ASBO Meets: DJ Chillz

DJ Chillz has been on a transformative journey these past few months. Having just released her new single ‘Keep me safe’, the Nigerian born DJ/Producer embarks on a creative process that aims to bring Afrobeat and chilled house together in a way that is rhythmically upbeat, yet therapeutically soothing. From playing shows like Wireless and Boom Bap, to hosting podcasts and radio shows, and even running her own clothing line, DJ Chillz is never short of projects. Managing to make the best of an otherwise difficult situation, Chillz used the dreary days of lockdown to do something meaningful, working on her long-awaited debut EP ‘Adebowale’.

Her resilient get-it-done attitude and glass half full perspective shine through, as she effortlessly manages to overcome adversity, while simultaneously turning it into something productive. We sat down to discuss the future of music, spirituality, and how hard-work, dedication to a craft, and good strength of character are some of the surest ways to succeed in the music industry.

What were your influences and how did you get into music?

I didn’t get to listen to a lot of western music growing up, I listened to a lot of highlife and Afrobeat. At Nigerian parties there was always a live band, never anything like a DJ; It was always traditional music. I used to make mix tapes and sell them when I was younger and as I got older, I found a promotion company called soul to streets, I started to learn from there.

Where do you think the Afrobeat trend is headed?

I think it’s just about to peak. The South Africans have their sound as well. This opens the gates to the mix of Afrobeat and electric coming together. South African house is taking over, it’s a gateway sound to all the niches.

What is it about Afrobeat that makes it mix so well with dance music?

I think it’s the fluidity of it. It gives movement to the track, creates a journey through sound. It starts off easy then builds up a hype, then brings it back down.

What was it like performing at Wireless and what would you consider a good set for a DJ?

It was eye opening. I believe that I could play a festival solely as a headliner one day, so I saw Wireless as a learning experience. You wanna see as many people dancing as possible. There are different elements fordifferent environments, if you’re in a club, one of the best things is if you see people making a dance circle. This is really common in an Afrobeat party. For festivals, it’s purely the hype. I don’t have a hype man so I have to do it through music.

You mention spirituality a lot on your social media, how did you get into that and what does it mean to you?

Well, I’ve always had some interest in spirituality since my early mixtapes, but I didn’t really have a great understanding of it back then. I got more into it lately and realised that I could incorporate it into my music too. There is an idea that music is therapeutic and ‘Keep me safe’ was a means of self-therapy for me. It was the meditation, connecting with people on the same wave length. Also bringing myself into it, it felt complete.

Do you think it shows in your music?

Yeah, a lot more now as I feel grounded in myself. When you first come into any industry, you’re unsure of yourself, you just wanna play music and hope it works. But it helped me to understand that this is what I really wanna do, and gave me the confidence to move forward.

Why are so many young artists turning towards spirituality?

We all have aspects of spirituality in us, whether through religion or by knowing there is something greater than you. With music, you sometimes feel that you’ve tapped into that; you don’t know what it is but the feeling just flows.That’s how you know you’re making progress, when you can tap into that.

There are no boundaries with it, you’re allowed to be free, which in turn helps creativity to flourish. A lot of people tapped into that, myself included.

You seem to mention the idea of ‘connection’ quite frequently. Do you think the spiritual resurgence has something to do with the lack of connection brought about by social media?

Some people use social media to connect with others which is fine, but I think problems arise when you try to live in that world. We are human beings, we need that physical connection, whether its seeing someone, touching  them etc. All of our senses need to be gratified.

Speaking on the digital world, how do you think that the internet has affected the music industry?

We live in an age where you are able to create anything and have it go viral overnight. It allows everyone a space to create and be able to share it with people across the globe. The internet has created a level playing field for everyone.

What about in terms of monetisation, how does streaming affect artists?

There has always been a battle between the industry and artists. They adapt to the market, and then we adapt to them. There are a lot of new solutions emerging now, from cryptocurrency to NFTs. It’s an innovation game, as long as you ride the wave, you’ll be fine.

I try not to get too caught up in that part of it. I just focus on what I’m doing artistically.

I don’t think that you need to monetise to the point that you’re living beyond your means.  What does that come with? You can’t go out without being bombarded. A prisoner in your own home, I’ve already dealt with one lockdown, I don’t need a permanent one.

How was Lockdown for you?

Lockdown was harsh at first, it felt never-ending with nothing to do. Most of my income is generated through playing live, so there was an element of worry there too. I decided that instead of complaining I could use the time to do something productive instead. I’d been trying to complete an EP for the last few years but was always too busy, and lockdown gave me time to do that. There was the bad aspect of what was happening, but I was able to transmute it into something productive.

There are rumours of another lockdown, how do think that could affect the music industry?

The industry already has their infrastructure. They’ve created platforms where you can buy tickets and watch live performances from home online. I think we’ll start to see more of this as time goes on. As an artist, I’ll find a way to adapt. I don’t like that stuff too much though, I find it a bit detached.

There was actually a few sets and parties going on during the lockdown that I went to. These types of things were bound to happen. You can’t restrict human beings, no matter how hard you try. We will always end up finding a way to be free. That’s how ‘the underground’ started. I think that’s also partly responsible for the emergence of Afrohouse too. They were putting on a lot of events around that time.

Would you be willing to do any underground shows?

I recently watched something about these raves taking place in Uganda in the middle of the jungle. I love the idea of doing something like that, a blend of nature and music. That’s an ideal set for me so yeah maybe, let’s see.

Why do you think there’s such a lack of women in Dj’ing and Production and why do you think so few female Dj’s get the recognition they deserve?

I think it can be intimidating. I think it’s also that old traditional way of thinking, of what a woman’s place is and what jobs are acceptable.

I think it’s great that the whole issue around gender is starting to disappear now. I personally didn’t experience any issues; my crew was all male and I instantly connected with them. I just had to prove myself by demonstrating that I could perform my sets under pressure, that’s all that mattered in my environment. My crew were tight knit, they really supported me.

What are you working on at the moment?

I’ve just finished my new EP which should be out soon. I’m trying to tap into East Asia and make some connections there at the minute. I’ve also got plans to get into film scoring. I think my latest single ‘Keep me safe’ could have easily been in a film. When I first watched Star Wars, I was blown away by the music in it. It’s so compelling. I think it’s really important to experience lots of different types and genres of sound.

What kind of personality do you need to succeed in your industry?

Self-belief. Goals. A lot of practice and determination. Support from friends. Most importantly, you have to learn the ‘shake it off and carry on’ mindset. Rejection helps you to build confidence. You can’t let anything rock you. Be savvy too, don’t be naive, it’s still a business. Pay your dues; give and receive, that’s the law of the universe.

What do you think the future of music will look like?

More new genres, spaces, and platforms to express yourself. I also see more ways for creators and producers to monetise directly. I think we will see a rise in underground scenes again, with those type of events making into the spotlight, maybe I’ll even be a part of it. This is a moment in history where so much innovation is going to take place.

DJ Chillz returns with Afro Electronic inspired single ‘Keep Me Safe’, listen here.

The second single to be released from her 6-track Adebowale EP. Pre-save Here.

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Words: Dylan J Turner

Images: Press shots