Around a time when deep house music was imploding in on itself amidst a deluge of uninspiring loops, mindless repetition and utter disposability, Berlin’s Santé emerged as part of a wave of new producers with a different cut to their electronic jib. His productions ooze character, charisma, soul, colour, humour and above all a sense of humanity and feeling so devoid from the less inspiring corners of house music.
After teaching himself to play the guitar in his early teens, Santé bought himself an Akai MPC-2000 when he was 16 and set the ball rolling for a life entrenched in electronic music. “I was totally into sampling and house” he recalls of those early days of button bashing and experimentation. He left his hometown when he was 21 to immerse himself in the dance music mecca that is Berlin. The plan was to study music at university, but failing the entrance exam meant he had to pursue other endeavours. A studio internship blossomed into a full-time career, with the emerging talent spending six years producing jingles and ad music and nurturing his passion for house music at any opportunity. Nothing was released, however, until one of his demos found its way to Matt ‘Radio Slave’ Edwards. His first ever release came out on Edwards’ acclaimed REKIDS imprint, setting the bar incredibly high and garnering him a lot of high-profile attention in the process.
The next major stepping stone for him was meeting two guys named Ali and Basti – also known as Tiefschwarz. “They were looking for a new engineer and took me to their label Souvenir, where I got the freedom to release my music and have a playground” he explains. This fruitful, intense relationship lasted three years before Santé decided to fly the nest in search of new pastures, his sophisticated sound developing all the while. In recent times, his style has taken on yet more verve, with the warmth of the house he has always known and loved now bolstered by a loose techno rhythm and percussive drive. The sensuality remains, yet with more dance floor urgency. Whether its one of his acclaimed live shows or one of his DJ sets you’re listening to, the infectious energy is always there.
He describes himself both as a party animal and a studio gremlin (“because you need to be both to do music!”), and cites his biggest influences as The Cure, Talking Heads, Aphex Twin and the Detroit techno pioneers and legends. Embracing both the convenience of the present (producing wherever he goes on his MacBook) and the charm of the past (one look at the rented 808 in his studio will attest to that), he is a producer who effortlessly spans the old and new skool in the most uncontrived of ways.
A look at his upcoming release schedule spells out what a diverse producer he is and how far his popularity ranges – from bastions of techno like Cocoon to the kings of big room house Defected, through to underground darlings like Desolat, Supernature and 8Bit. Few producers can claim such a breadth of imprints to be associated with at any one time. When you ask Santé to describe his musical style, he says he doesn’t really know how to – which goes someway to explaining his widespread appeal.
Plans for the future include his long-awaited debut artist album, which he promises will be more of a song-based affair than a straight-up collection of dancefloor grooves (“to show a few more skills”), and his fledgling Avotre brand, currently housing a record label and with a clothing line in the making. With his impressive release schedule to boot, he’s looking to be bigger than ever over the coming months.