iDJ meets Serge Santiago, a producer who's seldom met a production duo he didn't like to be part of…
Say the name Serge Santiago and different people will think of different things. Some will think of his solo success with records like 2005's recently remixed and reissued Atto D'Amore, some of his work with Matt Edwards as Radio Slave in the early 00s, some of his more recent deep house work as one-half of Waze & Odyssey, alongside Firas Waez. Yet others might be thinking of the Italo-influenced tracks he put out with Tom Neville as Retro/Grade around the turn of the decade, of the pair's short-lived three-piece with Christophe Hoeffel, or even of his 2006 collaboration with Chris Bones, Candidate.
What all of them will be able to agree on, though, is that Serge Santiago is a man who's capable of producing a wide variety of music – and a man who's clearly got a deep love of working with other people.
Right now, it's his solo work he's concentrating on. The recent reissue of Atto D'Amore has been going down well both in the club and on the big download sites, and new single Krayzee looks likely to repeat that success. But with Waze & Odyssey still going strong as well, we wondered how all these different projects divide up in his own head, and how he sees the differences between them.
So we asked him…
You're a man of many aliases and projects! You've operated, variously, under your own name and as one-half of Radio Slave, Retro/Grade and Waze & Odyssey. Does it worry you people might not realise it's all you – or is maintaining a degree of anonymity the point?
"No, not at all! People will know it’s me – and if they don’t, hopefully they will at some point as I don’t plan to write throwaway music! I’ve traveled under many names and written many tracks. Moda under Retro/Grade, Down With The as Waze & Odyssey, It’s A War and Atto D’Amore as Serge Santiago. A good track always finds its way and people will always know. I just love writing dance music: the emotion when you drop something you made still gives me a buzz."
For anyone that might know (for instance) Radio Slave but not Waze & Odyssey… how would you describe the musical output of the three different collaborative projects, and how that differs from the music you put out under your own name?
"Each project has a different mental output. I was part of Radio Slave in the early 2000s and we did a lot of edits, reworking R&B and pop records of the time into underground club tracks and having as much fun as we could. That taught me a lot about how the music industry works and moved – you could say it made me grow up.
"Retro/Grade was mid-2000s and was an itch that needed scratching – a more Italo disco-based sound. We really wanted to bring that sound back, as it was so important in molding house music, like Black Box, Frankie Knuckles etc. We wanted it heard by modern ears, but I think we were still 10 years too early!
"Waze & Odyssey is all about house music – trying things I’d never done before. I’d never really written actual original house music before, so it was great for me, it still works and I still love making it for the project.
"And then the Serge Santiago music now is about the journey I’ve taken to this point. The best bits of it all – edits, Italo, house, energy… moving you without having your hand held."
You seem to have a particular love of duos! What is it that you enjoy most about working with a regular partner – and what are the pros/cons of doing so?
"Working and travelling solo can get a bit lonely at times – you've got no friends or family around. You have promoters, pick-ups, club/festival owners, randoms that are generally awesome – but you want someone to share your experiences with.
"Being in a duo gives you someone to bounce ideas off, joke around with all the time, getting into trouble, getting out of trouble – until you start arguing over the sound of a hi-hat and want to rip each other’s heads of, ha ha ha! And I've had the pleasure to work with some real gentlemen.
"Don’t get me wrong, working solo is great too – but you’re not always bumping into people you know."
You're currently working both solo and as part of Waze & Odyssey. So how do the two projects intertwine: does a track that starts as a Serge Santiago solo effort ever end up as a W&O release, for instance? Or are the two entities entirely self-contained?
"I don’t always have a plan when writing. Sometimes it sounds Serge Santiago and sometimes it doesn’t. It’s whatever follows. Plus. I’d have to be working in the studio with the other member for it to be really considered as a duo project track."
Skint recently reissued Atto D'Amore, your post-Radio Slave solo debut from 2005. So talk us through the new mixes from Detlef and Sophie Lloyd: what do you make of them, and was it your idea to get those particular remixers involved or the label’s?
"Oh my! Sophie’s mix is just magic. We’ve known each other forever, and she had a huge hit with Calling Out My Name so I asked if she’d do it, and thankfully she jumped at the chance. She slowed it down, made it Balearic and added an extra synth that really enhances the sound. I couldn’t be more proud.
"Detlef, as I hoped, has taken it darker and more underground… which works really well in his world. The feedback from it has been brilliant. I thank them both for the time they put in!"
Have you been pleased with the response to the reissue?
"100 per cent. In fact, it’s been a little emotional to be honest. It's great to see it back again after all these years, and I've had a lot of DJ’s saying it never left their box – that’s pretty amazing. I never expected it to do even half as well when I wrote it, but it seemed to work. I just hope my next batch does as well! It’s certainly given me a boost."
Your next single Krayzee is following on from Atto D'Amore in quick succession, so tell us a bit about that one…
"Krayzee will start out on its own. We talked about mixes but we don’t want to dilute it – not yet anyway. It’s such a strong track and I think it’s a fantastic follow-up to Atto D'Amore. Patrick Topping and Jamie Jones have been dropping it, which puts a huge smile on my face, and one feedback comment called it a ‘dancefloor destroyer'! It’s at a tempo and mood I really like, sitting in a space that fits in a lot of places dance music-related."
Back in the 00s you had your own Arcobaleno label for a few years. Any plans to become a label owner again at any point?
"I do have ideas but we’ll wait and see. I always enjoyed running my label but times were very different then – there seem to be about 10 billion labels now. I’ve got so many edits that no one’s heard which need to be released somehow, so never say never, but at the moment I’m fully glued to writing."
As far as I can tell you're still based in Brighton where you started out… have you never felt the lure of Ibiza/Berlin/LA/wherever?
"Yes, I am in Brighton but I’ve been round the block a few times on tour, raved in them all and each gives me a different kind of hangover. Brighton is my calm, though. I’m happy here, and everyone that comes down says they want to move here. It’s a holiday town – when it’s not raining! – and there are loads of good people here, too."
Finally, what else is going on in Serge Santiago's world right now that iDJ readers need to know about?
"I’m working really hard – nailing all my releases on Skint till the end of the year, next year and beyond. I've also been doing some remixes and re-edits with BMG for Strictly Rhythm, West End and Salsoul, which is really good fun. Plus, of course, there's all things Waze & Odyssey – gigs and music. It’s a really exciting time!"
Words: Russell Deeks
Krayzee is out now on Skint Records