In the increasingly flamboyant world of house, he stands out as one of the scene's few distinctive personalities. In a genre where artists often rise to champion status only to be dismissed within a year or two, this man has released a slew of razor-sharp singles to massive critical and commercial acclaim. As aware of the past as he is of the future, at present he stands miles ahead of the floor competition. How many other New Jersy jocks would profess to a penchant for Dave Clarke, Bon Jovi and Radiohead? Only one man fits this description - step forward Junior Sanchez. Whether ripping through sets with house head Roger Sanchez at El Divino's Release Yourself Monday night in Ibiza or working with fellow studio fiends The Rhythm Masters and Christian Smith, Junior applies his signature style into his everything he does. Raised in Jersey by a single mother and the youngest of six siblings, it was inevitable that his musical adventures would start earlier than most. It's even more impressive that he's still only 24 years old.
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"We all had our own character and style," he remembers. "One brother was into Pet Shop Boys and Depeche Mode and another was into The Revolting Cocks. But my sister was into Boston and ELO! I learned to appreciate all kinds of music early on. I began to see how they all worked together." One reason for Junior's longevity is the simple fact that he started listening to music while most kids were making sandcastles. "They all bought vinyl 'cos it was really popular, so when they left home I had a shitload of vinyl on my hands. That's why I love good music in general."
Fast forward a few years and Sanchez had what we're tempted to call A Seminal Moment. "In 1989 my brother came home with his girlfriend - now his wife - And told me her sister's husband's brother makes music. His name was Jose Chinga (AKA Tony Rodriguez)" Still confused? Hold off for a second and let Sanchez explain. "Freestyle - stuff like Shannon and Joyce Syms - was really big here and I was really excited 'cos Jose owned a big Freestyle label called Basement Records. I went there every weekend for a year and saw my first mixing board. I saw all the bright lights and I was buggin'!"
At fifteen, Junior had a residency at Club USA in Times Square "playing house music and eighties for queens in Times Square. It was amazing." And even though eventually he lost touch with Jose, Junior kept on doing his thing inside his head. Get ready for Seminal Moment Number Two. "In 1994 I was at the New Music Seminar at The Limelight for a Ministry party and a guy from New York approached me and said I've got a studio, do you wanna come and work?"
Still only fifteen years old, he started tinkering on a few projects with his new acquaintance. One track - The Guardians - sampled some percussion from 'In And Out Of My Life' by Tania Danzleter. "Believe it or not, the first record I ever made got sampled by Armand," recalls Junior wistfully. "We sampled each other before we knew each other! Now he's like my big brother."
As a result, school fell by the wayside. "It was an obstacle course for me," he admits. "On Wednesday I'd go to The Sound Factory and listen to Louis Vega and not even know why I was at school on Thursday. People didn't know what the fuck I was doing." Holding down a variety of part-time jobs - "most of them were in retail. I could sell ice to an eskimo!" - the money he saved went towards buying the first Sanchez drum machine. Well, sort of.
Here's the real story. "I actually stole my first drum machine from the music department in high school," he shrugs. Racked by guilt - "well, they weren't using it!" - Sanchez saved $800 to buy a Roland W30, the same model Armand was using. (Van Helden, in turn had got his machine from former New Kids pretty boy Jordan Knight. Did he steal his too? "Actually, I think he did! But he also taught me how to sequence on it.")
The two went on to form the Mongoloids, a collective of like-minded producers committed to creating imaginative beats within the industry. Daft Punk, Jacques Lu Cont and soon signed on the dotted line; Roger Sanchez, Sneak and The Jaxx weren't far behind.
The new friendships continued apace. While working with Erick Morillo at Double Platinum Studios, Junior met Harry 'Choo Choo' Romero and mutual respect led to creative energy and the partnership started mixing tracks like 'One In A Million' by the sadly missed Aaliyah. As Nitebreed Productions - named after the Clive Barker horror movie about a civilization that lives underneath a cemetery - their dark blend of tribal beats continues to this day. "We're already planning more collaborations," says Sanchez.
Junior's first solo project came in early '96 with Junior Sanchez Presents 'The Bionic Traxx' on Strictly Rhythm, which marked a significant step forward musically. A year later, Junior began touring with Roger Sanchez and DJ Sneak as the S-Men. The boy was on a roll. In 1999, 'B With U' with soul diva Dajae became an Ibiza anthem for the entire season and was eventually picked up by Manifesto, generating Junior's first Top Thirty hit. His latest endeavor, meanwhile - the idiosyncratic Cube Recordings - is an independent label concern.
Inspired by the art of collaboration - "I like to see how minds collide. It's fun, man!" - he's recently hooked up with The Rhythm Masters ("Americans in English bodies, they're from the Todd Terry School of making beats"), Christian Smith ("He never knew I liked techno but to me, music is music") and fellow eighties fanatic Felix Da Housecat. "I was doing eighties shit before the eighties blew up again. I sampled Bon Jovi back in the day!"
Thankfully, his solo album promises to eschew the pitfalls his peers have fallen into. "I'm not gonna make no crazy concept album. It's gonna be about everything that's influence me over the years. Not retro, not futuristic. After 'B With You', a lot of people thought I played Italian style house but I don't necessarily play like Roger. I have a young, excited mind. You can't do the same shit you did yesterday. I don't hoard drum breaks or hi-hat loops. I guess I'm lucky in that I'm always challenging myself."
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