Exclusive: Al Sharif Guestmix + Interview
Certainly one of the most eclectic, unique, and captivating We Rave You mixes to date, bonafide groove artisan Al Sharif teams up with Poems to deliver episode 27 of We Rave You radio. If one were looking for a mix that contains epic orchestral renditions of dance classics and raw groove house power, look no further. Al Sharif is a Californian Producer/DJ who has catapulted into the ranks amongst some of the most in demand artists in the dance music scene. Making his biggest splash with Sosumi Records and StaarTraxx, Sharif is working to cement his position at par with the genres pioneers including Kryder and Tom Staar. The masterful Greek duo known as Poems have swelled since they broke into the scene at the start of 2018. The duo set out to combine the two worlds of House and classical/orchestral music, and the result is simply excellent.
Al Sharif has been producing for around 10 years now, early on he was inspired by the likes of Daft Punk, Fatboy Slim, and SHM. Only in the past year or so, Sharif has established and developed a prominent discography that has received support from many artists around the scene. His sound is characterized through his emphasis on strong rhythms, clean energy, and organic instrumentation that give his tracks that extra flare. As one of the main developers behind the “California Groove Movement” (discussed in interview), Sharif plans to gather an unite those who share the love for this exciting new sub-genre of house that recently took off a few years ago. His releases in 2018 so far include “Work” released on Kids Records Foundation, “Get Right” released on Groove Cartel, and “Necesito Tu Amor” which was part of the last few tracks to be released on the hallmark label Sosumi Records.
Poems have only recently broke into the conscious of house music fans and artists following the release of the their project “The Night Symphony” which includes luscious orchestral renditions of releases from SIZE Records and Axtone Records. Diving into the mix, we are hit right away with a jaw-dropping Poems rework of Sharifs’ track “Only Way Is House”, smooth, progressive, and evocative, the track is a great ice-breaker for the carnage soon to follow courtesy of Sharif. Loaded with tasty released and un-released gems from Sharif, Poems, and their respective colleagues, this 3 hour musical journey is a rather unique take on the standard dance music radio mix.
Fiery latin grooves and high octane bass lines prevail through out the first quarter of the mix as we are treated to some hot and heavy records that are robust enough for the arena or the club. Shining through like a breath of fresh air, Poems rendition of “Come Together” rings out with utter satisfaction. As we blast through more ultra fresh ID’s and top-notch groove bangers, Poems reset the score once again with their take of “Crocodile Tears” from Kryder. Naturally, Al Sharif drops two of his most lethal weapons “The Iberian” and “Get Right” as we reach the final stages of the mix. A truly refreshing collection of music, the stark contrast between the pulsing bass and drums with the dreamy, ethereal symphonies all molded in one mix is quite rare to find in this caliber. What sounds like fresh new music from fellow brothers in groove Will K and Corey James, Sharif adds a special mystique to the mix dropping some red hot tribal magic we haven’t heard before. Paying homage to the loss of an icon, Poems deliver stunning renditions on both “Levels” and “Without You” all the while properly paying homage to the loss of a legend. Loaded with nothing but good vibes and supremely danceable jams, Al Sharif and Poems truly hit the nail on the head with this intricate, expressive, and truly wonderful 3 hour mix.
You just came back from Miami. How was the experience? Could you tell us some of the knowledge you’ve gained from this week?
My experience during MMW 2018 was something I will never forget. Playing at Leandro Da Silva’s Black Lizard Records Miami event was really special. Not having a release with the label yet being invited to perform meant a lot, and getting to know Leandro Da Silva has really been a privilege. Aside from that, I popped up behind the decks at a few clubs during MMW. One of my favorite moments was joining fellow California Groover and dear friend Frank Nitty. We truly shared a moment playing “The Iberian” at Heart Nightclub. I learned a lot and it was an eye opening experience that showed me how far I’ve come as a producer, and how much work it takes to make it in this business. People recognizing my face and taking photos really caught me off guard. But it reminded me that I do this for the love of the music and I’m truly blessed to be living my dream.
You’ve been on an incredible roll lately, with releases such as “Work”, “Necesito Tu Amor” and “Get Right”. Could you tell us what were your inspirations behind these records?
“Work” was a song that I really wanted to give to KIDS Records Foundation. If you don’t know, the label is based from France and donates all of its royalties to UNICEF. The founder Hugo Cantarra is an amazing human being and it was truly a honor to help shine the light on a much needed foundation in dance music. With “Necesito Tu Amor” I got lucky, I didn’t even know Sosumi Records would close its doors. I found out the label was ending during my MMW. That song took a long time to produce, the saxophone is 100% original. It was a collaboration with Retinue and Kimpasso from Sweden, who I met during my trip to ADE in October 2017. I feel very blessed to be one of the 100 releases from Sosumi Records.
You’ve made your debut on both Kryder & Tom Staar’s labels, which are two of the most reputable labels in the groove house scene. How does it feel to get support from artists such as them? Also, what’s the best piece of advice you’d give to aspiring producers?
It still feels like a dream. I wake up everyday being thankful for everything both Kryder, Tom Staar, and their management have done for me. I cannot thank them enough for their support and guidance. The best advice I would give aspiring producers is to be yourself. It’s good to look up to others, but you need to learn how to take chances and always look for people to give you honest feedback. I feel like many people getting into this industry try to copy sounds or aren’t being creative enough. Don’t be afraid of failure, you can only learn from your mistakes. Always take negative comments in a constructive way. A lot of people want to be the next Kryder, Swedish House Mafia, or Skrillex, but not everyone is willing to do the work. Sometimes you need to work 7 days a week, and sacrifice time with your friends, family or loved ones. But it comes with the territory so be prepared for that if you’re serious about making it in this business.
You’ve made a 2-hour guestmix for We Rave You. Could you tell us your approach for the guestmix? Take us on a journey through some of your favorite records there.
It’s no surprise here that We Rave You and I share a long history, so I wanted to deliver something worthy, something unique for my first guest mix on the platform. My idea initially was to give We Rave You a one hour guest mix, but that changed when I had so much exclusive content to share from myself and fellow producers. I’m really excited to share a lot of unreleased music of mine. The orchestral cover of my song “Only Way Is House” by Poems that opens the mix – it put me in tears when I first heard it. It’s been a long time coming and I’m really excited for you all to hear this. I also wanted to pay homage to everyone who has supported me and given me advice, such as Steve Angello and Corey James, and give love to everyone else involved in the groove movement that I’ve mentioned previously before.
Topping the last question, you’ve been experimenting with orchestral for intros to some of your tracks, which can be heard in the guestmix. Could you tell us the story behind it? What inspired you to work with Orchesta?
The idea first came to me when brainstorming to give We Rave You something really unique for this mix. It’s not a secret if you know me, but I love listening to orchestral music and going to the theater. I was introduced to Poems through mutual friends and decided to bring in the orchestra because I just love it so much. I love to take people on a journey through music and incorporating orchestral sounds allows me to do so.
How has the journey been so far? Can you describe your struggles and achievements you’ve had in the recent year?
I’ve had the time of my life creating the music that I want. It’s been a year since I signed “The Iberian” and I’ve been married now for 9 months and couldn’t be more thankful for all the blessings this past year has brought. But this hasn’t happened over night, it’s been almost 10 years in the making. Something that I’ve been navigating and moulding all together is how to tie in all my aspirations under one umbrella. And with that, I’m pleased to announce the launch of The California Groovement, a collective of all the best California house and groove producers. We’re not here to control or monopolize anything, but just want to help the scene where we feel it’s needed. I will be spending a lot of my time working on artist development to help build our genre in North America and beyond. Be sure to look out for the clothing line and other cool side projects too, like documentaries, plus the creation of a group down the line.
Finally, what are your upcoming plans? Do you have anything special planned for summer season?
I have a lot more new music coming out this summer. I’m also going to the East Coast soon to meet up with Philadelphia Groovers like Tommy Capretto to visit radio stations in New York City to further the reach of the groove movement that we have here in the US. I’ll be going to EDC Las Vegas next month to network and am excited to meet everyone in the industry backstage, to represent The California Groovement, and to just have a good time. Later this summer, I am relaunching Zensa Records. I’m really excited for our new A&R team and am looking to grow the staff and sign new talent (if interested, please contact @zensarecords on Instagram).
Lastly, I want to give a big shout out to my graphic designer Tomoki from Japan for all his hard work, and to my fellow California Groovers who are a part of this movement: Frank Nitty, AZIMI, Hugh Carter, VERSUS, Izan, ElezD, and more to come.
Be sure to keep an eye out for both Al Sharif and Poems in the months to come! You can check out Episode 27 of We Rave You Radio below.