DJ Fresh leans on the long table covered with starch linen. We’re at an exclusive media dinner (braaivleis buffet nogals) inside the lush penthouse suite of the Pepper Hotel in support of the upcoming season of SA’s Got Talent.
"The world has become such a global village; it's a train that you can’t stop. You can either jump on or stand on the side and watch it go by."
The scene couldn’t be any further away from the reality of electronic music in South Africa. Adding to the fact that Fresh featured alongside EDM’s biggest selling acts at Ultra South Africa earlier this year, many are asking the same question about our favourite 5FM personality.
Like his talk show persona, DJ Fresh answers each and every question with conviction as if he’s done this a thousand times. It was time to roll up my music journalist sleeves and dig deep.
You’re doing so much. Ultra, SA’s Got Talent, Radio Jock, Club DJ – this is unheard of in South Africa.
DJ FRESH: Not really, I think that a lot of people wear different hats and juggle different balls. I just happen to be one of those people.
Do you think it comes down to perception?
DJ FRESH: It does. We like putting people in certain boxes, categorising them and limiting people to what we think should be the only thing they ought to be doing. You’ll be amazed how many different things people can do given the opportunity.
I always tell people you can only suppress good talent for so long, eventually someone will hear it, eventually someone will pick it up, and eventually the world will hear it. So to the kids out there who want to give up because no-one’s listening to their music, it will happen if it’s good enough.
What about your fans in the electronic dance community, they consider music a religion and then they see you on SA’s got talent. It paints a weird picture. What do you say to them?
DJ Fresh: My true fans know I’m a human being who has an opinion on different things just like they do. SA’s got talent is a family show and I am a family guy. People who want to put me in a box, must enjoy putting me in that box, I don’t live in a box.
Looking at that angle, do you feel you’ve hit the limit on what can be done as a South African DJ?
DJ FRESH: I don’t think [so], because I haven’t dedicated much time to producing music. I’ll do an odd song here and there, but I’m not doing enough. My next goal is making time for making music, because it’s something I enjoy. I don’t do it enough times because it’s always my radio show, my family or gigs. There’s not really a moment to sit down and make music. I’m looking forward to making time…
How was the reception of Fresh Goes Electric 3?
DJ FRESH: The reception was good. We’ve reached a stage in record sales in this country where people are sharing music shamelessly. A guy will send me a tweet “please send me a link so that I can download the new album”, you know what I mean? It has become that blatant. People treat it as normal; it’s become part of culture. True fans will always support what you do. [And] I hope they keep doing that.
And on that note what do you say to the naysayers of international festivals like Ultra? Are they biting into the coffers of the local dance music economy or offering something we can’t?
DJ FRESH: People can naysay all they want. The world has become such a global village; it’s a train that you can’t stop. You can either jump on or stand on the side and watch it go by. That’s life. It’s going to happen; I mean where do we stop? Let’s not import t-shirts and only buy South African t-shirts? Let’s only buy cars made here. If local promoters can’t put together an Ultra why begrudge those that have? People deserve value for money, and if they’re willing to pay that money then let them pay it.
I recently interviewed DJ Warras about The Fifth Element show. We spoke about Das Kapital and how he believes radio is the future. Now that you are on TV, where do you think it’s at?
DJ FRESH: TV is a good place to dabble [but] I will always choose radio, it’s my first love. TV will never have the immediacy that radio has because radio is live all the time. You’re forced to think on your feet all the time, there’s no retake, there’s no cut. But I don’t think South African radio is at its best.
In regards to what?
DJ FRESH: Everything. I think generally a lot of shows are just mediocre and for some reason despite how many kids want to get into radio, the fact that the people that have been on the radio for 25 years are still on the radio says to you that not enough kids are coming up and kicking ass.
There is digital radio.
DJ FRESH: 10 000 people streaming radio is not alright. In the bigger scheme of things digital radio in this country is a baby. Data costs are so high in this country that you could have the best radio show on the planet – whereas in the US you can get digital radio on your dial in your car. People love convenience. That’s why radio has survived the iPod, TV and music videos – because radio is the easiest. On the internet you are buffering, if you don’t like whatever you are hearing now you have to find another radio station to log onto and it’s a schlep.