There are few people in dance music for whom a very mention of their name is enough to evoke a flood of euphoria-drenched memories, but Sasha is one such individual.
The Bangor, Wales-born DJ and producer celebrates his 50th birthday today, no doubt nursing a hangover from last night’s Resistance Ibiza (alongside long-term compatriot John Digweed), and the fact that he is still very much at the top of his game is testament to his reputation as a rule-breaker, trend-setter and all round musical maestro.
Even as far back as the early 1990s, as he was carving a career at Shelley’s Laserdome in Stoke on Trent, the young Alexander Coe (as he is known to his nearest and dearest), was passionate about creating a dance floor vibe that went beyond simple track selection.
“I just try to put thought into what I do, and I’m into being creative,” he told Mixmag in 1991, in the now-famous Sasha Mania: The First DJ Pin-Up?article. “I’m always looking for new tracks, for new sounds… even now I will spend a couple of days a week on the decks trying out different things. Playing new stuff before anybody else has got it is the most important thing, but using acapellas and sound effects adds to the whole feeling.
“I like really fluid mixes too, not just ones in time, but ones that harmonise – so you can leave them playing for three minutes and you don’t know what sound comes from which track.”
While he became known for championing the embryonic trance and progressive house movements, the artist also known as The Man Like has long sought to ‘mix things up’ when playing out – no two Sasha sets are identical, and are often finely tuned to the setting and audience on a particular night.
“DJ sets in the beginning were very eclectic,” he told Resident Advisor in 2006. “You’d get loads of different sounds in one night, hip hop, Carly Simon, acid house all in one night. That was normal and then it got purified over the last 15 years.
“People are still responsive to different types of music. […] DJ sets that you predict where they are going to go are boring.”
Without further ado, here are five of Sasha’s most legendary sets available on the web (yes, we KNOW the legendary Renaissance and Global Underground mixes are missing, but you can only listen to them so much..!) 🙂 [Edit: Links now updated]
Sasha @ Adventures of the Pleasure Planet, June 1992
Recorded on a summer’s night in 1992 in Newport, South Wales, this epic set from a Universe party illustrates the versatility that first brought Sasha to prominence, with tracks from Todd Terry, Lil Louis, Rhythm Quest, Bomb The Bass, Mel’isa Morgan and many others keeping it lit. MC Joe Peng hardly gets a look in.
Sasha @ BBC Essential Mix, January 1994
Sasha’s debut Essential Mix – and the 12th ever – is right up there with the fabled ‘Goa’ mix of Paul Oakenfold’s from the same year, if you ask us, and features tracks from The Grid, Eddie Fingers, Jam & Spoon, Lost Tribe and Sasha’s own Higher Ground.
Sasha @ Twilo, New York (with John Digweed), May 1999
If you were looking for evidence as to why the now-closed Twilo was considered the spiritual home of progressive house, this is it – an incredible snapshot of the genre at the tail end of the 90s, with tracks from Timo Maas, Celeda, Orbital, Heller and Farley, LSG and Way Out West, alongside longtime sparring partner John Digweed.
Sasha @ Winterparty, Mosney (with John Digweed), November 2000
Ok, I admit it, I’m including this one for pure nostalgia. Five months on from the second (and final) Homelands Ireland in 2000, myself and a barrel-load of smiling ravers descended on Mosney Holiday Centre for an epic night in the company of Messrs Sasha and Digweed. Sound quality not the best, but if you were there, you were there, as the old saying goes. Sadly missing from this recording is the last tune of the night, the Hardfloor mix of Yeke Yeke – thankfully that’s lodged in the (non-digital) memory bank. 🙂
Sasha – Fabric 99, June 2018
When legendary London nightclub Fabric announced it was wrapping up its mix collection at number 100, they ensured the penultimate edition would go to a living legend… who in turn responded with one of the best in the entire series. All the peaks and troughs of a four-hour set condensed into an hour and 13 minutes – with devastating results.
Please share your favourite mixes in the comments below! 🙂
[Main picture taken from www.djsasha.com]