If you thought that DJing was just pressing play on a playlist on your iPod then you couldn’t be more wrong! It is about being a versatile musician and producer and in the case of Bex Hazard and Cat Llewleyn also podcast and magazine creators. We had a chat with the duo about their roles in the EDM music scene, advice for aspiring DJs and their thoughts on the importance of collaboration.
1. With the birth of house music and an explosion of dance genres throughout the 90's, where were you ladies?
Bex : We were both at university in the 90’s. I was heavily into Opera and Classical music studying at the Royal Academy of Music and Cat was doing her MCS masters listening to a blend of Rock and Pop music. I had always loved EDM and wanted very much to bring classical vocals to the dance world and now we are doing just that through our artists project ZiRENZ.
2. I understand the producing came about through your love of the scene, when did it start and how did you decide to join forces?
Bex: We started to work together seriously when we won an Honourable Mention Award from the John Lennon Song-writing competition in 2003 for an EDM track that we submitted. We were delighted to be singled out in such a prestigious competition especially as Paul Oakenfold was one of the judges. We then started to listen to more underground dance music and found Trance and we instinctively knew this was our genre as it suited us both vocally and musically.
Cat: After the John Lennon Competition we then went on to have, to date, two No.1 chart Dance music singles and several top 10 chart tracks in the underground dance music scene and we are working now on making more hit trance anthems.
3. Tell us about Afterworld Recording - then, now and the vision going forward.
Bex: I always wanted ZiRENZ to have our own imprint where we could release quality trance that we loved and give ZiRENZ a voice. So when Andy Prince Novia Recordings Switzerland offered us a sub-label deal with Believe Digital we accepted. It was the next step forward as we had been working with Andy under his Offshore Music label. We are very grateful to be working alongside him as he has great knowledge of the dance music industry. We knew we would be in good company because he is an artist himself and has worked with many top DJs. Since the label launched we have had amazing support from DJ’s all over the world. We have been made Tune of the Month & Track of Week on several radio shows and were voted ‘FUTURE SOUND’ by the public for the 296th show for Aly & Fila worldwide radio show ‘Future Sound of Egypt’, the biggest Radio show in Egypt. We have also had support from Ahmed Romel, Signum, Allen & Envey, Stoneface & Terminal and so many more. We are very happy to say that our latest Afterworld Recordings release on our new Afterworld Recordings Classics, is at no.64 in the Beatport Top 100 Trance sales charts and also managed 5/5 Review from tranceSound.net so all is looking great!
We have four stems to the Afterworld brand that release variations of trance based dance music these are:
Afterworld Recordings: This concentrates on current trends of trance so at the moment we are releasing Euphoric driving 138bpm – 142bpm trance.
Afterworld Recordings Classics: This stem concentrates on releasing our entire ZiRENZ back catalogue that have made an impression on the dance music scene.
Afterworld Recordings Deep: This stem concentrates on the more progressive style trance of 130bpm -134bpm deep tones and vibes.
Afterworld Recordings Ambient: This concentrates on the slow melodic chilled sounds of ZiRENZ and classical overtones and we shall be launching this in 2014.
4. Was DJ'ing second nature or was it all about practicing hard?
Bex: We have always been digital DJ’s working with Abelton studio for mixing and now we are working with Virtual DJ as well. We are both having lots of fun with our new Pioneer controller by testing tracks and working on our new VMMSOUND Radio shows, which we launched officially in July 2013. The show goes out each Saturday on the German station tranceradio.fm. The show is packed full of new Euphoric uplifting driving trance and we really love the live web chats that we are having each week with our growing fan base.
Cat: You asked if it was second nature or did we need to practice, well it’s so different being a digital DJ because it’s more like being a producer. We enjoy producing our songs and ZiRENZ Vocals so; yes it’s like second nature for us to digital DJ and more alien to use CDJ’s.
Bex: One thing that we did work hard on was getting the mastering right for all of our Radio shows as we needed to make sure they had presence and all sounded clean and clear. Having mixes from ourselves, Guy Alexander and guest DJ’s we needed to make sure we could always get the same quality for each show, so we worked hard on that. It was fun creating the intro and outro idents and the voiceovers for the VMMSOUND Radio show. Cat does all the voiceovers as she has a great voice that works perfectly, which is cool!
5. From a classic trance perspective, what's your nailing on top 5 records?
Cat: That’s difficult as we like so many and we are a little bias as Afterworld recordings is very much on the classic trance tip but your best to check out our VMMSOUND tunes of the week on our track lists that we post every week via the VMM e-magazine website podcast pages : VMMweb/podcast - there you can see what we LOVE!
6. How important do you feel networking, connecting and collaboration are in the industry?
Bex: Working with other musicians always sparks your ideas and as a duo we do this all the time but we always collaborate with artists and find it fun. Regarding networking, well with portals like Music Gateway it is sure to help bring musicians together in a creative environment. That is always a good thing and can only help to bring more opportunities for musicians to be able to create in a professional environment.
7. What advice would you give to young aspiring DJ's and Producers looking to forge a career in the music industry?
Bex: First thing is to find your feet and your sound as a producer and when you have that then you can perfect your music production skills. DJ’s need to be able to produce music these days in order to be taken seriously. Then you need to build a fan base. Get a strong unique name that you can build into a brand. Get yourself on to social media sites with good photos and a short biog about what inspires you to make dance music. If you have had any releases then add that information as well. Tell the world and anyone who will listen! Then start to get yourself a podcast radio show and build a quality fan base, then you will be on your way. Most of all get ready for a lot of hard work because no one made it over night! It takes years of working at your craft and refining your talent, but most of all just believe in yourself and the music you are making.
8. VMM provides a great vehicle for exposure & to push music forward, do you feel this is why Music Gateway is a good match as we share your supporting values?
Bex: Yes through VMM e-magazine we hand pick Artists, Labels and Club nights that we feel are making a difference to the underground dance music industry and we then invite them to have exclusive interviews, special features, video, audio or written work. At the end of the day Music Gateway and VMM e-magazine are working towards a similar goal, which is to give musicians a chance to shine and show what they do and that must be a positive thing for everyone in the music industry.
What are your thoughts on platforms such as Music Gateway and VMM e-magazine giving musicians a spotlight and a place to get noticed for their talent? Why not follow us on Twitter @Music_Gateway and let us know who else we can help you!
VisitZiRENZ Afterworld Recordings website at www.afterworldrecordings.com and VMM e-magazine at www.vmmweb.com
Follow us on Twitter! @Music_Gateway