Interview: DJ Soulchild Keeps Switzerland’s R&B Scene In The Forefront
For over a decade, DJ Soulchild has proven himself to be the most skilled, consistent and sought-after Urban Club DJ of North West Switzerland, as well as the country’s leading R&B specialist and tastemaker. Most notably, DJ Soulchild has gained success and worldwide attention through his two official mixtape collaborations with NextSelection artist/Ryan Leslie protogé UNESS and also his extremely popular self-produced R&B remixes on YouTube. Join us, as Switzerland’s “R&B King” preps up the release of his next mixtape “RE:FRESH – The R&B Remix Compilation” and the debut album from his new artist Faye B.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Let’s start from the beginning. How did you get into music and who/what influenced you to do so?
Well, first and foremost I owe it all to my Mother. She’s always been a huge music fan and loves all different styles of music, from Pop, Rock to R&B. I was raised on Duran Duran, UB40, Billy Ocean, Lionel Richie, Janet Jackson, Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, and Madonna – all very rhythmic, groovy, danceable music. In fact, she was also the one who gave my first cassette when I was 11 years old, which was Michael Jackson’s “Bad”. But the moment I saw Bobby Brown’s video to “Every Little Step” play on MTV, it was a wrap, I was hooked. It felt like I had been struck by lightning. My friends at school were all David Hasselhoff fans, but I kept it all the way gangsta with my MC Hammer, Vanilla Ice and Marky Mark tapes. *laughs*
YouKnowIGotSoul: Tell us, what inspired you to become a DJ, how did you build your rep as a DJ in Switzerland and gain your moniker as “Switzerland’s King of R&B”?
Believe it or not, it was never my first intention to become a DJ. As a young kid I always dreamt of becoming a famous singer and entertainer, so I focused on singing and rapping at an early age, which eventually lead me to become one of the lead singers of a Swiss R&B/Pop boy band for 9 years. During that time I used to go to this local club where a friend of mine called DJ SCA used to play and he’d play all this awesome underground R&B and these special remixes I had never heard before, stuff you couldn’t buy anywhere on CD. So the real reason why I ended up buying turntables, was so that I could own all the records he had too. And then I started to play around and practice in my bedroom and it quickly became an addiction. So once I realized that I loved it just as much as singing and songwriting and my group disbanded not long after, I decided this was the direction I wanted to take, this was my plan B, or you could say “my calling”. My first gig was at a friend’s birthday party, I remember being absolutely shit scared of messing up! But it seems I didn’t do a bad job, ‘cause from there on I just kept getting recommended, plus I started to organize my own Black Music events where I’d put myself on the bill, of course…and the rest is history!
As for my “Switzerland’s King Of R&B” moniker – that’s something I’ve been asked many times before in the past. People still seem to think that I gave myself that title, which isn’t entirely true. People were calling me “The R&B King” long before I started DJ-ing, because everyone who knew me, knew that I was a real R&B fanatic. I used to make cassettes and mix CD’s for my friends with the freshest tracks on them, I was in an R&B boy band, which I used to songwrite and produce for, I’ve always lived for the music, so that’s basically how I got the title. I just rolled with it, because it sounded good! Of course, I was fully aware that adopting the title would raise a couple of eyebrows within the DJ scene, but that’s not always such a bad thing *laughs*. Like the great Mohammed Ali once said: “It’s not bragging if you can back it up”.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Why R&B?
Because no other music style makes me feel the way that R&B does. Don’t get me wrong, I love all kinds of music, I love Hip-Hop, I love Dancehall, I love a little Reggae, I love House, even a little Rock. It all depends on my mood. For me there’s good music and shit music, regardless of genre. But nothing touches or uplifts me the way R&B can. You can dance to R&B, you can chill to R&B, you can make love to R&B, you can cruise to R&B, you can get over a broken heart to R&B…it can give you so much. There’s something for every occasion. It’s emotional music and I’m an emotional person, so we’re a match made in heaven *laughs*.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Being a proud R&B Activist, how important is it to you to represent this genre?
It’s extremely important to me, especially in a country like Switzerland, where no other DJ is waving the flag the way I am. R&B is my life, my passion. I live, breathe, eat and sleep R&B. It comes natural to me and representing anything else the way I do just wouldn’t be real. I truly believe that I was born to do this. But as a club DJ I don’t just play R&B sets, I’m as versatile as you have to be nowadays, so don’t get it twisted, promoters! Just thought I’d throw that in there.*laughs*
YouKnowIGotSoul: How do you feel about the state of music today?
Well, something I think we can all agree on, is that the quality of music has definitely deteriorated over the past decade. You don’t really need to be able to sing well to have a hit or career, music is more image- and marketing-driven than talent-driven, everything is auto-tuned to death, most production is very minimal and basic compared to production back in the 90’s, especially in R&B and Hip-Hop. Which I find ironic – we’ve become more technically advanced, yet the production is worse and lacks in soul and essence, and even the lyrics lack in depth. Everything is simple “eh-eh” and “eeeeh-yo” sing-along chorus garbage. But there have been some really positive changes over the past year. People are getting tired of hearing all this watered-down commercial bullshit everywhere and R&B is returning to its original soulful essence. If you listen closely, a lot of new R&B is heavily 90’s influenced and a lot of artists from that era are re-emerging, because those were the arguably the golden years of R&B. But it was bound to happen sooner or later, everything comes back around full-circle.
YouKnowIGotSoul: How did you start working with Ryan Leslie and his imprint NextSelection?
Well, I’ve never worked directly with Ryan Leslie himself, unfortunately. He knows who I am, we’ve met and chatted backstage at a concert and he even mentioned me in his “Thank You” section on his website, which is really cool. I appreciate the acknowledgement. I’ve been a big fan and supporter of his music and movement since back in 2004. So, in 2008 I contacted Ryan’s manager about releasing an official NextSelection mixtape for Switzerland, because I really admired Ryan’s talent and wanted to help push his music and movement out here, also by organizing official NextSelection club nights. Ryan wasn’t really big out here at that time, it was only after “Diamond Girl” and “Addiction” dropped a year later that Switzerland slowly started to pick up on his music. So yeah, his manager was cool with the idea, but for various reasons the project never really flourished. Another artist I was really feeling at the time, was Uness. He was also signed to NextSelection. So we had a little chat on Facebook about doing a mixtape collaboration together called “The Seeker Vol.1” and we made that happen pretty quickly. It was such a huge success that we dropped “The Seeker Vol. 2 – Unity” half a year later, which featured remixed versions of the tracks on the first mixtape, created by producers from all over the world. That was also very successful. People are still hitting me up today, telling me how much they loved those mixtapes, so that’s fantastic! Last year, former NextSelection signee Krys Ivory and I also planned to do a mixtape together, but she left the label soon after our conversation and decided that she wanted to take her music in a different direction and experiment first. Krys is a great person though, I like her a lot and I promised I’d have her back whenever she’s ready to go forward.
YouKnowIGotSoul: How were your experiences while working with and alongside some of R&B greats such as Brandy, Deborah Cox, and the group 112?
Well, you know how it goes. It’s like when you meet normal, regular people for the first time, the first impression counts. So you know, I’ve had a few negative experiences with artists I’ve always looked up to who have had serious attitude problems, which is quite disappointing at first. I won’t mention their names or put them out there though *laughs*. But on the flipside, I’ve also had some great experiences. For example, when I interviewed Brandy, she was a genuinely nice person, an absolute sweetheart. And she smelled good too! *laughs* Deborah Cox was really cool too, very fun, down-to-earth and easy-going. When I interviewed her in the restaurant at a hotel in Geneva a few years ago, we got on really well, she even insisted that I stay and join her and her husband for a bite to eat, which was really nice. Obviously, Ryan Leslie is a nice dude too. Oh, and I love Horace Brown, I’ve met him twice, once for an interview, the other time I was his support DJ on the night. Let me tell you, that cat right there is funny as hell! He really cracks me up. I also met the group Silk just recently in London, they’re really nice dudes too. So yeah, my experiences have mostly been positive!
YouKnowIGotSoul: You are getting ready to release your latest project “RE:FRESH – The R&B Remix Compilation”. What can we expect on this?
Well, for those who are already familiar with my work, they’ll know what to expect. But for those who are new to my work, it’s a compilation of brand-new remixes by artists such as Whitney Houston, Trey Songz, Ne-Yo, Dru Hill, Jon B., Dwele, Jill Scott, Tamia and many more. Personally I think it’s gonna be my best work to date and there’ll be a few nice surprises on there too, which I won’t speak on just yet! I recently dropped two remixes off the compilation as a preview of what’s to come, one of them is a remix of Horace Brown’s “Things We Do for Love” and the other is a remix of Avant and Nicole Scherzinger’s “Lie About Us”. So far the response and support has been fantastic. I don’t have an exact release date for the compilation as yet, I still need to finish a couple of remixes, but I really can’t wait to unleash this baby.
YouKnowIGotSoul: What inspired you to start your self-produced R&B remixes?
When I started DJ-ing back in 2002, I just started to play around and experiment with instrumentals and acappellas by blending them together, just out of fun and curiosity. No serious intentions at all. It wasn’t until I did my first “proper” remix of II D Extreme’s 1996 hit “You Got Me Goin’” 2 years ago that I decided to take this seriously. I posted the remix on Facebook and the response was overwhelming, so I then sent the remix over to D’Extra Wiley and Randy Gill of II D Extreme to see what they thought, without expecting a reply – and they went nuts over it! In fact, they loved it so much, that D’Extra asked me to send them the instrumental with background vocals, so that they could perform my version at their shows, which is amazing. So that really encouraged me to take it further and I also saw remixing as a great promotional tool, which has proven to be pretty successful. I’ve been getting a lot of support and spins from music lovers, club- and radio DJ’s from all over the world and I’m very grateful for that.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Out of all your Collaborations, which stands out the most and why?
The collaboration that stands out most hasn’t been heard yet! That’s all I’m saying! But you’ll get to hear it soon! *laughs*
YouKnowIGotSoul: You’re currently working on a debut album from your new artist “Faye B”. Take us through a regular day during the recording process of “Arrival.” What is the creative process like?
That is correct. Faye and I get along really well as a couple, as well as collaborators, so we understand each other personally and musically, which makes the creative process easy and a lot of fun. We’re a great team. Obviously I manage, mentor and I do all the recording and editing with her at the studio, but what I love about Faye is that she’s very hands-on in all aspects of her project, from the songs I write for her, to the production, to the delivery, to the styling and so on. I think it’s really important for Faye to be able to express herself and have a certain level of creative freedom, because at the end of the day, she’s the one who has to stand up on that stage and not only enjoy what she’s doing, but also sound believable. But she knows exactly what she wants, how she wants to be perceived as an artist and like me, she’s a perfectionist. She works hard and I’m really proud of her, her attitude will take her real far. We’ll be releasing her debut single “Finally” very soon, so watch out for that. The remix package is crazy. And we’ll be shooting the video to the single in London at the end of the month, so we’re both really excited.
YouKnowIGotSoul: So you also have skills as a Writer and a Producer. Where do you find your inspiration?
Hmmm. Usually I let the music and atmosphere of an instrumental “speak” to me and catch a vibe off that. When it comes to writing the lyrics and melodies, I find inspiration at the most random times, at the most random places, doing random things. It usually happens when my mind is free and at ease and I don’t have multiple thoughts shooting through my head. I know this sounds crazy, but it could be on the toilet, whilst taking a shower, whilst doing the dishes, stuff like that. I’m also inspired by new surroundings, like when I’m on vacation or away from everyday life. Back when I used to write songs for my group, I would base them on personal experiences and how I was feeling as a man about a certain relationship at that time, so the melodies and lyrics just flowed. Now it’s a whole other ball game when writing for Faye B’s project, because I have to write songs through the eyes and emotions of a woman, and put myself in her position. That’s something I had never done before. Sometimes it’s a challenge, especially when I’m touching a personal subject, but I like that. Challenges help you up your game.
YouKnowIGotSoul: What are your thoughts regarding major labels Vs. Independent releases?
I guess it depends what you want out of your career. Unless you’re already a successful artist who can call the shots, a major label will more often than not have full control over your music and your product. If you don’t mind being told what to sing, wear, do and say, and only care about becoming famous, then that’s the route for you. After all, they have the budget, power and promotional outlets to make that happen. Bear in mind though, having a major deal doesn’t guarantee success at all! Even A&R’s and label executives often get it wrong. But if you write and produce your own tracks, don’t want the pressure from above, don’t mind struggling and investing in your career, would like to keep your rights and creative freedom and cash in on your own hard-earned royalties, then go independent or start your own label. Should you become a successful independent artist and have majors knocking at your door, make sure the deal is legit. Read the contract over and over again, read between the lines, and If you’re still not sure, get yourself a qualified music industry/entertainment lawyer who can assist you and make sure you’re not signing your life away.
YouKnowIGotSoul: That’s all that I had prepared for today. Is there anything else that you would like to add?
Yeah, I just want to thank everyone out there who has ever booked me, attended my gigs, given me props, downloaded a remix or mixtape of mine, re-posted my work on Facebook, Twitter, etc. I really appreciate every single one of you. Thank you for providing me with the opportunity and encouragement to do what I love most! And don’t forget to hit me up on Facebook and Twitter:
DJ Soulchild on Twitter
DJ Soulchild on Facebook
YouKnowIGotSoul: Thank you for all your time and candid answers, we are very excited about your upcoming projects. We will definitely promote them on the site as well.
No, thank you! It’s been a pleasure!