DJ, A&R, wax addict and Defected golden girl, Sam Divine is one of the UK’s most successful exports. She’s back on the White Isle for her eleventh season this year — DJ Mag Ibiza meets her to find out what keeps her coming back...
Sam Divine is no stranger to the White Isle. She’s been coming to the clubbing Mecca since her early twenties, first putting down roots in San An’s boozy, late-night bars before working her way up to become the toast of Defected’s Ibiza club-nights. She’s just mixed the latest ‘In The House’ compilation for the legendary UK label and party brand, something she’s describing as a mix of “new tracks from D-Vine Sounds, some absolute classics, old skool favourites plus some newer records” — basically, it’s Sam’s sound in a nutshell.
Ahead of her debut set at Space for Defected’s In The House event alongside BBC Radio 1, DJ Mag Ibiza meets Sam Divine to talk her new label, famous DJ pals and her ongoing partnership with Defected...
How did your story with Defected start?
“It started in 2009. I was running a record shop in Notting Hill and the A&R guy for Defected at the time used to come in and buy vinyl from me. He introduced me to Simon (Dunmore) and the next year in Ibiza they put me on the Defected Street Team — basically, I was listening to what was being played in the clubs, what DJs were supporting Defected. I think they just made up the role for me [laughs]. The following year, Simon told me they were going to give me a try at Ministry Of Sound on the warm-up slot — I played it and on the Monday I was signed to the roster.“
That gig must have been nerve-racking?
“It was, but I had about 50 of my friends there supporting me! I think what sold it was I was playing Kings Of Tomorrow ‘Finally’ and I got up on the decks and I was singing it. I looked to the left and Simon was there and he was shaking his head and smiling [laughs]. The year after I came back to Ibiza again as the events manager for Defected — looking after the DJs, making sure the production was right, just general co-ordination stuff. And now seven years later, I’m still with them!”
How important has Defected been for you professionally?
“Very! Simon’s like my dad [laughs]. He’s like my mentor and my dad. He’s guided me through the last seven years and given me some amazing opportunities — that’s how I’ve got here. There’s always been a game plan with him. It’s not slowing down at all, it’s only been seven years, which isn’t that much time for a long- standing DJ, but it’s still growing — it’s amazing!”
And Ibiza, how important has the island itself been?
“Yup, this is season number 11 for me! I started at the bottom of the West End in San Antonio — I did four full seasons there playing in a bar called Hush. The first year I only ever played for drinks [laughs] and came out here with only enough money to cover rent and eat. Those days are gone now — I’m flying backwards and forwards from London each week.”
Talk to us about the ethos behind your label, D-Vine Sounds...
“We want to give a platform for artists that don’t necessarily have loads of followers on Soundcloud, or loads of fans on their Facebook pages, but are amazing artists. I guess it’s kind of like how Simon sort of plucked me out of the crowd — I was the one on the dancefloor singing all the words, I knew all the tunes, he recognised that passion. I feel like I want to do that for other artists. To give other people the opportunity that I had, and I’m not sure if some of these producers — as talented as they are — would be picked up by the bigger labels. I think a lot of people have really been ‘keeping it in the family’, so to speak — it’s hard to break into a crew.”
And perhaps because dance music is a lot more saturated these days — it’s harder to get noticed?
“Massively! These guys are house producers and there’s a lot of those out there already. But I’m lucky that I’m a known name in the industry and that if I can shout about an artist — I can say ‘Hey, this guy is great!’ — that’s a strong platform there. We’ve proved it with Jess (Bays) and a few other artists from D-Vine Sounds. We’re trying to make it really organic, we’ve literally only just had our first release with a big name DJ. We did that on purpose, we wanted it to be totally organic for the first year.”
It probably would have been easy for you to call on all your famous DJ pals to release on the label...
"Yeah, I’m very stuck in my ways like that — I don’t want to give anyone any ammunition for anybody to say anything negative about me. I’m very aware of the whole female DJ thing, I think you get slated a lot quicker than what a guy would. I’ve been very conscious of doing things the right way, step by step. I want to be able to look back in ten years and be really proud of the journey — we’ve got really big plans for the label. We’ve also started a new label called Soul D-Vine, which has a focus on soulful house. It feels really right to do a soulful label at the moment, we’re just rolling with it, it’s a bit of a slow burner. We just want to sign records that we absolutely adore.”
And you’re playing Space this season with Defected — how do you feel about its closure?
“I’m sad, of course. But for better or worse, things always change. I went to the club at the beginning of the season and absolutely fell in love with it all over again, there’s no other club in the world like Space. I’m playing there on the Space Terrace for the Defected In The House event with Radio 1 Dance on 5th August — it’s the first time I’ve ever played there. To play there in the last year is going to be really special. I can’t wait.”
Watch Sam Divine's set from DJ Mag's Best Of British Awards below.