DJ Mizz will “Never Stop Dreaming”
“Never Stop Dreaming”, the debut album by Sanele Wili aka DJ Mizz, released last week, draws its poignant title from the musical journey of an artist whose dreams are unfolding with each well-crafted song.
DJ Mizz: The lush landscape of the album has been hinted at with “Kuwe”.
This lead single featuring the hauntingly beautiful vocals of Mpumi, has set with high listener expectations of the DJ/Producer who created smash hits like Count Your Blessings and Kose Kuze
We chat with the soft-spoken Cape Town virtuoso about finding strength in music, what kind of vocalists he prefers working with and why his journey will never end.
I am an artist, and art has no boundaries or limitations.”
Making waves on the international market, coining truckloads of money, dominating radio charts and dance-floors or maybe simply just sharing good music with the world? What exactly do you seek to achieve with this current project?
DJ Mizz: I want to do all the things you have mentioned and more.
You need to trust in the music, persevere and never stop dreaming and the rest will fall into place.
There is a level of planning and strategy which you obviously need to do, but still the music comes first!
With this project I am hoping to open myself to the mainstream/commercial music industry.
It’s an introduction to DJ Mizz the artist as opposed to just the producer.
It’s really important to have a good online presence which is what I am trying to do also through the album.
According to your profile you say “Never Stop Dreaming is a musical journey which manifests itself through the music on this album…” What is the destination of this journey in terms of where do you want to take your music and your life?
DJ Mizz: The journey is a never ending journey.
There is no final destination as musically I never want to limit my capacity.
I am an artist, and art has no boundaries or limitations
I stay in Khayelitsha which is the biggest township in the Western Cape. Hardship is a daily reality in my community and it can sometimes be really difficult to remain positive.”
What have been the highlights of this journey to date?
DJ Mizz: Highlights have been meeting some really amazing people.
As much as people always say that the music industry is a “cutthroat” industry, some amazing and really special people still exist.
Another highlight would also be finally having a full album that I can physically hold in my hands and be proud of.
There is still something special about holding or owning a physical CD.
I have also played some really amazing gigs especially in the last few months like The Black Coffee Block Party, Ultra South Africa, Sonar Cape Town and Rocking The Daisies.
I mean big gigs and festivals are really amazing, but there is nothing I enjoy more than small towns.
The love that you get from the people is absolutely crazy![I] Also had the pleasure of sitting on the couch with Loco Dice and playing a back-to-back set with him as part of a Bridges For Music workshop.
Every journey has its inevitable low points. what have some of these been for you?
DJ Mizz: I think time has definitely been a low light!
I am not naive to believe that things happen overnight.
I understand that things take time but believe me when I say that this journey has been a long one.
It’s been a journey filled with many obstacles and difficult times.
There are many pressures and expectations when you are an artist from a financial perspective. Many including close friends and family believe that you are wealthy or rich just by virtue of you having a video on TV or a number one charting hit on radio.
The reality is that is not always the case and at times those pressures can be really overwhelming and too much.
I stay in Khayelitsha which is the biggest township in the Western Cape.
Hardship is a daily reality in my community and it can sometimes be really difficult to remain positive.
Ironically producing and the music are what have kept me in a good space.
As the album says “Never Stop Dreaming”
How have you overcome these obstacles in your path?
DJ Mizz: It’s important to have people around you that are honest with you.
Simple answer would be I overcame these obstacles by surrounding myself with people who really and honestly want the best for Sanele Wili.
It’s important to have family, well at least for me.
They keep me grounded and always in check.
At home I am Sanele Wili, there is no special treatment and I am just like everyone else.
I like that as that keeps me in a good space.
When you are creating a track at what point do you usually feel it is complete? That point where there’s nothing more to add or subtract from it?
DJ Mizz: Laughs! I have learned to just let go.
It’s a difficult thing to do as we always believe we can make something sound better or be more creative.
You said that it took you a whole eight months to create “Kuwe” which many people would consider quite “lengthy”. On average how long do you usually take to produce a track?
DJ Mizz: Unfortunately you can’t put time to creativity; sometimes it’s easy, other times it will take forever. There is no particular time frame.
I was lucky enough that my label and management at Black Mango allowed me the creative space and time to finish the album.
Let’s talk a bit about the “DJ Mizz sound”. How would you describe it?
DJ Mizz: I make beautiful music.
That’s the best way I think I can define my music.
I hate boxing myself into a specific genre but to put things simply I would say I make Afro-House.
This “DJ Mizz sound” seems heavily steeped in Soul and Jazz. How did such a relatively young fellow such as you end up making such mature music?
DJ Mizz: I think people always associate any music with a trumpet or sax or guitars as “Jazz music” and I understand how that assumption can be made.
I would not say I really make Jazz music but I guess there are slight influences from Jazz.
As a young kid you were forced to listen to music that your parents, uncles or aunts listen to.
I think that is how I picked up the “Jazz” influence.
As for Soul, it is inherent in all of us. Laughs
If as an artist you allow yourself to go to a place where you are sensitive enough to listen to your emotions and feelings the result in my opinion is Soul, or at least a Soulful sound.
At the end of the day I cannot control how audiences perceive and react to my music. I am not a car sales man.”
A lot of vocalists want to work with you. What are some of the things about a vocalist that will make you accept working with him/her?
DJ Mizz: Wow really!!! Laughs
I guess you could say a lot of vocalists want to work with me now, but before this album it was a serious struggle!
Literally about a year ago my manager Thabo and I sat down and drafted a list of over 20 different vocalists that I wanted to work.
Tjo! We called, emailed, sent ideas, sent more ideas and so on.
It was a serious struggle I must admit.
In the end I managed to work with six or seven of those vocalist on my list of 20 +.
I think for me it’s firstly about the vocal character of a vocalist.
If I like something that’s unique then I will work with you.
Other thing is how you interpret my music, not only from a lyrical perspective but also from a melodic perspective.
I can’t wait two months to hear back from you or to get a simple voice note on a cell phone so I can be able to guide if you are going in the right direction creatively during the pre-production stage.
Still on the subject of recording, what hardware and software tools do you use to make your music?
DJ Mizz: Laptop and Fruity Loops for production of the beats, then if I am recording it will be slightly more complicated.
I use Pro Tools for tracking vocals or any live instrumentation.
I have been blessed to be able to track a lot of the album at SAE Institute in Cape Town.
They have some amazing studio with nice pre amps, mixing desks and mics.
“Count Your Blessings” and “Koze Kuse” were massive tracks in SA and beyond. This can be a blessing and a curse for a producer in that listeners expect you to come up with equally good or better follow-up music. How are you handling such pressure?
DJ Mizz: Musically I do not doubt myself at all.
The best I can do is present what I have to offer.
At the end of the day I cannot control how audiences perceive and react to my music.
I am not a car sales man.
My primary objective is not to make music for the sake of selling to people.
I make music that I like and that I enjoy and I guess I always hope my fans will enjoy as well.
As much as they were both massive tracks I wasn’t positioned as an artist with both of those records, but took on a perceived role of being the producer behind the tracks.
The difference now is that I am being positioned more as an artist and am introducing myself to the mainstream.
We need to just be unique and try to build our own sound which will define who we are as Cape Town producers.”
Remixes vs. original tracks…What really gets you going as a producer in terms of doing a remix or creating an original track from scratch?
DJ Mizz: I like doing remixes of songs I like, I will never do a remix of a song I don’t like “unless the cheque is big enough”. Laughs
I do a lot of remixes but I actually don’t like doing them.
This is purely because of the way I treat remixes.
In the case of vocal remixes the only stem that I will use is the vocal.
What this means is that I am literally recreating the track from scratch.
With instrumental remixes I use none of the stems and sort of follow the main chord progressions or the hook line but again I re-create everything myself.
For the amount of effort and return from a publishing perspective, I sometimes think it’s not really worth it. Laughs
You have stated that your Afro Mix of Close to You (Bob Ezy ft Sinai) is your favourite. What endeared you to this particular remix?
DJ Mizz: Bob Ezy! Laughs
He and I have been friends for a veeeeeery long time.
He has also helped me with advice on the industry and is just a really genuine guy.
Bob asked me to do the remix a while back.
It was only probably three or four months after he had asked me that I did the remix.
I liked the song because it really had a nice melody and a strong chorus.
I think it came out really well.
Durban, Joburg and even Pretoria have a distinct House Music sound yet it seems that Cape Town doesn’t quite have its own House Music identity. What do you think has lead to this?
DJ Mizz: Well it’s simple.
I think the scene in Cape Town tries to copy the territories you are talking about instead of creating its own sound.
We need to just be unique and try to build our own sound which will define who we are as Cape Town producers.
When you are DJing what kind of crowd reaction gives you the biggest buzz?
DJ Mizz: A receptive audience that actively engages in the musical experience.
It could be as simple as smiling to the music, dancing cheering or anything in fact as long as we are engaging.
I am actually equally happy with small or big crowds.
WITH DJ MIZZ