“In a lot of people’s worlds, I’ve completely vanished off the radar,” says DJ/producer Noel Sanger. But he’s still creating a plethora of new tracks and DJing, plus continuing to collaborate with some of the bigger names in the biz ... And Sanger does it all without “fart-y basslines” or “crack head-y” beats.
You’re an ex-metalhead who sang in a band and you have a background in music theory. How does that play a part in your productions and DJ sets?
I come at writing tracks a little differently; a lot of DJs don’t have a background in music. For me—in the early days especially—I had to really force myself not to think like a musician. Think more like a DJ. Think more about the dance floor … I think I’ve come to a pretty good point now where I can integrate both.
Sphere of Influence was just released in February. Tell us a little about it:
It’s a DJ mix. Got a few of my own productions on there—they’re mislabeled on the actual CD. Track six, Jackson Wild, “Unemployed Lover,” that’s my remix. And then Dennis Shepherd & Cold Blue “Not Too Late”—it doesn’t even have the song title on there, but that’s also my remix … It’s the first [album] I’ve done in six years, and I’m excited to get it out there. It starts out tech-y house and winds up with pretty trance-y elements in there, so it covers a bit of ground, I guess.
How did the mis-labeling occur?
(laughing) I missed it on the proof. My fault. Error of the designer, but I proofed it. I approved it. [The] buck stops with me.
Speaking of mis-labeling, you worked on Tiësto’s Elements of Life, but didn’t receive credit. What happened?
Officially… my name’s not on it. … [Tiësto] hired BT [aka Brian Transeau] because he wanted to get a different sound than what he’d been getting from working with the same Dutch guys. BT turned around and hired me to come out there to sort of program—not write anything, not produce anything, just program. … Tijs would have ideas, I would facilitate those and help bring them into reality. Or I would come up with a beat and a bassline … and play it for the guys. One of those things became “Break My Fall,” which, when you listen to [it] now, you don’t hear anything from what I did. … It’s just totally been redone by guys in Holland or whatever.
I was supposed to be credited on the tracks I worked on, but there was really no way to enforce that because my deal was with Brian’s company … I didn’t mind until the record was nominated for a Grammy. Now, I can’t really claim to be a Grammy-nominated whatever-I-would-have-been—“engineer” is what I guess I would have been credited as. So that was a little bit of a bummer.
When might we see a Noel Sanger artist album?
Let’s hope that such a thing is going to come to fruition by the end of this year. I’m working on it now… I sit with my guitar and I write lyrics. I’m actually going to be singing quite a bit of the album. …
I’ve been putting out a lot of tracks all this time since my last mix CD [Summerbreeze 2]… You have to be either such a fan of serious magnitude or a DJ to even know about that stuff. I haven’t done anything that really reaches right out to the actual clubbers, the actual fans, the actual consumers. In a lot of people’s worlds, I’ve completely vanished off the radar. Sphere of Influence is step one in coming back on to the radar. Then, the artist album will be step two.
There was something that came out in ’98, but that was more of like a collection of tracks I had done over the preceding two or three years. But it wasn’t really an artist album. In fact, it has some very embarrassing hippy-style spoken word on it that’s really comical to look back on now—something about dragonflies and so forth. We’ll not talk about that one
What are you using in your studio right now?
I use Logic. I still use Logic 7, because I just haven’t gone out and bought 8. Everything works and I’m very happy with it. … I actually used to teach it at Full Sail [University] in [Florida] as an Apple Pro certified Logic trainer. I’m a big Apple fanboy, I guess.
What trends have you noticed in dance music lately and where is it headed?
Definitely tech-y sounds are creeping into everything. It’s doing what electro house did a few years ago. … Most of my tracks—even my tranciest ones – if you strip them down and listen to the drums and the programming, it’s all very techno influenced. .. Though, I think everybody’s going to be just as sick of it as they are of the fart-y basslines in 18 or 20 months.
You know what I really like and I think will never change and will never go away? Good songs. Everybody’s tripping over themselves to be more minimal than the next guy right now. It’s all very trippy and drug-oriented and so forth… I don’t want people to have to be on drugs or messed up in any way to appreciate the music I play as a DJ or produce in the studio. I want it to be listenable and I want it to be something that people can grab a hold of.
My only problem with the whole techno thing is it’s a little crack head-y. And that’s not really my scene. I’m all about go out, dance for a few hours, have a good time, and then go home and go to sleep at some point and live a normal life. … What I’m trying to do is integrate… more melodies and more vocals. Real songs that girls will leave the club singing to their friends. That’s what I’m all about.