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Oliver Heldens & UZ Take on Halloween at Germany’s Bootshaus

Thorsten Benders

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It often happens that if you love all sorts of music, you can’t decide what stage to attend at festivals. Many times there are more artists playing at the same club/festival at the same moment that you would love to see. The night described below was about choosing between Oliver Heldens and UZ at the Bootshaus.

Every year the (largely) American population celebrates Halloween. Slowly this event has been taking over Europe and most notably, Germany. Since in Germany people have the day after a religious holiday off, it is easier to plan events. Nothing says party like having the next day off to relax and recoup.

We certainly got excited to be a part of this special Halloween show at the Bootshaus and dive further into Germany culture. Both Oliver Heldens and UZ are each established a pioneer in their genre. On one stage the master of future/bass house none other than Oliver Heldens. On the other stage you have the trap grandmaster UZ. Entering the club there were people dressed in well thought-out costumes as well as people in regular club-wear. Regardless of their dress, it was clear that everyone came to enjoy themselves and have a night to remember.

Oliver Heldens

With this massive crowd puller cranking out the tunes it was no wonder this event sold out. The main stage was packed well in advance of his set. Oliver Heldens was scheduled to play a nice long two-hour set from 1:45 till 3:45. When he arrived with his entourage, all of them were dressed up for Halloween which set the perfect tone for the night. Dressed up as a surgeon, Oliver took over the stage and you could just see the joy in his eyes. As a tactical mastermind, he started pumping out hit after hit and let the crowd dance to his tunes.

Oliver is no shy guy behind the wheels of steel. Showing off his skills and dance moves, he entertained the crowd to the fullest. People came to see Oliver Heldens, and people got Oliver Heldens. Despite having seen Oliver countless times before, it is always a pleasure to watch him play. Although he is still young in the scheme of his career, you can always tell he handles his performances like a seasoned veteran.

Heldens’ latest releases, ‘Turn Me On’ (Dr. Love) with Riton & Vulavox, is out now on Ministry of Sound. It is an infectious track that fit his outfit perfectly on the night of this performance. For us, this track has a great 80’s vibe to it. Take a listen below and see what vibes you’re feeling to “Turn Me On”:

It seems you can really only have love for Oliver Heldens. His releases, his set, his presence on stage – you can easily understand why so many people love and support him and his infectious music.

UZ

On the other stage it was the godfather of trap that was making an appearance. He was scheduled to play a one and a half hour set, and as with the theme of the night his mask really fit in. The pure craftsmanship that was put into creating his mask was simply astonishing. As for his set, you could clearly tell why people stayed in this room as well and not across to see Oliver.

With two different genres playing at the same time it is understandable that you would likely lean one way or the other. UZ is a master behind the turntables, and his set clearly spoke to people. Most of the people attending came to celebrate their favorite trap artist. What UZ cleverly does is mixing his own tracks with unknown gems. This mix and his high energy are a sure combo to get the masses jumping. The downside of this though, is that with so many high profile single and album releases, one wished there was more time to enjoy all the masterpieces UZ has put out there over time.

After his set we had the distinct pleasure of conducting an interview with him. The sheer contrast between his high energy performance and the peaceful and relaxed UZ we spoke to during the interview was quite surprising, but a very nice juxtaposition to observe.

The interview

Nocturnal Times: You just finished your set. How does it feel to see many people dancing to your music? 

UZ: It’s always a pleasure seeing the energy between me and the fans and being able to make everyone dance and forget their day for a minute. I have been performing for 20 years now and I had ups and downs about performing because it is also very draining when you are really involved and passionate about what you do. I got really nervous and stressed during the turntablism days because the sets/routines had to be so perfect, it was short but intense performances. Nowadays I am more relaxed and the fact that I wear a mask helps me deal with anxiety a lot. I just want the crowd to have a good time, discover some great music and spend the energy that they keep inside of them during their day.

Nocturnal Times: Before the show you were preparing something on your laptop. Is this something you do generally or where this some last minute changes? Is it some kind of ritual? And do you have any rituals?

UZ: As far as rituals, I like to stay by myself, in my room, maybe sleep a little and mainly relax before the show, I usually go to the club 30 to 45 minutes before my show, I go in the green room and drink some sparkling water maybe and start changing things in my sets like I always do. I don’t know why but I always need to tweak stuff right before going on stage. After the show, I try to take a few pictures with the fans if possible, go back to the hotel, take a shower and start relaxing again because the adrenaline keeps me awake for at least 2 more hours. Since I stopped drinking and partying and I am living a healthy lifestyle I don’t do anything crazy before or after my set 🙂

Nocturnal Times: How and why did you feel the need/urge to re-innovate yourself and then come up with trap music? Basically you started a new genre from scratch.

UZ: In 2011/2012 I felt like I was a little lost and stuck and wasn’t really finding any music I liked or that inspired me. I am always looking for new stuff, I was trying myself at dubstep without being really happy with the results and the scene was getting too noisy for me so I decided to scratch everything and start a new project. Mainly I was influenced by UK bass music , UKF, UKG, etc… I started a side-project called PLEZIER that was really refreshing for me and helped me get a different vision on music production, I released on MODA,  Strictly Rhythm,  Brownswood… Around the same time I was listening to early Lunice, Morri$, trapaholics mixtapes and I decided to try mixing all those influences into another side project.

I didn’t want to spend too much time so I started making one beat in an hour per week and uploaded them on Soundcloud. I thought to myself what’s gangsta? a gun, I uploaded an UZI as my avi and started using weird characters to type and that was it. Balltrapmusic was created, after a few weeks somebody suggested I should called myself UZI and I made it my own version and called myself ƱZ. Only a few artists were doing beats but I feel like my sound was super unique, super minimal electronic trap beats,  my melodies were really simple and catchy and have since influenced a whole generation of producers.

Nocturnal Times: You are also known for your Mask with a wide audience. How important is your mask for you? You revealed the name behind the mask but never the face. I read that you had your mask because of your anxieties? Is that still an issue for you? 

UZ: Before UZ I played shows for 15 years and wanted to stop because it was giving me mad anxiety. I wanted to be more in the background, producing for rappers or producing music for tv, etc… but when the UZ project blew up I didn’t really have a choice. The UZ project was anonymous so we decided for the first show to use a mask. We contacted Ralis Khan who designed Slipknot’s masks and he came up with the first version on the mask. The rest of the UZ costume was found during the first Canadian tour, the second night we went shopping in Vancouver I believe and I found the FUCK hat, and then I decided to go with a black hoodie and the real UZ was born!

I kept that mask for 6 years and decided that it was time for a change so we contacted Jessee J Clarkson and gave him the new direction, basically we wanted to get rid of the FUCK hat for copyright reason and simply because it was a curse word. I wanted to upgrade it without changing it too much so we basically imagined the mask without the hat. He came up with the new one and we were really happy with it! The mask really helps me conquer my stage fright because I feel like UZ is a different character than myself. I put the costume on and put on a show and then I take it off and become G again.

Nocturnal Times: Seems that nowadays every DJ is wearing a mask. Some are probably wearing it to safeguard their real life but most of them are probably wearing it for marketing purposes. What do you think of this? 

UZ: All of them are wearing it strictly for marketing purposes and it has become really cheesy in my opinion. The concept behind UZ was pay attention to the music and not the artist.

Nocturnal Times: I noticed you are here now very opposite from how you are behind the turntables. Behind the turntables you are high paced, high energy. Now you are super relaxed and easy going.

UZ: I am a really quiet person, I am usually the one in the back listening and learning and I only talk few words. Music gives me the possibility to express myself differently, I am quiet in life but loud in my music and performances, when I am behind the turntables I become a monster, I’ve been in the championship circuits for 8 years between 1999 and 2007 and if you want to be the best you have to practice everyday and become a machine almost, then you go on stage and you become the other DJs’ worst nightmare, you have to have a certain energy to catch the crowd’s attention so I think that taught me how to be on stage nowadays.

Nocturnal Times: If you could have dinner with anyone in the world who would that be and why?

UZ: My father who passed away a few years back.

Nocturnal Times: If you could go back in time and could talk to yourself what would you tell yourself?

UZ: Don’t start smoking, doing drugs, or drinking and live a healthy life so you can live longer.

Nocturnal Times: Do you see yourself as more of a DJ or more as a producer? Why?

UZ: Surprisingly my 2 older brothers were both DJs, one around the 70s (which I didn’t witness live) and one around the 80s, so I’ve always been around music. My brother had a DJ booth in his room (which I found hilarious) and he was playing records just like if he was playing in an actual club, this was in 1989.

Later around 1995 I got reintroduced to turntables at a friend’s place (RIP Storm) and really liked it, so I started practicing at his place and quickly bought myself a pair. I moved to the UK for 6 months and to the US for a year where I discovered the ISP and all the turntable TV VHS and that was a game changer for me. I started analyzing and learning everything about turnablism and came back to France with a super advanced level. I quickly won the French Championship and won 2 world championships a couple of years after.

Then I really got into production, started by producing breakbeats and DJ tools for the scratch DJs and then started producing beats for rappers. I think I have produced every genre of music for myself or to practice. Like I said I have always been a loner, the kind of person that stays and practices his craft for hours, days, months and years.

I consider myself a DJ and Producer but I spend way more time behind my laptop than behind the decks nowadays.

Nocturnal Times: What projects are you currently working on and what can we expect from you in the future?

UZ: My next album which is 14-15 tracks. Lots of cool stuff, rappers, singers, etc.. Definitely my best album! Working on the tour to promote the album too. I am also working on developing the label Quality Goods Records that we launched 3 years ago now. I am really proud of my team and how far we have pushed the label so far: we were the first to push bass artists such as SAYMYNAME, Tynan, sumthin sumthin, Oski, Nitti Gritti…. It’s a great adventure and it is still the beginning.

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