Memoirs from the Masters - Sandy Rivera
Sandy Rivera is an integral part of the bricks and mortar of the house scene and has earned his place in the history books through his timeless releases under his own name and the moniker ‘Kings of Tomorrow’. To celebrate his latest Kings of Tomorrow release ‘Burn So Deep’, available exclusively on Traxsource, we wanted to get Sandy’s opinion on how things have changed over the years, how a day in the studio might be and what the future holds for the king of tomorrow.
Hi Sandy, thanks for taking the time to talk to us. You started DJing at just 13 years old, how did you find yourself behind the turntables at such a tender age?
In my hood, Spanish Harlem, we had nothing to do at all but get wasted, steal things and hang out. Guidance back in those days was not even in the dictionary for most parents. People on welfare still worked off the books for extra cash, so most parents were not around. Kids like me were left alone a lot, but music had always fascinated me and was the only thing I seemed to pay attention to, so I became curious about the music making process. As soon as anyone I knew had turntables, I wanted to play with them all day. I have a clear childhood memory of my late dad playing Musique ‘In The Bush’ and that would be the tune to give me my first jaw dropping experience, with the texture of sound and looking at the tune spinning on an old school turntable. My dad had a nice collection of disco tunes!
When did you first decide to record a track and what equipment did you use?
I started with an Alesis drum machine and that became my introduction to making beats. That machine got boring really quick, but I would still stay up late trying to be creative using it and it seems like that process has never left me. I still stay up late trying to be get creative in my studio!
How are you recording tracks in 2015?
That would be 25 years of knowledge. Pro Tools is my back end for recording. I do use the sequencer but I prefer to use it with Ableton. I do have Logic, but have never really enjoyed using it.
How have your recording techniques changed over the years?
Sequencers back then were very loose with the whole MIDI thing. Everything was analogue to begin with and in a way, that has come full circle. If you’re an analogue junkie like me, then some things have not changed so much. Tracking to tape has changed a lot. From tape to a DAT to digital recordings and now people feel the need to go back again. I think an extremely good mic, pre-amp and compressor is essential. If you record everything through that and into the digital domain, you are at a good analogue start.
Tell us about how your new track ‘Burn So Deep’ came about?
I always try a few different ideas, but am always very specific in where I want the track to go. ‘Burn So Deep’ came out of a very specific idea. We had the lyrics and we just needed the perfect music to allow the vocal to flourish. With that in mind, we tried a disco version in a different key to the original track, so re-recorded the vocals to the disco mix and added a new hook. Once we had the final vocals done, I moved into doing the ‘Classic Soulful Mix’ and that became the package we released on Traxsource. We worked really hard on it, but the actual original version won’t be released as the two version we did just worked.
How do you decide what vocalists to feature on your records?
Most vocalists on all my past records I knew and have been in the room with them to write and record. Now we’re finishing some songs with singers I have not really met yet and I’m getting songs done where I am not there, though I much prefer to record the vocalist and be part of the session. It’s the only part of music that seems real to me. To only get sent the vocals as digital files is still hard for me to deal with.
Is there anyone that you’d love to work with past or present?
We have reached out to Michelle Weeks for a new record. We did ‘10 Minute High’ back in the day and a girl from Toronto called Nisha is the latest new singer I’ve got a collab going with – she’s dope. As far as a legend that I’d like to work with, it’s gotta be Mary J Blige. I’d love to spend a couple of days in the lab with her writing a house record.
What are your thoughts on the current house music scene?
A lot of the current stuff I really dig. There’s a big throwback to the 90’s scene going on which is cool when it’s done right; respect and knowledge. But so much has changed; fake seems to be the new cool. Ghost producers are now a must have for certain people who can’t actually make music and have a busy touring schedule. It really sucks how the audience love someone for the records they don’t make, but I guess that’s just the music business scene these days.
Is there any DJ gig in your career that really stands out as a truly special moment?
It’s a difficult question to answer as there has been too many special ones, both big and small. My last gig was Suncebeat in Croatia and that has been a huge highlight of 2015. The audience was on point and all the DJs came with the goods to make the entire time I was around very special. The KAOZ boat party with Marques Wyatt & Kerri Chandler was extremely good and what a pleasure it was to play with those guys. I got a bit naughty on the boat as it was a private party and I wanted to have a blast while I played my set!
Sandy’s latest Kings of Tomorrow release, ‘Burn So Deep’ on Defected Records, is available here exclusively on Traxsource.