Raised in Phoenix, AZ. Addresses: Record company--Kinetic Records, 425 W. 13th St., Fifth Floor, New York, NY 10014, website: http://www.kineticrecords.com. Website--Sandra Collins at Kinetic Records: http://www.kineticrecords.com/artists/colins.html.
Sandra Collins is a heroine to dance music fans everywhere, from Little Rock, Arkansas, to Lima, Peru. The jet setting trance-music DJ is, according to Choler Magazine online, "one of the few American trance DJs with a global reputation." As a female, she also is a great rarity in the male-dominated dance music and live DJ scene. Her photogenic good looks may have gained her entrance and notice in the boys' club, but Collins proved she had the skills to remain there. Bouncing back and forth to opposite ends of the globe, Collins spins her trance-music mixes for thousands of dance-music fanatics at a time. Her scores of fans are able to take her live sets home in the form of her two mix CDs, Lost in Time and Tranceport III, and one album of original music, Cream.
Collins was practically destined for show business--her uncle is television producer Hall Collins of All in the Family fame, her godfather is "king of comedy" Milton Berle, and her mother, in her heyday, was linked with both Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra. Collins began her DJing career in the Phoenix, Arizona, club scene in 1987. She was first interested in industrial music, but became a devotee of dance, DJ, and trance music over time. "I think it was a natural progression," she said in an interview with Choler Magazine. "Sometimes, when you're younger, things sound good because you're kind of rebellious ... and hard sounds sound good to you. Then your ears change as you get older.... You progress into something else."
She initially drew attention as a woman on the male-dominated scene, gaining notoriety for playing "desert rave" parties, but before long she had proven herself as a legitimate DJ. Collins's style of trance has been called "emotional," a term that "reveals some gender stereotyping by the mostly male dance-music press," wrote music critic Martin Johnson in the Washington Post, "but it refers to her occasional use of keening, on-the-verge-of-tears vocals over galloping rhythms." "It was her incomparable skills behind the decks and her infectious love of the music she plays," according to Choler Magazine, that earned Collins residencies at some of the most popular clubs across the United States in the 1990s.
She moved to Los Angeles in the early 1990s and played regularly at the nightclub Sketchpad there from 1992 to 1995. She shared a residency with DJs Doc Martin and Taylor at the Los Angeles club Metropolis from 1995 to 1998. There, she spun alongside and befriended some of the biggest names in electronica: Sasha of Sasha and Digweed, Carl Cox, the Chemical Brothers, Paul van Dyk, and Orbital. She also met one of her idols, premier DJ Frankie Bones, at a Los Angeles party, and he invited her to play one of her first huge parties, Storm Rave, in New York City. She moved to New York in 1998 and spun alongside Sasha and Digweed, van Dyk, and Cox at the club Twilo. She has also played residencies at Chicago's Crobar and Utopia in Las Vegas.
Collins admits that between being on tour and in the studio, she rarely has a chance to listen to the boxes of new releases she receives before they come out. But she also admits that she is not as fueled by the newest hottest releases as she is by what genuinely moves her. "I think it's better to be naive," she told Choler Magazine. "Just not know anything, just go on the dance floor and not know anybody. Because that's when you really listen and you stop thinking." In her down time, she listens to "pretty stuff," she told Choler Magazine, including electronic composer Vangelis and electronic artists such as Global Communication and William Orbit.
Collins's live sets can be as short as an hour-and-a-half, but she prefers three. On her CDs, however, she is constrained to just 74 minutes, the length of a CD. CDs represent "my live set as much as they can in 74 minutes," Collins said in an interview with Choler Magazine. "It kind of represents the way I spin out live.... It's kind of hard in 74 minutes, but I think I managed OK."
Collins released her debut mix CD, Lost in Time, on the Los Angeles-based trance label Fragrant. The release earned her a nomination for Best Electronic Artist in the San Francisco BAMMIE Awards, and she was named Best Trance DJ in the 1998 Global DJ Awards. In 1998 she released the 12-inch single "Ode to Our"/"Red," which sold out in just one day and was subsequently named Trance Release of the Month by XLR8R magazine. Her biggest break came with the single "Flutterby," which was released on the Hook label out of Scotland and became a standard in dance clubs. It also landed on the cornerstone house and trance music compilations Global Underground by Nick Warren and Bedrock by John Digweed.
In 1999 Collins played for her biggest crowd ever--80,000 people--many of them not even dance-music fans. She played a six-hour set during the opening night of Woodstock '99 after electronic-music guru Moby. She spun a solid set that got the immense crowd moving. She was later named Best Female Artist of 1999, alongside Grammy-winning R&B and hip-hop star Lauryn Hill, by URB music magazine.
One of Collins's shining moments took place in August of 2000, when she played a show with British "trance god" DJ Paul Oakenfold at the Roseland Ballroom in New York. The two were friends but had never played together. "Following him, I was a little bit nervous, but it was awesome," Collins admitted in an interview with Choler Magazine.
For her 2000 album, Tranceport III, Collins was selected to create the third release in a series of popular dance-music mix CDs put out by the Kinetic record label. Oakenfold is a fellow Tranceport alum. Collins chose the music she wanted to use on the CD, and then the licensing process began. Some months passed before she was set to record her mix, and by the time it was set to go, she had tired of the music she had chosen: in the interim, she had overplayed in her live sets the music she had chosen for the CD. Days before the album was due to be finished, she picked new music, created new mixes, and submitted it, her fingers crossed that the record company would be able to secure rights to use her samples. Luckily, licensing was successful, and Tranceport III was released without a hitch. Tranceport III "turns up the emotions and lets the melodies and beats pulse with a vibrance that's somehow both introspective and anthemic," according to the Kinetic website. The album climbed to the top spot on CMJ's electronic music chart in August of 2000.
Collins released Cream, her first recording of original tracks, in 2001. Martin Johnson described the release as "stellar" in the Washington Post, writing that "Collins displays an impressive arsenal of sounds and a solid use of dynamics." Collins headlined the American Electric Highway Tour alongside the Fluke and Crystal Method, and she also appeared in a Coca-Cola commercial. She has been featured in such major dance-music and lifestyle magazines as XLR8R, URB, Option, Jump, BPM, Sweater, Mixmag, UHF, and Fix.
by Brenna Sanchez
Sandra Collins's Career
Played popular "desert rave" parties, late 1980s; moved to Los Angeles; played at Los Angeles club Sketchpad, 1992-95; shared residency with DJs Doc Martin and Taylor at Los Angeles' Metropolis club night, 1995-98; released Lost in Time on Los Angeles label Fragrant, 1997; moved to New York City and spun at club Twilo, 1998; played six-hour set at Woodstock '99, 1999; released Tranceport III on Kinetic, 2000; played with Paul Oakenfold, 2000; released Cream, 2001.
Sandra Collins's Awards
Global DJ Awards, Best Trance DJ, 1998; URB magazine, Best Female Artist, 1999.
- Selected discography
- Lost in Time , Fragrant, 1997.
- Tranceport III , Kinetic, 2000.
- Cream , Kinetic, 2001.
- Teen People, June 16, 2002, p. 82.
- Washington Post, May 5, 2002, p. G2.
- "Sandra Collins," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (October 29, 2002).
- "Sandra Collins," ARTISTDirect, http://www.artistdirect.com/showcase//club/sandracollins.html (October 29, 2002).
- "Sandra Collins," Kinetic Records, http://www.kineticrecords.com/index2.html (October 29, 2002).
- "Tranceported," Choler Magazine, http://www.choler.com/articles/sandra_collins.shtml (October 29, 2002).
- "Women in Dance Music: Sandra Collins," DMA, http://www.dmadance.com/features/women_collins.asp (October 29, 2002).