If you find yourself in a rut, take a step outside your comfort zone. It's sage advice you've likely heard before, but consider it again. It's been the secret to Sasha's Grammy nominated, four-time International Dance Music Award winning, four-time DJ Award winning, double decade-spanning success, and that's certainly saying something.
"I like to set myself challenges and goals, and then it keeps me focused," the Welsh DJ and producer says. "Whenever there's been parts in my career when I haven't had something to build towards, I've drifted a bit, and I've gotten lost. Setting a challenge for myself is something that really is going to keep me very driven for the next six months, and then who knows what else is going to come from that?"
These next six months of his life will be consumed by the mountainous task of reinterpreting his catalog for live performance. Come May 20, 2017, he'll give what should be the most stirring presentation of his life at the Barbican Centre in London.
"It's not something I ever thought I'd do," he says, "but seeing people like Bonobo, Jon Hopkins, and Nils Frahm incorporate real musicians and synths live, it's possible to do it now."
He'll take the stage with an array of musicians to bring his beautifully expansive and electronically orchestral Scene Delete album to life, but what he's really excited about is the section that will follow of reinterpreted Sasha classics and favorites. He's entrenched in the hard wires of the project, currently listening and breaking apart all his works, isolating melodies and drum patterns, figuring out what musicians should be tapped to play what parts, what arrangements can be fleshed out, and what songs are best suited for the task.
"Some of the oldest stuff hasn't dated as well as some of it has, but then you get into the sessions and you hear some of the counter melodies and things that were lurking in the background of these tracks and you're like, 'well that's actually really strong,'" he says. "I know it's six months away, but I know that time's going to go very very quickly … it's a bit frightening, but it's very exciting, too."
But to think Sasha is a one-project at a time kind of man would be foolish. You don't get to be one of house music's most lauded minds by taking life one step at a time. He recently wrapped a world tour with long-time on-again-off-again partner John Digweed.
"Magic happens when John and I are in the booth together, and it's still there after all these years," he says. "We're talking about future possibilities, but I don't really have any news yet."
As soon as Scene Delete dropped in April, he went straight to the musical drawing board, this time diving deep back into the club world. One of the first songs finished was "Rivaldo," a dark and driving tune that builds the groove layer by layer as voices echo unintelligible through a thick fog of funk. He tapped Nicole Moudaber for an edgy remix. In fact, Moudaber's remix was finalized before Sasha's official original found its final mix.
"She only had a day to work, and she's like 'just send me the parts,' but we hadn't quite finished our mix yet," he remembers. "She said 'don't worry about it,' so she worked on her remix based on a version that was a couple of versions before the final. She got the parts, took it off into her own direction, and I think it's good. The two tracks have really got a different vibe to them, so it worked out really nicely."
"Rivaldo" is the first of many club tracks scheduled for release in the coming months. The original and the roughed-up remix from Moudaber are available Nov. 18, though Billboard Dance fans can stream "Rivaldo" exclusively below. Tickets for the Barbican performance are sold out, but in true Sasha fashion, the producer is already dreaming of the future.
"I think I'll look at this year as being a pivotal year in my career," he says. "Working on this live performance and interpreting the music I've written before into a space like that is going to inspire me to write music in a different way. I'm really excited to see what comes out in the studio off the back of working on some of the older stuff, playing around with different sounds. I've got a feeling another record's going to pop out of that."