Interview with Dza

You heard his guestmix, now it’s time to find out more about Russian beatmaker Dza. We talked about growing up in Russia and its music scene, what ultimately influenced him as a producer, video-games and of course his plans for the future.

Dza at the RBMA London

What was the key influence in your life to get involved in music?
I saw at TV that guys scratchin and it was cool, I was maybe 5 when I first “scratched”. Later, I played in a hardcore punk band at school, because in Vladivostok (where I used to live) there was no possibility to be a DJ, it was too expensive. In 2003 I moved to Moscow and I was exposed ti a ot of new music because of the better record shops. I bought turntables and over the years I collected me some skills as a turntablist.

Can you describe the music scene in Moscow around the time?
In the early 2000s, the music scene was totally different. In a sense, it was more romantic then now. There were four or five electronic labels in Moscow and Saint Petersburg, CD-only labels, and a couple of “headliners”. Latvian/Russian band Alexandroid had a contract with Lo Recordings and they were touring all over Europe. Other big influences were Lazyfish, one of the engineers of Native Instrument’s Reaktor 5, Mewark, a crazy junkie but very cool as a producer, and EU (Елочные Игрушки) – I never liked their music, but they were really popular in Russia.

Later, I started to work in a music store, where I met a lot of nice people who helped me becoming a musician. For instance the people with whom I was in post-punk band In A Nutshell, somewhere between Tool and Radiohead. I was the DJ and played on a SP-303 sampler, a Gameboy and turntables.

And these days, how did the music scene change?
Everything changed, thanks to the internet! Before, there wasn’t a rich variety in content, it was not easy to download, no YouTube, no Myspace, no quick was to get at musicians. Musicians were like gods, you couldn’t just send an email like “Hey Hudson [Mohawke]! Nice LP!” You couldn’t just ask the musicians you like what gear they’re using. That what I meant, when I said things were more romantic, mysterious.

Can you describe what happened between these early attempts and being invited to the RBMA in 2010?
Ah, a lot of things. I worked on a solo turntable-music project, very much inspired by Kid Koala and D-Styles. In 2004 I made a CD-R release of a silly hip-hop project with me rapping. I simulated a rural accent and the subjects of the songs were not classic themes, more like the Monthy Python of hip-hop. I did it with some friends, who weren’t rappers or musician, just friends. Therefore it was close to people. It was a DIY release and put the name “how2make records” on them.

In 2004, I met a musical genius: Mujuice. I still don’t know how, but in 2005 published the second how2make release, a Mujuice/Dza (back then Dzhem) split. Clicks & cuts micro jazz, like the stuff on ~scape, limited to 1000 copies only. We had an argument for some years and only met again two years later. In 2007, he released his second solo album CoolCoolDeath, a strange sounding glitch-pop album with vocals in a strange language – we call it runglish. When he played that stuff to me, he told me he wanted to bring it live to the stage. So I told him I knew how to do it, which I didn’t. But within two weeks we made a live program and we toured a lot through Russian cities.

After a while we were tired of sad music, so we came up with a new project, Cut2Kill. We wanted to do a revival of old rave music, like the early music of The Prodigy (Cut2Kill was also the name of Liam Howell’s first band.) We applied for RBMA in 2008, but they didn’t like us.

You were both accepted two years later, which must’ve been a dream come true. How was it?
It was cool, because before RBMA we played many gigs in Europe and got more experience. I was not that emotional as other participants and got there with a clear mind. You could feel who was nervous and who was cool.

Did you play a lot of videogames and how did they influenced you and your music?
I got my first PC when I was 6 or 7. Before that I had a Russian computer with games on tape. I played a lot of games on the PC, like those LucasArts adventures. And of course beat’em ups on the Sega MegaDrive, Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter. I still have a few handhelds in my bad, PSP and Nintendo DS. I’m using the PSP to emulate those old school games: NES, Super NES, Sega, SCUMM games and homebrew games. My dream is to do a SCUMM game.

The music in Battletoads on Sega was cool, also Ninja Turtles and Street Fighter.

How did you choose the music for your mix?
It’s all from my MP3 player, some Russian stuff, by Fat Complex, Cops on Fire and Kunteynir, Czech MC Detectiv, Italian producer SPH9000, a few tunes by Lapti. They are my good friends and I like their tune very much. It’s more like a playlist, I didn’t really mix them. I can nice DJ-mixes, but I wanted to play these tunes at original BPMs.

Up next is a 12-inch for Jus Like Music, what else you got in the making?
Yes, that 12-inch is next, it will be a dance EP. I’m currently working on an updated version of Five-Finger Discount for a tape release on Error Broadcast. They also want to put out my new 7-inch. A couple of days ago, I got a deal with Black Acre, so there should be some more releases coming.