Sandy Turnbull on DJ bios, disco and dropping Tune of the Month

House | Thursday 1st December 2016 | Christina

Sandy Turnbull has been in the game for over 15 years, producing house music that moves seamlessly from deep to jackin to vocal to disco, and he's gained fans in the likes of Derrick Carter, Soul Clap, Todd Terry, MK, DJ Sneak, and Groove Armada. We caught up the man himself to chat about DJ bios, disco and dropping Mixmag's Tune of the Month. 

Hey Sandy, how’s it going? What have you been up to recently?
Hey, I’m great thanks. So apart from being in the studio most days, I’ve been busy with the day to day running of my label, Galleria. Also I’ve been releasing on a regular basis - working on the build up to the release date takes quite a bit of time.

Your RA bio begins “Let’s fast forward the boring part of 99.9% of all dj/producer biogs – got decks, rocked crowds blah blah blah”, so can you fill us in on how you first got started in music?
Haha. A good friend, Adam Mathews, wrote that for me. We hated how generic and all the DJ biogs sounded at the time. So how I first got started, I lived in Barnsley and my local club was called Regents Park. I became friends with the resident DJ who is called Jezta. At the time you could only get a lot of records I liked on vinyl. He took myself and a couple of friends record shopping in Leeds. I managed to get some decks with some inheritance and my friends would come to my house and we take turns mixing. The rule was we had a big stack of records and you had to just play the new one. I ended up playing at Regents Park then a few local bars while sending out mixtapes to bigger clubs further afield. It was never a conscious decision to earn a living from DJiing, it just happened slowly.

How important was The Pin Up Club to your career?
Massively. I was playing 3-4 times a week and earning a decent living when I first played The Pin Up Club. The night was already established and I was really lucky to be given the chance to play, followed by a residency at one of the best small nights in the UK at the time. I can trace most things I’ve done since then back to Adam and Dean who ran the night and gave me a fantastic platform building a good following in Sheffield. At that time, Pin Up had hosted a number of events with Gatecrasher, working with them on events with Masters At Work, Erick Morillo and Roger Sanchez. From that I was asked by Gatecrasher to step in on short notice for an event, and then they offered me a residency which could run side by side to my Pin Up residency. This gave me the opportunity to play huge club gigs, international gigs and play some major festivals

‘After Comiskey Park’ was named Mixmag’s November Tune of the Month, what’s so special about that track for you?
The little vocal in the track I’d been trying to use for a number of years - I had it on a vinyl from the early 90s but whenever I tried to use it, the track went in a different direction and it never worked out. I’ve read Mixmag from the mid-90s so I was really happy for it to be featured in the reviews then I found out it was selected as “tune of the month” which is an even bigger honour.

Your new EP Make Me Cry drops in December and it’s got a great disco vibe. What inspired you to move in that direction with this record?
I moved house a year ago and slowly began going through my records and recording some of the tracks. As well old disco and funk tracks, I had a few things that only came out on vinyl. Very rarely do I get to play vinyl anymore, so I normally run them in and make digital copies, and there was a few I hadn’t done yet. I then started trying to find some good disco loops and inspired by that filtered sample style of Roulé, Crydamoure and Armed, I looked at some of the key elements of that style and tried to put a twist on it.

What else is in the pipeline for Galleria Records?
The next two releases are boxed off and the third one, I’m just sorting the remixers for which takes the label to spring next year. We have four tracks signed from The Reprobates which are exciting new artists. The way these guys approach making music is essentially taking a track and deconstructing it. Then once the record is taken apart, a new track is made from the samples in the original; so it’s not like finding an 8 bar loop in a record and using it as a straight sample.

What do you think the key is to longevity in the industry, especially as the music market becomes so saturated?
It’s really hard to not get disheartened. Sometimes finding the right place for your music can be harder than making the track. It’s so hard to get noticed but don’t just chase a style or fad because you think it will boost your profile. It takes patience and most of the people you think have become big overnight have taken years learning their craft.

As dance music evolves and lots of sub-genres appear, how do you balance staying relevant with staying true to your style of music?
I’ve always approached making music with the mind set ‘where would this record fit in my DJ sets?’ I went to production college, basically, because I couldn’t find enough music I wanted to play at that time. I thought, ‘if I can’t find enough music I like, I’d learn how to make what I wanted to hear’. Luckily a few other people liked it as well.

Which one song or piece of music changed your life?
Daft Punk’s Alive show at Hyde Park in London was a huge moment. I guess you might think I was inspired by the show but actually what happened was I was so blown away by how amazing it all was, I thought ‘I can’t carry on djing and making music after this, everything else after this show is just bull sh*t’. It didn’t last and I was converted from ‘liking them’ to ‘super fan’.

What track have you got on repeat at the moment?
If it was on repeat in my head it would be Phyllis Nelson – Move Closer.

If you weren’t in the music industry, what would you be doing as a career?
It’s difficult to imagine what else I could do! It would have to be something creative.

If you could fill a swimming pool with anything in the world, what would you go for?
I’m presuming I have to dive in it? Gelatine would be fun, bouncing about in it.

2016 is almost over, can you pick a highlight from this year?
Mixmag making 'After Comiskey Park' “Tune Of The Month”.

And what are you most looking forward to next year?
More of the same as this year. Working with good people and getting even more music released.

Make Me Cry is available now exclusively via Traxsource here. Follow Sandy on Facebook, Twitter and SoundCloud