Ten years ago (2007) UPZ dropped his self titled debut album which featured his breakout single “Pure Surprise” and secured him a no.1 hit in South African in 2009. In 2012 UPZ’s album “Pioneers of House: UPZ” (Soul Candi) included production collaborations with Black Coffee, Black Motion & Qness.
This was only the beginning of an illustrious career and now to celebrate this 10 year milestone, UPZ has released a brand new album entitled ‘Drop It’ with track features incl. Sió, BlackwHole, Thantaswa, Mariechan, Proverb, Pearl, Lifford, Chris Rouse, Shantéh, Obi Sanaa & Jocelyn Mathieu.
Most people who decide to enter the music industry take it on as a musician/ singer.. – why producing?
“I actually started as a muso. I played some keys and later guitar as a teen. I ended up in a couple of bands…rock/indie at university and I even played in some Jazz bands. But I was always a bit frustrated with the band dynamics and for me personally, jamming especially. You jam and then…nothing. You enjoy it while it’s happening and at the end there is no ‘product’. I was hooked and almost possessed when I discovered production. I realized I could make a project from songwriting to recording until final product in the comfort of my own home.”
Do you remember the first song you ever produced – elaborate?
“When you start producing you don’t usually start with a song. You rather start with various ideas, beats, musical elements. Sometimes it sounds really horrible, haha. The first track I released though under UPZ was called ‘Moment With U’, on a respected UK label at the time called Cr2 and it also came out on vinyl alongside a well known producer called Tom Novy.”
What makes someone a great producer – what qualities does a person need to be distinguished from the rest?
“A great producer understands ‘the feel’ element to a song. They need to understand the musical surrounds and try imprint their own sound or style. A good producer needs to know how to bring together all the multiple elements behind a production i.e the songwriting, vocalist, delivery, musicality, groove and feel to the song whilst making it emotional and accessible at the same time. There are different producer roles out there, so I’m mainly referring to that of the electronic music producer.”
How has your background; being Israeli, having traveled and lived in Africa and now residing in South African, helped you create your unique sound?
“I was born in Israel but left with my family at the age of 5, and relocated to Kenya (for 2 years) and thereafter South Africa until after Uni…so the South African experience has affected my music most due to the many years I have spent here. I used to hang out quite a lot in Jazz spots in Jozi actually, more so than house clubs, and enjoyed watching live bands. When in Tel-Aviv I become more exposed to house (ironically enough as the scene is not that big there) and particularly soulful, vocal house, and because I enjoyed it so much, that is the direction I wanted to explore when producing.”
Why is DROP IT such a milestone for you?
“It’s my third album, and it closes a 10 year cycle as UPZ. I recently noticed that each UPZ album has come out in 5 year increments with various singles in between. The first came out in 2007 with Rambling Records (Japan), the second in 2012 with Soul Candi under the “Pioneers of House” series and the third “Drop It” is with soWHAT Records, a boutique label which I own. “Drop It” will also be the final UPZ album.”
Is there a defining moment in your career that stands out for you?
“There were various milestones. I mean in a way each album released is a milestone. It takes years sometimes to work on an album, so that could be seen as a defining artistic moment. Having said that I still feel ‘The Defining Moment’ is (hopefully) yet to come! :)”
You are very particular with who you work with, what do you look for in a musician, in order to collaborate with him/her?
“Someone that stands out vocally and artistically. If it’s a vocalist, then their style of singing and songwriting abilities, their vocal texture and delivery. If it’s producers than those that have a great feel for groove and drum programming, and musically I like composers that have a knack for chords, composition and songwriting.”
Which one song of yours best defines you as a producer and why?
“I think I have still yet to write and produce the song that defines me as a producer. I don’t yet feel I have reached the ultimate level of a production and songwriting that I think I can achieve. But the song that defines UPZ amongst South Africans is Pure Surprise (of which I recently did a new lyric video after never releasing a music video when it came out in 2007.) From a production aesthetics point of view, I am quite pleased with a track called ‘What’s The Point’ with Danny J and Nuwella, that was released on the esteemed house US label Strictly Rhythm. From the new album I like production aesthetics of ‘And In Time’ with BlackwHole and ‘Disco Girl’ feat Jocelyn Mathieu (great vocal too), both of which have also been selected as singles.”
What do you think needs to improve in the music industry in South Africa?
“I am usually quite complimentary to the SA music industry. I know there are some complaints from various artists & circles but focusing on the positive, what I like about the industry is that it is quiet open to a number of genres so not only, house, hiphop and afro-soul but also indie and rock (to an extent). What I would like to see is more support for SA music on radio and less ‘clique’s’ where compilers and radio jocks support their mates and colleagues, also, more open mindedness to other genres amongst the more genre specific radio stations would be important in expanding the musical pallete and taset of the general populace.”
“There is also a huge and growing digital market out there and SA is catching up, but is still several years behind what is going on in the rest of the world; for example Spotify has become a very important outlet to hear and consume new music, yet it is still unavailable in SA.”
What advise you would give to your younger self – ten years ago?
“I would tell myself to make more focussed, strategic decisions and invest more time in crafting songs and productions for example, focus on less number of tracks and more on the individual quality of each track. I would probably also delegate more tasks to seasoned professionals whether it is from a marketing point of view or even certain production elements instead of trying to take most of it on yourself.”
Buy the new album here: https://itunes.apple.com/za/album/drop-it/id1295989196