On Valentine’s Day, Nightshade Music Group dropped “Why Would I,” a groovin’ new single from DJ SGZ and vocalist Carla Prather, which is out on Traxsource now.
DJ SGZ is a fascinating figure. From South Africa, he worked with figures and labels including Distant People, Tom Conrad, Adaptation Music, Peng Africa and more before stepping away from production in 2019. “I worked with a lot of great people and got ripped off by many,” he says. “I’m not complaining, instead I’m glad because they taught me the game and now I’m coming back strong.”
“Why Would I” was originally titled “Butterflys,” because “a butterfly is a symbol of resurrection. I knew that this was going to be my comeback song.”
We asked DJ SGZ about the making of the track for our newish feature The Teardown, inside the making of some new and classic electronic music tracks. Listen to the radio edit right here (and follow 5 Mag on SoundCloud for more) and listen to and pick up the original mix on Traxsource:
Tell me about your career up to this point. When did you begin DJing professionally and what was your first production released?
I started DJing around 2003, doing small parties, weddings and school events. 2006 till 2009 that’s when I was doing big gigs and clubs. At that time, I was playing popular music so I stopped doing it because it didn’t resonate with me, it was all money driven.
I then decided to focus on production since it was something I was doing on the side and just graduated in music production school (2009).
My first release was on vinyl with a friend of mine Dennis and we called ourselves “Stuntmen”. I then started connecting with other producers online and that’s when I decided to pursue my solo career.
That’s when I met Aphreme and did a remix for him in 2011, which was my first digital release and he gave me some advice on how I can open a record label to release my stuff.
Since then, I’ve worked with a lot of great people and got ripped off by MANY (won’t mention names). I’m not complaining, instead I’m glad because they taught me the game and now, I’m coming back strong.
So, when you say “DJing professionally” in your question I don’t know how to respond to that because my first love has always been production and I’ve yet to take my DJing career professionally.
To be honest, I’ve always been a DJ because of promoters and fans, they love how I play and move the crowd. If it was up to me, I would be in the studio all day errrday 🙂
But I came in this world to serve and I look forward to doing more gigs in 2020.
Tell us about “Why Would I.” What was the inspiration and how did you make it?
In 2019 I took a break from making music and releasing the podcast. I was tired of people exploiting me and acting as friends.
Originally when I made the beat for “Why Would I” it was called “Butterflys” because a butterfly is a symbol of resurrection. So, I knew that this was going to be my comeback song.
Carla Prather is the one who changed it to “Why Would I.” She already had the lyrics and recorded the vocals on a different beat.
So, she re-recorded the lyrics on my beat and when she sent it back, I went nuts. I was happy because I knew that this is the perfect song to re-introduce myself.
What gear did you use?
The keys were played from an emulation of the Fender Rhodes with an Amp to give it the 1970s feel. They are layered with a heavily distorted 1972 Fender Rhodes Piano Bass to thicken up the keys.
The drums and percussion might sound live but they were programmed digitally. The goal was to make them sound as if there was a professional drummer who recorded them live. I also want to be able to perform my music with a band in the future instead of DJing so that’s why my drums and percussion will sound live from now on.
The bass was programmed using the Roland’s Jupiter 8 keyboard emulation.
The strings were programmed using a plugin called “The Orchestra.” This is the only plugin that I feel can replicate the real thing, it doesn’t sound plasticky or cheap.
The flute and marimba were recorded live, that’s why they don’t sound robotic (quantized).
The mixing was done digitally and the mastering was done all analogue with no digital stuff. The master even went through an analog tape machine.
How do you know Carla Prather?
I was introduced to sister Carla by Black Terry the DJ, from Chicago. I’ve been a supporter of their radio show and they support my music.
He suggested that I should work with Carla so I contacted her and she charged me a hefty price which I didn’t have back then in 2014. But then I promised her that I’ll hook up the cash and I did.
We have made two songs together and planning on working on an EP. Our relationship is growing strong.
How does a producer in Africa work with a vocalist in North America? Is it difficult?
The funny thing is that, it’s much easier to work with someone from the US as compared to working with people here in Africa.
The people that side are more eager to work as compared to people this side. Till this day, I try to work with people this side but they make it difficult.
I think it’s because there’s less competition this side as compared to the US. I mean, the US has 350 million people and South Africa has around 50 million people. Huge difference.
I’ve tried people from neighboring countries, it doesn’t work because of language barrier.
So, it’s hard to do it online, you have to be in the studio with them and that will cost a lot of money to fly them in the country and take care of them.
So, it’s much easier to get a response and build a relationship with big names such as Monique Bingham as compared to people this side.
That’s just the truth, at least from my experience but I’ll never give up on my people I’m still trying to work with them.
What happens next for you?
Big things are about to happen in 2020.
I’m going to start doing my own gigs, release more music, sell merch, bring back the podcast in video format this time and support international gigs to expand my network.