ARTIST FOCUS: SANDY RIVERA
Whichever way you look at it, you know who Sandy Rivera is and you know he’ll be dropping mega-hits behind the decks at KU DE TA’s killer New Years Eve party on 31st January 2019. The influential artist has infiltrated all our minds and put himself there – whether it be the words to ‘Finally’, the stunning production that sneaked into each of his dance floor killers or the untold mixes that have invaded the dance charts for over 15 years… you know Sandy Rivera.
As a producer and remixer, Rivera has worked for a variety of other artists, including veteran jazz musician Terry Callier, Gisele Jackson, Bini & Martini, Michelle Weeks, Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Walter L. Robinson. The American house music DJ, record producer and label owner, who was born in New York City, now called New Jersey his home-base. Throwing it back to his humble beginnings at just 13 years old, when Rivera kick started his career as a DJ in his native Spanish Harlem. Years later in 1992, he would start his journey in producing house music, specializing in a more soulful sound.
Seven years prior to Rivera’s smash hit track ‘Finally’, he had a chance meeting with the legendary Burt Bacharrach, which led to his foray into full-time production. With funding from the man behind countless hit records and with an obvious eye for talent, Sandy went on to create ‘Blackwiz Records’. The first release from the label was the illustrious record ‘Go Black Scatt’ by Kings of Tomorrow in 1994. The record label went on to release numerous tracks in a prolific spurt of creativity such as; D’menace, Fade ll Black, Open Your Mind, My Love is Real and Young hearts to name a few.
The following year Sandy would create his other imprint ‘Deep Vision’ and in 1998 he would put out the track ‘Come Into My Room’, which spawned a new strand of electro disco-house sound – soon found to be infiltrating the works of everyone from EBTG (Tracey In My Room) to commercial big-hitters like Kylie Minogue.
Let’s get deep into the grit of what made Sandy Rivera a household name – his preeminent track ‘Finally’. Released in 2000 under his alias ‘Kings of Tomorrow’ on Distance Records, with vocals by Julie McKnight. The track peaked at #24 in the UK Singles Chart and at #17 on the Billboard Dance Chart, it also appeared in numerous compilations from labels such as Ministry of Sound, Hed Kandi and Warner Music. ‘Finally’ is also a part of K.O.T’s first album ‘It’s in the Lifestyle’. Stacking up the massive success of ‘Finally’, the vocal version of the track was also used as part of a remixed single by the British act ‘Layo & Bushwacka’ for their 2003 single ‘Love Story (vs. Finally).
Kings of Tomorrow is just one of the few pseudonyms that Rivera has worked under, he’s also gone under Soul Vision and Mysterious People, either alone or as a team with the likes of Jose Burgos, HAZE and Jay ‘Sinister’ Sealee.
Rivera’s second Kings of Tomorrow album was put out in 2005, titled ‘Trouble’. He claims this is his first album produced without recourse to samples and marks the official separation between this and his other aliases – K.O.T is used for more radio-friendly tracks, while his real name is used for club-friendly tracks. Since the release of ‘Trouble’, Rivera has turned his hand to various compilations – including Ministry of Sound Sessions and Kings of Tomorrow Defected ITH. He’s also accumulate a magnitude of production credits on tracks and mixed for the likes of Craig David, Moby, Fedde Le Grand and Everything But The Girl.
After making his move to the UK, he worked with heavyweight Robert Ownens and produced ‘Just Won’t Do’ in 2005, which helped re-ignite his ‘Blackwiz’ label. Other notable releases, that showcased up-and-coming talent, were; Timmy Vegas & Andy Daniell’s ‘Disco Shit in 2006 and Suroh’s ‘Sentimientos’ in 2010. Following suit, came Sandy’s long-awaited artist album ‘The Blackwiz Farm’. Which saw several of the tracks off the album hit the Top 10 charts on Beatport, giving the label enough velocity to ensure a mega-successful year ahead.
Sandy Rivera’s solo work is equally as ferocious as his aliases, productions and collaborations. Which can be seen with his tracks Expansions, Class is in Session, Changes, I Can’t Stop, Just Won’t Do, Lollipop, Freak, Deeper, Persuasion, Escape and Dirty Sex. Having lit up airwaves and dance floors globally and three long-platers under his belt – The Calling (1997), It’s In The Lifestyle (2000) and Trouble (2005) – Rivera’s body of work shows the depth and scope of his ability to work across numerous genres, pulling in house, R&B and chill-out.
With the second decade of the 21st century upon us, the name Sandy Rivera means more than just a collection of records – more than just ‘house’. It means a legendary sound split across different genres, breaking boundaries and making people listen. It’s the anticipation for what’s next, the wait for whatever tracks are just around the corner. He is without doubt the King of Tomorrow and the master of yesterday – he is Sandy Rivera.
We cornered (haha) Sandy Rivera and got the chance to have a chat with him about his music and aspirations. Get the tea below!
What projects are you most proud of and why?
Kings Of Tomorrow “I’m So Grateful” released in 1995. This was the 1st year I started recording original House Music vocals. “I’m So Grateful” became a big tune for DJ’s all over the world at that time. In 1996, I had my first DJ tour in Europe and it never stopped. After that I made songs under a few aliases like “Don’t Stop” “Come Into My Room” “Forever” “Finally” “I Can’t Stop” “Fall For You” “Freak” Dreams” and all of these songs have had some great dance floor moments. Most recently I am very proud of “You Work Hard For Your Enemy”. It’s a song I fully wrote & produced myself. It’s the one song at this moment that most people talk to me about.
Name 2 of your biggest mentors/inspirations, what it is/was that inspires you.
Quincy Jones & Burt Bacharach. The songs that these two men have made are still being played and sampled till this day. It is why I try my best to make original songs. The artist they both produced, found and wrote for is insane and are the best of the best. I also feel the same for producers like Dr Dre.
You’ve had a lot of showtime all over the world for a long time. What is the biggest change in dance music you’ve seen over the last 5 years and which one impacted your career the most (good and/or bad)?
Such a good question. Lets just say its all good and the audience got bigger and better. At this moment House Music is bigger than ever before. The 4X4 beat is ruling the radio waves, festivals and clubs around the world in a massive way.
If you could pick any artist living or dead, you would love to do a collaboration with, who would that be?
I think that people I would love to work with are out of my range. I do get a lot people covering my songs for live shows or sampling them like Calvin Harris, Jess Glynn, Kanye West, Route 94, The XX, Pete Tong & The Heritage Orchestra. I think I have plenty of good songs some living artist can use and take to another level. I guess when I am dead I will find the others and have a jam.
You have numerous killer tracks under your belt, if you could pick one to play for the rest of your life, which track would that be?
I would say “Finally”. The production and song sits so well together and easily puts people in a good mood. It’s a timeless song. I am so glad to have made it.
Describe the sound of your music in one line…
What will be keeping you busy in the year 2020? Can you let us in on any upcoming productions or new tracks you’re working on?
Julie McKnight and myself are confirming a few live shows together. Tons of new music coming out. “Donde Esta” which is a Latin Afro House kinda tune. “Reach” is a nice classic house song, it gets some great response in clubs. The best place to stay up to date would be on Spotify. Check out Sandy Rivera, Kings Of Tomorrow, Soul Vision and Mysterious People. My label is called deepvisionz.
Don’t catch FOMO – come and kick it at KU DE TA on NYE, 31st December 2019, with Sandy Rivera. Also joining the ‘Disco Amazonica’ party are Loco Hero, Glynn Tandy and KDT All stars.