Over the past few months at the K / D HQ we have had two charismatically futuristic Santiago Salazar aka Dj S2 (Los Hermanos, UR, Historia Y Violencia, Ican, & Planet E) mixes on repeat effortlessly mixing across House and Techno with real emotive strength, raw feeling, hi-tech soul, funk, fever and imagination which is most certainly lacking at the moment we have felt.
We caught up with the L.A based artist a few weeks ago one Sunday evening over Skype exchanging a few laughs whilst discussing everything from the backyard party scene growing up in L.A, gang culture, moving to Detroit to join Underground Resistance which included touring Japan and also future releases planned for the labels he co run’s Ican and Historia Y Violencia.
SS – Its 10:45am
KID – oh ok, it’s not to early or to late.
SS- No, its perfect.
KID – First and foremost I really want to thank you for the support and for doing the interview it means a lot.
SS - No problem I’m actually happy to do it man so….
KID – Apologies for getting my timings mixed up, I honestly though it would be an decent hour, but I did not realize it would be so early your end.
SS – Its All good. (laughter) Let me ask you how do I say your name, is it Mohson?
KID – Yes, you got it spot on, its sounds like ‘awesome’ with an M but you don’t spell it that way.
KID – The way you pronounced it was perfect.
SS – Word, Ok. (laughter)
KID – Ok cool lets kick off as I don’t want to keep you too long. I will ask a few questions get it recorded then typed up and then get some stuff checked out factually, like, artists, record labels that kind of thing. It normally take me a couple weeks after I get the mix and then I get it all put up on the site do a little artwork for the header and also rework some images and quotes and then finally post it up!
SS – Sounds good.
KID – Yes definitely.
KID – Going back to your early years, where were you born and raised?
SS – I was born in Los Angeles in a little town called Bassett which is east of Los Angeles and I actually grew up in an area were there were a lot of gangs. Like ‘esse’s’ and ‘cholo’s’ and all that stuff.
KID – Sure.
SS- I also grew up where there was a backyard party scene to, back then it was like freestyle disco and all that stuff.
KID – Cool.
SS- Yeah, like every Friday and Saturday night, there was a party at someone’s house, or someone’s back yard. That actually was the start of it all.
KID – So that was the main influence from early on.
SS – Oh yeah, me and my friend’s would sneak out and we were actually to young to go to proper parties.
KID – Right.
SS – So we would sneak behind the back and peak through the fence and see girls dancing and we would like be ‘wow’ (laughter)
KID – Cool, so from your early teens how was school, family and friend’s how did all this influence you?
SS – I guess it influenced me in the way were most of my friend’s that I hung out with were into music as well. In fact we started a couple party crews in junior high. Out here there were always party crews and everybody was from a crew and everybody was trying to throw a party in someone’s back yard. That was a big part of my teenage year.
KID – Right, What kind of artists and labels were big back then?
SS – For me it was Teddy Riley from Guy, that whole new jack swing and all that stuff was really my style. The first record I ever bought was Herbie Hancock Future shock.
KID – Ok.
SS – That was like my first vinyl I ever bought, I think I was 7 or 8, I remember that just blew my mind I was just like ‘wow’ from that point on that was pretty much the music I was actually into. Into my teenage years that is when I started to listen to Guy and that whole sound.
KID – You mentioned buying records, when did you start getting into Djing and that type of stuff?
SS -It wasn’t until like 1990/91 when I started to want to become a Dj and it wasn’t until 93 in my senior year in high school when I actually started playing parties and stuff like that. Yeah I had been buying all this vinyl all through my childhood so I had all these vinyl’s saved up from hip hop to jazz to house.
KID – From playing out at house parties where did it develop from there, did your family want to keep you in education?
SS – My family never really forced me to study so much like I wished they would, but they pretty much let me do what I want.
KID – You had a lot of freedom?
SS – I came from a working class family so, they were just like if you have a job your fine so. I was working at the age of 13 cleaning offices with my mom and grandma and ever since I was 13 I have been working. School wasn’t very important it was more about helping out the family get some money.
KID – Sure, how was the culture and the environment when you was growing up anything that left a lasting impression?
SS – I think one of the things that left a lasting impression on me was, living on my block. I was one of the first kids on the block to graduate high school where some of my childhood friend’s either got shot or joined a gang and they were in jail by the age of seventeen. So I think a big influence on me was my mom, she really kept me in check. I was more scared of her than I was of the gangs, if it wasn’t for her I would probably be in jail. I really have her to thank for that.
KID – When did you move to Detroit?
SS – It was in 2001 when me, my wife and son moved there and we were living there for 4 years all the way up to 2006.
KID – What was the purpose of moving there?
SS – It was to work for Mike Banks at Submerge and for Underground Resistance.
KID – Was the entire move down to a basic phone call?
SS – Yes, it was just a phone call that I made and he happened to answer the phone.
KID – How did this all feel making the move to go and work and live with these artists?
SS – I was like a kid in a candy store.
KID – I can imagine.
SS – I was just like, wow. This overwhelming feeling that I had, to actually be there and to work around such great people and to be taught by some people who have been in the business for years and who have made some great music. I just felt like the luckiest guy from Los Angeles.
KID – I can’t even imagine, as you know techno history has been written to a certain extent and you are joining this thing to be part of?
SS – Yeah kind of like that, but still I don’t even see it like that, until I make a song like Jaguar, then maybe (laughter) ill feel that way you know. I see what you are saying.
KID – For the period you lived in Detroit, can you explain some of the learning’s and fun times?
SS – I think for one of them was working as a bar back at a club called Oslo.
KID – Oh yes.
SS – I got to hear so many Djs there, everybody from Ellen Allien, to Theo Parrish, just like a bunch of local cats and I remember going home being so inspired to make some music and just being there. There were so many memorable times man, I guess one of the biggest ones was the first night I get to Detroit, Mike Banks takes me up to his Studio to show me a track that he is working on and it was a track called Inspiration that he released, It was the flip side of Transition and I remember hearing that synthesizer line just playing and then the strings come in and I was like, “I’m in Detroit!” (laughter)
Wow it was just a big impact on me.
KID – So that you found quite inspiring?
SS – Yes, very much man.
KID – going back to these guys what were your impressions of Mike Banks and the crew?
SS – It was a very competitive environment and at one point in the building you had Gerald Mitchell, Mark Floyd, Orland Vroon there, then you had Dj 3000, and Dj Dex, Dj Genesis (Monica Lockett) in there. On every floor you had music on and everyone was trying to outdo each other. That to me was a thing that really made everybody be good and be at there best, because of the competition, what am I trying to say …(laughter)
KID – (laughter)
KID – I was just asking that working with these talented artists what was it like, and how were there personalities different?
SS – Everybody had a really good work ethic that made everybody want to work more! There was not much hanging out, but it was more if you brought good music to the table then you was fine.
KID – Los Hermanos and Galaxy 2 Galaxy how were the production sessions?
SS – I think working with Galaxy 2 Galaxy was incredible, because you had these incredible musicians who had been playing for 20 to 40 years and I learned so much from all of them. We would have practice sessions for two hours each day before a gig and that was pretty intense and pretty amazing. I never really knew how much practice a band puts in before a show before I played with them. Sometimes it was very hard and very tight, sometimes you would be very tired after session and other times the session would flow right and you would just want to keep practicing over and over, because it just felt right.
KID – Breaking down those sessions in detail what would they look like?
SS- We would start off at the beginning of the day
KID – How early?
SS – I was always early so I would get there around 7am,
KID – You was keen? (laughter)
SS – I would pack all the mail-orders all day till around 3pm or 4pm and then I would go home and eat and come back to the building to practice with the bands.
KID – So you would get there early and then the guys would rock up how were the individual personalities?
SS – Everybody was into it and everybody had there own personalities, Mike was always in charge but Gerald was like the musical genius who would pretty much pan out each song and would be like, “you play this part” and “you play this part” and “you break it down here” type thing. It worked out good because we had Gerald and Mike on keyboards, we had Raphael Merriweathers on drums and William Pope on bass, it was just like a band of brothers playing.
KID – Sure
KID – I can imagine at certain points you must have felt that everything clicked and the music sounded perfect, did you have many of those moments?
SS – Yeah, when we would start off a song it would be a bit sloppy when we first rehearsed it. After a couple times, we would get it right and everybody would be smiling.
KID – Which tracks spring to mind?
SS – I would probably say there was one song on the Interstellar Fugitives album the 2nd one, they were not credited on the CD as a song as they were bonus tracks.
KID – OK
SS – There was a track called “Spacepeoplestillloveyou” and it was produced by the Dynamic Duo which was Mike Banks and me and if you ever listen to it, it is like super super super funky, I cant explain it but its like electro but funk, its got horns in it. It really really is a fun track me and Mike actually made that in Kobe Japan and every time I hear it, it takes me back to the good times Mike and I had there, the food everything (laughter) the people, it just reminds me of the stay there, we were actually there for a month to do the album (Interstellar Fugitives 2) and that song really stands out just because it set the whole trip of as being fun and just being with Mike in the Studio and stuff was cool. (Soundcloud link)
KID – Going back to Japan can you describe some of the other gigs you had?
SS – I first started traveling with UR back in 2003. I was the keyboard player for Marc Floyd’s band called Chaos and we did a couple shows in Japan and that was very interesting and very fun (laughter). If you know Marc Floyd, he makes every show different, he never does stuff the same. Even though we would practice everyday, every practice and every performance would be different which was a little bit frustrating for me at times, but when I understood this was his method, it worked out fine.
There was a show at the Liquid Room where he did 2 whole songs laying down on stage and we were like ‘what the ……’ (laughter) that was what he wanted to do and the crowd loved it. There was another show we did in Sapporo and he (Marc Floyd) asked to be brought out in a dolly which is, do you know what a dolly is?
KID – No, what is a dolly?
SS – It is a handcart (wheel barrow), I guess you would call it right.
KID – Yes
SS – He asked to be wheeled out in a handcart taped up and then we just dump him in front of the microphone and we were like ok lets do this! (laughter) as soon as we dumped him we all started playing and he just started singing and doing his thing (laughter) the crowd love it. That was my first experience with Underground Resistance…………..MARC FLOYD.
KID – moving onto your own productions and labels can you explain those a little bit?
SS – The first one is Ican productions, which is operated by Esteban Adame, Dan Caballero and me. What we like to do with Ican is to be heavily Latin influenced working with artists mostly from Los Angeles as well, we work with some vocalists Jose ‘Perico’ Hernandes, Gonzalo Chomat and Iris Sandra Cepeda and our next release we are going to put out next month is by El Coyote which is Esteban Adame and Dan Caballero and features vocals by Iris Sandra Cepeda. It’s a very cool release, think of it as East L.A. meets Detroit Techno.
KID – cool.
KID – So Ican that’s your local and Latin influence talent and the other label Historia Y Violencia?
SS – Yes, Historia is a project Juan Mendez (Silent Servant) and I started and we also want to work with local Latino artists here that really don’t have an outlet. With a new one coming out in March and it features a new producer from Los Angeles named Roque Hernandez (aka Subversive) and on the flip side is a track by me.
KID – A standout release for me on H & V is 002 La Noche / La Minoria this release for me still sounds very prominent and textured, and a track I feel is super deep with lots of longevity and space.
SS – It is so deep to bro (laughter)
KID – Yeah
SS- That is one of the deepest records I ever heard, Juan’s track La Noche was just…….. I love it!
KID – From your time living in Detroit working part of UR I’m guessing you use a lot of hardware still?
SS – Yeah there is one instrument I always use its Carnaval by E-Mu, I don’t think they make it anymore, Carnaval basically is Latin percussion and also percussion’s from all around the world but its just a staple for me, I love it.
KID – Cool.
SS – For the most part I like to use external stuff, I like to use some sound modules and my latest toy is the Novation Xiosynth. I just love the sounds on this synth.
KID – What is the actual scene like in Los Angeles?
SS – L.A has all kinds of parties! There is a great techno scene here and you got everything here, like from down tempo, to funk, a big disco scene and then you got the Los Angeles king of the underground-Doc Martin who throws parties every other month. It’s very good for the younger people who are just starting to get into this culture to have all these parties out there bringing a lot of talent to Los Angeles.
KID – Are you playing much out in Europe?
SS – No bro, I’m not playing as much as I would want to. I just got asked to play Panorama Bar in Berlin May 15th.
KID – Are you playing as part of Historia?
SS – no I am playing with Stefan Goldman from Macro, he invited me to play, actually he was the first one to invite me there back in 2008.
KID – How did you find that?
SS – Oh man it was dope (laughter) it was dope! I like playing the Panorama Bar more than the Berghain, the Panorama Bar is more personal and intimate.
KID – Looking to the future what are your hopes, dreams and aspirations?
SS – One of my aspirations is to put out an album with twelve tracks, but realistically it probably wont happen till 2012. But, this year what I really want to do is focus on putting out a lot of good music an mostly on vinyl (because I’m a vinyl freak an I’m still supporting the vinyl scene.) My plan is to put out as many 12s as I can in 2011.
KID – And for your own labels?
SS – For Historia Y Violencia we just signed a deal with David Alvarado an he is going to put out the next twelve inch for Historia. Juan and I are very excited about putting out a record by David because David Alvarado is a big influence on us when we were barely getting into it. He was playing parties every weekend and he was on the radio an he really inspired a lot of people here in Los Angeles with his style of playing and music.
As for Ican Productions, we are putting out a El Coyote EP followed by a Esteban Adame EP this year.
KID – Your next birthday what would be a dream line up to have play?
SS – Oh damn, wow, that’s a hard one bro, I would like to bring Jus Ed back here to play, that guy can throw down a party and make everybody laugh at the same time. One of my dreams also would be to do a track with Jenifa Mayanja.
KID – Jus Ed’s wife?
SS – I would love to do a song with her, she is one of the biggest influences on me in a while and her style……
KID – I hear Jenifa has a new album project coming out soon to.
SS – When I first heard her stuff I was blown away, there is something about the way she makes music that is so fresh I love it!
KID – From your background do people understand your music?
SS – My family is cool with it, I don’t think they fully understand it, as for my parents they know it takes me around the world and stuff like that, they support me. As far as making traditional music I think for me this is my traditional music, I get support from my friend’s some of my co-workers but understand this music because they never listen to it but they just think its the same repetitive sound and they say ‘does the music ever change, does the beat ever change’ and im like you don’t get it. (laughter) My biggest supporters are of course my wife and my son, because they put up with it every day so.
KID – What does your wife think of your music style?
SS – She is my biggest supporter, when I first asked her about moving to Detroit, we both had great jobs here in L.A. and she was like sure ‘we aren’t getting any younger we might as well do it now’!
KID – Amazing.
SS – Yeah, just to have her on my side to say something like that without second guessing it, she knows that this is what i love and she was willing to do it.
The fourth feature on Keep It Deep – Santiago Salazar Techno Chicano and Santiago has also provided a podcast to accompany the feature interview so the geeky, the great and the down right inquisitive can enjoy and dance to the featured artist at there best!
More details below:
KID – Where was the mix recorded and with what equipment?
SS- 2 turntables, 2 CDJ’s and NUMARK Mixer
KID – The idea or feeling behind the mix?
SS- Techno music from Los Angeles artist/vocalist
KID – Tracklist?
01. Truncate – Contrasts (Santiago Salazar Remix) – Modularz
02. Santiago Salazar – Retiro – Historia y Violencia
03. Esteban Adame – Brown Dream – unreleased
04. Aztech Sol – The Vision – unreleased
05. Santiago Salazar – Turning Point – 7th Sign Recordings
06. Nomadico – Revuelta – unreleased
07. Suli Belarto – Outerfearance – unreleased
08. John Tejada & Arian Leviste – Messenger – Palette Recordings
09. Raiders of the Lost Arp – Beyond the Dark(DJ S2 Remix) – Nature Records
10. David Alvarado – Aurora – Power Music
11. Developer – Centuria – Modularz
12. Kenneth Graham – Germs – Bomb Records
13. Silent Servant – El Savaje – Modularz
14. Fanon Flowers – Maschinenhaus Pt.1 – Sect Records