He holds court as one of Sydney’s most authentic, hardworking, innovative and historic radio / club / tour DJ’s, with a grind that is almost impossible to keep up with. In between churning out ground-breaking mixtapes, to touring the country as support DJ for Melbourne hip hop act L-FRESH The Lion, to hosting his famed hip hop radio show ‘The Sounds of the Zulu Nation’ on Bondi Beach Radio , to spinning live just about everywhere real music is required to be played and heard…. DJ MK-1 doesn’t miss a beat!
More than just a DJ, MK-1 aka John Khilla, is revered for his in-depth music knowledge, passion and historic rhetoric on the art of Hip Hop and its culture. He wears his allegiance to the internationally renowned Zulu Nation hip hop movement (founded by legendary Afrika Bambatta) like a badge of honour and lives his life in accordance to its teachings and philosophies. As a theologian scholar and school teacher, MK-1 thrives on learning and receiving, teaching and sharing and it is these very traits that has made him one of our Hip Hop community’s greatest resource and asset.
It is more than just claiming to be a DJ that motivates MK-1 to do what he does, with precision and determination, he is a consummate perfectionist that knows the end product is a reflection of his work ethic. The mixtapes he creates are internationally known, with radio stations as far as Paris, France praising his skill and music selection. Covering the genres of Hip Hop, Brazilian and Afro Beats and old school soul and funk, a DJ MK-1 mix is quintessential to one’s musical diet. There is much to write about MK-1 and his different layers, but I will let his interview take you on the journey he has walked thus far. It is inspiring, enlightening and above all respectful of a humble DJ / scholar / writer and entrepreneur that has come so far and has remained true to himself and true to the game!
Hey John – How are you and how has life been treating you?
Life has been treating me no different to anyone else’s, constantly evolving, challenging, fun, not so fun at times, it gives me time to grow and discover things about myself and my surroundings.
You have been a DJ for many years, cementing yourself as a firm favourite in the urban music industry in Australia as a pioneer Rnb / Hip Hop DJ. How has the journey been for you and how has it changed over the years?
My Journey has been very rewarding and taxing at the same time. When I was growing up there was no manual to being a successful DJ or was there ever a manual to the business side of the art. Everything was a live and learn experience for me. Throughout my Journey I have made wise decisions and not so wise decisions, met some very inspiring individuals, travelled the world. There came a point over the years where I stopped relying or competing with anyone, I was very confident in myself and my ability, I had been in the game long enough to see history repeat itself so now I am very prepared for anything that comes my way.
As a DJ myself I have always looked towards the original pioneers like you when it came to calling on inspiration for my own career ….. Who would you say has been your inspiration during your career and why?
On a Spiritual level I can’t go without saying God, or the Universe or whatever you wish to call the greater force. I say this because there is no way in the world you can achieve long term success without being one with the creator. I am very connected with my spirituality and there have been a few times I lost that connection and as a result my world came crashing down a few times. When I am one with the creator then the creator blesses me with the skill set to achieve what I desire.
On a Musical level
– Afrika Bambatta – Bambatta taught me the art of being a DJ period and also how to be a Human Being.
– Teddy Riley – Teddy once let me venture inside the genius of his mind. I remember taking home with me many valuable lessons.
– John Morales – John & I have been good friends for a while now. He’s worked with countless artists from the Rolling Stones, Aretha Franklin to Jocelyn Brown. He is like a big brother to me when i need quick advice whether it be about music or relationships John has always been there for me.
– DJ Steve Dee – Steve being one of the most influential DJ in the history of Hip Hop showed me a lot of tough love as a Teen. Even though he had a lot the musical knowledge he would never give me the answer, always encouraged me to do the homework.
– Ernie Pinacolli – Ernie is one of the Elders in Hip Hop besides being the chief photographer for Word Up Magazine. He is an ambassador of life. I’ve had the honour of working with Ernie on a photo shoot and got to spend some time with him. Having him in my life is like a constant reminder of what my purpose is.
On a Friendship level.
– Mirrah – Mirrah & I are bonded in many capacities, she is like my best friend. sister, mother, She’s the MC and I’m her DJ. We compliment and look after each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
– Steven ‘Tevo’ Guzman – Tevo is another person that is highly innovative and driven being one of his best friends in the industry is like having a training partner at the gym constantly motivating each other to keep to a certain pace.
You have seen the Australian urban music community for some time now but have always veered away from the norm with your music style and overall music philosophy being that you represent the Zulu Nation international hip hop community. Can you please explain to my readers what The Zulu Nation is based on, your role in that community and how have you translated its teachings and music philosophy on your own radio show called Sounds of the Zulu Nation here in Sydney?
I don’t think i would call it my own musical style. My style is Hip -Hop in its original re-manifestation re contextualised to give both an old school and new school flavour. The Zulu Nation is a Global Hip Hop Movement headed by Afrika Bambatta since 1973. The Zulu Nation are the creators of the culture known as Hip Hop.
*The Universal Zulu Nation stands for: KNOWLEDGE, WISDOM, UNDERSTANDING, FREEDOM, JUSTICE, EQUALITY, PEACE, UNITY, LOVE, RESPECT, WORK, FUN, OVERCOMING THE NEGATIVE TO THE POSITIVE, ECONOMICS, MATHEMATICS, SCIENCE, LIFE, TRUTH, FACTS, FAITH, AND THE ONENESS OF GOD.*
My role in the Zulu Nation was originally a Chapter Leader my role has since changed to the Australian Media Director. This involves overseeing any media related content involving the Zulu Nation and its members locally and Internationally in Australia.
For those that are passionate about Hip Hop and wish to learn more about the culture. I have established in 2010 the Sounds of the Zulu Nation Radio Show as a ‘Lighthouse’ for those that wish to be guided by it.
DJ MK-1 and Grandmaster Flash
What is it about the art of djing that has kept you in this game for as long as it has John? Has the art form changed due to technology such as Serato and USB ports etc. …..or has it enhanced the DJ’s capabilities even more?
I’ve been in this game now for 20 years. For most of that I have always
done what I wanted to do creatively. I am fortunate that there are enough people out there that appreciate me for doing just that. I haven’t had an issue with technology and the options it gives for expression. Technology has certainly enhanced the art or Deejaying at the same time is has made so called Deejaying very accessible to the masses which has heavily impacted the social, spiritual and economic value of the DJ.
You are known for your stellar mixtapes comprising of soul and hip hop to Brazilian and world music. You are also tour DJ for the impressive L-FRESH the Lion and have toured with and played alongside some great names in the game – what is it about being a DJ and one in a community like Australia that keeps you on the grind as much as you are?
My blessings are intertwined with those who have the same passion and drive. I love being around anyone with a passion. I am often inspired by them. Knowing people like makes it easier for you to tap into you inherent genius only motivates you more to create.
MK-1 and (l-r) DJ Sarah Love, Malikah Mirrah and Ms Hennessey
Something interesting or surprising you can share with us about DJ MK-1?
– Certain Women have made me into the man I am today.
– Certain Women have been the arms and legs of my success.
– Certain Women have inspired many of my mix tapes.
– One particular Woman is the reason I named myself MK-1
– My Successes and failures is closely linked with the type of relationship I have with certain women.
Where can people catch you spinning, hear your mixes currently etc?
Check our fan page ‘Sounds of the Zulu Nation’ on Facebook for updates. Soul of Sydney has been nice enough to host my mixes on their Sound Cloud Page.
What song would you say describes you and your role / mission in this industry or life and why?
I’ll give you two.
ROLE/MISSION IN THE INDUSTRY
LISTEN AND NO EXPLANATION FROM ME IS NEEDED.
DJ Revolution ft. KRS-One-The DJ – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yE3U8AqGsnk
Mary J Blige, My Life…1994 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IN3yMjnyXyU
My Journey Started in 1994. Song is about struggle and being one with God.
Always Hip Hop,