“I think I was cultivated and created by the underground…” 909originals catches up with house music veteran Junior Sanchez
Since he stormed onto the scene in the mid-90s, Junior Sanchez has been one of house music’s most consistent producers, with releases on some of the biggest labels in the business, as well as a library of remix work for artists ranging form Daft Punk to Madonna.
The past couple of years have been quite prolific for the New Jersey native, with releases on Relief, Saved, Elrow, Snatch!, Kaluki, as well as recently launching the KULTUR imprint, alongside Demuir.
This month, Sanchez makes his debut on Crosstown Rebels, with the Divergent EP, the lead track of which, Live Forever, sees him team up with house legend Todd Terry. You can purchase it here or by clicking the image below.
909originals caught up with him.
Hi Junior, thanks for talking to us. The past year or two has been quite a busy period for you. Did the pandemic affect your creativity at all?
Firstly, thank you for having me. I think artists go through certain periods of creative peaks and I’ve always been a person who searches for true, heartfelt inspiration.
Once the pandemic came and took over our lives, there was a different drive and reason to create. It was purely driven by wanting to escape the darker times we were in and explore creativity on a different scale, without any pressure to create for reasons other than pure art.
The Divergent EP, coming out on Crosstown Rebels, sees you team up with house legend Todd Terry – which we believe came together when you bumped into each other in Ibiza? What was the story there?
Yes, that’s true. I sent a few tracks over to Damian [Lazarus] for the label, and all were very different in style, as I’m very versatile and I like to explore differing sonics and vibes.
To my surprise, Damian chose four tracks, and all are different. At first I was really hesitant to release that body of work on Crosstown, as I thought he would only resonate with one or two ideas, but Damian was right when he said ‘trust me, these all makes sense together as a whole project’. I’m so glad I listened.
Damian has a knack for that – he has an incredible and very futuristic ear. He knows where music was, is, and where it’s headed.
The Todd Terry track was basically an instrumental I had put together in Ibiza, and Todd was over at the villa I was staying, and he heard the track. I jokingly said, ‘hey, you should say something’ or alluded to him singing, and he set up the mic and started just going for it. I pressed record, and I don’t think he thought I actually recorded it. And then – boom – you have a track with Todd singing on it.
Describing the EP, you said previously that it draws inspiration from 80s new wave, from artists like New Order and Jimmy Sommerville. You’ve referenced 80s music throughout your career – we remember the Da Shape of Da 80s EP from a decade or two ago. What is it about 80s music that is particularly influential on your music?
Yes, I’ve always been influenced by 70’s funk, soul and R&B and also 80’s new wave post punk and synth pop. Early house music has always had touches of synth and new wave tinges, especially in techno, and I’m sure my Detroit brothers and sisters can agree.
If you look at New Order after Joy Division and Ian’s untimely death, they were influenced by house music but maintained their synth nu-wave mentality – New Order created some of the most iconic hybrid synth house we know today. You can play Blue Monday in any set today, and it still defines our culture.
Or, listen to Frankie Knuckles feat Jamie Principle’s Your Love – that synth still penetrates the world from the moment it goes through a speaker. New Order’s Technique is a very house-influenced album, as I believe it was inspired by the band’s trips to Ibiza, and was recorded there. We should ask Arthur Baker to verify, ha ha.
You were still in your teens when you released your first EP on Strictly Rhythm, in 1996, and you had been DJing for a couple of years previous to that. Had you defined your ‘sound’ at that stage, or were you still working it out?
I think I was cultivated and created by the underground. I was, and still am, a creature of the clandestine, always wanting to discover the undiscovered and bring that to the dancefloor.
Early on, my sound was influenced by the early works of Masters At Work, Armand Van Helden, Todd Terry, MK, Murk, Carl Craig etc. These may be household names today, but in my youth they were still beginning to really define or establish their sounds, and also the culture.
They all had an underground presence and respect, but they were pretty much just beginning. It’s amazing that all these names I’ve just mentioned are still dominating and are more relevant than ever in our culture.
Was there a piece of advice you were given back then that you have stuck to?
The best advice i got is ‘Don’t be afraid to grow, as staying mentally the same will not let you grow into what you can become’.
You built your career during the 90s US house scene, a period defined by tough, uncompromising beats. It’s also a sound that is very much back in vogue among producers these days. Was that the best period for house music, in your opinion?
Wow, that’s an amazing question. I think without a doubt the 90s as a whole was such an amazing time for house music, and i think a lot of my peers and a lot of younger producers today can agree, whether they actually know it or not.
Why did you decide to revive The S-Men project a couple of years back (for 2018’s Who We Are), and are you planning to work with Roger and Sneak again?
We were all in Ibiza together and decided to reignite what we started and got into the studio for a few days to crank out some amazing tracks. We had fun again, so we decided to relaunch the project and we are happy doing it.
You’ve remixed everybody from Madonna to Jamiroquai to Green Velvet to Giorgio Moroder over the years. What approach do you take when putting together a remix?
Respecting the track or song I’m given to remix. I really have to like it first, then I wrap my head around how I want to reinterpret their art. I try a few different vibes until something feels right.
You recently launched the KULTUR label alongside Demuir, which has just put out its ninth release. Why was the time right to launch the label, and how are you seeking to position it?
During ADE in 2019 Demuir and I had this idea of starting a label and instead of doing these standard parties we wanted to do events but also give back and do cultural Q&As and/or workshops, to help give back to the culture that has given us so much.
It also helps educate the younger producers and DJs of today. If we don’t help keep the narrative truthful it gets forgotten and or changed, or, shall i say, re-written.
Last year, you were rumoured to have been working on a track for a new Daft Punk album, and you were in the ‘Da Mongoloids’ collective with the guys back in the 90s. Do you think that we’ll see Daft Punk return, that there’s unfinished business there?
I think Thomas [Bangalter] and Guy [Manuel de Homem-Christo] are going respectfully in different directions, which is normal when you have two people who have worked together for so long.
But one thing I’ve learned from just knowing them is that they are always full of surprises, and no matter what they do, it will be amazing. Im very happy and excited for both their solo musical journeys, there’s so much to the Daft Punk story that people have yet to discover. The ‘Mongoloids’ chapter is one of them.
What sort of dance/electronic scene will emerge once the pandemic is over? What will have changed, do you think?
Well, one thing that’s changed is that streaming has become something that is now a new vertical in our culture, and I think it’s another avenue that’s not going away. With that said, I hope we rediscover each other on the dancefloor and embrace our differences and let the music bring us closer together.
[Thanks Junior for talking to us. The Divergent EP is released on Crosstown Rebels on 14 May]