just like showing people where some of the modern music they play today comes from. I mean the shit they did in those days blows me away at times. It's a different kind of energy, makes you dance in a different way.
What were you actually listening when Italo-disco was at its peak in the eighties? What was on mum and dad's record player?
As far as I can remember, Shalamar, Roxy Music, Kid Creole and the Coconuts, loads of metal too like Whitesnake, Def Leppard. My dad loved Jimi Hendrix and the Rolling Stones so I got blasted with all that like everyone else did.
How many seven-inch records do you still own?
I have none. I lost them all the in famous house fire of '91! Yes, my house!
What record has been your secret weapon of the year so far?
It's an old edit of a L'il Louis track 'Y U Fall'. I've been playing it for years but I love it so much that I just keep airing it. I think the edit is by one of the guys from X-press 2 but I'm not too sure. It's basically a deep builder. It has a bass kind of like 'French Kiss' that grows and grows throughout the track with a small break that jumps into a sax line for the latter part. It's totally amazing old skool house.
What's happening with your label Arcobaleno?
I can't find any music I'm into to release on it at the moment. It all seems to sound the same, nothing really sticks out. I've no rush to flood the market with the same old sound, loads of other labels are doing that. I'll wait till a little gem comes along.
Do you have any plans to continue your Colour Series of disco edits?
Yeah. I've a lot coming out over the Ibiza season. All sound fucking great too. I can't wait to fling them around. Other than the new 'It's a War!' I've got an edit called 'Black Jack' by Baciotti and Easy Going's 'Fear' for release soon. Keep your eyes peeled.
Final question. We have to ask: What's your favourite colour, and why?
Light Golden Rod Yellow. Do you know what that colour even looks like? It's not as good as it sounds. Shame.