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Photography by Marie-Claire Batty

Tell us about the moment you realised you wanted to be a DJ…
I attended a New Years Day event called Innercity in the early 2000s. I was dancing with friends and I had a moment. I realised the DJ was playing music they thought was amazing and had hundreds of people dancing to it. I decided then that I would learn how to DJ because I wanted to share my love for music and have people dancing all at once. I started playing a lot of techno and hard trance when I first started but that didn’t last long — Hip Hop and Neo-Soul was where my heart was at.

What is the most rewarding aspect of being a DJ?
The most rewarding aspect changes all the time. Sometimes it’s the places that DJing gets you. For example I just got back from DJing a series of events in Pakistan and will be playing at Soundwave Croatia alongside artists like Jay Electronica, Alice Russell and Remi. Sometimes it’s the appreciation I receive from people for playing songs that I really love. It’s also very rewarding when I’m playing a set that isn’t dictated by the venue or punters. That’s why I throw my block parties, so I can play everything that I want to play regardless of genre.

What was the first piece of gear you bought? Do you still use it today?
I bought an Ecler Hak 300 DJ mixer. At the time Ecler was one of the most popular DJ mixers. I also bought two Technics 1200 turntables with a PA. The PA wasn’t great quality but everything else was. I have the Ecler mixer and one turntable set up in my room so I can listen to my records. I’ve had these since 2001 or 2002 and have only had to repair each item once!

What set-up do you use? Why does this work for you?
I use Serato on my laptop with control vinyl. It’s like using vinyl without carrying vinyl. Some nights I will play three different gigs and each gig will have a different genre requirement so it’s easier for me to carry a laptop than a ridiculous amount of records.

We’re quite aware of your vinyl addiction. Where’s your favourite place to crate dig in Melbs?
There are a few places to dig in Melbourne — the vinyl culture is bumpin’. I can’t really put a favourite down because I dig at various places that offer me different records depending on what I’m looking for that day. I go through phases so sometimes it will be Jazz and I’ll just go hunting for Jazz at Northside Records, Rathdowne Records, The Searchers or Plug Seven. Other days I want boogie and disco records so I will go to Profile music and if I’m visiting there I will pop in to Bounce Audio. Some stores I visit more than others and there are some stores I haven’t stepped in yet even though I should have by now. Hopefully this year!

How did you get your first break?
I started throwing my own parties in the early 2000s — small ones but they were fun. I ended up throwing a weekly Hip Hop party called Elements at Miss Libertine, (now Captain Melville) thanks to a friend – shout outs to Elke – that worked the bar. Hip Hop fans would come through, eat pizza and have a boogie on a Wednesday night. That led to more parties and more opportunities.

How pivotal is networking in your field?
Very. The internet is great for uploading mixes and self-promo but if you want to get ahead you have to make the effort to meet people in the industry. Melbourne is a really busy city so you have to make an effort and show people that you’re really passionate about what you’re doing.

How important is stage presence and interactivity when you’re DJing?
It is important but it depends on the gig. Some gigs require interactivity more than others. It also depends on the genre. It all depends on space, time and energy in the room. Dinner sets will differ from bar sets which will differ from club sets. Sometimes the crowd wants to give you high fives, other times they don’t notice you.

What is the best advice you can give to an emerging DJ?
Go record shopping. Not online — actual record shopping. Listen to other genres of music — it’s always good to expand your musical tastes. Also, play the music you love. Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing. Practice is really important as well as knowledge about DJing. I still make mistakes when spinning but I know I am a much better DJ today compared to a few years ago. All DJs have their own style of DJing once they learn how to use their equipment of choice. For example I use the cross fader a lot where others keep it in the middle and use the channel faders — different strokes for different folks.

You run a weekly show on Kiss FM – Urban Fervour – where you showcase the latest in both national and international music. What is the best way for a local artist to get in touch with you with their music?

Firstly, listen to my show. If your music fits in with what I do you can email me at mzrizk@kissfm.com.au with a brief introduction about yourself and a link to your music. I may not get back to you but you may hear your tune on my show. We have so many talented local artists that are creating some of the best music I’ve heard in a long time. I use Bandcamp a lot to discover new artists and I think everyone making music should use it.

You also facilitate DJ workshops. Tell us a little about these; how they began and what they involve.
DJ workshops are heaps of fun. I like teaching young people how to use DJ equipment. Music is a universal language so DJ workshops are an awesome way of engaging young people. One of my very talented friends Arna Singleton – choreographer and all round superwoman for the Hip Hop & Dance scene – asked me to run a workshop at a youth event she booked me for. She took a chance on me and it turned out that the young people loved it and so did I. After that I began running workshops for different youth groups but mainly young women that were disengaged and/or newly arrived in Australia. I would collaborate with local councils and develop music-based programs so the young women had a safe space to party and learn in. I recently ran a few DJ workshops in Pakistan for young women to promote gender equality which they loved! Not all the young people that participate will become DJs but they have all learnt something that is different from maths and woodwork.

Keep up to date with MzRizk’s news via www.facebook.com/djmzrizk

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