With the Underground Resistance headquarters as his incubation unit and Mike Banks as mentor, it is no surprise Santiago Salazar’s career has developed in the way that it has. He first appeared in 2001 under the moniker S2 and popped up intermittently over the next few years, sharing vinyl space with Dex from Los Hermanos, also undertaking edits and mixes for UR. Before long he was asked to join Los Hermanos and be a part of the UR Galaxy 2 Galaxy project. His Ican label with friend Esteban Adame has been going strong for the past few years while 2009 has seen the launch of the feverishly infectious Historia y Violencia imprint with Juan Mendez. Little White Earbuds tracked down Mr. Salazar to tap his brain for more information on collaborations, being a part of the techno version of Parliament and the importance of dancing to your own tracks. In addition, Santiago helms our exclusive 30th podcast which is full of slamming (and often unreleased) techno cuts that’ll have S2 fans drooling.
LWE Podcast 30: Santiago Salazar (62:10)
01. Santiago Salazar, “Partida” (LAX a SFO mix) [*]
02. Santiago Salazar, “Materia Oscura” [Rush Hour Recordings]
03. Santiago Salazar, “Untitled” [Historia y Violencia*]
04. Santiago Salazar, “RELEASE: Stress Valve” [*]
05. Santiago Salazar, “Sci-Fi Xicano” [Rush Hour Recordings]
06. Ican, “Trucha” [Planet E]
07. Los Nite Owls, “LNO Theme” [*]
08. Silent Servant, “La Noche” [Historia y Violencia]
09. Open House ft. Placid Angels, “Aquatic” (Rennie Foster Dirty Works Mix) [Rhythmic Tech]
10. Carl Craig, “Future Love Theme” [Warner Music Japan]
11. Suli Belarto, “Copa Verde” [Huastec*]
12. Ican, “Caminos Del Niño” (Martyn’s Oscuro Mix) [Ican Productions]
13. Omar-S, “Psychotic Photosynthesis” (S2 Dub Mix) [*]
14. Ican, “East Los Revival” [*]
* denotes unreleased tracks
Tell me about your discovering dance music. Were your friends into it as well and was there much of a scene in LA at the time?
Santiago Salazar: Well, I’ve been into dance music all my life. But in my teenage years, I started sneaking out of my house to go to local backyard parties with some of my friends. There were always parties going on our block or the next. I remember hearing disco, freestyle, new wave, hip hop and slow songs I use to love watching the girls dance. There were about 2 DJs living on my block so I would always go see them practice; of course they would NEVER let me touch their expensive Radio Shack equipment! I was a part of local party crews in La Puente/Bassett area and every weekend there would be parties to go to.
In the early days of being a DJ yourself what particular moment or club helped hone your skills the most?
The Beverly Room was the spot. That was my first regular gig located in the infamous “Rampart District” of L.A. I would play every Monday night from midnight ’til 5am/6am. It was a crash course for me because prior to that, I hardly played in front of people. Just so happened, that spot had mostly gay attendance. I remember being threatened a few times by regulars who would say, “I’m gonna kick your ass if you don’t get off the tables.” After being intimidated a few times, I tightened up my skills and the reaction was different. They would be dancing right in front of me, cat walking, leg kicking. It was a rush for me!
What were your reasons for moving to Detroit?
Submerge and the childhood dream of getting into the music business.
How did you come to meet the Underground Resistance guys?
A simple phone call back in ’95. I wanted to call the phone number on a Teknotika record to let them know that I loved what they were distributing around 1995. It just so happened that Mad Mike answered the phone and was interested that Chicanos/Latinos from L.A. liked the Submerge sound. From that phone call, Mike started sending me white labels of all their releases. I would go to all the record shops in L.A. and give it to the buyers. Some of the popular shops on Melrose started to have a whole Submerge section in the shops.
How did your time there help your music both in production and the way you approach what you do?
I always had the approach of making music for DJs, but working in the studio with Banks helped me tremendously. I would sit in the studio with him at the midnight hours working on various Red Planet, Los Hermanos, UR releases. Sometimes he had me in there just for support. Other times, I would be setting up recording takes. But most of the best time I was chopping up tracks with Mike. I learned how to assemble tracks from one of the masters. I remember once, DJ Dex, DJ Genesis, DJ Roach (Rolando’s brother) and I all got a crash course on editing with reel to reel tape (UR-040 Analog Assassin). After that, I had a much more appreciation for Pro Tools.
I understand you provided the edits for the Galaxy To Galaxy album and the Interstellar Fugitives 2 comp. Tell us about the process.
Well, it was a few people who provided edits. DJ Dex, Jeff Mills, Gerald Mitchell, Mike Banks and myself. It just so happened Jeff and I got written credits on the G2G album. For the Galaxy 2 Galaxy album, most of the older tracks were edited by Jeff Mills with the exception of the newer tracks. On the ISF2 comp, it was produced and edited in Kobe, Japan. That was the turning Point for me. Mike and I stayed there for about a month and worked on ISF2 comp, along with Skurge, Gerald Mitchell and Cornelius Harris. Working with Mike, I learned how to assemble tracks, post-production and placing the tracks in CD order. We were always getting feedback from the guys back home in the states (Ray 7, Nomadico, DJ 3000) and adjusting.
How was it making and playing music with so many other people as Galaxy 2 Galaxy, being a part of the techno (or rather hi-tech jazz) version of Parliament?
It was one of the highlights of my music career. Overall the band helped me most with my DJ performances and production. I can’t explain why it did, I just remember one time, we were playing a festival in Belfast and I was to open up and close out for Galaxy 2 Galaxy/Los Hermanos (while still playing with the bands). So, I was on stage for about 6 hours in total, I remembering while closing out, I felt this overwhelming control over the crowd, something I haven’t felt before. It was all due to playing with a group of head-strong professional musicians.
You seem to do well out of collaborating with people or teaming up as part of a unified project. What is your take on working solo and being part of a bigger team when making music?
I love doing both. When I’m working on a solo project, the sound is more minimized to one soul (with the exception of my wife and son always around). I’m always trying to get a reaction from my wife and son. Sometimes, my son will put his toy down and say, “Dad, at this part, you should make the clap go [makes delay effects noise].” When working with Ican, you get a combination of more souls. Sometimes, a Ican track would have 3-6 souls on it (Esteban Adame, Dan Caballero, Iris Cepeda, Gonzalo Chomat, Jose Perico Hernandez and/or myself). I love collaborating with Esteban Adame. I always learn something new from this guy and it always helps my solo productions. Same goes with Silent Servant; he actually had a strategy before starting Historia y Violencia where he told me to study the charts of all online stores/DJss top 10’s etc. We did this for about a month and then started production on a sound for HyV.
What were your reasons for moving back to LA?
Jobs! At the time, Submerge Dist. couldn’t afford a huge staff. I was working at a local sushi bar as a bar-back/dishwasher until I got fired for getting into a fight with a patron. With stress and being home sick, we decided to move back. We still miss southwest Detroit and friends.
Internationally we don’t hear much about LA in terms of its dance scene. What is it like?
LA has a great scene. Parties like Deeper Moods (Suli Belarto), Lies Lies Lies (Joe Bickle), FTWK (Rudy C/Abdul Shakir), re_Invent (Developer), and Sub Level (Doc Martin) are some of the best parties to go and really get your dance-on. There are many smaller parties that go off weekly with local talent that are great.
With Ican and now Historia Y Violencia are you still a part of Los Hermanos?
Yes, very much so. Los Hermanos is always changing, new members, new sound etc.etc. Gerald has really worked hard on keeping Los Hermanos open for great production. We are currently working on our 3rd album.
Stylistically do you approach your Ican releases and Historia Y Violencia releases in different ways? And if yes, how so?
With Ican, you get more of a sci-fi Latino techno/house sound. We really want to carry on the tradition of Los Hermanos sound but with vocals. On Historia y Violencia, you will get more of a deeper sound. Juan and I really took time into starting this label. We did a lot of research and development.
Financially, running a record label doesn’t seem to be such a rewarding idea these days. What were the reasons behind setting up labels rather than shopping your Ican and HyV releases out elsewhere?
Aaron-Carl had a lot to do with us starting the Ican label. At the time, we was shopping our first release around and then Aaron did this remix for us and gave it to us as a gift. He helped plant the seed for us to launch Ican Productions. With Historia y Violencia, Juan and I felt it was the perfect time for us to do something together. He had the connection with Veto Distribution in the UK and it just worked out perfectly.
You’re offering the next installment of Historia Y Violencia as part of a download bundle of all three releases before the third release is out on vinyl. What was the decision behind this?
Juan and I felt it was time to branch out to the digital realm with Historia y Violencia and felt we should do this with free bonus tracks. HyV003 tracks are titled “Corazon” and “Mi Alma,” which translates to “Heart” and “My Soul.” Also, Zero” was the ONLY digital store to reach out to us. It took about six months to finally get it going and Ike at Zero” was extremely patient with us. It’s not too often a digital store goes out of their way to contact you through Myspace with interest in carrying your catalog.
Your tracks are all very much made for the floor. Do you get out on the dance floor yourself much or do you make the propulsive tracks you do from the point of the DJ spinning?
Both. I love to dance (only to certain DJs). If the music I produce doesn’t make me dance, it usually gets scratched. “Arcade” is a exception for me; I don’t really dance to that track, I usually wave my hands in the air to that bass line (like I’m playing a Thermin).
Which producers and records have you been digging lately?
Aaaah… SO many. Really diggin’ the East Coast revival team of Jus-Ed, Fred P, DJ Qu and Levon Vincent. The veterans, Kerri Chandler, Chez Damier, Brothers’ Vibe, Vince Watson and Orlando Voorn. Ben Klock, Stefan Goldmann, Soundstream, Patrice Scott, Keith Worthy, Jeff Mills. New cats: Suli Belarto, Disco Nilihist, AEOD, the list goes on and on.
What can we expect from you over the next year?
More vinyl releases! More of the Historia y Violencia project with local talent here in L.A. Ican is going Italo with a release from Raiders of the Lost Arp and a follow up release from new Ican artist El Coyote. Also, a remix I did for Kevin Reynolds in 2006 will finally see the light of day.
LWE Podcast 30: Santiago Salazar (62:10)