Although the world has been on pause, many people have taken this opportunity to revel in introspection and clarity. It is no doubt that the pandemic has brought chaos to our social and physical environment, but there are those that have turned that chaos into a time of rebuilding. Whether that be rebuilding themselves, taking on other hobbies, finishing hobbies…etcetera. During this time, Sacha Robotti has taken the chaos in our history and turned it into a world of positive productivity for his music and his label, Slothacid. The German-Italian DJ and producer will be planning to expand his artistry with a twist of his own in the near future, and he is more than excited to share what’s to come.
Welcome back to 6AM Sacha. We last spoke to you when you were launching the first release on Slothacid… how has the label been going since then?
Thanks for having me back 6AM! I love the way you used the current pandemic in a positive way, focusing on spreading a good attitude and releasing cool merch, when it wasn’t possible to throw parties in a safe way! True we spoke I think in 2019, just before things slowed down. What a trip! My label Slothacid has been doing well, it is and was instrumental for me to stay creative, to have an outlet, to have a perspective, to collaborate with other people and provide a platform for them too besides scratching my own musical itch.
I also wanted to show that this is not the end of the world… Many labels and artists closed down and didn’t release much music, which I understand. I chose to double down. I decided to re-brand and re-design my website, logos, socials, the web store, the label artwork, and worked on new concepts for Slothacid. We created T-shirts, masks, hats, hoodies etc., and in June we started to release two records per month. Thanks to Steve & Lucas from The Firm and Nate from Neo4ic for their artistic input. I love how we collaborated on all this dope stuff that kept me and hopefully some of you entertained at a time when I personally couldn’t look at Twitter or the news anymore without getting panic attacks because the state of the world was so incredibly sad.
Pandemic aside, have there been any challenges you’ve come across in terms of running the label that you didn’t expect?
I had a mind meltdown right now, as I just realized that this is a true pandemic label! Literally, Slothacid as a record label is a little over 2 years old now and I’ve been running it through 1.5 years of pandemic. That’s crazy if you think about it. As a brand we’ve existed for four years or so and have been releasing apparel for about that same time, but records have only seen the light for about two years.
This is not my first label, I’ve run one when I was living in Berlin when I was still part of the DJ duo Robosonic. It was our first musical outlet and we named it Diskomafia. I just checked if the website is still online but I designed it entirely in Flash. Flash has retired so the site doesn’t even visualize anymore, that’s how much time has passed since!
We pressed a lot of vinyl, official and unofficial, singles, an album, etc. around 2005-2009 until the vinyl market collapsed. We declared Diskomafia defunct and focused on releasing on other labels which was the key to our later success. As Robosonic we both had done all the work on this label ourselves, from designing the vinyl records / sleeves / label etiquettes to the web design, to making the music, liaising with vinyl pressing plants, making deals with distributors in different countries, promotion and so on. Compared to now it was a very different time. To be honest now I feel it’s easier to do label work, especially when it’s mostly taking place in the digital realm.
In terms of difficulties last year and in 2021, it was surely a challenge to run an independent company at a time when all supply chains globally were backed up or dry. When many people didn’t do work because they had to switch jobs, were partying, camping, or simply depressed…when it was sort of illegal to leave the house at certain times.
“Many labels and artists closed down and didn’t release much music, which I understand. I chose to double down. I decided to re-brand and re-design my website, logos, socials, the web store, the label artwork, and worked on new concepts for Slothacid.”
The choice is yours, and Sacha Robotti kept a steady grind in 2020.
Are you someone who plans out years into the future in terms of the artist you want to work with on the label? Or is it a little more instinctive than that?
I am a gut-instinct driven and passionate person, but I also have a big picture in mind or a grand vision of what I want to accomplish, so I guess a bit of both?
You’re around halfway through a really mammoth US tour… how does it feel to be back in front of crowds all across the country again?
It’s marvelous, I love it! I haven’t really stopped touring last year during the pandemic. I’ve definitely slowed down for a bit but as soon as I could, I was back on the road. I have a lot of respect for what this virus can do to people… but I also know that if I stay isolated and don’t do what I’m here for, I won’t survive. So I’ve played some shows since May-June 2020 that were sanctioned and done in a safe way according to local city and State guidances, like The Midway in San Francisco, which none of my colleagues at first wanted to play. After my first Midway show many promoters, bookers and DJs called me wanting to find out how if it felt safe, and I put a good word in for the work that The Midway did in order to make “outdoor dining with music” possible.
I also rented a van in the fall and drove from LA to NYC and all across the States for five shows. One of which was the Elements festival with two part testing in Pennsylvania, a Drive-In near Chicago at McHenry, a club show in Minneapolis at Skyway Theater, another club show at It’ll Do in Dallas, and an outdoor Sunday brunch in Austin for Real Music Events. Fun fact, I drove the 9000+ miles through Yellowstone, Zion / Utah, the Dakotas, NYC, Nashville, New Orleans, Texas, Arizona, Grand Canyon etc. – through about 30 States – on a permit because the DMV in LA had shut down literally the day I had an appointment to do my in-person driving test for my California Driver’s License in March 2020. I was driving on a German license that I would have shown if I had been pulled over, who knows whether they would have let it fly. It was truly a wild trip!
On that note, I also went to the Playa last year when Burning Man was canceled. It turned out to be a secretive camping excursion with a bunch of weirdos. I wonder if that’s how the first few Burns felt back in the day. Funny thing, I did a live stream for the “virtual” Burn which I had pre-recorded, at the same time while I was out on the “real” Playa with no service…
I’m thankful for the virtual Burn and for all the other live streams I had the chance to play. Desert Hearts Festival on my birthday on two bottles of champagne, after which I went sober… Retrospekt, Elements, Insomniac in a hazmat suit, Factory 93, Dirtybird, Lightning In A Bottle, Octopus, various charity streams like for the Beirut relief, and many more. I played quite a few of these streams both in the basement of DJ Dan’s house where I lived for most of last year, as well as at various locations “outside” like for instance on the USS Hornet aircraft carrier in Alameda for Send It Events – but I also tried not to overdo it on these streams. I wanted to be selective rather than radiate 24/7 TV channel vibes.
I’m happy not to be doing the “Plamp Life” anymore though. I’m just not that much into playing live streams in comparison to having an actual crowd in front of me. Like, I would rather play to 50 people in a tiny room than for 50,000 on Twitch. A live stream kind of compares to watching online porn vs. the real thing. The energy just hits different when you play for dancing people. I’m grateful for all the efforts that various brands have made to keep the music going, really am… it kept me entertained and I was able to showcase my music to people, probably even with a bigger reach through streaming platforms. But still, no live stream will ever satisfy me fully nor give me the full experience as a DJ unless there’s like, a chip in my head that makes it full VR so that all my senses are immersed, that I can feel the bass and have a virtual crowd that looks real and gives me feedback… maybe in the near future. I’m a club and festival monster, this is where I belong and it’s what I’m good at. Fingers crossed that we can keep doing events safely this year and next…
Has the vibe on the dancefloor changed at all? And do you find yourself playing any differently as a result?
The vibe changed I think, yes! People seem to be more grateful. I’m not playing differently if at all I give even less fcks about playing the current Beatport Top 10 than I already had before.
Any favorite shows so far?
This year, I loved playing at Seismic in Austin, as well as Get Funky in Utah, and Global Dance Denver! These three were amazing festivals and so fun to play. Memorable club shows that had “back to normal” vibes were, among many others on my Tour, at Treehouse Miami, at Commonwealth Las Vegas, Eos Santa Barbara, Hawaiian Brian’s in Honolulu, and Red Cube Portland!
“Music was and is my passion, solace and balance as it had always been in my chaotic and colorful life ever since I was a kid.”
Music as a safehaven.
Back in 2005 you were working as an architect in Afghanistan before deciding to commit to a career in music. Was there anything in particular that prompted that decision, and was it a scary one to make, to give up a stable job to try and follow your dream?
Honestly, it was a scary one to make yes but also, I was never afraid to leave my comfort zone or make hard decisions. I think the moment that prompted me to decide to get into music full time in 2005, was this:
I was traveling weekly or sometimes bi-weekly from Kabul to Jalalabad and Torkham (the border city on the Khyber Pass) and back. I worked as an architect for the EU mainly to build the customs zone between Afghanistan and Pakistan and later between Afghanistan and Uzbekistan. When I stayed in Kabul, which was our home base, I was situated in a room that was part of a compound of the German THW, an organization that’s kind of a first responder when there’s a humanitarian crisis, a war or a natural disaster. There were sections of time when we had electricity in the city, power would come on and cut out deliberately, especially at night, and you’d hear the generators switch on in the whole city all of a sudden.
The sound of the city was incredible at night.. chants of the Muezzin were mixed with AK47 shots in the distance, and you’d hear muffled but bassy Apache helicopters flapping around in the sky. Every so often you’d hear a rocket fly and impact somewhere. While all this was happening, I sat in my room, on headphones, on my laptop, making house and techno beats on Cubase after finishing all my work. Music was and is my passion, solace and balance as it had always been in my chaotic and colorful life ever since I was a kid. At some point it just clicked and I realized that this is what I should do, every day for the rest of my life! I decided there and then in Kabul to apply for a Master in Acoustic Communication at the Berlin University Of The Arts, in order to legitimize my choice of doing music full time. A degree would give me more credibility rather than just saying like, “hey dad I’m going to stop architecture which I had been studying for 8 years, to become a DJ!” Haha! The University accepted me and here we are. I wonder if the board really liked my application or whether they just saw my envelope coming from Afghanistan and thought “that guy must be insane let’s have him in our course”!
As someone who has actually lived in the country, do you have any thoughts about the situation currently developing in Afghanistan?
It’s really sad. The Afghan people are very hospitable and kind. The vastness of the country is beautiful. The mountains are breathtaking, as well as these green plains covering the horizon in between earthy colors and blue streams. It’s a very raw and somehow romantic scenery, until you zoom in on the details, and you can see how poor many people are and how broken the infrastructure is. Afghanistan has endured more than 40 years of war, poverty, destruction, proxy, and direct wars, all at the expense of the children, women, and honest people who just want to live, farm, raise families.
It’s horrible what people do in the name of religion, and it’s gross what people do in the name of money. Make no mistake, both these things are responsible for what has happened in the past out there, and what’s happening there right now. I feel a lot for the country, and I’m very sorry to see how this has unfolded… I have hope but I don’t have a perspective, to be honest, I don’t think this is going to blow over soon or get better generally in the near future. Fingers crossed, inshallah.
You’ve been quite open about challenges with your own mental health in the course of your career. Now that things are getting quite full-on again in terms of touring after some extreme isolation for some people, do you think there’s a danger of a growing crisis within the industry?
I’m not entirely sure what you mean? But if you’re referring to drug use and people binging at parties because they’ve been isolating so hard for so long, yes sure I think people need to chill a bit more if they want to stay sane and be able to perform as promoters, DJs, partygoers, bar staff, anything… Many of us went absolutely bonkers during the pandemic on all levels. Besides Covid deaths that were occurring in my surroundings regularly, I know probably 15 people who died from accidental overdoses, deaths related to drug and alcohol abuse, or suicide.
During the pandemic, especially at the beginning of it, many of us including myself felt that they had lost a lot on so many levels, and we didn’t know when this would end… many of us felt so alone that we coped in unhealthy ways. Now many of us indulge and live in excess because we’re collectively so happy to party among people again, to make connections, to find partners etc. It’s just a consequence of being locked down for so long.
“When you wake up hungover or on a comedown, your mood swings like a pendulum and you can get stuck in low vibration mode for days.”
From experience, how can people involved in the music industry – both professionally and as fans – do to ensure their own mental health is cared for?
I’m in no way telling you or anyone how to live their lives, please go ahead binge everything you want or need if that’s your jam. Since you’re asking me for a formula about what worked for me to heal insomnia, depression, PTSD, drug use, lack of power and performance, unhealthy thoughts, mood swings, low vibrations. Here they are…
7-8 hours a night is the amount of time per night a human body needs to recover and rest. If you do that, half of your problems will be solved and you won’t become as heavily depressed, I guarantee you! I had insomnia for years, couldn’t fall asleep nor sleep more than four hours or so without numbing myself before. It took me last year to fix that, and my life has gotten so much better since.
Going to bed drunk or on drugs, even when you’re “just smoking weed” decreases the quality of your sleep. This is hard for many of us because we’re creatures of habit and routines. When you wake up hungover or on a comedown, your mood swings like a pendulum and you can get stuck in low vibration mode for days. I know some of the kids reading this think what I’m saying is uncool, and that’s fine with me – “do you” as they say in America. They may think that it’s great to be on benders or behave like a muppet when awake for days. Trust me I know I’ve been on so many of these benders since I became a DJ in 1995. I did it as a kind of a sport and a toxic validation so I could tell my friends that I stayed up for days, or that I did an apocalyptic amount of substances and booze… a sport that kind of glorifies “who can stay up the longest, play the most shows and afters, get the most numbers, have the most fucked up stories, drink the most or take the most drugs” while partying and traveling internationally to shows for years.
We all know in the music industry that if you bring a bag to the party, you’ll make friends real quick. You’ll meet tons of girls and boys who you would probably not hang out under “normal” circumstances, but who will reinforce your self perceived bad boy behavior until you realize after months and years that you’re feeling empty af and haven’t dealt with any of your shadow work, making you a “rock n roll star” on the outside, but super unhappy inside. It’s a spiraling cycle and mind you, it can be very fun for a while… It’s fine, no judgment, we are or were all young and wild, testing out our limits is part of growth. Chaos energy can be incredibly exhilarating and we get a kick out of it. Some of the stories we experience while in this party mode, as well as the people we meet shape us and stay with us forever. They definitely shaped me.. positively and negatively.
Since you’re asking about mental health… come back to Earth every once in a while, ground yourself, realize you’re made of carbon and water. Know your limits, especially if you’re in the music industry… you need chill a little if you want longevity and positivity in your life. If you take drugs, try to take them in a loving environment and as a ritual, to celebrate life’s special moments. Give yourself rest and care after. No healthy relationships with yourself or other people have drug use or drug addiction as the main characteristic, you’re just filling some unmet needs with a substance.
Do any kind of sports, move your body! I can’t stress enough how important that is, and how awesome I feel now that I do these things on a daily.
This is similar to number three but also different. What I’m referring to is along the lines of, switch your phone and computer off for a while here and there, and do something else than working or obsessing about a toxic tweet by some person who’s on a post-bender. Who cares! That email or this task you needed to complete can probably wait until later. Stress isn’t healthy! Your mental health is a priority. Especially if you are creative, you need to balance your screen time with grounding and playtime. Play with your dog, go somewhere to eat, meet friends, do something wholesome, take a hike, just leave that damn phone alone.
what you put into your stomach informs how you feel. Eat low nutritional value food every day and watch how shitty you’ll feel in the long run and how you’ll accumulate inflammation.
Give yourself a break. We only have this moment, so try not to live in the past or the future too much. Be present, meditate, breathe. You’re the best thing that has happened to you, and you’re super lucky to be here.
It makes life so much better and that’s not only because of Oxytocin. We need touch and feelings of belonging. Love is the answer.
Fck that stigma, be proud of it instead. Do your shadow work for your own sake and for the sake of everyone around you! You will perform so much better and be so much happier in the long run. Therapy comes in many forms and new forms keep evolving, be it via talk therapy, CBT, DBT, art therapy, dance therapy, 1:1 or in groups, via hypnosis, psychedelics, etc. you name it there is one or more that can help you. I’m sure there are more things I forgot to list, but yes that’s sort of my tried and tested formula!
Toxic validation of behavior deemed “bad” by society, is a weird kind of peer pressure. As an example, I got the most likes on social media posts if I posted something along the lines of a photo of myself with sunglasses in a deplorable state, sitting at the airport in some godforsaken city or on some dubious looking after party couch, possibly with a half-dressed person next to me that was missing an eyelash and a shoe, maybe a bunch of empty bottles or something of that sort next to us.
Another example of toxic validation is the amount of interaction I got when I tweeted about the magnitude of the bender I was on. It’s a weird self-reinforcing cycle.
Chasing the high, Sacha Robotti comments on mental health and how social media can be toxic.
Back to the music, what should we be looking out for from you over the next few months?
I have another release with Dantiez Saunderson coming out on Roger Sanchez’s label Undr The Radr, this cut is called “Motor City Angel”. The idea is basically a crossover between Detroit and LA. Collaborating with Dantiez and the Saunderson family last year and in 2021 has been amazing and a dream come true. I feel honored that they released music on Slothacid!
I’m also the voice on two of JTJ’s upcoming tracks on Slothacid in September, “Do It Again” and “Pop That”, they’re very particular tracks and I love them. Jeff aka JTJ is a great producer and a good friend who’s been there for me many times when I tried to make a life in this country. Next up on Slothacid is Andreas Henneberg with two cuts on the “Failsafe EP”, the title track is an absolute monster, watch it destroy the dance floor!
There’s a track I remixed for Popof [Desert Hearts]. It’s evil and is working like black magic on a big sound system! Finally.. I’m working on so many different cuts at the same time and road testing a wide range of sounds. I have some music with Sian in the works, rather dark stuff, as well as some more Disco & Funk infused music that I’m working on by myself in the vein of some of my old Robosonic releases. I’m also working on some very silly cuts too that will hopefully make you laugh. And I started working with a very talented writer and vocalist named Tess on more poppy tracks. I’m excited about where all this will lead me!
Finally, is there one album or track that you’ve listened to more than any other this year that we should all be aware of?
One of my favorite tracks of last year that finally came out this year on Crosstown Rebels, is made by my friend Mark Bell aka Blakkat & BabyGirl & Amberroom, and is called “Forces Of Nature.” I think only Mark, Dixon, and me had the track for the longest time in 2020 and I played it during every show and every stream. I love Mark who’s kind of a mentor to me, and BabyGirl too, who coincidentally also sang on my cover of Peaches “Fuck The Pain Away.” “Forces Of Nature” is one of the most beautiful and poetic cuts I know. I did a little remix number on it which I’m currently club testing..
Again, thanks for having me team 6AM, keep doing the good work and being a light for many of us!