DJ NLZ is a Dutch DJ/Producer based in Amsterdam. He has produced a variety of styles ranging from Hip Hop to Trap to Urban. NLZ has worked in different studios with notable artists over the years, and he does teledevelopment projects with young people, which won an award from the mayor of Amsterdam.
"Since I have the Audeze I did a lot of mixing... I experienced it as the best way to mix audio on headphones." - DJ NLZ
Here's our talk with DJ NLZ:
Can you pick out any favorites from your work that you're particularly proud of?
I'm very proud of the song 'Mary Jane' that Kyakuwa and I released in 2020. Besides that I released a lot of songs that made me particularly proud. The song 'Parra Parra' with Seffelinie and Pierrii has a total streaming count of over 2 million. We released the song in 2016 and nowadays it's still relevant.
How would you define your main role on most of the projects you work on these days?
Nowadays during pandemic periods it's just making beats. Most of the time I worked with Kyakuwa and we are releasing a lot of singles. It all starts by producing a beat from scratch. I start with the chords or the drums, that depends just on my mood. While producing I already started mixing the beat. After I bounced it to my desktop I sent it to Kyakuwa. He and Marlice (who is much more than a mentionable person in the process) begin to write lyrics to my beat. The only input I give them is the name of my track which can come from a bottle of water. They record and send tracks and I start mixing the beat. I just mix and listen the next day, adjust and listen the next day. This repeats until I get the right mix, then I master it. After that I start putting up the important things around the upcoming releases. Happily for me Kyakuwa took that thing out of my hands for our songs. For my other songs I just do it myself.
How did you get started in music? What kind of music did you listen to while growing up and how has that progressed?
I started music because I was playing street soccer and made it to a professional player for over 3 years. I was always listening to rap music and I searched for good music for my street soccer videos. With street soccer I always did big events with well known artists. This opened my eyes to organize the events myself, I just needed a DJ for entertainment. At that time I was 17 years old and slowly started to invest in my own drive-in show. I did a lot of parties for people who turned 16 or 18. After that I started playing in clubs. I did my own street soccer shows with the talents that I had in my team. They did the tricks and I did the entertainment. Since now I still listen to rap but as a producer I would love to hear all kinds of music. I just can't listen without thinking how the song is built up.
Can you name any factors that influenced the course of your musical life? Heroes, role models, moments, interactions, etc?
One day I invited my friend, beatmaker Duncan, to come and see me play at a DJ contest. If I won the contest I could play somewhere at a big club which was very cool at that age so I put in my effort. I got the feedback that my sound wasn't underground enough. I left the building but Duncan helped me out with some underground music. He said "I will send you the rest next week". In that week he died in a car accident. This happened in 2009. I went to his parents and they gave me his harddrive. My goal was to find artists who could do something on his beats... After some pitches I got no reactions which made me improve the beats myself. This is the route of how I started making beats. After that I had the project with Skinny-Vinny that made me very proud, I released it posthumously and the money went to the Dutch Heart foundation. Both guys were my friends and passed away at a young age. Duncan's sister recorded my voice tag which I'm still using. There are a lot of moments: I won a big talent show with group NPNG, I did a lot of projects with Junior Neph, I learned a lot from Rasskulz who helped me out... The moment my song reached 1 million streams... My journey to Berklee, the moment u see people are really enjoying the music... This is why I do it, just for the culture.
Can you briefly describe a moment of frustration from your past work, and what you may have done to overcome the obstacles? Would you approach it differently now?
Well moments of frustration come up when hard drives crash and you are just in so many projects that your last backup is 2 months ago. Libraries that are not working the way u want. Also when you mix a song for the artist two weeks after recording but he is only satisfied with just the demo because he has already listened to it 300 times. Now I just use external SSDs that boost my speed and are not crashable like HDD. For the mixing I just work with the right people.
Is there any gear you find yourself turning to most when working on a project? What are some of your favorite tools/instruments recently?
Just my software I use the most. "I don't want to repeat the f*cking process over and over again"... That's what I think when starting my DAW. I just started working on my MPC X again and that made me have a different feeling. I just think it's limited together with the software.
Do you have any words of wisdom for people who might aspire toward a similar path for their own careers?
Just work work and work and how Rihanna says work work work work work. People are nice to you when you do something big. Know your circle, study your music, study your business, study your marketing. Make a proper plan before you do anything. You can just create a lot of beats from what comes up in your mind but working out of a proper plan can give your sound that extra touch. Music... it's in the details.
How long have you been working with headphones, and how do you typically use them in your workflow?
I've been using them all my life, mostly while in public transport. During work when I need to work in a quiet mode. Also while recording when the artist is next to you.
How have your Audeze headphones affected your work?
Since I have the Audeze I did a lot of mixing... I decided to make more time for mixing the instrumentals. Because the Audeze gives me some advantages compared to other headphones, this is why it never gets boring. I experienced it as the best way to mix audio on headphones. I've been using it for most of my projects that have recently (last 2 months) been released. Check out my Spotify page for the songs .