“Everything I put my name to, I put 100% into it…” 909originals catches up with Sam Divine

From cutting her teeth on a pair of old belt drive turntables as a teenager, to rocking some of the biggest venues in the world, Sam Divine has always given absolute commitment – a trait that has led her to become one of the most revered house DJs on the circuit.

The ‘First Lady of Defected’ has been closely associated with the label of the same name for well over a decade, as well as operating her own label DVINE Sounds – and prior to the pandemic, she was in a rich vein of form, with an Essential Mix, a gig atop London’s Tower Bridge, and appearances at no less than 21 festivals among her 2019 adventures.

While COVID-19 may have halted her busy touring schedule, she’s since resumed with a bang. Having just come back from a tour of Australia, she’s off to the US next, before embarking on one of her biggest projects to date, the ‘Cloud 9’ tour, not to mention an upcoming residency in Ibiza. All in a day’s work!

An accomplished producer and remixer, Divine’s most recent rework is of Junior Sanchez’s Freedom, which can be downloaded/streamed here. It’s the opening track on a new compilation on Undisputed Music, This Is Undisputed Music: Vol.1, which also features Todd Edwards, The Pressure, Chambray, Dukwa and others.

909originals caught up with her.

Hi Sam, thanks for talking to us. We can see from your social media that you’ve had a busy start to the year – how was Australia? There were plenty of highs but also a few lows, from what we can tell?

Yes, it’s been nonstop from 1 January. I finished playing at Printworks NYE, drove home, had a shower, loaded the car up, then went straight to the airport. I spent a month in Thailand before heading to Australia.

A week before I was due to fly to Oz we got the news that Perth had shut its borders and New South Wales had a ‘no dancing’ ban slapped on it. I was given the option to postpone the tour, but I didn’t want to let anyone down, so I flew out anyway with an open mind. It ended up being one of the best tours ever. More to the fact that there was no dancing, but we did anyway. It was super special.

Your latest release is a remix of Junior Sanchez’s ‘Freedom’, is that the first time you’ve worked with Junior?

Yeah, I’m a huge fan of Junior, so when the opportunity came in, I knew I had to take it. The original is unreal, so I was in two minds to take the offer, but I put my own spin on it, and it went down really well on tour.

You’ve been quite busy on the remix front recently – what, to you, makes a good remix?

I think something that can cross over to a different audience. Streaming and radio is super important to me, as well as being able to play it in a club. So, with that in mind, I have to have a number of different hats on when I start a new project. I like to take the best parts from the original and put my flava on it.

This year will see you embark on your Cloud 9 tour – which we understand has been in the works since 2020. Tell us about the concept and how it came together?

It came from playing a Defected live stream at Ministry of Sound in November 2020. The whole livestream concept was still pretty new then, so playing in an empty club to thousands watching at home was a magical but also surreal experience.

To have that freedom in the booth with no pressure, and being able to dig deep, really hit home and took me back to doing warm up sets as a young, up and coming DJ. I got off the decks and I felt like I was ‘floating on Cloud 9’.

Considering we were enduring very dark times as a music and hospitality sector it was a little ray of happiness. I didn’t stop banging on about how felt I good all weekend, and my best friend Mills said I should do something with it. Cloud 9 was born.

The year 2019 was arguably the biggest of your career to date, and then the pandemic happened. Is Cloud 9 an opportunity to get things ‘back on track’ so to speak?

I just think it was the right time to start something new on my own. Something that I have full ownership of, and to bring a new concept to the house music world. Everything I put my name to, I put 100% into it.

I’m a fully touring DJ, and I still really enjoy what I do every day, but there has to be more to life than just playing in clubs every weekend. Starting Cloud 9 has given me the freedom to build a concept the way I see it. I will always be ‘Defected till I die’ – I just wanted to branch out and do my own thing.

How was lockdown for you, personally? Was it a productive period, or was it difficult for you to get motivated to make music?

I think I had three full weeks off in total in lockdown. It was relentless trying to sustain my career in a time when clubs weren’t open. I was very lucky that I had radio, livestreams and studio to keep myself busy. I really pushed myself every day to get out of bed and make it a good day. Don’t get me wrong, I had my bad days, but music definitely got me through it.

The label you are most associated with is Defected. What is it about the Defected label that has enabled it to adapt to these strange times?

I don’t think we had a choice. Many labels and artists went under but Defected were always at the forefront of everything in lockdown.

They have a great team at Defected and are always evolving, some of the ideas they came up with blew my mind and that’s what puts them front and centre every time. We had so much support from our community – it really is family vibes at Defected HQ.

Do you subscribe to the expression – long touted by Defected –  ‘House Music All Life Long?’ 🙂

For sure. House has been such a huge part of my life from day 1 and I really don’t see it going anywhere. I met all my best friends from House music, I’ve had some of best experiences and owe some amazing memories to House music.

How are things going with your label, DVINE Sounds? Has your approach with the label changed since you founded it in 2015?

We didn’t actually put much out in lockdown, but we have a stacked schedule for 2022. Every artist we sign deserves the full experience and we just couldn’t do that in lockdown with the clubs shut. The most recent DVINE Sound release was Denton Ft SOHMI – Get to You.

What’s next on the agenda for you?

With an Australian tour under my belt. I’m off to the States in a couple of weeks. I’ll be away for five weeks on a solo tour and a few dates with Defected.

The Cloud 9 UK tour starts in April /May. I’m playing every big festival this summer and I start my Ibiza residency back up again with Defected. I’ve got some amazing music cooking which is set for release this summer and I’ll also be launching a merch line – so it’s business as usual.

[Thanks Sam for talking to us. More info at www.samdivine.love]

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