Alexander Paul Coe (born 4 September 1969) is a Welsh DJ, record producer and Grammy Award nominee. He was voted World No. 1 DJ in 2000 in a poll conducted by DJ Magazine. He is a four-time International Dance Music Awards winner and four-time DJ Awards winner.
Sasha began his career playing acid house dance music in the late 1980s. He partnered with fellow DJ John Digweed in 1993, touring internationally and producing a series of mixes(compilations of other artists’ work played in a continuous fashion).
Sasha has remixed tracks for artists such as Madonna, The Chemical Brothers and Hot Chip. Sasha’s remixing and production often combine electronic music genres, making it difficult for critics to pinpoint his musical style, including on his debut album of original work, Airdrawndagger.
After achieving success as a producer and DJ, Sasha worked with younger DJs and producers such as BT and James Zabiela. His use of live audio engineering equipment helped popularise technological innovations among DJs who formerly relied on records and turntables. In 2007, he formed a record label with Renaissance Records called emFire, which is the exclusive outlet for his new music. Sasha is managed by Three Six Zero Group.
Sasha became aware of electronic dance music in 1988 at The Haçienda, a Manchester dance venue. Drawn to the rough sound of acid house music and the rebellious attitude he associated with it, he visited Manchester weekly and soon moved to nearby Disley. Sasha purchased many jazz records and began to teach himself how to mix. A local DJ at a club Sasha frequented announced that he was looking for other DJs to travel with him on a regional tour. Sasha volunteered and made his first live appearance in nearby Stockport. Sasha recalled of his debut, “I’d never even touched a Technics: I thought the pitch control was the volume, I didn’t even know where to plug my headphones in! I’m sure I was absolutely horrendous.”
Sasha soon found himself in debt due to low-paying performances and the many records he bought. To finance his record collection, he performed at illegal warehouse raves in the Blackburn and Blackpool areas. With the assistance of another local DJ, Jon DaSilva, Sasha secured work at The Haçienda, where he learned key mixing (matching melodic keys) from DaSilva and refined his ability to beatmatch (to synchronize the beats of two simultaneously playing records). Though he enjoyed playing at The Haçienda, in 1990 Sasha left for a club called Shelley’s Laserdrome in Stoke-on-Trent. There, he established part of his signature sound by mixing euphoric acid house music with Italian piano house and emotional a cappellas. Because of his increased popularity and visibility at Shelley’s and the fact the promoter worked for the magazine, Mixmag featured Sasha on its first cover, under the headline “SASHA MANIA – THE FIRST DJ PINUP?”. While continuing to DJ, Sasha began to produce several of his own dance tracks. This, he later noted, was contrary to the career paths of many successful DJs, for whom it was more common to start out as producers. Upon signing a recording contract, he also set up an entire recording studio at the same time, which led to a “painful learning curve” at the outset. Sasha’s first production/remix credits were two singles for Evolution: 1990’s “Came Outa Nowhere (Take Me Higher Mix)” and 1991’s “Metropolis”, for which he produced and remixed both sides of the classic house track; the record is most notable for the “Can’t Stand The Feeling Mix”, where Sasha replicated his signature mixing style of putting an a cappella vocal over the top of the main track, namely the vocal from The Jason Load Experience’s single “Mainline ’90”, which was released in 1989. He released his first single, “Appolonia”, under the name BM:Ex (the name is short for The Barry Manilow Experience, a joke in reference to Sasha’s love of the piano), with producer Tom Frederikse on Union City Recordings. After DJing at Shelley’s for several years, Sasha left his position because of increasing gang violence in and around the club. As a result of his growing reputation, Sasha was offered work in several London and Australian clubs. He accepted, instead, a spot in the DJ rotation at Renaissance a club night started by Geoff Oakes at Venue 44 in Mansfield, England.
Later in 1993, Sasha produced “Together”, his first single under the name Sasha. “Together”, which he produced with Danny Campbell for Pete Tong‘s FFRR, peaked on the UK Singles Chart at #57. With this success, Sasha began a series of records for Deconstruction Records with the singles “Higher Ground” and “Magic” (for which Digweed produced a remix) and The Qat Collection with Frederikse and vocalist Sam Mollison
Sasha attributes his success to his technical skill and ability to “connect with his dancers”. During performances, he balances new and experimental material, while ensuring that “the party is still rockin'”. His spontaneity carries over to studio work; he typically has only a vague idea of the track listing when beginning work on a new mix album. Because of this, his albums never turn out quite as he expects. Sasha is known for applying new music technologies to both his studio and live work. Both Sasha and Digweed used Pro Tools on Macintoshcomputers when mixing their compilation albums, and used turntables and records during live performances. For their remixes, however, they used an Atari ST—an obsolete personal computer from the early 1990s—with Notator, a music sequencer used for arranging audio tracks. For more recent albums such as Fundacion NYC, Sasha used Ableton Live for sequencing, partially because of Pro Tools’ higher price. In live performances up to the late 1990s, Sasha performed exclusively using records. Before he started using the CDJ1000, a “turntable” used for CDs, he had his digital music specially cut to acetate records before each tour. Once he integrated CDs into his live act, Sasha operated CDJ1000s with Allen & Heath mixers and FireworX.
Sasha began DJing with Ableton Live in his live act as well, using it in tandem with turntables. Having explored its functionality, Sasha found that he could perform entirely through Ableton Live. He then co-developed the Maven controller, which he uses as a physical interface to the Live software. (DJing with a mouse alone, he has said, is “not going to look right or feel right”.) Fundacion NYC was the first album on which he regularly used the Maven controller. During DJ sets, clubbers often believe Sasha is playing new, unheard remixes; in fact, he is often playing modifications of tracks created in Ableton. Sasha most often uses the built-in Ableton plugins, preferring their superior stability and performance over third party plugins. For the first public performance of Involver material, he used a PowerBook running Ableton, but has since shifted to a setup that includes an iMac G5 and Ableton Live. Despite Sasha’s insistence that Ableton Live allows for greater creativity and spontaneity, “vinyl purists” have accused him of taking much of the challenge and mystique out of DJing by using software in performances.
The Internet has affected how Sasha obtains and uses tracks for performance. While he once hunted through record shops for new records on a regular basis, Sasha now regularly receives new tracks from producers and labels via the Internet. These tracks, which number in the hundreds each week, are edited by Sasha and others for use in his live DJ sets. He still buys hundreds of records on vinyl, which are then recorded and converted into music files prior to being edited in Ableton by his team of engineers.
In February 2013, Sasha spoke to Resident Advisor about his decision to change from using Live and the Maven controller to a combination of Native Instruments‘ Traktor and CDs in his DJ sets. He felt that whilst Ableton Live had developed significantly as production software, it had become less successful as a DJing tool.
Sasha, Dj / Producer / Radio Presenter