Sante interview: Class in session

Martin Guttridge-Hewitt caught up with the Avotre label boss to discuss remixes, gigs and much more before he plays at our birthday party in Manchester.

Skiddle Staff

Date published: 14th May 2017

This isn’t the first time our paths have crossed with Philipp Maier. And, thankfully given he’s one of the most easy going chaps we’ve met in this world of beats and rhythms, it won’t be the last. A point made with some certainty given he’s heading over to Manchester for our 16th birthday bash, where he’ll be bringing high calibre house music to the free party we’ve decided to throw. 

Most people know him best as Sante, bossman of the revered Avotre imprint, best buddy and long term partner in crime of Sidney Charles, and a rightly respected talent who understands what it takes to properly get a dancefloor moving, and keep it that way. This year has seen his career hit another high with the release of his album, House Lessons, a 14-track tribute to all that’s good about getting down and dirty in the dark. With mates. 

Not too hard, not too soft, the record comprises both remixes from and remixes of the man in question. Names such as Denney, wAFF, and Stereo MCs all feature, not to mention Chicago luminary Marshall Jefferson. All of which goes some way towards explaining why we’re so happy to have him over to play so soon after the release itself. With that in mind, we gave him a quick call for a tone-setting chat about music. Here’s what he had to say. 

Hey Philipp, how are you doing? 

Yeah, really cool actually. Today is the first day in weeks when the sun is out in Berlin, so it’s amazing. 

It’s pretty hot in Manchester too actually. 

Yeah?

Yeah. It makes such a difference. So are you at home? 

I’m in the studio right now, working on a remix for DJ Pierre.

Oh wow, amazing. 

Yeah, it’s tricky though. I have many, many ideas but I’m not sure which one it will be. When you’re working for such a legend it’s always like ‘is it good enough?’ 

Your album includes your remix of Marshall Jefferson. How nerve-wracking is it producing for people of his and Pierre’s status? 

It’s really nerve-wracking. These are the legends. To me they are heroes. Especially Pierre. Phuture, his project, was mind-blowing to me. So it’s a huge opportunity to be working on these parts.

How long have you been working on the track for? 

I only got the parts yesterday, and was so stoked with them I was up all night and just got back to the studio today to see what’s going to happen- what I did that’s cool, what will work, what I’m going to carry on with. Maybe I’m able to get something together for this weekend to try out, but I’m not sure I’m going to make it today.

What’s happening this weekend then? 

I’m in Newcastle actually, for my good friends at LOOP. They’ve been doing it a long time and the party is at Cosmic Ballroom. I’ve not played for them in three years and this is the first time they have used this venue. They always used to have this little basement, which was only maybe 250 capacity, so it was a problem for them to get me over. But I said we had to do it again, and I really wanted to play there again, then they changed it to Cosmic Ballroom, so I said ‘fucker.’ It will be great though.

Sounds like you’re busy as ever then? 

Yes, even more to be honest. Which is good. Obviously.

You’re still managing to get plenty of time at home though? 

It’s getting tougher and tougher. A lot of friends don’t see me regularly anymore. So it’s difficult to get invited to birthdays. But there is one tonight, so I’ll definitely be joining that. It’s one of my best friends, but it’s a disaster because my flight is at 9AM tomorrow morning, so it will be a hard one.

Sleep when you get to the hotel in Newcastle? 

Yeah, hopefully.

Veering back to music, if we must, in terms of your direction and approach, for those who don’t know what House Lessons means - the concept that gave its name to the album - can you explain? 

Well it’s about seeing what the crowd reaction is, and then working out directions around that. Basically it’s always groovy, house-y, and peak time-ish. But then it might be deeper or whatever. 

So for DJ Mag in London last week, I played really late- 7AM. Or early, let’s say. So it was more after hours- dubbier, less breaks. But then when you’re playing peak slots as the main act it has to be more energy.

And in terms of lessons for you, who are the tutors in music? 

Oh, that’s a hard question. There are so many, still so many great DJs and producers out there. I would say a huge influence is Masters At Work, because if you listen to any of their records again now they still sound so up to date. And a lot of the Detroit guys. 

This is what I like about house and techno from the past. If you stick to the classic equipment- the 808s and 909s, the revival synthesizers- then you kind of create timeless music. Maybe the tempo changes, faster or slower. But you still can play all those records now, which is amazing.

How much music being made today will we say the same about in 25 years time? 

Mmmmm... To be honest not so much. Of course everyone wants to have successful records, but I think there are not so many innovative records coming out right now. Not saying there haven’t been, or won’t be later. I spend a lot of time digging, listening to demos, promos, and there’s a huge amount of great music. But this is like the once in a lifetime, break through the roof tune we’re talking about. The classics. And I’ve not heard a real classic-classic in a long time. Not like those timeless ones.

But then some of the real timeless tunes don’t reveal themselves immediately. They take time to develop. 

Exactly. They grow over years. Maybe they never got the respect when they were first released. Then they redevelop themselves for some reason. Like I was hearing 'The Sky Is Pink' by Nathan Fake the other day and that’s a great example. Of course it was huge when it first came out, but now it’s getting bigger and bigger. Everybody is playing it.

In terms of your album, there are plenty of names on there responsible for classics. How did your relationships with those artists begin? Did you know them already, or just approach them to remix? 

I don’t think it works to just approach people unless you’re a super-superstar. All of them I met over the years and we wanted to do something. Like the track with wAFF, years ago we decided to do something, but schedules and stuff got in the way. 

Working with someone is getting really difficult, especially if managers are involved, because then it’s ‘we can release then, the schedule works- dadadadadada’. It’s getting tough. A few of those tracks, they’re not old, but we made them two years ago, then I finished the album, updated it. The one with Ann Saunderson, for example, was made in Dennis Ferrer’s studio in New Jersey. 

He gave me his studio to use when I was in New York for three weeks, and let me go to his place, so basically that was two-and-a-half years ago. So the sound is a bit Detroit, inspired by all the things I heard then. It’s not a typical record I would make now, but at the time I was so stoked with all the analogue gear, I could just jam around. It’s pretty much an analogue record, the only think that was digital is the recording, which is maybe why it sounds the way it does.

Putting the record together sounds like a pretty wholesome and fulfilling process then- working with so many people in different places? 

Yeah. I mean the longevity of an average dance track is, let’s say, six weeks- in terms of charts and what DJs are playing overall, unless it’s super-big. So nowadays I think it’s getting harder and harder to have projects like this. 

If it’s a track DJs can play then it’s difficult to get people to listen as a proper album. And with all mixes everywhere for free, it’s really hard. But for me it was an awesome experience. This is what I want to do, I want to make music. In the end if it doesn’t really work for someone else it worked for me and I know every track I made had a different vibe and perspective. So like the Ann Saunderson one was an unforgettable experience. And the Marshall Jefferson too.

What happened there, how did you and Marshall meet? 

It was in Amsterdam, at ADE. His label manager hit me up saying he really liked a lot of stuff and if I’d be up for meeting. This was around two years ago again. Then we met, we had this chat, everything was cool, I heard his set. Then we started talking again and one day he came to me and said ‘I’ve got this idea, do you want to remix it for me’. I said sure, no question, let’s do it’. 

Obviously you’re coming to play for us next week. When was the last time you were in Manchester? 

Hmm- don’t say the wrong thing... I think maybe two years ago, when Darius [Syrossian], Sidney [Charles] and I had been touring Do Not Sleep, when we first started that. Then maybe the Road To Ibiza Tour also.

Quite a long time ago then? 

Yeah, quite a while.

And after our party, what lies ahead? 

It’s cool because for the last two years we’ve been playing Elrow a lot, and they are moving to Amnesia this summer. So I’m looking forward to playing a lot for them. Then Sidney [Charles] and I have a special show at DC-10, back to back, which is going to be amazing. I hope. I wish. I’ve never played there before, I’ve been there often as a raver. 

Then I have an extended tour of the U.S., for around three weeks. Then Japan, and then the summer in Europe starts, big time. I’m also really looking forward to my first Glastonbury Festival.

Ah, amazing. 

Yes, it’s for the Elrow stage, so that should be cool. I’ve heard so much about it but I’ve never been.

Pack some wellies.

Yeah, I have to buy some. Some really stylish ones with logos. 

Free tickets for our 16th birthday bash are available below.

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