This past Sunday, we had the pleasure of sitting down with Sak Noel, the Catalan-born DJ responsible for the infectious smash hit “Loca People.” As we settled into a booth in a small futuristic-style bar near Times Square, Noel was surprisingly mellow, albeit laser focused. He shared his history, discussed the state of the industry, new music, and then his plans for the future.
Sak Noel, born Isaac Mahood Noell, began DJing at the age of 16, with the singular goal of creating a party atmosphere for his audiences using dance music as his vessel. This theme spread like a contagion, making him an international sensation. He has evolved into a triple threat. Not only does he spin records, but he has had success as a songwriter and a producer; collaborating with superstars such as Pitbull, Sito Rocks, and Sensato. Noel has just come in from Barcelona, after a stint in Poland, and is now ready to rock New York at Skyroom on Friday night, September 13, for the New York Fashion Week closing party presented by Prive Group.
You've skyrocketed to fame with the success of "Loca People." Did you ever expect it to be such a huge sensation?
Never in my life did I think it would happen. I mean, you do a song and you never know what to expect. In "Loca People's" case, that's a miracle. I don't know what happened, but the people really make the song "happen," and I just make the song. I was at my place in Barcelona preparing to come here and how to be successful, and I really have to thank the people because in the end, it's just not something you can control, you know? Music is a feeling, it's something that - when you write the song, you never know what you're going to get, because it's not mathematic, you know? So I just make the song like any other, and it flows. And I'm happy, and I'm trying to not disappoint the people with my next songs.
Was there any certain inspiration for "Loca People?"
Yeah, I'm inspired by the people on the streets, everyday life, what people do, what people think...for me, it's more than the music itself, it's the inspiration from the people, because I see - where I live, it's a very cultural place, so people there, they go to Barcelona to party, so some of the people come to Barcelona to have a party, not just to "see" it, the cultural Barcelona. THAT is why they come to Barcelona, and they have been for years. So there's my inspiration, because it was right next door. I could see what was going on out there, and that was the inspiration. But then came the musical part so at first, it was like...I had the idea, but I never had the chance to do something with it, you know? It's difficult because when you do a song, you need to have lyrics that fit the idea. The rhythm, the bass, and the idea, and I went for it.
How do you deal with criticism in the industry?
Well, I try to listen to the critics, because the critics can help you. It actually helps a lot because, well, here's an example: if somebody says, "you're crap." I mean, that doesn't really mean anything because it doesn't say any more than that. If they say, "you're crap because for whatever reason. Just look at yourself, and honestly, just tell if that's true or not. It's all about being honest. Try to read the critics as people, who spent their time telling people what they noticed; you know? And that's valuable, because I have my friends here with me who spend too much time with me. Their opinion is good, but sometimes I need the opinion of people who aren't always so engaged with me.
What do you think about all of the issues that the dance music community has been having lately?
Well I came from Barcelona, so we don't have any special rules about that. But I believe in everyone having a responsibility for his or her own actions. But in my opinion, it’s - it's not even in the music. It's in the streets, it's everywhere. I mean, I know people who are not doing anything having to do with EDM, are just actors, even office workers who are into Molly. I don't approve of it because I don't do it and would tell them not to do it, but it's their choice, so it's their freedom, their decision. It's not something that can be ruled like any other thing because you do it to yourself. If you're having a kid while on Molly, that's...that's criminal. If you are bringing it upon yourself, that's your choice.
So you've toured all over the globe; what's been your favorite place to perform?
United States! And I'm not just saying that! [laughs] No, but really, it's because here you have things that you can't find anywhere else. Like, your way of understanding show business is different than in Europe. We are seventeen countries - more than seventeen countries, we're a lot of countries, so with show business...the way that we do things have to satisfy the French, they have to satisfy the Spanish, and all of the other ones, so when you have a big country like the United States, you can really launch your business. You can have a lot of concerts, so many events; you know what I mean? And that's something that in Europe really doesn't happen. Another reason I love the United States is the behavior at the people at concerts. You go to listen to music and know things about the artist, and professionally, it’s just not like that. There are countries near us that look at it that way, but no one really gets it right.
You have a couple shows coming up in the city. What should people going to see you expect from your show?
That's a good question! Well I have a show Monday at the Highline Ballroom? Yeah, Highline Ballroom. Sorry, I'm hung-over. [Points to recorder] You can put that in the article! [Laughs] And, Tuesday at Finale, and Friday at Skyroom, and Saturday at Highline. My shows are about trying to bring Barcelona, my city, my flavor, to the world. Because we have a very special party scene there, you know? It's a Mediterranean city, it has a sea, and we have a very different way of partying that others have not seen yet. So I'm trying to show you the Barcelona and old Spain and what that's all about. And, for me, if you ask me, my best skill, my best goal, is to make them party. Because if you saw my logo, it says "Born to Party," and I'm umm, well, I'll say it again: I'm hung-over, so...here's the proof. [laughs] And all of the people that come are going to be hung-over the next day, I can promise you that. It's not even about partying, I'm not teaching them to party. In EDM, there are DJs that are trying to create some really big concept, like in trance music, and that's for the people that really understand it. I can play my set to some sort of bumpin' music, but always to make them party.
Do you have a pre-show ritual?
[Laughs] Yeah! Um, yeah, I mean, well...it's a secret, I don't know if I should tell you but since we are here, I'll tell you. I always...well, okay...like, in Spain, we have these TV shows that talk about like humor and making jokes, and my ritual is to spend, like, half an hour listening to jokes. And so, I'm laughing, so when I go out into the room, I'm always in a good mood because I've been laughing so hard!
Do you have a certain songwriting process?
Yes, I actually have a new song coming out in October. I can’t tell you too much about it, but I can tell you that it’s about a certain…issue…that happens to everyone in the world. You will hear some sirens on it, along with a funny video to go with it. If you come to the shows, you’ll definitely know that it’s my new song.
What are some of your earliest musical influences?
When I was a kid, I listened to a lot of Tiesto. He has had such a long career, I mean, before EDM there was Tiesto [laughs] so I’ve always been a big fan of him. I listen to him and a lot of other DJs, and also, a little bit of Spanish music. The thing is that in Spain, we really don’t have a very big “scene.” Because what happens when you have a country with a lot of folk music, like Spain, it makes it difficult to have any other music get listened to. For that reason, we really don’t have many other Spanish DJs, except for maybe two or three other than me. French DJs? There’s a lot of them. Dutch DJs? There’s a lot of them too. The only country that really doesn’t have a community of them is Spain. So I’m trying to do that, because in the early 90’s and early 2000’s there was a little bit of a scene there, but it was competing with everyone outside Spain. So I’m trying to make the Spanish musical culture be known around the world, but it’s very hard.
What is your favorite way to connect with fans through social media?
I always try to connect to them through Facebook and Twitter, but for me, Facebook is the first thing I go to because it came first and it was the first one I had. Only after that did I get a twitter, and I also use Instagram, but that’s pretty much all I use, that and my website. I don’t have a Soundcloud or anything like that, but I do have a YouTube channel. I’m very visual, so when I upload a song, I make sure to also upload a song visual, even if it’s not an “official” music video. I don’t want people to hear my music without any imagery, so I’m mainly using those.
What song on your iPod would ruin all of your “cool” cred?
[laughs] Ah, well, besides the jokes? I would say…you know K-Pop music? It’s a little freaky, but it’s colorful and the melodies get you in the mood! If you don’t think about what you’re listening to, it gets you in the mood, and I really like it! I also like a little bit of the Spanish folk music.
Well, mainly my next thing is my new song. It’s already done, they released it and New Yorkers will be listening to it this week, and the video is being released as well. After that, I have another song that will be released in November or December that will be a little bit different from what I’ve been doing, but it will keep my party essence. All of my songs talk about partying – for me, it can’t be separated. They have to talk about that. But I’m going to try to do something new in matters of BPM and also the structure of the song. I’m going to take a risk. I don’t know if it’s going to pay off, but I’m going to do it. As for more gigs, I have two in Mexico and a few in other countries like Serbia and Argentina. But I always look forward to going to the United States the most!