When you ask a veteran of dance music culture who are the top DJs in the world, you can pretty much guess that Sasha would be in the top 10. This epic mix from Sasha is perfect to set the pace for a high-intensity workout. There are DJs who turn up, play records and make people dance. And there are producers who make the dancefloor-igniting records those DJs will kill for. There are very few people in dance music who can do both and Sasha is the leader of the pack. Ever since he rode in on a tidal wave of adoration from the North of England's explosive early 90s club scene, that magic touch has made Alexander Coe one of the most famous, most revered DJ on the planet.
It's because of what he can do with music - the way he can make good records sound better, great records sound awesome, and everything he plays into his own. The way his mixes take elements from across the spectrum of electronic dance, from trance, breaks, progressive and deep house, and create a languidly hypnotic liquid groove. The way his understanding of both melody and momentum can tease, taunt and entrance a dancefloor before unleashing a record that will have people not just leaping up and down but bursting with emotion. The best DJs know that Djing is first about being able to read people and then about being able to tap into that human experience and take it on a journey. Sasha has always been noted for being a master at this and it is this universal appeal that he has tapped into that has established his strong fanbase around the globe.
Do not be mistaken, this kind of recognition does not happen overnight. Born and raised in a small town in Wales, Sasha was exposed to Motown records when he was just a baby and it was in the home that his talent for playing the piano was developed. His stepmother forced him to take lessons. At the time, he hated them, but after his first studio session - and this is typical Sasha - he phoned her to say thank you. His first exposure to house music was at Manchester's Hacienda; just as dance music exploded into the summer of love. One visit and the young pony-tailed Sasha was hooked. "The smoke machine, the strobe lights, everyone trance dancing, wearing bandanas and smiley T-shirts," he smiles now. "It definitely had a fuck-you attitude compared to the rest of pop music." This impact encouraged his move from Wales to Manchester. His first exploration into DJing was when a DJ in a local pub announced he was looking for people to play club dates. Sasha volunteered and now says that he 'had about 30 records and basically just blagged it'.
After honing his deck technique, Sasha's first big break came when he was offered a residency at Stokes legendary club Shelly's. When all the other DJ's were playing US House, Sasha's style was much more uplifting, and he encapsulated clubbers with his mixture of piano-led Italian House whilst playing acapella tracks over the top. This combination alongside a wide variety of anthems kept dancefloors full and elevated Sasha to hero status. And, let's not forget, in a world where the DJ had too often been bespectacled nerds, here the headline DJ had the looks and charm to match his growing following. In classic rock n' roll style, here was a star that boys wanted to hang out with and girls wanted to get just that little more bit close to.
Shelly's was the launch pad for the residency at Renaissance, where Sasha created his niche and helped forge a new style in UK house music. At Renaissance two major things happened; Sasha mixed the first ever UK DJ mix album and he met John Digweed which cemented the partnership known as 'Northern Exposure'. Sasha and John have played together on five continents, have mixed 3 'Northern Exposure' albums which have sold to over 1 million people worldwide. This special brother-like relationship that Sasha and Digweed have on the decks is what landed them the monthly residency at New York's "Twilo", following in the footsteps of Vasquez and Tenaglia.
The first DJ cover star - on Mixmag in early 1991 - the still shy DJ was freaked. "I was so used to going to places and just hanging out. Suddenly there was a stream of people coming up," he recalls. "Of course, it's bound to happen. You go to Liverpool and you're the first 'pin-up' DJ and you're going to get shit. Frankly, It still weirds me out." Today he still remains shy at heart. "I'm not very good in social situations where I'm put on the spot," he says. "Like meeting new people, small talk. Just never been good with that." It's this contradiction - the coyness that Alexander Coe has when it comes to being Sasha, that's at the core of the Sasha myth.
Although Sasha has clearly reached a celebrity status, it's his generous personality, his love for his peers and, of course, his completely candid humour that has enabled him to maintain such a likeable high profile in the often-fickle world of club culture. Sasha has gone from DJ to superstar status in America, where 'Sasha' is a household name for many teenagers - a grueling three-month tour took their sound further out into deepest America, preaching a gospel of repetitive beats and imaginative mixing from coast to coast, and right through the midwestern heartland of the States. A punishing gig-a-night schedule that must make nights like the opening of Space in Ibiza in June seem like a holiday by comparison.
There followed a move back into releasing his own music, collaborating with the former Underworld mainstay, DJ Darren Emerson on 'Scorchio'. For Sasha, music is his first love, and what gives him a buzz is being able to share his music with others. Soon after 'Scorchio' came the first concrete proof of the long-awaited, debut Sasha long player.
'Airdrawndagger' took his nose for the dancefloor's g-spot and combined it with the ears for a heartstring-strumming melody, a smile inducing hook and dirty great b-line to create a 69-minute symphony that sounds as wistfully enchanting doing the hoovering at home as it does reaching for the lasers on Saturday night. Like the best Sasha DJ set you ever heard, it has melancholy mixed with euphoria, downtempo introspection mixed with jump n' shout excitement.
Across the 11 tracks, there's the time and space to reflect his love for music that rarely gets the chance to shine in clubs, whether that's punishingly gnarly breakbeats or glittering modern classical film scores. It's a symphony for all ravers that grew up but never grew out of chasing that buzz. A record of a journey that began, as so many did, in the smoke and strobes of Manchester's Hacienda nightclub and has now taken him to Midwestern stadia and around the globe.
And that's an award-winning journey. The Delta Heavy Tour that consisted of Sasha, John Digweed and Jimmy Van M and took in 35 gigs between March and May last year was recently awarded Best Dance Event at the Dancestar Awards 2003. It was a series of gigs that took DJing into unprecedented waters - two mammoth tour buses, visuals by the company behind hit movie 7even's intense opening credit sequence, and crowds of up to 15,000 clubbers crammed into arenas, warehouses and theatres across the United States. The success was such that Sasha and the boys will be back on the road to do it all again, bigger, better, badder come Spring next year.
After a summer of dates across the globe, including sets at Homelands, Creamfields, Dance Valley, and hosting a stage in the forest of the Mount Fuji Festival, Sasha has been in the studio again, working on new plans and ideas, and most recently remixing the forthcoming UNKLE single. Expect a few surprises over the coming months, for the man simply refuses to stand still.
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