DJ Sabo Interview
by JC Tripp
He may love Baile Funk but DJ Sabo’s heart is in New York City. DJ Sabo has the city’s melting pot sensibility pulsing through his veins and his blood is the color of many cultures. Sabo has been serving up spicy beats for a decade, gaining international props and passport stamps from Brazil, Spain, Dominican Republic, Austria, Mexico, and Kosovo, as well as various cities in the US.
His productions include seven EP releases on his own label Sol*Selectas, two 12″ releases on Wonderwheel Recordings, and a full length album, “Global Warmbeats” with production partner Zeb. From Brazilian to Afrobeat, Disco to Reggae, Hip Hop to Dub, Miami Bass to House, Latin to Techno, Sabo flows seamlessly from one genre to the next.
If you haven’t caught him spinning around town you may need to step outside your box: He’s been a special guest at Turntables on the Hudson parties for the last 7 years, manages the Turntable Lab NY store, is an instructor at the Scratch DJ Academy, and has DJ residencies at Bembe, APY, and Nublu in NYC. He Dj’ed the infamous PS-1 Warmup Party in 2003, The Cooper Hewitt After Work Series in 2004 – 2006, and was nominated to URB magazine’s Annual ‘Next 100′ in 2006. He’s opened up for the bands Yerba Buena, Brazilian Girls, Antibalas, The Pimps of Joytime, and Si*Se, and has remixed tracks for Nickodemus, J-Boogie, El Guincho, DJ Sun, Nappy G, Kokolo Afrobeat Orhcestra, Los Monos, Pacha Massive Sound System, and Balkan Beat Box. Did we say this man is busy?
Mundovibe managed to track down DJ Sabo in his bassment lab (Turntable Lab that is) and make contact. In addition to his signature “funky music to make you feel good” style Sabo is also disarmingly nice and after his stint DJing for Huffpost’s inaugural party he was kind enough to be interviewed by Mundovibe via e-mail and to supply us with four hot mixes for our reader’s listening pleasure.
MV: DJ Sabo, congratulations on the release of “Global Warmbeats”, a truly worldly, mellifluous and deeply rhythmic recording. How did this full-length recording happen?
SABO: Gracias! This album started basically as me wanting to produce/remix tracks and having no clue how to do it. I started paying Zeb to come to my house and tutor me in Reason. I already had all the loops and samples and ideas ready to go, and Zeb would show me how to arrange and mix everything. After only a month or two we had like 4 tracks done. After that the songs were becoming more collaborations than tutor sessions, so we decided to just keep going and make a whole record.
What is the world-view of DJ Sabo, music wise?
I think the term “world” music is the lamest Western branding marketing ever. So if I’m from Africa, is Britney Spears considered “world” music? And is Afro-beat called Domestic-Beat? It’s ridiculous. I can’t remember who said this, but there is just good music and bad music. I like good music, and more often than not – the good music I like, is produced in countries other than the USA
Where did you interest in wordly beats come from?
I think it started when i was 15 and went to Sevilla for a language exchange program. Back then Americans were straight up celebrities in Europe, and there was no drinking / smoking age neither. I was going to clubs having beers, blazing hash, and dancing with girls more beautiful than i had ever seen in my life for the first time. And they were PSYCHED to be dancing with me. The Djs played Techno too, and up until then I was a big hip hop head. Songs like “Dominator” and Rozalla’s “Everybody’s Free” were big hits that summer. That opened me eyes for sure, and made me start seeking out new types of music – and women – not made in the USA.
The opening track of “Global Wambeats” is ‘Cool NY’. Since New York is your base, what gives it that extra flavor the city has that keeps them coming back for more?
After college I lived in Spain and France for a bit. When I ran out of money and legal Visas I knew the only place i could move in the US was NYC. It truly is a melting pot of cultures, and I can speak / practice Spanish and French every day here. When I’m hungry I just think “what country do i want to visit tonight?” and within 5-10 minutes walk i’m eating incredible food from that country. Apart from the cold winters, NYC is the best place to be. Musically there are so many talented people here as well.
Do you have an overriding mission to what you are doing, such as keeping smiles on people’s faces with good music?
My “mission” as a producer is to make music that is timeless, hopefully will be enjoyed for years to come, not just a quick hit. As a DJ, i want people to have fun, and basically forget about all the stress and worry in their life. So that for just a few hours they can get lost in the rhythm, and sweat out there troubles on the dancefloor.
You have some great vocal talent on “Global Warmbeats” like Mariella and Andrea Monteiro. Tell us about these very talent ladies.
Andrea is from Rio, and has worked on some great tracks before wiht Zeb, and Nickodemus. She was an obvious first choice for our Brazilian tunes. Mariella is a Puerto Rican girl who I’ve also known for a while and she has here own group called The Mariella Show. I played her the beat for Rise Again, and she loved it. A week later she had written these incredible lyrics for the song and we just made it happen. She actually does the song live now with her band and it sounds amazing.
Does your DJing take you around the planet for gigs in tropical paradises and urban hotspots?
I’ve been very blessed to have traveled to some amazing places to DJ. I don’t have an agent though, so most of the gigs I get are just from hustling online, and trying to keep great relationships with other DJs and producers that I admire around the world.
What could one expect from a DJ Sabo set?
My favorite sets are at least 4 hours long. It sounds like the old DJ cliche, but i really do wanna take people on a journey with my music. I like to start out slow and build up the energy. I’m not a big fan of the new ADD Serato style of Djing where you just play as many hits in an hour as possible, nor am I a big fan of very linear sets that just kinda play minimal tech house for 2 hours. I like dramatic moments, big build ups and breakdowns. I like to push people really hard with there dancing then give them a 30 second break to catch their breath. Also because i love so many different styles of music, I need those 4 hours to play all the great tunes, and mix them in a way the flows rhythmically, and will not make a dancer lose their step.
What matters the most to you when DJing and creating your music?
Are the ladies dancing? If the ladies aren’t having fun, I’m not having fun.
There’s a strong Brazilian vibe permeating your music. Do you have a secret desire to move to Rio and drink caiprinhas on the beach?
Who wouldn’t like to do that?
New York City has lost a lot of its record stores, thanks to digital downloads. Places like Dub Spot, Dancetracks and many others are gone. Yet, Turntable Lab, of which you are part of is holding its own in the East Village. You are part of the Turntable Lab family so tell us more about it.
I recently took over as manager at T Lab after Bogdan moved back to Romania, but i’ve been working there for almost 5 years. It’s a tight family of Dj’s, Producers, Artists, and Music – Lovers that work there. We are all passionate about what we do, and try to project that passion to our customers. We also want eliminate the old stereo type of record store workers being total assholes because they know more than you about the music. We try to be very selective on what we sell, and give candid reviews of all our products. I think our biggest advantage over many vinyl shops that closed down, is that we don’t only sell records. We sell equipment and clothes and production gear. So even though, YES, people are buying less and less vinyl, we have kept up with the digital DJ evolution and sell Serato, Traktor, Ableton, MP3s, CDJ’s etc.
How do you see the economic downturn impacting the scene: more wild abandon and dancing to get over it?
Let’s hope so. I’m really hoping the bottle service scene fades away, and clubs start focusing more on good music and vibe, than bar sale numbers. People still wanna go out and party, esepcially if times are hard, but they definately don’t wanna pay a lot for drinks. A lot of these struggling clubs would be way more packed if they just lowered there drinks prices a little.
Where are your current DJing gigs both online and at clubs?
I do a montly party at Bembe in Williamsburg, play at least once a month at Nublu, and Turntable Lab just started a monthly at APT. Apart from that I try to DJ outside of NYC at least once or twice a month. As for online, I do a monthly show on 91.5 FM in NYC called Mo’Glo’ which focuses on all forms of “global” music.