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WRITTEN BY DAN CARTERDan Carter is a British journalist and professional writer to the Dance music industry.
To a certain Puerto Rican born spinner turned eccentric House heretic DJ Sneak, the vinyl disc and all its untimely warmth has proven to be a truly remarkable addiction. Accumulating more than 20-thousand rare, wild and timeless memories in musical heritage, his impressive record is but one fascinating aspect of the life and times of Carlos Sosa. ‘In the late 80’s I started working at a local record store which meant that everyday I was coming home with a stack of vinyl,’ he explained. ‘I was paying like $3 US dollars at the time; it was the best years of records and records stores so instead of spending my money on stupid kid stuff I was buying vinyl. I loved the music, I respected the craft and to this day I still own a huge collection of vinyl.’
But his love and respect for House records has been the element that have accumulated the Caribbean mixmaster a following far vaster than his record collection. Where a devout commitment to skilfully cutting tracks and honest mixing have framed him as a living legend of the jackable House beat, his return to the familiar brand of Fabric for a long-time-coming addition to their renowned series of compilations makes for a positive instalment for those suitably disheartened by lack of genuine marksmanship currently doing the rounds. As I chatted to Sneak about his ongoing to bid to resuscitate a little pride in the past, the artistic guise that has surrounded his career quickly took shape to form one of the industry’s more interesting underground legacies.
Amid his family’s pursuit to find the American dream, Sneak’s transition to the raw industrial charm of Chicago would essentially become one of musical epiphany. Leaving the Caribbean paradise he called home as a child to live in a city full of brick buildings, the cold and the sound of constant sirens was not the easiest move, but Chicago is a mega city with opportunities.
But those dated pieces of plastic have provided more than just the soundtrack to the life and times of DJ Sneak. Lost in translation amid the hustle and bustle of Chicago, the city’s lifestyle was gradually accompanied by the then vintage grooves of a genre that would redefine the ground Disco had once called its own. Amid his collection, the young devotee found friends that spoke a universal language. Sneak explained: ‘I loved hearing the non-stop beats and loved the fact that there were few vocals, it was great for me cause at the time I didn’t speak any English. I was drawn to House music and it helped me deal with the incredibly cold winters.’
As America provided the only education in floor-worthy etiquette the wondering record-duster could have hoped for, the UK would later prove itself an essential home-from-home for the sizeable turntable wizard and his knack for cutting up records all night long. Holding a deep appreciation for the positive manoeuvres that were made by such nightspots as the Hacienda and Sankeys in their infancy, his relationship with the UK and its once legendary reputation for fostering undeniable talent has remained intrinsically strong. ‘These were all stomping grounds for the genre and many great DJs surfaced from the London scene. I’ve been able to really see the scene evolve and feel that I’ve had a big hand in bringing and representing Chicago House music in the UK, I feel proud of that,’ he explained.
But where the North of England reputably championed the Acid Culture of British Dance music, Sneak and London have proven somewhat inseparable amid the countries late leap onto the American House bandwagon. Earning his stripes on London’s notoriously vibrant underground House scene, a golden age now lost amid the cities less popular social developments, Sneak has worked tirelessly for his seat at Fabric’s notoriously selective table. As a stable at the now desecrated safe havens of Turnmills and The End, his accession to Fabric’s prestigious mix series marked another stripe on the House maverick’s sleeve. Surviving the changing tides alongside the nightclub; there is a sense of pride that accompanies his inauguration to the ranks of mixmaestro general. ‘I am happy, and most of all pleased to be part of one of the nightclubs that have been able to survive the many changes in music, Fabric is very famous because they have had all kinds of music make it what it has become. They supported so many sounds that they have earned the right to stay alive and still be relevant and to add to that is a true accomplishment for me.’
Such a seminal release of nostalgic properties demanded only the most sincere of approaches. Donning his finest old school ideals to this mixed bag of assorted jackin’ House grooves and subtle Tech bombs, Sneak refuses to let the technology take away from his homecoming to a brand that has embodied the purity and spirit of his craft for decades. Conversing in the talents of Mendo, Pacha Ibiza favourite Tucillo and Luka M alongside his own venerable outing ‘Your Love’ without a single computer in the equation, his stubborn approach may seem agile in this day and age, but you would struggle to find the grounds to slander his utopian musings.
‘A real DJ has to have the skill of mixing like a trained martial artist; I am pure, original, unpredictable and really just plain good at what I do,’ he explained. ‘I’ve spent many hours practicing and moulding my sound through the last 20 years of my life. I was a wedding DJ, I played house parties, block parties, park parties you name it, I’ve done it.’
At the heart of his musings lies a profound appeal for an element that the Fabric series and its familial nightspot have celebrated since day one: quality Electronic music. But Sosa is no geriatric old-timer with a chip on his shoulder. Not yet, at least. Still searching for ways to better his ranks amid the universal elite of his genre, it is out of pure compassion for his craft that these aggressive tendencies towards the bedroom DJ seem to emerge. ‘I will not shit on the rest of this industry, but I think most of these newcomers are a joke given that nowadays you can call yourself a DJ but not even know how to match a beat,’ he explained. ‘This shows no respect for the craft. You used to have to put in the hours to be good and this is what is missing from these new so called DJs, a lot of them get a computer, download a program, steal n share a few files, get a fancy DJ name and think they should be respected as a DJ.’
Still engaged in the seemingly prehistoric mindset of quality over quantity, Sneak is not about all-modern venom and old school cynicism. Now a proud master to a craft that has not only stolen his heart during his transcending journey from Puerto Rico to the promise of Chicago, but also romanced a multitude of likeminded aficionados with a sound has acted as a pure and universal language to the globetrotting turntablist. He explained: ‘These past 20 years have been great, I’ve learned a real craft, I conquered any fears of being in front of people performing & entertaining, for me it has been the best schooling anybody could ever pay for, also it has been training for the years to come.’
There is a degree of passion you simply cannot buy, let alone teach. Within his extended career in the shadows of Chicago House, Sneak’s love for Electronic music reigns testament to an age where everyone is out for the prize, but few are playing the game properly. ‘I have the utmost respect for House music and to me it’s not just a term or trend, but a lifestyle for more than 20-years,’ Explained Sosa. ‘It’s amazing to spend life working with and towards something you truly believe in and I feel very fortunate to be doing what I’m doing.’
Where Sosa has provided American Dance music with a clandestine assault of honest and heartfelt moments on the floor, the multitude of records attributed to his name – some written and some simply collected for sentimental value – make for a story of passion as amiable as that of the sound of a record spinning. More than twenty-thousand memories make for an unforgettable lifetime for the ongoing sound DJ Sneak.