Michael Smilas | Daniella Palotta
DJ Wags is one of the biggest names in the South African dance music scene, having played alongside heavyweights like DJ Fresh, Dino Bravo, Euphonik, and Kent, and winning the 5FM Ultimix@6 competition in 2011.
Last week Friday, DJ Wags took to the Friar’s decks, and Activate managed to catch up with him for a quick Q&A just before he went on stage.
Q: A lot of people are wondering: how do you end up with a name like DJ Wags?
A: Well, my surname is Wagenheim, my father was called Wags, and my grandfather has been called Wags, so it’s just a nickname.
Q: Everyone who knows about you recognises you from winning the Ultimix@6 competition. How long before that were you DJ’ing? Did you only get serious with the Ultimix, or was it always a passion?
A: I started DJ’ing when I was in high school, so I had been DJ’ing for about six years before the Ultimix. Obviously the Ultimix helped a lot, it really lifted my profile. It really took me from being just another DJ to being a professional.
Q: What’s the change like from being “just another DJ” to “now I’m actually someone people know and respect?”
A: It’s allowed me to travel the country and play in awesome places like Grahamstown and, if you are just a normal DJ you don’t really get the opportunity to do that.
Q: On that note, what is the most epic festival, or even just club night, you played and what made it so epic?
A: Most amazing party I played was Miller Rock The Boat – 14 story cruise ship with 2000 people and everyone is just there to party. From Friday morning to Sunday, okes wake up and have beers and it’s just a party on a cruise ship.
Q: Did play alongside anyone else we might know?
A: A lot of the 5FM guys, so DJ Fresh, Euphonik, Roger (Goode)… Mi Casa played too, it was really cool.
Q: Any rituals you follow before a set? Do you pre-plan it or do you just wing it and mix live?
A: Nothing is pre-planned. I don’t even know what I’m going to open with later. I like rocking up and looking at the crowd. Otherwise you might as well just put on a CD, and then what’s the point?
Q: A lot of people complain that the DJ market is flooded and everyone is just another “One Hit Wonder”, saying it’s easy and doesn’t require skill. Do you agree with that or do you feel that all the new guys are messing-up the game for the guys who really know what they are doing?
A: Look, it’s becoming a lot easier to DJ in terms of having software and all that stuff where back in the day it was more about matching beats. Now music is a lot more accessible so everyone has the same songs and it’s becoming harder to find that unique thing that makes you stand out from the crowd, which is why so many DJ’s are now also producers. A lot of the sounds are the same so it’s even becoming harder to be a producer that stands out.
Q: What is your unique sound? How do you keep ahead of the game and avoid sounding monotonous?
A: What I try do is take the commercial dance songs that everyone knows but then make a mash-up, or find a cool remix, or play it in a new way that no-one has heard before.
Q: So where did you study?
A: I went to UCT, studied Business Science-Finance, then did post-grad accounts and then moved to Jo’burg to do my articles at First-Rand.
Q: Hectic. What’s it like being a chartered accountant by day and a DJ by night?
A: I started DJ’ing when I was in matric, right through varsity, right through articles. So I have always been able to balance the work life and study life. I work at Nedbank now in property finance. Some Monday mornings I rock-up a bit tired.
Q: Do the guys at work know about your persona on the weekend?
A: They all know I DJ, some of them know who I am and some just think I’m a DJ, because they are not really in with that scene. It’s important to try and balance that. Sundays are my day to just sleep, do nothing, and see no-one. It’s important to try and keep a healthy lifestyle. I gym and eat healthily.
Q: How are you feeling about playing for a student crowd as opposed to the typical Johannesburg crowd?
A: I love it. Luckily I get to play lots of student jols like Potch and Nelspruit, and it’s always fun. People are there to have a good time and that’s what you want.
Q: Slightly off-topic: what are three things that would be on your BP run? We call it a BP run here because everyone has their post-jol garage run to satisfy their munchies.
A: (Laughs) A packet of Airwaves, a Redbull, and a Bar One.
Q: To round up, future plans for DJ Wags, anything in the works? What can we expect?
A: It’s been a crazy year so far. I’ve been travelling almost every weekend all over the country – Durban, Cape Town… all over. I want to try and come out with another track this year and push it on to radio. That’s the next step.
Q: Social media-wise: where can people find you and keep up to date with what you are doing?
A: DJ Wags on Facebook and Twitter. I do a mix once a month on Mixcloud. My website is http://www.djwags.co.za, so watch this space!