From Dutch hardcore labels to American pop music, Omar Santana always seems to pop up in the darnedest places. While other artists hide behind different monikers out of fear of reputation damage or offending their fans, Omar Santana just gives the whole system the finger and does what he wants, when he wants. Aldente digs up a few skeletons from the last ten years of Omars life in the boroughs, and what it’s like to live with a true New Yorker.
How did you get started with hip-house and hip hop and how did you transition from that to gabber type stuff?
Growing up in New York, I was always exposed to rap and hip hop, so it was very natural for me to start getting involved and producing it. I liked hip-house because of the hip hop vocals and energy. Hip-house used to have a lot of ruggedness.
I decided to start producing music for myself instead of always working on other artist’s projects (whether producing, remixing, or editing). I got turned on to a New York club called Limelight where I first started to hear hardcore techno and gabba. I liked the aggressiveness, hard drums and hard sounds. I knew I had to try to make tracks like that. That’s when I started my own label, H2OH and have been kickin’ it ever since.
Was that you rappin’ on that ‘Omar Santana and the Brooklyn Bandits” record back in the day?
That was my cousin, Pico. Only kidding- it really was a friend of mine from Brooklyn named Seven. He would have been able to do some shows to promote the record but unfortunately he was arrested and they threw his ass in Rikers.
I once read you did edit work for a Sting record. Have you been involved in any other projects such as that?
I never worked on a Sting record, but I have done work for The Rolling Stones, Duran Duran, Janet Jackson, Public Enemy, and Quincy Jones. I’ve done remixes and edits on every type of music from pop to rap.
Do you prefer major label work to independent label projects?
What’s important to me is the artist and track. The label, whether major or indie doesn’t matter. If I really like the artist or the track then that motivates me creatively.
Why don’t you tell us just what ended up happening to you when you where supposed to play in Chicago a couple of summers ago?
I was arrested at LaGuardia for carrying a illegal weapon (brass knuckles) that I forgot was in my record bag. (him and Barry Switzer must know each other! -ed) I ended up being in jail for a couple of days. But I heard I missed a hell of a party. However, being a responsible DJ, I did give the promoter his deposit back.
How do you like living in Manhattan versus Queens?
I’ve been living in Manhattan for almost 10 years now, so I’m pretty used to the city and all its idiots. But I do miss Queens- hangin’ with my boys and cruising.
Please give your favorite Nicadeemus story*.
I took Nicadeemus into the city from Queens and we were walking down 7th Avenue in the pouring rain and needed to catch a cab. As I get to the curb to start to hail a cab, a full cab stops where we were standing. Nicadeemus abruptly pulls open the door of the cab and there is this family of out-of-towners sitting in the back seat. Nicadeemus says “GET OUT”. The family took one look at him and screamed. Then the cabby jumped out and got in Nick’s face and started barking “What are you doing? Are you insane?!!? Leave my customers alone!”. I explain to the cabby that Nick is from Portland and didn’t know that a cab with lights off on the roofsign means it’s full. Nick’s real cool at the subway.
If you weren’t producing or DJing what would you be doing?
Music is it for me.
Do you prefer your Tricked-Out material over your Terror Trax/Dwarf sort of stuff or vice versa?
I don’t prefer one over the other. It all depends on my mood at the time. Sometimes I’m into the brutal beats and breaks and do hard-hop tracks and other times I feel like banging my head against the mixing console and out comes hardcore, H2OH tracks. I find there is a common denominator in the sounds, because both are hard and have aggressive rhythms. Whatever style of music I’m doing I express in the track how I’m feeling at the time.
Got any remixes coming up?
I haven’t had a lot of time for remixes as I’ve been busy working on tracks for myself and my two labels. I try to work on a few choice remixes. I just did ‘The Flava’ (Freddie Fresh) on Harthouse UK and Arthur Baker just asked me to do a remix of ‘Breakers Revenge’ for his label- Minimal. Also I’m scheduled to go into the studio next week and do ‘Drop the Break’ by Cirrus (on Moonshine)… after I come back from DJ’ing at the Love Parade in Berlin.
What devices are at the core of your studio?
The essentials for me are my Akai MPC 3000, My JUNO , and a case of JOLT.
What directions are you planning on taking H2OH/Tricked-Out?
I really don’t have plans for either of my labels, other than to go with the flow and keep putting out tuff shit.
What’s to be expected from Omar Santana in the future?
I plan on opening an office on Mars. Really, I just plan to keep puttin’ out shit that I like on both labels. And if I have my way, I don’t plan on DJing at parties and events like where I played this past weekend in Los Angeles at a so called “event” (which was a joke) called ‘Armageddon’, where the promoters didn’t have their shit together and think they can treat DJ’s like shit. Unfortunately, the people who really suffer are the fans because they work hard for their fucking money and look forward to having a good time at raves and instead are being ripped off by these type of asshole promoters who should be shot.
It’s like some people think they’re doing you a favor by booking you. They don’t seem to see that it’s the DJ’s draw that MAKES the party. Any other stories of devious promoters?
It’s not so much that they are devious but moreso that they are unorganized and unprofessional. I give 100% and care about the music… do they? I’ve heard that some promoters have been calling the cops on their own parties so they don’t have to pay the DJ’s and everybody else.
Alright, last call. What do you think of breakbeat house overall?
I don’t listen to it. It doesn’t thrill me.
*The downlow on Nicadeemus*
Nicadeemus and Omar lived together in Floral Park, New York about a year ago. Prior to that, ol’ Nick lived in Portland, Oregon and was a key player in founding the techno scene nationally with his tipsheet and distribution company D.I.S. (DJ’s In Sync). I got to know him back in Oregon. Nicadeemus has a personality that defies understanding. Been searching for a record forever? More than likely he can find it. Call D.I.S. at 917.222.1069.