DJ Sneak: Reconstructing house

Trends may come and go, but DJ Sneak is always house. From his enduring classic You Can’t Hide From Your Bud right through to his most recent collection of 20 straight-up Chicago cuts House Of House, the jack has never failed him. In fact, the man’s dedication to his sound has become almost evangelical, especially when its popularity on dancefloors was in a low ebb.

In 2010, though, Sneak is sitting pretty (and possibly a little smugly). The ‘90s template that he helped create is currently enjoying a revival, and he’s a DJ in demand. Or in the language of Sneak, “More people are getting into house music, but they’re barely getting their feet wet.”

This month, Sneak’s house mission leads him back here for Stereosonic, where he’ll play alongside some of his Ibiza buddies like Carl Cox, Luciano and Ricardo Villalobos. Speaking to inthemix from his adopted hometown of Toronto, the jackin’ master leaves little doubt of where his heart still lies.

It’s Monday morning. How are you feeling?

I’m cool, just a bit tired from the road. Back home now, just back from Ibiza and Fabric in London. Fabric is looking lovely these days, you know. They were looking not so good earlier this year, but they’ve made a huge turnaround. I was playing in Room 2 with Terry Francis; that’s a powerful room as well.

How do you find living and working from Toronto?

Toronto’s a booming city, man. I’ve been here nearly 12 years now and it keeps getting bigger and better. Canada in general is a great country, but Toronto is becoming like its New York.

You seemed to spend a lot of the Northern summer on the road in Europe. How was it?

Very busy, man. As you might’ve heard, house music has become the popular sound again; more my style of house music. That Chicago, jackin’ stuff. The transition has happened from all the minimal guys not wanting to be called minimal any more; just plain house.

So there’s a marked change from, say, three years ago? People are digging more. The people over 30 who knew good music back in the day are starting to reach back to those records again and replay them. It’s recapturing the whole enigma and the energy that those records had back in the day. House music from the Strictly Rhythm days 10, 12 years ago is timeless. So I mean, that’s been the transition.

There’s a definite ‘90s feel to a lot of new records too.

Yeah, I’m getting stuff from Germany and England, mostly Europe, that’s mostly trying to go back to that ‘90s flavoured house. It’s party music at the end of the day. Chicago house resurfaces from time to time. You have the cycles. I kept pushing the sound even when everything else was becoming more popular. I think what is happening now is people are looking for that feeling that the ‘90s had.

Do you get back to Chicago much?

Once in a while. I’ve got a house there, my mother lives there. I spent a bit of time there last December, about a month and a half, but to tell the truth man I couldn’t wait to get back to Toronto. Toronto’s my new home, I feel at ease here. Chicago’s got a lot of people doing the same, so it’s a struggle to stay competitive with hundreds of others doing the same as you. In Toronto, I’m the king, man.

Do you see young producers picking up where your legacy left off in Chicago?

I see it more happening in Europe. Really in the last ten years I’ve been planting seeds all over. Now kids who saw me a few years back have got the bug; they’re giving me their music. They say, “I went to this party and you were playing wicked vocals and deep house and afterwards I made these tracks”. Then if I like them, I get them played. It’s mostly Europe. The US is still in that whole Autotune, hip hop wannabe dance music. I’m not really into that [sighs deeply]. I’m not moved when The Black Eyed Peas want to make a house record.

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