DJ and producer Junior Sanchez is something of an underground house music hero: over the course of his career he’s released high-quality house music for Strictly, Nervous, Yoshitoshi and Defected, he’s a member of the newly re-launched S-Men along with Roger Sanchez and DJ Sneak and has DJed professionally since the age of 13. Junior has also found crossover success remixing the likes of Daft Punk, Madonna and Gorillaz and continues to DJ worldwide and release his own original productions.
So obviously we here at 5 Mag were very happy to book him for a special 5 Mag Presents show at Chicago’s Smartbar on August 30th, along with Gene Hunt and 5 Mag’s Czarina Mirani. Ahead of the event, we took the opportunity to chat with the man about his career in house music, releasing records whilst still at high school and his production origin story.
Thanks for taking the time to talk to us. First of all, where are you and what are you up to today?
Thank you, I love 5 Mag and congratulations for keeping the culture going. Today I’m in my home studio in NJ finishing up a lot of music productions & remixes. I’ve been pretty busy this year on that front while getting ready to leave for London and Ibiza next weekend as I’ll be in Europe for a few weeks.
Thanks very much! So for our readers who don’t know your background, tell us a bit about how you started out in music. You began DJing when you were quite young right?
I started out very young, DJing at 11/12 years old and by the time I was 13/14 I was DJing in all of [club owner and promoter] Peter Gatien‘s clubs in NYC, Limelight, Tunnel etc. My first real residency was in the Thierry Mugler room at Club USA in Times Square. Then of course clubs like Centro-Fly, N.A.S.A., Save The Robots: all over NYC was where I truly honed my craft.
In the very beginning imagine 2 or 3 milk crates of vinyl records, lugging them around NYC, having friends carry them so they can get into the club with me which was so pure and fun. My first break was DJing house parties and local NY/NJ events till I started playing at NASA and Limelight, then my first real international gig was London Tribal Gathering.
So how and when did you move into production?
Very early on I had my first release on Strictly Rhythm when I was a sophomore in high school. I would hang at Armand Van Helden’s house and he would be making tracks and he would always bounce ideas off me and ask me what I thought so he was an early mentor to me, as was Roger Sanchez, DJ Sneak, Todd Terry, Kenny Dope, these guys all took me in early and believed in my talent and musicality even at my young age. I could hang in a dialogue with all of them musically, so I held my own in those terms.
It sounds like music was always a big part of your life from a young age, when did you realise that you were in house music for life?
I’ll make this short and sweet. When I was 10 years old I saw my first studio and I knew it vividly in my mind, every detail. Fast forward to when I was 14 years old I went to another studio to make my true first production and I felt a familiarity. I asked the studio owner a few questions and he said I just bought the mixing console from these guys etc.
Turns out the first mixing console I saw when I was 10 years old turns out to be the exact same one I made my first track on years later. That’s when I was like ah-ha I think this is for me – I took it as a sign.
So as someone who’s lived their life in house music, what’s the biggest change you’ve seen in clubland since you started out?
Technology has changed everything, we live in an algorithmic world and it’s affected every aspect of our culture, music, artistry, branding, promoters, club owners, agents, managers, all have changed the way we operate due to The Matrix/Algorithms.
And what, if anything, has remained the same?
The only thing that remains the same is the True Art.
Who has been most important to you in getting where you are today?
So many people helped me get to where I am today. They know who they are I thank them all the time.
And what’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your music career?
Keeping up with the ever exponentially fast-changing technology and playing a game where the ART is secondary to the Algorithm.
I always think that the music you fall in love with as a teenager lives with you for the rest of your life. You were 16 years old in 1993, a fantastic year for house music; can you tell us a few of your favourite tracks from those times?
Wow, great question; at that time, Masters At Work Remixes and productions, Todd Terry, Bjork, Jamiroquai, The Smiths. Drum & Bass, Joey Beltram, Tyree Cooper’s Acid Crash, Tribe Called Quest, Moby, C&C Music Factory, Prince… I mean the list goes on & on & on & on & on.
So does the house music of the 90s influence the music you make today?
10000% absolutely it does
And do you play your own productions much when you’re DJing?
It’s funny, I never used to as I always championed other people music first but today I do play my own music and do so proudly.
Where do you really love DJing these days?
Everywhere and anywhere the vibe is right. So many amazing places in the world that are all uniquely special. Ibiza is always magic, Spain in general.
Final question: listening to what you’ve put out just this year, you’re keeping up an impressive release schedule; what’s the secret of longevity as a house music producer?
Staying fresh, focused, not follow trends and being true to yourself as humans we have fingerprints, I try to have this ethos of having my own Soundprint when it comes to my music so I stay focused on that.