Outspoken 'House Gangster' DJ Sneak was part of the second wave of Chicago house DJs alongside Derrick Carter, Green Velvet and Paul Johnson. Now based in Toronto, Canada, he says he misses his old friends and places to go out to eat and drink, but catches up with most of them in Miami at the WMC anyway.
Sneak is still producing and remixing house music and seems to have found a new generation of house DJs — he name-checks Jordan Peak, Darius Syrossian and Heidi for starters — who have adopted him as one of their own. “I'm loving the London warehouse scene at the moment,” he tells DJ Mag. Last year he had an online beef with the Swedish House Mafia, but says that this year he has a renewed positive energy and a new album of Sneak original Chicago warehouse sounds coming out. “Last year I spent a lot of time in Ibiza, so there’s some vibes on it from there as well,” he says. His WMC party is with Dan Ghenacia, Shonky, H-Foundation, Doc Martin, Martinez Brothers and Sneak himself. It's at Chalk on Washington 1234 — a pool hall and a ping-pong venue by day...
What does WMC mean to you now?
“Wow, I guess a place to get together with people who you usually speak to all year with computers and Skype. A place where you meet your mates and people you work with. You hang out, have a few parties, enjoy the weather... right now in Toronto it's -15 with some blizzard weather going on, so Miami doesn't sound so bad round about now.”
How has WMC changed over the years?
“The first time I went over, I believe it was ’95. I’ve gone every time after that. Everybody talks about the old days, and they were cool because people wanted to go there and meet people and give each other promos and all that stuff. Now there are still a few little parties on the side which are cool, I’ve seen a big difference last year, though. There was a big separation between super-commercial and super-underground stuff — and nothing in the middle.”
Did you ever used to get a vinyl promo off someone at WMC and start playing it immediately in your set?
“Yeah man, we — my mate Doc Martin and I — sometimes used to bring a deck to Miami so we could listen to things in the hotel. That’s kinda lost now, man. People are just, like ‘I’ll email you a link’.”
Do you accept any responsibility for the Swedish House Mafia splitting up?
“Not really, no. I wish, you know what I’m saying? I wish. I still speak out about the type of stuff they’re doing to this day. Maybe they woke up and realized how cheesy they were, that may have crossed their mind — although I can’t speak for them. I know all three of them individually have tried to get with me on Twitter and all that stuff, and I’m sort of past it, you know what I mean? I just wanted to bring it to the awareness of people.
“People knew about it, but nobody wanted to speak out about it, so I was the bad guy out there, I guess. I said, ‘You know what? I’ve had enough of this shit, I’m just gonna say it. If anyone wants to join me later, that’s fine'. So people like me and Derrick May and Chemical Brothers… there was a lot of people speaking out about what’s happening.
“There’s a group of people who are actually talented musicians or disc jockeys who go onstage and give their heart out, put it out there and try to create something — not necessarily using the fancy LEDs or pyrotechnics or whatever. It was more about the music, really — always. It wasn’t about the DJ standing there showing you a heart with their stupid fingers, that just shows that they ain’t mixing. How are you going to mix, unless you’re a magician — in which case you mix and then do hand tricks. Or you have a pre-recorded mix. “But I’m past it now, they are who they are, they came and did their stuff, and I’m sure they’re still going to rinse it out — whatever. The sad part about where this industry is today is that there’s many of them, and less of people like me who actually care about the industry.”
What is real house music?
“Real house music is ghetto soul, it’s ghetto beats with soulful vibes in it, you know what I’m saying? It could be vocals, it could be a ghetto DJ funk track, it could be whatever. I’m all across the board DJing, I can play any style I wanna play, for me house music is good soulful party music. Happy feelgood music — that’s it. “For me, when I make house music — my remixes or tracks or whatever — I’m thinking about a nice, warm analogue-sounding track. You feel the bass, you feel the mid, you feel the highs, you feel something coming from the left, from the right, from top down. Whatever, that’s what music-making for me is all about, making you have those certain feelings about a beat that I made. That’s what made me get into it.”
Which artists, in your opinion, are ruining the good name of dance music?
“Make a list of the so-called Top 10 DJs, and there they are. They’re doing the damage. They’re supposed to be opening the doors and bringing more people to electronic music, but that shit that they play is pop-ass shit carbonated… music, I don’t know what the hell you wanna call it, man. That’s not opening doors.”
Has there been any part of you that’s thought, ‘Fuck it, I’m just going to cash in my chips and go EDM’?
“No, no, because I’ve been so-called EDM for the last 20 years in the States, to really think that these new corporate events are actually making something happen… I know people who came 20 years ago and made things happen, man. In the States it was all about Prodigy, Crystal Method, Fatboy Slim, Daft Punk, people who were getting numbers that these fools wish they had, without paying for their phoney campaigns and fans and all this shit that they pay for. These were like earned tours, I toured with all those guys in the States and it was happening. Now though, I’m not the DJ Sneak who made ‘You Can’t Hide From Your Bud' and ‘Fix My Sink’, I’m a new DJ Sneak right now, and every day I grow, every day I try to get more kids into my style of music.”
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