Dave Skinz – A JHB legend on the 1’s and 2’s
The wonderful thing about a residency is the ability to cultivate a sound and style, gradually over time this ties into being able to play stuff closer to your heart and really express yourself to the audience.
A lot is said about young DJs these days by the more established ones and it’s not always positive. One would not blame Dave Skinz, a Johannesburg-based DJ and producer who has been involved in this industry for a long time now, to also have his fair share of gripes about all the young, new upstarts brandishing their shiny laptops at gigs for the first time, but that’s just not how he rolls. The easy-going, affable Dave Skinz personifies the type of DJ that is comfortable in his own abilities and understands the industry he is in; no ego, no glory seeking… just a good honest lover of music and a lover of mixing it.
Recently Dave Skinz was asked to join the judging panel for a Television series called ‘1’s and 2’s’ on SABC 1. We caught up with him to get the lowdown on his own life and if he think SA does indeed have DJ talent…
Let’s kick off with talking ‘1’s and 2’s’ flighted on SABC1 recently. How did you end involved with the show?
Dave Skinz: The producer of the show is a long-time friend who I got know when he did a course at DJ Mix Club, before teaching there himself for a while. Jayson Faber was also crowned an SA National Battle Champ back in the 2000’s and has been working on this particular project for 5 years, so he more than understands the format, he’s lived it. I’ve always seemed to be a port of call for guys wanting to throw competitions or looking for judges. By its very nature a competition is a tricky thing to pull off, and I think with my experience a lot of entrants respect the opinion and decisions I have to offer and I always try and be constructive with the crit. Also I think my technical viewpoint is a good perspective in the show for those that have DJing experience.
At the Cape Town auditions the entrants got to play on CDJ2000’s. The JHB sessions were on CDJ350s. Seems a bit of an unfair advantage to me for the mother-city boys heh heh.
Dave Skinz: Ha-ha, yeah the producers wanted to standardize the audition process and have the same gear across all the audition legs but it didn’t work out that way with Cape Town being the only exception. I think it’s better to audition on the simpler gear and work your way up. A CDJ2000 is a pretty intimidating device if you’ve never played on it before. If there were still CDJ100’s I would have loved to have seen contestants play on those [laughs].
Were you impressed by the overall standard or was it a little like Idols: a lot of wannabes with overzealous expectations?
Dave Skinz: As you can see in the show, there were some artists that surprised me, some that disappointed and a few that you know straight away are destined for bigger things. You are always going to get the guys that try their luck and see if they can DJ because “it looks easy.” They provide their own entertainment, and they serve to frame the guys that are dedicated and prepared. Also the format of the show makes it a lot harder to just enter off the cuff. Having to DJ and produce quality music is a real challenge. In my eyes the average music producer takes at least 5 years to start to hone their music making skills, so a lot of the entrants had started their journey long before “1’s and 2’s”
Cynics may say “1’s and 2’s” cheapens DJing – there was a lot of negative talk when Simon Cowell wanted to launch his ‘Ultimate DJ” show, but I actually quite enjoyed watching it. What’s your take on it all?
Dave Skinz: I enjoy watching the show and think a lot of the success is down to that DJ/Producer format and I feel blessed to be involved. I think it provides an insight into the mysterious world of the electronic music artist. That it isn’t just pitching up and performing, that there is skill set and discipline involved. Most people have this preconceived notion of what it is to be a DJ and the truth is that it’s a very challenging field. You might see the DJ play his new track live, but you don’t see the three solid weeks it’s taken them to just get their song to a level where it can actually be played out and the years of work it’s taken them to develop the skills to produce and build up their gear.
Let’s talk Dave Skinz the DJ. You’re pretty BOSS on the JHB scene. Yet you are probably one of the most humble guys around. Do you ever lose your rag with young upstarts who arrive on the scene laptop in hand thinking they’re the next big thing?
Dave Skinz: I’d rather say I’m committed to the craft of DJing and the South African scene as a whole and am proud to play my part. I play because I genuinely love it and I can relate to people who want to passionately express themselves through the medium of music. For the most part the “younger” generation I’ve encountered have the same headspace and have been respectful but I would admit I’m quite insulated at ESP.
I’ve been through 5 format changes in the nearly 20 years I’ve been playing so I’ve had the perspective of seeing that it’s not the equipment that makes the difference it’s the way the artist thinks about music and relates it to you, and some of the new guys think about music in very exciting way.
Your Saturday residency at ESP must be one of the longest running residencies around. In fact not that many clubs have resident DJs these days; certainly not like it used to be in the past. How do you keep it fresh every week?
Dave Skinz: This October will mark 10 years as a resident there. The wonderful thing about a residency is the ability to cultivate a sound and style, gradually over time this ties into being able to play stuff closer to your heart and really express yourself to the audience. I’m really grateful for the platform the club gives me. The crowd get to see a purer, less diluted version of what I’m about.
The trust that develops over time also lends you the confidence to add in Ableton, Instruments, Visuals, Synths and samplers to the performance. The club has recently put an SL back in the booth and I’m spending time during the week scratching through my wax for some classic cuts. Playing vinyl always seems to put a stupid grin on my face.
You have also seen the progressive trance scene become quite established at ESP. You a fan yet?
Dave Skinz: I started my journey playing trance and prog back in the late 90’s so there is a certain affinity for it, but it’s taken a while for the club to build that platform. Outdoor music played inside is a challenge but with guys like Neelix and the crew at SpinTwist pushing the music policy the club has developed a nice niche.
You run DJ Mixclub, you perform with your groove band, Ctrl Alt Del, you DJ every week and you have a young family. Is there enough time in the day?
Dave Skinz: No, never enough time. You have to manage it carefully. I’m busy building a boutique digital agency with a friend of mine as well so I’ve been spending a lot of time on that and less at the Mix Club. You have to balance it all out. That being said I could certainly do with studio time every week for my myself and the band.
I’m also very lucky to have a partner who is also in the music and entertainment field so it’s a lot easier to manage the challenges it presents like a 2am residency.
Talk to me about Ctrl Alt Del. – How the group got together, where you guys play and what sort of creative fulfilment it offers you that DJing doesn’t.
Dave Skinz: Ctrl, Alt, Del started as a DJ drummer act and has evolved into a 4-piece live act. We’ve put together a couple of tours around Gauteng with the help of News Cafe and Jagermeister. Kevin is our drummer, Zak handles live instrumentals (guitar, bass, keys), Brett is the DJ and vocalist, and I run the Ableton side with samples, loops, and stuff. Each of us plays more than one instrument and comes from different fields so it’s always an interesting mash-up of ideas when we get together. DJing is a very solitary art; it’s refreshing to have three other energies on stage and to interact with that. Also the travel thing is so much easier when you have group of guys.
How has the house scene changed in JHB in the past 10 years and has it been for the better or worse?
Dave Skinz: The clubbing landscape has changed massively in general. Genres have gone niche and underground and it’s allowed a real varied scene to develop. You now have specialist house, techno, trance and breaks events on the same night in different parts of Joburg, all packed out. A club with two or three floors all playing unique styles of electronic music all full. Real clubbing culture.
There will always be the haters of different genres but for me the more people we have under the Electronic Music banner the better. EDM gets a lot of that recently but some of the EDM’ers tastes will change and that translates to more feet on house, techno, trance and breaks floors in the long run.
Time to pass it forward: One SA DJ/Producer you would like to see succeed on the global stage.
Dave Skinz: Gosh man that’s like asking what my favourite tune is. Ummm, for me I’d really like to see the winner of the “1’s and 2’s” do well in the international market with South African house music, because that will uplift the whole scene.