One of the first DJs outside London to make a name for himself
in the aftermath of the acid house explosion, Sashas career
hasnt followed the typical path. Hes gone from periods
of massive popularity to disappearing from the scene for months
on end. The music hes played has been derided and lauded in
equal measure, whilst the music hes made never quite seems
to fulfil its potential. Yet through it all hes retained a
loyal following nationwide.
Sasha grew up in Hawarden, North Wales, but moved to Maidenhead,
Surrey when his parents split up. A bright kid, he won a scholarship
to an exclusive public school at the age of sixteen, but hated it
and only lasted a year. He returned to Wales and lived in Bangor
for a short while, but after a few trips up the motorway to the
Hacienda club, he moved to Manchester and got a job in telesales.
The Hacienda was Sashas mecca and he attended religiously
for two years, living and breathing the new house music played by
Graeme Park, Mike Pickering and Jon DaSilva.
When the opportunity arose to DJ in a local pub on Monday nights,
Sasha took it, even though he only owned a handful of records. He
graduated to pirate radio, then a few gigs in Manchester, Blackpool
and Coventry, before landing a residency at Shellys in Stoke.
Although he was only there for a year or so, this was where the
myth of Sasha was built, his trademark uplifting, piano-heavy sound
(he can play piano to grade eight standard) and long fluid mixes
setting down the blueprint for what became known as Northern rave.
It wasnt long before Sasha was playing the Hacienda himself
and in an age when there was no such thing as a DJ circuit yet,
Sasha became one of the first travelling DJs, criss-crossing the
North and Midlands. Even then, when the dance scene had yet to fragment
into genres, Sasha had his own unique style and he would often be
the only DJ on the bill to play uplifting music.
But the scene did split, into rave and trendy clubbing, so Sasha,
unsure as to where he fitted in any more, accepted the offer of
a weekly residency at a new night, Renaissance, in the grimy East
Midlands town of Mansfield. At the time, the venue was one of the
very few outside London with a 6am licence, so with Sasha at the
helm and the late opening as a bonus, Renaissance was a success,
launching one of the nineties most successful club brands.
It was at Renaissance that Sasha began to hone the sound he would
become known for, progressive trance, a kind of hybrid
of the new trance music coming out of Germany and his traditionally
uplifting style, vocals, pianos and all. It was also at Renaissance
that Sasha met John Digweed, then a virtual unknown from Brighton.
Digweed, whose style mirrored that of Sashas, became a resident
at the club and the two became firm friends, forming a partnership
that would last until the present day.
It was around this time that Sasha became a front page subject
for DMCs Mixmag magazine. The editor decided to ask the question,
"Is Sasha the worlds first pin-up DJ"? The editor
at the time no less a person than Dave Seaman!!!
In 1995, Digweed who had a long history as a club promoter
launched the monthly Northern Exposure night at The Zap in
Brighton, with Sasha and himself installed as the resident and only
DJs. Northern Exposure moved to The Old Barn in Kent for six successful
months. In fact it was so successful that Northern Exposure went
on to tour the UK and Sasha and Digweed signed an three-album deal
with Ministry Of Sound Recordings.
Since they met, Sasha and John have DJed together all over the
globe. They are especially popular in the US, particularly in the
Florida and San Francisco areas, and today hold a prestigious residency
at Twilo, New York. Their Stateside success is a far cry from Sashas
first US gig, at the Sound Factory (the former name for Twilo) in
1994, when unbeknownst to Sasha, resident DJ Junior Vasquez turned
down the volume in an effort to ruin his set and the US crowd just
couldnt adjust to his highs-and-lows DJing style.
But things change fast in the fickle world of dance music and progressive
trance mutated into epic house in the mid-nineties,
associated with endless breakdowns, pompous, overblown trance tracks
beset by weak vocals. Sasha and Digweed were criticised as the worst
offenders. They adjusted their sound as a result, introducing breakbeats
and cutting out much of the weaker material, but point out that
some of the key producers whose material was condemned as epic house
are amongst the most popular nowadays, such as Paul van Dyk and