Israel is better known for its strong trance movement, how does the House scene over there compare?
That was probably true about ten to fifteen years ago when Israel was in the forefront of trance. Many Israeli trance producers have since moved on and are now producing progressive and tech house, which is the main music being played in underground clubs in Tel-Aviv. We have very few deep and soulful producers though. Of course, there are still some Israeli producers doing trance like Infected Mushroom but even they’ve been branching out
Congratulationss on the five-year anniversary of soWHAT Records; what’s the journey been like for you so far?
Thanks! It’s been very exciting yet challenging. For someone like me, you need to know how to balance between having those hats, that of a producer/DJ and the other a label owner. I like doing both, though production and music creation is my preference. ‘soWHAT’ serves mostly as a channel for my own productions, and also a gateway to sign other singles and collaborate with producers like Abicah Soul, Qness, Black Coffee, Mr. Cee, Hennings Project and more.
Most of South Africa was introduced to you when Pure Surprise blew up a few years ago, were you surprised by the warm reception?
You know, I had this kind of feeling about that track when first producing it. It did nicely in Japan before coming out on a few compilations and my debut album there. Then it really blew up a year or two later here which exceeded all expectations and was a great honour.
The scene here is exciting and I’m collaborating with many SA producers and don’t forget SA is like my second home having also lived here, so there is a special connection I’ve always felt to the country and its people. It was also great to see remixes by Qness on ‘Believing’ and Black Coffee on ‘Love Is Not For Hire’ doing well and on multiple compilations, and lately I’m collaborating with other SA artists as well.
You were partly raised here and in Kenya, what kind of influence did that have on you musically?
It’s one of the main reasons I’m into the soulful side of music. Also jazz, afro and latin. I was exposed to quite a lot of those styles when growing up. I also used to frequent jazz bars, live shows in Rockey Street in Yeoville, and Baseline in Melville etc. I also played in a few bands when I was down here.
You’ve released your UPZ artsist album through Soul Candi, how did this venture come about?
Soul Candi and I have been working toegther for a few years now since they first picked up ‘Pure Surprise’ and later on several of my tracks are being released on compilations by DJs like Lulo Cafe, Terrance and Fresh. At some point a couple of years back we started talking about the next logical step which was to do an artist album and that’s how it all fell into place. So myUPZ artist album is out, under the ‘Pioneers of House’ brand.
Without giving too much away, what can we expect to hear on the album?
Plenty of soulful, deep and afro house. It’s a double album, one mixed and the other unmixed with bonus tracks so it will appeal both to the DJ and listeners. Expect plenty of vocals from the likes of Nuwella, Jocelyn Mathieu, Kafele, Malehloka, Lifford, Stephanie Cooke and Shirly K. Various collaborations with SA and overseas artists, some of the known UPZ tracks in new edits, plus a ‘Pure Surprise’ edit, as well as exclusive and never before released tracks.
You are credited as Avi on some releases, and as UPZ on others; is this a case of split musical personalities?
More like musical organization so to speak. UPZ is very specifically soulful and has a certain sound. I tend to use my own name when doing collaborations or more clubby or tech style tracks.
Do you approach remixes for different artists/labels with a specific sound in mind, or does the process happen more spontaneously?
It depends, sometimes I have a specific idea in advance for example with Uzongilinda, I kind of knew what I wanted before I started working on it, and at other times I mess around in the studio and see what I come up with.
Back to the Trance vs. House question, do you think events like WMC and Ultra or Sonar being hosted at around the same time is hurtful to House (massive crowd split), or just an indication of what people are currently into?
I think WMC and Ultra probably work well during the same time, they tried splitting it up last year and it caused confusion. The ADE, (Amsterdam Dance Event) in October is a great event as well. House has a variety of sub-genres which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I like to hear those tracks which have a cross-over appeal and that work well in various genres like what Dennis Ferrer manages to do.
I heard it said recently that House producers need to innovate to stay relevant in the burgeoning EDM industry; what’s your take on this?
Innovation is important, but what’s no less important is supplying the goods in terms of a good song and vocal. If you combine a fresh sound with a good vocal, you’ve got yourself a winner.
Any up & coming SA producers on your radar for collaborations and/or remixes?
Black Motion are impressing me with their production sound and live shows and I’m excited to have their new remix of UPZ’s Afrika Wo-man on the album. Another to look out for is DJ4Matiq with whom I’m collaborating on a track to be released later this year. I always keep an ear out for Qness as well, I like the ideas he brings to productions and I love Maleh’s vocal style with whom I would love to collab as well.