HigherFrequency  DJ Interview


DJ Oji Interview

Migrating from New York, away from the Paradise Garage, and towards the less romanticized Baltimore doesn’t exactly sound like the path of a successful DJ but that is the journey DJ Oji decided to take some years ago. However, there is no looking back for the Poji Records boss who is thankful for the pool of talent in his area and who has managed to release records on King Street Sounds despite his defection.

Another journey this dreadlocked DJ is currently on is a little less tangible than a move between cities. His album “Spiritual Journey” is going to be released in Japan by New World Records and is an exploration of “this spirit in music that can touch us all”. The album is a personal one for DJ Oji but still he was willing to fill us in on just what his “Spiritual Journey” is all about.

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> Interview & Introduction : Nick Lawrence (HigherFrequency)


Higher Frequency (HRFQ) : First of all, thank you very much for talking to us. Welcome to Japan.

DJ Oji : Thank you.

HRFQ: You are here to DJ, obviously, what is the difference between an overseas gig and when you play at home, your residencies?

DJ Oji : More people! There’s a greater appreciation for house music overseas than there is at one time, at one place, in one city in the States. The biggest events would be like Winter Music Conference when everyone from around the world is congested into one place. Just generally speaking though, overseas you can come and it will just be a regular club night with hundreds or thousands, so that is the main difference.

HRFQ : What about with your music, is there any difference or do you treat every party the same?

DJ Oji : I treat every party the same. I like to dance as well and I’ve been to parties where the DJ may not have met my expectations because maybe he or she felt they needed to change to accommodate. One thing I promised myself is that you are either going to love me or hate me. This is it, this is who I am and this why, I am hoping, you asked me to come.

HRFQ : Talking about that actually, there are three rules at the start of your album “Spiritual Journey” and one of them is…

DJ Oji : Do you, be yourself. That’s the club code. I think that is one thing that this music allows and what people should do when they come into this environment. For many of us dancing is an opportunity to release. Just leave the baggage at the door and just be yourself. As they say “Dance like nobody is watching”, so that is pretty much what that is all about.

HRFQ : Your “Spiritual Journey” album is going to be released by New World here in Japan. Is this an exciting opportunity for you?

DJ Oji : It is an exciting opportunity. Honestly, throughout my career one of my dreams has been to come to Japan so I am realizing a lot in this one single month, in this one trip. I would’ve been ok just to come and to play but to also have the opportunity to have the album released in Japan is really overwhelming. I am humbled by it all to be honest with you.

DJ Oji Interview

HRFQ : Is there anything special about the title “Spiritual Journey”. Any concept we should know about?

DJ Oji : It is, the title song itself speaks of the dancefloor experience. More so relative to percussion and how percussion grabs you and it is uncontrollable. It is spiritual and it is like something takes over you. You can’t see it, although it knows where to find you. Which is…I just stole a lyric from a song! It’s not tangible is also what it says. So it speaks of this spirit in music that can touch us all. That is the journey, that spiritual journey. Also it is personal to me, in the song my children are singing in the background as well as me and I play percussion on it, so it is the start of that spiritual journey, the whole album.

HRFQ : That is one thing we wanted to ask, you play bongos and congas on some tracks, what inspired you to take up those instruments?

DJ Oji : Nobody has ever asked me that question! I don’t even know how to answer. I don’t know when that started, I think from the very first record I’d ever done, it was percussive driven but we were doing more sampling than instrumentation. So I bought myself some congas and I just self taught. When I was a child though, my mother used to take me to this thing, growing up in Brooklyn NY, called Dance Africa. They had a lot of different dance groups and they danced to percussion. So I have always been in touch with it but it wasn’t until recent years, maybe five to ten years, that I actually started to enjoy it as a musician. I have a lot of confidence in myself, or should I say I try to have fun with it. So I do things in the study and it is just me so I can take all day. I can mess up and start over. It might sound like five drummers in the room but it is just me.

HRFQ : Another element of your music, the vocals. How do you select a vocalist for something that is so important to the music?

DJ Oji : Ok, that’s a good question. I’m really blessed and lucky to have all the vocalists that I do, for them to all be concentrated in the same area, where I live now, in the Baltimore/DC area. The vocalists that I work with all have a unique voice, I can close my eyes and tell whose singing. What I have been able to do successfully, I think, is be friends with all my artists. Through our friendship, sometimes our relationships are close relationships so the songs may be songs that I have written and they write too, but I would say that neither of them could sing the other person’s song. The songs are written for that individual to sing. I think they all do a great job. I got lucky with Pedro being introduced to me by somebody else. I had written a song, like I was telling you I was just fooling around in the study, and I sang it myself but I definitely can’t sing. Somebody needed to sing this song, and this guy I met him and I couldn’t have found somebody better. I couldn’t have held a talent search and had it happen the way it happened.

DJ Oji Interview

HRFQ : So, you are surrounded by all these artists now but do you have any regrets about leaving Brooklyn and New York, such a famous house city, for Baltimore which isn’t exactly on the map?

DJ Oji : True. I often wonder had I not left if I would’ve been able to come into my own the way I did. I would like to think that my style is unique in that it is Brooklyn, it is Baltimore, my partner Pope is from Chicago and I think I was able to take just a little bit from all these places to develop my own style. I’ve heard people refer to our style as the Baltimore sound, but only half of us is even from Baltimore. So I don’t regret it, not at all. In fact I don’t even think…Maybe I wouldn’t have progressed as far as I did if had not but we can only speculate on that at this point.

HRFQ : You are here in Japan now, but what do you want to do next? What do you want to try and achieve with your music next?

DJ Oji : I want to go to South Africa, that’s the next place on my list of things to do, my dream list. Musically, I wonder what’s next. I’ve come here and I’ve been inspired by going to the record store and listening to music. The fact that they even have a record store and not just one but two, three, four of them. We don’t have that, not In the States. We have record stores, maybe one in each city but most people are buying their music online. Vinyl is kind of wishy washy right now but I see more labels coming out which is a positive sign. I think that I have been inspired to be more creative, I want to continue to hone my craft. I want to find someone else to sing, that’s kind of my new mission, I kind of want to find a new artist to work with. I haven’t been able to do that yet, these girls I work with now they are so busy. They have their family lives too and I have since moved halfway between Baltimore and DC so like a transition happened. So I want to keep things moving in forward direction. So musically, even I am interested to see what happens because I don’t always plan it. I just sit down and whatever happens happens. So, that is where we are at.

HRFQ : Thank you for talking to us.

DJ Oji : Thank you for having me.

HRFQ : And good luck on your spiritual journey and your musical journey in the future.

DJ Oji : Thank you, I appreciate it. Arigatou.

End of the interview

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