A mix legend shows his skills.
When it comes to recording mixes, Sasha has some of the best credentials in dance music. In 2013 he released Invol<3r, a two-CD missive made up entirely of his own remixes, and the latest chapter in a story that dates back to 1994. That was the year Sasha and John Digweed, his long-time sparring partner, recorded The Renaissance Mix Collection, one of the first-ever fully mixed compilations. This wasn't merely a format advancement, though: the mix is considered one of the greatest there is—although it had a rival in Northern Exposure, the double mix the pair delivered in 1996. During the '90s, through his mix CDs and club sets (both of which took on a mythical status) Sasha helped create the blueprint for progressive house, a style that favoured emotive synthesis, driving basslines and long, seamless mixing. He had an almost samurai-like approach to DJing, with an emphasis on technique and a studied attention to detail.
The core of Sasha's MO is still in place. His productions and remixes are released at a considered pace, and his label, Last Night On Earth, is meticulously curated. We no longer refer to what Sasha plays and produces as progressive house, but he's still fascinated with melody and the art of narration through music, something that's clear on his RA podcast. It would be inaccurate to describe this as a home-listening session (there are plenty of robust beats here, after all) but he's chosen tracks that feel song-like, with strong melodic lines and vocals drifting in and out of focus. As you'll read below, the mix also features the sort of innovative little tricks that have kept Sasha at the top of his game for more than 20 years.
What have you been up to recently?
I'm taking a break from touring at the moment and I'm in the studio working on a load of music. I've been writing a lot for the last couple of years, and probably have about 40 or 50 pieces of music that need to be finished. Just focusing on getting a load of new music done and getting set up for next year.
How and where was the mix recorded?
I was playing around with some ideas over the summer, but once I had a couple of weeks off the road I put it together in one day in the studio. I've been putting out a lot of live mixes recently so I wanted to do something that was a little bit more produced.
Can you tell us about the idea behind the mix?
I wanted to do something for Resident Advisor that wasn't necessarily a collection of music I would play out but more like something I'd listen to for inspiration when I'm working on music. A lot of the tracks on here have been influencing me over the last few months. I re-pitched some tracks and played things at the total wrong tempo. The first track on there is actually a drum and bass track—its 145 BPM and I slowed it down to 124 as it sounds amazing down there. I layered some beats under things that didn't really have strong beats. I had fun with the editing of it but it still flows very much like a DJ set.
You pointed out recently on Facebook that it's been 21 years since Renaissance: The Mix Collection was released. Are there any similarities between how you compose a mix now and how you did back then?
I think the same challenges. Back then there wasn't really the kind of pressure you put yourself under now to deliver things in the way that you do. There have been a lot of mixes that have come out in the last 21 years. You want things to stand the test of time, so you try and choose timeless music, which is how I always approach my mixes, really. Renaissance was a bit different because nobody had really done this before, so we got to cherry pick all the big records that we'd been playing over the previous five years. We had the candy shop to ourselves. Once the mix CD became the format that it did, you then have to try a lot harder to find things. It's more about finding stuff that people may not have heard before, or presenting things in a different way and being creative with it.
What are you up to next?
I'm basically working on a load of new music, then I've got New Years Eve at Electric Brixton lined up. It's going to be really exciting coming back to London for NYE. I've got BPM festival in January, but they're actually the only shows I'm doing in winter as I'm finishing a load of music. I've got a couple of really exciting projects lined up for next year that I'm working on. Hopefully getting involved in some film music as well, which is something I've been pitching for the last couple of years, but I don't really have any more details for you at the moment.