We sat down with DJ Euphonik for an exclusive interview following his stellar set at a Mozambique event earlier this month.
On 5 November 2016, Themba Nkosi – otherwise known as DJ Euphonik – totally demolished the decks as the headlining act at a buzzing event in Tete, Mozambique, and we sat down with the music maestro for an exclusive Q&A the following day.
Tell us about your journey in discovering your unique sound and how it has evolved over time.
“My sound is very eclectic. I grew up listening to Jazz from my parents, Electro Acid and Tech House from my friends at school and Kwaito & Hip Hop from the hood. I wouldn’t say my sound has evolved though. I listen to all sorts of different music so, at any given time, I’ll only ever play the music that I like. If I like a song, I’ll find a way to make it work in my set. My music evolves as music, itself, evolves.”
Describe your personal pinnacle of success and what this would look like.
“It’s difficult to set apart what everyone else views as success and what you view as success. my version of success is getting to wake up every day with people who still want me to come and play for them. Success to me is having more than just one person like and buy my music. That, for me, is success. There’s a slight disparity between this view and what the industry would view as success, be it getting airplay on the local and international airwaves or being seen on TV, winning awards, and working with popular artists and brands. I tend to look at everything for what it is. If I look at the amazing success of one of my songs or shows, I isolate that and avoid comparing it with successes of the past. I enjoy living in the moment and not viewing my work as what could’ve been based on what’s happened in the past. I’m someone who’s always moving in a forward direction and I constantly seek greatness. That’s what success is for me; relevance, freedom, and my fans. What’s f***ed up nowadays is how people view success. Some people would say ‘because Euphonik’s show had 5 000 people and Black Coffee’s show had 10 000, Euphonik’s show was a flop’. In my eyes, if 5 000 people left their homes to come see one of my shows, that’s success. I take everything and anything for what it is and I’ll happily celebrate anyone else success because it’s got nothing to do with me and our paths will never mirror each other.”
Having produced a slew of popular hits throughout your career, has there been a track you knew would blow up prior to its release?
“That’s a tough one. For me, being in the studio is like pouring my heart out. It’s an extension of me in a sense. So, with that said, it’s arrogant to believe that somebody else is going to find this amazing. I sit in there doing my thing and I think it’s absolutely amazing so even having the courage to let one other person listen to my work means that I believe in it wholeheartedly. So I never have any expectations for my music. It’s all about whether I, myself, like what I’m making. If one other person likes it and it becomes a hit, then even better. I won’t love a song more if it did better than the previous one. It’s almost like loving your children differently; you just can’t do that.”
Which do you prefer, performing live at events or recording in the studio? Why?
“I think the two work hand in hand. You make music so that you can play it live and share it with people. It’s almost like a ‘chicken and egg’ situation, but for it to start, you have to be in the studio making those tracks. I’d like to say I prefer being in the studio, but I equally enjoy being out there testing my sound for a live audience.”
Has there ever been a track you’ve recorded that you enjoyed producing in the studio and couldn’t wait to play live, but were surprised to discover that it didn’t necessarily resonate with listeners during a live set?
“This is a common occurrence amongst music makers. You sit in a studio by yourself making music that you believe would be amazing with the potential to do big things. The process that I personally employ involves going out and testing it with a crowd and then later assessing what elements need to be added or removed. So the first versions of my tracks sound far different from the finished product. The final version is a direct result of me having played it in different cities and countries around the world and seeing what the reception is. Based on that, I shape my songs into something that sounds good for the people who enjoy that style of music, much like a piece of art. I enjoy making music that creates a bit of shock value amongst listeners. Music that makes people say ‘wow, I never knew you could mix those two songs together, but clearly he’s made it work’.”
What added elements do you enjoy incorporating in your live performances?
“Performing live is meant to be a show. You’re literally putting on a full-on show, from the production to the sound and the graphics on the screens. Given the fact that we’re not living in a first world country, most of my shows aren’t the way I’d ideally want them to look. It’s only the personal shows I do for myself from start to finish that truly capture the way I’d prefer to put on a gig. This would obviously involve putting on a massive production with the sound being 100% perfect. A good 80% of the shows we play at aren’t what you’d want them to be and it’s challenging to explain the level of expectations to be met. If you look at the productions that Ultra Music Festival and Tomorrowland put on, you’ll get a better understanding of what I’m talking about. That’s how it’s meant to be done. Not just a stage with a DJ in the middle.”
Are there any special rituals you carry out without fail when preparing for one of your live performances?
“Not really. Before a show, I just prep the songs that I personally enjoy playing, I organise my library in special folders and make slight edits here and there. There’s no step-by-step order in the preparation process and things tend to play themselves out fluidly without me having to simply play a pre-selected list of tracks. The energy at events is very intense and there are a lot of people so I tend to chill and centre myself before getting on stage. It helps me pick up on the energy of the crowd and that’s why it’s important for me to spontaneously decide on the track I want to start with in the moment I’m on stage plugging up.”