A Sit Down With DJ Fresh
DJ Fresh is one of those talented producers who manages to be versatile while still maintaining a distinct sound. Like everyone in the Oakland rap scene, DJ Fresh has made a ridiculous amount of music. There are well over twenty volumes of The Tonite Show featuring everyone from Yukmouth to Raekwon. But unlike most of insular Oakland, Fresh has his roots on the east coast.
"I decided that if Im gonna die I want to die with music behind me that Im proud of, not just trying to reach high up the charts."
Obviously the charts have been completely dominated by dance music over the past few years, where do you see it going in the next two to three, or even four years?
To be honest, coming from a label and looking at the history of whats been going on, the charts go in cycles and thats always been the way with music in general. So, it would make sense at some point in the future that things are going to go back to a more acoustic and instrumental way whether its rock or that sort of live feel. Things can get saturated and people want to hear something new; theres only so far you can go in one direction before it feels like its time to go. Im always trying to do that with my music, after a while I try and find something else and go off in a slightly different direction and I think thats going to happen with me with the album after this one. I think there are tonnes of different types of dance music and especially bass music, you know, its only just starting to get taken seriously in the mainstream and the more seriously it gets taken, the more opportunities there will be to break through with new music.
Whyd you decide to move to LA?
I felt like I got to a ceiling in the Bay Area. I literally worked with everyone more than once, more than twice, more than I can count on one hand. Im never gonna forget The Soil but the only way I felt I could expand and make a better business out of my brand is to come to LA.
What is the sort of process that you have to go through to sort of fine tune? What do you look at?
Its just re-adjusting your mental configuration because when you work at another station, another format, you know, you rewire your brain to adjust to that. So for me, its just re-wiring the way I think, the way I do things. The system is different, for instance, the music is slightly different. Its another team now, um for instance, you know where ads sets, clocks are different and all of that.
How your music has changed of late?
I find it a bit irritating because I did 15 years of some of the biggest tunes in drum & bass. It's annoying hearing kids who have probably only been into the genre for a year telling me I've sold out. I really care about that sound, but right now I want to do something different. I feel like I'm in a place where I can make whatever sort of sound I want.
Weve heard you are currently working with amazing artists such as Tinie Tempah and Icona Pop, what can we expect from your future music?
Definitely more of a return to club bangers, Im working with some great singers/rappers who Im fortunate to now know and have relationships with, but Im always pushing them out of their comfort zone. Watch this space!
So you were like a generation after Q-Bert and the Invisibl Skratch Piklz?
Yeah definitely. That was my brothers generation Q-Bert, Roc RaidaRIP Roc Raida! His generation was that but also Craze, DJ Babu. My generation was like DJ Klever, DJ Relm, those guys. I went far in battling but only for like two years. In 99 I placed 3rd in the USA and I placed 2nd in the DMC in Washington, DC. 99/2000 was my biggest battle years and right after that I went on tour with Nas.
What surprises can we expect?
There's a project that I'm involved in that might be used, which MIA's also involved in. There's some instrumental stuff, and the album is going to be not so much of an album, but kind of a compilation. The great thing about that is I can release some music that isn't necessarily aimed at being avant music - it's more playable.
Recently you've masterminded some very popular remixes, what is it that makes a track stand out enough for you to remix it?
It's got to have a good hook, and something that will fit into the sound I'm pushing at the moment. I've been using remixes as a chance to experiment with the new future jungle sound I'm pushing.
How are you feeling about performing as a live band? You yourself are actually playing keys now!
Yeah I love it mate. Its something that Ive always wanted to do since I was a kid, much more than DJing. Being a DJ was something that I was asked to do when I started making tracks and I only took the name DJ Fresh when I was on pirate radio. Some of the guys said I needed to come up with a name and they scratched this record which said fresh and said to me, Why dont you call yourself DJ Fresh? It was never a statement about the artist that I was, even though the stuff Ive always been doing has been dance music. Ive always been someone that is into playing instrumentals and Ive wanted to set up a band for years so its kind of my dream to be honest. Im really, really enjoying it and its going really well. The last couple of tours have been sold out and momentum building with a really cool fan base. It feels like were bouncing off them so its really exciting.
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