The first DJ cover star – on Mixmag in early 1991 – the still shy DJ was freaked. “I was so used to going to places and just hanging out. Suddenly there was a stream of people coming up,” he recalls. “Of course it’s bound to happen. You go to Liverpool and you’re the first ‘pin-up’ DJ and you’re going to get shit. Frankly, It still weirds me out.” Today he still remains shy at heart. “I’m not very good in social situations where I’m put on the spot,” he says. “Like meeting new people, small talk. Just never been good with that.” It’s this contradiction – the coyness that Alexander Coe has when it comes to being Sasha, that’s at the core of the Sasha myth.
Although Sasha has clearly reached a celebrity status, it’s his generous personality, his love for his peers and of course his completely candid humour that has enabled him to maintain such a likeable high profile in the often-fickle world of club culture. Sasha has gone from DJ to superstar status in America, where ‘Sarsha’ is a household name for many teenagers – a gruelling three month tour took their sound further out into deepest America, preaching a gospel of repetitive beats and imaginative mixing from coast to coast, and right through the mid western heartland of the States. A punishing gig-a-night schedule that must make nights like the opening of Space in Ibiza in June seem like a holiday by comparison.
There followed a move back into releasing his own music, collaborating with the former Underworld mainstay, DJ Darren Emerson on ‘Scorchio’. For Sasha, music is his first love, and what gives him a buzz is being able to share his music with others. Soon after ‘Scorchio’ came the first concrete proof of the long-awaited, debut Sasha longplayer.
‘Airdrawndagger’ took his nose for the dancefloor’s g-spot and combined it with the ears for a heartstring strumming melody, a smile inducing hook and dirty great b-line to create a 69 minute symphony that sounds as wistfully enchanting doing the hoovering at home as it does reaching for the lasers on Saturday night. Like the best Sasha DJ set you ever heard, it has melancholy mixed with euphoria, downtempo introspection mixed with jump n’ shout excitement.
Across the 11 tracks, there’s the time and space to reflect his love for music that rarely gets the chance to shine in clubs, whether that’s punishingly gnarly breakbeats or glittering modern classical film scores. It’s a symphony for all ravers that grew up but never grew out of chasing that buzz. A record of a journey that began, as so many did, in the smoke and strobes of Manchester’s Hacienda nightclub and has now taken him to Midwestern stadia and around the globe.
And that’s an award-winning journey. The Delta Heavy Tour that consisted of Sasha, John Digweed and Johnny Van M and took in 35 gigs between March and May last year was recently awarded Best Dance Event at the Dancestar Awards 2003. It was a series of gigs that took DJing into unprecedented waters – two mammoth tour buses, visuals by the company behind hit movie 7even’s intense opening credit sequence, and crowds of up to 15,000 clubbers crammed into arenas, warehouses and theatres across the United States. The success was such that Sasha and the boys will be back on the road to do it all again, bigger, better, badder come Spring next year.
After a summer of dates across the globe, including sets at Homelands, Creamfields, Dance Valley, and hosting a stage in the forest of the Mount Fuji Festival, Sasha has been in the studio again, working on new plans and ideas, and most recently remixing the forthcoming UNKLE single. Expect a few surprises over the coming months, for the man simply refuses to stand still.
What epitomizes Sasha more than anything though, is the fact that he never really fully jumped into the mainstream. “I never went for the commercial jugular, despite many opportunities,” he says. “When I made my name in the ‘90s doing piano break remixes for pop artists, I didn’t feel satisfied artistically and I chose a different path. That doesn’t mean to say that I wouldn’t be open to working on more commercial music, but I’d much prefer to remix an Arcade Fire or a Radiohead over a 50 Cent any day.”
Sasha’s magnificent dancefloor records overshadow his pop moments (notably remixes of Madonna, Seal, and D:Ream). His four-track EP ‘Xpander’ from 1999 is undoubtedly the zenith of his production career. The ambitious 11 minute lead track – an intoxicating mix of dark hypnotic melodies and spine-tingling trance – was voted by BBC Radio 1 listeners in 2011 as the third best dance track of all time. Sasha’s other famous club anthems include ‘Scorchio’, his 2000 collaboration with Underworld’s Darren Emerson, and ‘Wavey Gravy’, the hit single from his 2002 debut album ‘Airdrawndagger’.
Sasha’s debut longplayer is also considered by some to be one of electronic music’s most underrated works of genius. The 11-track opus played like a mystical voyage through the dark and beautiful side of dance music. As it moved quite brilliantly between poignant breakbeat, moving melodies, and deep four-to-the-floor grooves, it captured both his immense studio talents, and his ability to segue multiple genres, electronic rhythms and sounds into one epic piece of music.
Sasha will soon become a curator of quality dance music too. After a brief record label experiment (EmFire), Sasha will launch his own imprint this year called Last Night On Earth. The label will be Sasha’s home for supporting exciting new electronic music talent and his new solo productions. And surely, Sasha being Sasha, the label will be a resounding success.
How to explain his Midas touch though? Well Sasha answered that 20 years ago, in that first Mixmag article: “Seeing my face in a magazine is great, but the DJing is what it is all about”.