After the SA house music boom between 2010 and 2012, many local producers took to their DAWs to begin creating their own flavour. With the prominence of DJs like Kent and Euphonik, the period became saturated in cheesy, predictable “commercial” house, which dominated clubs and charts across the country.
But from the ashes of the once overplayed genre, rose a new generation of producers—honing their own sound against the waves of mediocrity
Over the last two years, Ashwin Julies, better known as Dwson (pronounced Dawson) has been mastering his dubby deep-soulful house compositions, landing him his first release on Danish label Deepwit Recordings in 2015.
He has since grown in leaps and bounds, releasing on local labels Just Move Records [JMR] and Cruel Section, and in the last year, has had his first taste of radio play from two of South Africa’s leading radio DJs.
Dwson is now a sought-after DJ and producer, forming part of a new wave of unadulterated DJs pushing the “dubbier” side of house music in Cape town.
We caught up with Dwson to find out more about his journey into the music industry.
Image by Jamie Busch
How long have you been producing music for?
Officially about four years, but I’ve been doing this for about six. So I spent two years trying to find my sound. I was in high school when I decided that this was what I wanted to do through listening to other people’s music, so that’s when the interest started. I got Reason 5 from a friend and started making tunes. I’m still using the same version to this day.
How did your first release come about?
I approached Alvaro of DeepWit Recordings based in Denmark in 2015. I had been a fan of his label so I knew kind of sound they push and what sound they would expect from me. At the time I wasn’t making music for the label, I was just making it for myself and it just seemed to fit.
What has formed your musical background?
I don’t have any musical background, but, like every coloured person in Cape Town, I was brought up with jazz playing in our home. But I never went to a music school or anything like that, I just did a year course at Soul Candi in 2012 where I learnt the basics of music theory. So didn’t know how to play a keyboard and didn’t know anything about scales. It took about a year of practice and within the next year I began to find my sound. And by 2015 I had my first release.
How would you define your sound?
My sound is emotion. It’s soul, emotive music. But I appreciate all the sub-genres in house music. If you listen to all of my releases and put them together you’ll hear it’s diverse, there’s soul in all of it, but there’s deep tech, there’s deep soul, there’s deep underground. I basically just make what I feel based on whatever mood I’m in. There’s no plan of what I want to do. It’s not music that I normally play but it’s me.
Which labels would you love to release on?
Definitely Innervisions. They’re totally different to the sound that I’m pushing, but I would love to sign to them in a few years. I’m pretty sure that I’m pushing the way I am at the moment, I will be able to land a release on that label. But I’m focusing more on the local labels. You can’t build somewhere else if you don’t build at home first. You’ve gotta get the people in your own city behind you first, because they are the ones that will spread the word.
Your songs have been played by the likes of Kid Fonque and Vinni Da Vinci, what is it like to have these pioneers in SA supporting your music?
I’ve always looked up to these cats, and to have icons like them, who listen to and play quality music to play your music, is an overwhelming experience. They’ve heard millions of songs and for them to be like ”yo this song is dope”, especially coming from someone producing music in their bedroom, is a dope feeling.
What has your experience of Johannesburg been like?
I played at Truth once, which was a lot bigger than what I expected. I thought it would just be chilled, but the love and the energy was amazing. The people were all chilling behind me while I was playing, like a Boiler Room kind of vibe, it was crazy.
What is 2017 looking like for you?
It’s going to be a big year! I've got some pretty exciting announcements to share, but for now it will remain a mystery. I’m just going with the flow, I don’t want to think about this journey too much, I just want to enjoy it. I know where I’m heading to, but I don’t want to set out too much and forget about the experience. You can get so caught up in accomplishing things that you end up not enjoying what you’re doing. But also, if you treat it like a hobby, you’ll get paid like it’s a hobby, so you have to keep pushing.
Image by Jamie Busch
Are there any local guys you’re keeping an eye on?
There are so many, but the JMR guys are doing great things. They have been a big influence in my career so far. In Jozi, everyone’s on top of their game as a unit. Although, Cape Town is very different in that sense. Everyone’s homies in Jo’burg, in Cape Town it’s about “I need to be the big guy”. As small as the scene is in Cape Town, we still aren’t able to come together.
What is your release schedule looking like for this year?
I’ve been releasing frequently over the last few months and I don’t want to keep pushing music and have people forget about the previous songs. So I want to give each release it’s own time. You have to be consistent but you can’t over do it. I have so much material at the moment, EPs, singles and remixes, that I have enough to last me through until next year. So I’m actually working on releases for next year already.
How do you maintain your tireless work ethic?
I don’t see it as work. This is my passion, this is what I love. I look forward to opening a project everyday and working on something. I don’t see the hours. I treat it like a job so I wake up early and work until 6PM, sometimes even later. I’m also not trying to be in competition with anyone, I’m doing my own thing and staying in my own lane. I try not to focus on what everyone else is doing, because you get lost in it. But it’s good to know where you are in comparison to the industry. If you don’t know where you are, you won’t know where you’re heading.
Which local producer would you like to work with?
There are too many, but I think Jazzuelle. I’m not in a rush to work with anyone but it would be dope to connect with him on a musical level.
What is your favourite party to play?
Besides my own party [Doperoom], it would probably be We House Sundays. The love there is real and you get to play what you want to play. They appreciate whatever you’re feeling.
Image by Ashiq J Photography