Sasha (DJ)

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Sasha at a performance with Lee Burridge on April 27, 2006
Sasha at a performance with Lee Burridge on April 27, 2006
Background information
Birth name Alexander Coe
Also known as Sasha
Born 4 September 1969
Origin Hawarden, Wales, United Kingdom
Genre(s) House
Progressive house
Occupation(s) Disc jockey
Record producer
Years active 1989 – Present
Label(s) Deconstruction
Ministry of Sound
Sasha & John Digweed

Sasha (born Alexander Coe on September 4, 1969), is a Welsh DJ and record producer. Sasha began his career playing acid house in the late 1980s and became a central figure in the development and popularisation of electronic dance music. He partnered with fellow DJ John Digweed in 1993, touring internationally and producing a series of mix albums. Through their track selection and mixing techniques, Sasha and Digweed were instrumental in the evolution of progressive trance and house.

Sasha has produced multiple UK-charting singles and has remixed tracks for such artists as Madonna and The Chemical Brothers. His remixing earned him a Grammy nomination for his 2004 remix of Felix Da Housecat's "Watching Cars Go By". Sasha's remixing and production often combine electronic genres, making it difficult for critics to pinpoint a single variety of music as Sasha's. This was most prevalent on his debut artist album Airdrawndagger, which surprised many critics with its unusual cross-genre style.

Sasha worked with younger DJs and producers such as Brian Transeau and James Zabiela, greatly affecting their musical styles and techniques. Through his use of Ableton Live, Sasha helped popularise modern technological innovations among DJs who formerly relied on records and turntables. Despite the changing trends in electronic dance music, Sasha continues to attract crowds at dance clubs. As of late 2006, Sasha is on an intercontinental tour and gathering material for future mix albums.

Early years

Sasha was born in Bangor in 1969, but spent most of his youth with his mother in the Welsh town of Hawarden. Sasha's early musical tastes were primarily Top 40 pop music, including bands such as The The and The Police. After an "idyllic childhood", he passed the entrance exam for Epsom Public School at age 17. However, he did not like Epsom and left before completing his A-Levels. Instead of continuing his schooling, Sasha moved to Bangor to live with his father and stepmother. Sasha's stepmother forced him to take piano lessons, which he disliked them at the time; however, Sasha ultimately found the lessons to be beneficial to his music career.

Sasha became aware of electronic dance music through Manchester dance venue The Haçienda in 1988. Drawn to acid house music and the rebellious attitude he associated with it, he made weekly visits to Manchester and soon moved to nearby Disley. Sasha purchased many acid house records and began to teach himself how to mix. At a club Sasha frequented, a local DJ announced he was looking for other DJs to travel with him on a regional tour. Sasha volunteered and made his first DJ appearance in nearby Stockport. Sasha retrospectively said 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 the low pay he received for performances and the large number of records he bought. In order 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 DJing at The Haçienda. At The Haçienda, Sasha refined his ability to beatmatch and learned key mixing from DaSilva. Though he enjoyed playing at The Haçienda, in 1991 Sasha left for the club Shelley's in Stoke-on-Trent. There, he established part of his signature sound by mixing euphoric trance music with hard techno and emotional a cappellas. Because of his increased popularity and visibility at Shelley's, Mixmag featured Sasha as the first DJ on the cover of Mixmag, where he appeared under the headline "SASHA MANIA - THE FIRST DJ PINUP?". While continuing to DJ, Sasha began production on several dance tracks of his own. Sasha released his first single "Appolonia" under the name BM:Ex ( Barry Manilow Experience) with producer Tom Frederikse on Union City Recordings. After DJ-ing at Shelley's for several years, Sasha left his residency due to increased gang violence in and around the club. As a result of his growing reputation, Sasha was offered work in several London and Australian clubs. Instead, he accepted a consistent spot in the DJ rotation at Renaissance.

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 in hand, Sasha began a series of records for Deconstruction Records with the singles "Higher Ground" and "Magic" (for which Digweed performed a remix) as well as The Qat Collection with Frederikse and vocalist Sam Mollison.

Digweed era

In early 1994, Sasha partnered with fellow Renaissance DJ John Digweed. Sasha and Digweed honed their DJ-ing skills, often performing in tandem and focusing on track selection and technical mixing abilities. Pleased with Sasha and Digweed's performances, Renaissance had the duo compile the triple CD mix album Renaissance - The Mix Collection and released it on the club's own Renaissance Records label. The album featured tracks from artists such as Leftfield, Fluke, and 2 Bad Mice, as well as original productions and remixes from Sasha and Digweed. The Mix Collection was released soon after Sasha's April 1994 departure from Renaissance. Following his success at Renaissance, Sasha was again featured on Mixmag with the tag line "SON OF GOD?", though he resented the accolade. After touring together for two years, Sasha and Digweed became "true superstars" with the release of their double CD Northern Exposure on mega-label Ministry of Sound. Around this time, Sasha began his recurring mentorship and partnership with fellow producer BT with the album Ima. As well as providing guidance for BT, Sasha produced a "euphoric" and "introspective" 42 minute rendition of the album for a second "bonus" disc. Sasha continued to advance his own production work by pairing with vocalist Maria Nayler to produce the single "Be As One", which reached #17 on the UK singles chart.

In 1997, Ministry of Sound released Northern Exposure 2, Sasha and Digweed's next double CD entry in their Northern Exposure series. To support the album, the duo toured internationally, defining the sound of trance music in the late '90s. After extensive touring, Digweed and Sasha took up residency at New York City's famous Twilo nightclub, where they would often DJ for up to nine hours per night. In 1998, Digweed and Sasha released separate mix albums on Boxed as part of the Global Underground series, with Digweed's Global Underground 006: Sydney and Sasha's Global Underground 009: San Francisco, which drew from Sasha's experience of touring on the West Coast of the United States. That same year, both DJs formed their own record labels; Sasha created Excession Records and Digweed created Bedrock Records. Excession Records released fewer than ten records, the last of which was in 1998; however, this led Sasha to found the management agency "Excession: The Agency LTD." Excession remains a booking agency for many popular DJs including Hybrid, Nick Warren, Steve Lawler, James Lavelle, and Desyn Masiello.

Sasha reached more mainstream audiences with his remixes of Madonna's " Ray of Light" and Gus Gus's "Purple" for their single releases. His success in pop music led to Sasha scoring the music for the PlayStation video game Wipeout 3. In 1999, Sasha and Digweed reunited in the studio to record their third edition in the Northern Exposure series: Northern Exposure: Expeditions. In addition to mixing and DJ-ing, Sasha joined Charlie May of Spooky to produce the Xpander EP, which many clubbers still view as "one of the greatest trance tracks of all time". He used the title track as a centerpiece for Global Underground 013: Ibiza, his second Global Underground release. Sasha continued his collaborations with BT on the track "Ride", which was released as a single on Yoshitoshi Records and on BT's Movement in Still Life. Soon after, he worked with Underworld's Darren Emerson on the single "Scorchio", Sasha's first charting single in four years. In between touring and producing original material, Sasha and Digweed released the mix album Communicate in 2000, prompting them to temporarily leave their Twilo residency in order to promote the album with a United States tour. Communicate had mixed reviews including Spin, who stated that despite a "few stellar moments, [Communicate] is ultimately a let-down". LAUNCHcast, too, described Communicate as "boring and lackluster" and that it "stalled in a monochrome world of dead beats".

During the late 1990s, the increased popularity and visibility of "superstar DJs" led to the creation of superclubs such as Cream and Gatecrasher. However, by 2003, the popularity of electronic dance music languished. The Guardian's pop critic Alexis Petridis attributed the "terminal decline" of dance music to its over-commercialisation by big-name DJs, such as Sasha, as well as their demands for increased fees for performances. Though dance music had been declared "dead" by many figures in the dance industry, Sasha continued to tour despite the closing of many superclubs, including his resident club Twilo in May 2001.

Delta Heavy Tour

After the closing of Twilo, Sasha and Digweed embarked on their ambitious Delta Heavy Tour of the United States in 2002. Featuring veteran tour producer Kevin Lyman and opening act Jimmy Van M, the tour covered 31 cities and played to 85,000 people. The appearances, complete with laser shows and video production, were more akin to rock concerts than typical DJ events. This was new for the DJ-ing scene and compelled other DJs to host similar concerts. A DVD of performance highlights, interviews, and behind-the-scenes footage was later released as Sasha & John Digweed present Delta Heavy by System Recordings. Ben Turner, creator of the DanceStar awards, retrospectively described the Delta Heavy tour as "a landmark moment for electronic music". Though the duo of Sasha and Digweed never explicitly split up, demanding schedules and frequent independent touring prevented them from substantial collaborative efforts for a long period after Delta Heavy.

Post Digweed

In the later half of 2002, Sasha began collaborations with big beat artist Junkie XL on the single "Breezer." Junkie XL, along with Charlie May, also assisted Sasha on his first album of original material, Airdrawndagger. Airdrawndagger took several years to produce due to Sasha's desire for the album to be "as near to perfection as possible." A March traffic accident in which Sasha suffered a perforated ear drum further delayed the album's production. Though the accident temporarily impaired his hearing, Sasha drew inspiration for the album from his ordeal. Sasha managed to finish production on Airdrawndagger and it was released with much fanfare in August 2002. However, Airdrawndagger was "received with a lot of head scratching", as Sasha described it, which he attributed to the unexpected combination of genres. The album did not feature the heavier "club sound" of Sasha's previous mix albums and instead bore a closer resemblance to ambient music. Airdrawndagger generally received favorable reviews, though critics noted it for not being as consistent and well produced as his DJ mixes. Sasha himself described it as "a selfish, slightly self-indulgent record", though he maintains that he is still "happy with it to this day." Some critics, however, called it "sleepy", including E!Online who described it as being "more in league with Yanni than Moby". To encourage listener's interest, Sasha held an amateur remix contest for the album's first single, " Wavy Gravy". Because of the contest's success, Sasha released elements of all Airdrawndagger tracks on his website to be downloaded and remixed by fans.

After the release of Airdrawndagger, Sasha took young DJ James Zabiela "under his wing." Sasha introduced Zabiela to the CDJ1000 and signed Zabiela to the Excession talent agency. The two toured the United States together, which extended Sasha's influence to already popular American DJs such as Kimball Collins.

Sasha on stage with Charlie May of Spooky.
Sasha on stage with Charlie May of Spooky.

Sasha signed with Global Underground to do another standard mix album in 2004, but he found the process of creating a normal mix album unrewarding. Instead, he decided to combine his production and DJ-ing talents for a mix compilation that resembled a "real" album – that is, one featuring original material. Sasha's next studio album, Involver, was "a fusion of mix album and production record", consisting mainly of Sasha's reworkings of tracks by other artists. For this project, Sasha explained that he "tried to take all the separate sounds to all the tracks [and recombine them], and it allowed me to mix the tracks together on a much deeper level." To accomplish this, Sasha sequenced the album using Ableton Live as well as Logic Pro.

In 2005, Sasha produced his next album Fundacion NYC, which was based on his nights DJ-ing in New York at the Fundacion club nights. It was the first album to be mixed using Sasha's Maven controller, which he co-developed with Ableton. Fundacion NYC received positive reviews for its originality, though JIVE Magazine found it "too complicated for the ear". Sasha has commented that he is pleased with the album and plans on making an entire series of Fundacion albums. The next year, Sasha released 10,000 copies of a June 2006 DJ set for sale using Instant Live, making him the first DJ to use Instant Live's licensing and publishing services. While continuing to regularly DJ, Sasha is working on material to produce another Involver mix and the next Fundacion mix. Global Underground announced that Sasha's Involver 2 will be released in 2007.

Though frequent performing kept them apart for several years, Sasha and Digweed announced that they would be reunited for a few Australian performances. In November 2006, the duo performed at several venues including Sydney, Brisbane, and Melbourne. Sasha's current tour has destinations in North and South America with several dates for a trio of UK performances.

Sasha lives and runs a music studio in New York City, though he also maintains a house in London. He is married and brings his wife with him on his frequent tours. Sasha finds the constant touring to be physically tiring, though he feels that he thrives on it. While fans may regard Sasha to be a DJ "hero", he is uneasy with fame; Sasha considers himself "shy at heart" and is typically uncomfortable discussing his personal life. He has mentioned on numerous occasions that he is so busy with DJ-ing and production that he rarely has any free time. However, when Sasha does have free time, he enjoys watching football, cooking, and sampling the cuisine of the countries he visits.

Musical genres

Sasha performing July 8, 2006 in Bucharest, Romania, playing electro-house.
Sasha performing July 8, 2006 in Bucharest, Romania, playing electro-house.

Influenced by the early sound of The Haçienda, Sasha began his career playing acid house records. By the early 1990s, he had moved towards a more European house music style, though by the time of his Shelley's residency he had begun to experiment more with American house and other styles he described as "happy". His tastes further developed as he moved to Renaissance, and he began to incorporate the popular house music sounds of Moby, Spooky, and Leftfield. Sasha's second Digweed collaboration, 1997's Northern Exposure, was described as "epic house", and subsequent releases went on to feature the progressive trance sound of artists such as Sven Väth, Matt Darey, Tilt, and Armin Van Buuren. Along with his Xpander EP, his mix albums of the late 1990s were distinguished by their progressive house influence. In Sasha's constant rotation around this time were records by artists such as Space Manoeuvres, BT, and Breeder, as well as Sander Kleinenberg's single "My Lexicon".

The 2000 album Communicate saw the duo's work move towards a deeper house music sound and featured tracks by Morel, Mainline, and Jimmy Van M. This shifted focus away from the melodic themes of previous releases in favour of a stronger emphasis on the bassline. The Delta Heavy Tour and Airdrawndagger marked a dramatic shift in style and introduced the influences of ambient and electro music to Sasha's work. These influences led to his use of strong melodies with minimal percussion and breakbeats on Sasha's artist album. Involver was primarily a fusion of breakbeats and progressive house characterised by UNKLE and Lostep. With 2005's Fundacion, Sasha's new style was mostly progressive house and electro-house tracks with work by James Holden, Tiefschwarz, and Swayzak. Because of his success with progressive house, Sasha has commented that he feels people try to "pigeon-hole" him into playing the genre. Rather than calling it progressive house, Sasha considers his most recent material to be between house, trance, and breaks, though Sasha has stated that he prefers not to associate himself with a specific genre of music.

Techniques and technology

Sasha using Ableton Live during a July 15, 2006 performance at Panama, an Amsterdam nightclub.
Sasha using Ableton Live during a July 15, 2006 performance at Panama, an Amsterdam nightclub.

Sasha attributes his success as a DJ to his technical skills and his ability to "connect with his dancers". During performances, he tries to maintain a balance between new and experimental material while ensuring "the party is still rockin'". His spontaneity carries over to studio work, where Sasha typically only possesses a vague idea of the tracklist for the album when he begins creating a new mix album. Because of this, his albums never turn out exactly how he expects them to.

Sasha is renowned for applying new music technologies to his studio work and live DJ-ing. He and John Digweed used Pro Tools for mixing their compilation albums, unlike their live performances where they used turntables and records. For their remixes, however, they used an Atari ST (which was considered obsolete at the time) with Notator software. For recent albums such as Fundacion NYC, Sasha used Ableton Live for sequencing, partially on account of Pro Tools' higher price. In live performances up to the late 1990s, Sasha exclusively performed using records. Before he started using the CDJ1000, he had previously had his digital music specially cut to acetate before each tour at great expense. Once he integrated CDs into his live act, Sasha operated CDJ1000s with Allen & Heath mixers and FireworX. While he is now known for heavily utilizing audio technologies, Sasha was one of the last DJs to begin using CDs for live performances. Sasha began DJ-ing with Ableton Live in his live act as well, using it in tandem with turntables. Having exploring its functionality, Sasha found 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. During DJ sets, clubbers often believe he 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, Sasha used a PowerBook running Ableton, but has since shifted to a setup including an iMac G5 and Ableton Live. Despite Sasha's insistance that Ableton Live allows for greater creativity and spontaneity, "vinyl purists" have accused him of taking much of the challenge and mystique out of DJ-ing by using software in performances.

In addition to new DJ-ing technology, Sasha has found that the internet has greatly affected the way he uses and obtains tracks for performances. Formerly, he used to hunt through record shops for new records; now he 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.

Popularity and honours

Sasha has remained consistently popular among dance music fans. He has been voted into the top ten DJs in the world by readers of DJMag every year since 1997, including finishing #1 in 2000, and #2 to partner John Digweed in 2001. At the annual Winter Music Conference, Sasha has won the "Best Techno/Trance 12"" award for the Xpander EP and "Best CD Compilation" awards for Global Underground: Ibiza and Involver. He was also nominated for "Best European DJ" and "Best Remixer". At the 1999 Ericsson Muzik Awards, he received an award for "Outstanding Contributions to Dance Music". Sasha has been nominated as the top DJ in his genre every year since 2000 in the DJ Awards, but has yet to win.

In 2005, the Grammy committee debated whether Involver was eligible for nomination as Best Electronic/Dance Album. The Recording Academy decided that the album was eligible, though Involver failed to receive a nomination from the full academy. However, Sasha did receive a Grammy nomination for his remix of "Watching Cars Go By" by Felix Da Housecat, which was featured on Involver.

Selected discography


  • 1994: Renaissance - The Mix Collection with John Digweed ( Renaissance Records)
  • 1996: Northern Exposure with John Digweed ( Ministry of Sound, Ultra Records)
  • 1997: Northern Exposure 2 with John Digweed (Ministry of Sound, Ultra Records)
  • 1998: Global Underground 009: San Francisco ( Boxed)
  • 1999: Northern Exposure: Expeditions with John Digweed ( INCredible, Ultra Records)
  • 1999: Global Underground 013: Ibiza (Boxed)
  • 2000: Communicate with John Digweed (INCredible, Kinetic Records) ( Billboard 200 #149)
  • 2002: Airdrawndagger (Kinetic Records, BMG) ( UK Albums Chart #18, Billboard 200 #157, Billboard Top Electronic Albums #5)
  • 2004: Involver ( Global Underground Ltd.) (Billboard 200 #200, Billboard Electronic #1)
  • 2005: Fundacion NYC (Global Underground Ltd.) (Billboard Electronic #4)
  • 2006: Avalon Los Angeles CA 24/06/06 ( Instant Live)
  • 2007: Involver 2 (Global Underground Ltd.)


  • 1993: "Together" with Danny Campbell ( FFRR) ( UK Singles Chart #57)
  • 1994: "Higher Ground" ( Deconstruction) (UK #19)
  • 1994: "Magic" with Sam Mollison (Deconstruction) (UK #32)
  • 1994: The Qat Collection (Deconstruction)
  • 1996: "Be As One" with Maria Nayler (UK #17)
  • 1999: Xpander EP (Deconstruction, Ultra Records) (UK #18)
  • 2000: "Scorchio" with Darren Emerson (Deconstruction) (UK #23)
  • 2002: " Wavy Gravy" (Kinetic Records, BMG) (UK #64)


  • 2006: Sasha & John Digweed present Delta Heavy with John Digweed ( System Recordings)
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