Hailing from the African motherland of Tanzania, he has been marching to the beat of his native drum since birth. Calling Australia home and cultivating the craft of beat- maker has been an arduous journey for one Australian Hip Hop’s most beloved and respected producers, Mr Zux. Holding court as one of the urban music communities most talented and committed producers, Mr Zux is no stranger to the uphill battle that comes with the territory of “ making it “ in the Australian music industry. What is refreshing about Zux however is that even whilst armed with this reality, he has never waned from making the music he loves, for the community he respects, for the talent he possesses …..It’s just part of his grand design really.
A design that has seen Zux form his successful production company BOP ( Big One Productions) and go on to work with and alongside the cream of Australia’s urban crop, namely Sydney’s DJ Samrai, KillaQueenz and Bliss N Esso to international artists like the UK’s Mystro, Mr Zux has an ear for talent and the beats to produce infamy. Proudly calling himself “ The African Spear” ask anyone that has worked with him just how deep his pride runs in not only his blood line but in the music and legacy he creates and they will answer in agreeance that everything Mr Zux touches turns to gold.
With a discography that spans across 12 years, Mr Zux has released everything from solo albums (Album- Tujirushe (2005)) ,( Album – Zux The Best Teacher (2008)) to mixtapes and more. His recent project “The Africanspearacy Theory” is the latest album that harbors the Zux signature sound coupled with the hottest local and international talent to provide an album that will have the industry talking about. With all he has on his plate, Zux remains true to his artistry of making music from his soul and is steadfast to remaining a purist in the production game. A devoted family man, Zux balances the art of fatherhood to fathering beats that are sure to become an intricate fiber in the canvas of Australia’s hip hop industry. This interview is written with pride and respect for my fellow brother from the motherland, my peer in this hip hop community we all strive to build and one of the most talented and insightful hip hop production pioneers we know. The African Spear – Mr Zux!
Mr Zux, it’s been a long time between conversations ;o) How are you my friend?
I have been great Max, I thank god for how my life has turned out, I’m lucky to have a great family and friends that supports what I do.
You stay busy Zux, producing some of the illest beats to come out of our hip hop community in Australia. What would you say defines your sound and style?
I grew up in Africa where I was bombarded with all kinds of music from traditional to urban music and everything in between. I define my sound as the “best elements” of various types of music that I grew up listening to. I also learnt how to play a piano from the early age which has significantly helped in stamping that personal touch to my music. I played a lot of classical, jazz and African sounding melodies which usually come across in my music.
Truly believe that having a sound that is instantly recognizable is the defining factor to creating a sound that is your signature. It is not only the key to your career, but is crucial to your success. Funny enough, if you are not focused it is easier to screw this up than to get it right. Many artists, in their attempt to find it, only end up copying others and sounding generic or copycat. The truth is, the path is different for every artist with one commonality. The key is the determination and stamina to keep crafting until the music you are making is the music you want to hear.
You have been in the production game for years, working with some of the rising talent in this country. What do you think makes the right balance for a successful and in-demand producer to stay that way?
It strikes me that the way to be successful as a musician – whether on stage or off – is to share, not show. In other words, it’s not about the player but about the music.
“Showing” is making it all about yourself and how good you are. “Sharing” is demonstrating how wonderful music is. Essentially, I believe loving music is also the foundation for any great producer/beat maker. I would like to add to that. It’s about “Passion”. Nearly every creative process is about having passion for what you do. Passion is what gets you through the “TRAIN-WRECKS” of the creative process, and train wrecks in general. Passion is what directs you to listen to yourself when you need to try something new or keep going when you’ve discovered something is working.
I think true success is gauged on the degree to which you are living your passion, no matter how that looks to or compares to others. If you connect to it, you will help others connect to it. I believe that’s what your audience wants from you and that’s how you balance your success and demand.
Your production has spanned from individual tracks for artists, to albums to mix tapes. What and or how is the process different to each project you work on when it comes to making the perfect beat? Do you have any producer rituals you follow to get you in the zone?
I make an effort of understanding the artists first, figure out what they like, sometimes suggest what I think would suit them better as far as the type of beats. It is difficult to work with artist at random as I find it take a long time to achieve the right results and even if you do, it has always been by chance. Artists work differently depending on their experience, the type of music they grew up listening to and their influences. I have worked with some artists who prefer to write first and then make a beat around it, or majority who prefer to hear a beat first and then write afterwards. I don’t really have any rituals; I just take it as it comes. I guess in this case experience does help in assessing how best outcomes can be achieved depending on the scenario.
What are you currently working on now? Any new collaborations / albums coming out of your lab?
I have just completed my fourth studio album which is out now though iTunes. The album is entitled “The Africanspearacy Theory” and took close to two years to complete. I believe is my best solo work to date. I have great features in the album which includes the likes of Mike Champion, Zenya, DJ Samrai, DJ Kimani, Lydia Kurnia, Kween G, Mlu, Ron Jones, Jacob Quest, and Maleek. A really great combination of DJs, singers, and Emcees, that brought that right flavour to the album.
I have been also working on music for some talented African artist from back home (Tanzania), developing young producers by providing assistance and help as required.I’m currently working on the compilation for underground hip-hop artists from East Africa. This project is due out mid next year (2014).
Can Never Be Me – Mr Zux
As a producer in the Australian hip hop community, what are your thoughts on how our industry has evolved and progressed from when you first started your career to know? Are we gaining momentum for stronger international attention on our industry?
Technology’s changed everything. It has maximised music accessibility and distribution to a broader audience.
Australia always had talented artists and I believe it has been a gradual process to get where we are today. I have had a great pleasure of working with artists who now are the face of hip-hop in Australia such as Bliss N Esso. You have also got great producers like M-Phazes who have produced for various local and international acts. So as far as international attention I believe Australia is up there with everyone else with regards to Hip-hop. The changes in technology have made it inexpensive enough to create music these days. That has been a huge change. I think the Internet is going to continue to change what the artist’s role is. I can personally develop relationships and reach out to artist in other regions whether in Africa or Europe and do collaborations without physically having to be there. This also includes being able to independently distribute my music all over the world without any record label which was impossible to achieve 15 -20 years ago.
Bring It Back – Mr Zux
Who would you say are your greatest inspirations that help you be who you are?
My life inspiration is my parents because of their simplicity, encouragement and for providing me a vision of what success looks like and how to achieve it. My personal inspiration is my failure and success in each step of my life and the lessons I have learnt through each of those steps which have made me the person I am today.
If you weren’t in the music game Zux what else do you think you would do with your time?
When I started, I considered music as something you do for fun. That drove me to have other solid life plans in place in case music does not work. I made great decisions which include pursuing my Engineering Degree and Investing (Real estate and Financial markets). I’m currently very active in these areas and I’m fortunate enough to have achieved some kind of success in one or the other. These are things I have always loved as equally as my music so If was not in the music game I would definitely be doing something.
I am convinced that when you’re heading into the unknown, setting goals and having desire to achieve those goals is all-important. You simply want to be doing something that you love, or something that is logically going to lead to something you love, in order to do your best work. Goals will provide you with a vision and desire will make you more creative and more resourceful, and will help you get further faster.
Your aspirations as a producer – what’s the next step for you in this industry?
Regardless of how far my aspirations take me, I will continue to hone my skill of making Music. I believe that I’ve got plenty of tips and tricks worth sharing. I’ve got some ideas as to how I might be able to help other musicians and artists thrive in their own careers. So as a producer I would like to live the rest of my life in such a way that it would enhance the lives of others. I would like to find a motivating place of work, a place where I could use my knowledge, skills and abilities and improve. I would like to work with much more developed producers in the industry who I can learn more from to enable the enhancement of my skills.
What would you most like to be remembered for one day in how you lived your life?
So what do I want to be remembered for? Well, a lot of things came to mind – some superficial, some pretty deep…..Two things that really matter at least for me…
I want to be remembered for being a kind, compassionate person. I want to be remembered for having developed leaders and helped others by raising awareness, motivation and involvement not only with regards to music but other aspects of life. I believe these things can change lives, heal wounds, and most certainly help others.
But I want to be remembered not just as someone who is kind, compassionate, and helps others; I want to actually BE someone who is kind, compassionate, and helps others, whether I am remembered for it or not. Helping young artist to become the best they can be, helping my family to overcome challenges and obstacles, helping strangers (that become friends) pursue their passions, and everything in between. Success has little to do with what skills you have got or system you use, it all about the “PEOPLE” and the “LEADERSHIP” you provide.
For more information on Mr Zux and BOP visit: www.mrzux.com
Always Hip Hop,