Music and drug culture have long been closely associated. Since the days of the “Summer of Love” in early 1967, people have used illicit substances to enhance their experiences of concerts and festivals, and even just daily life.
But while this love-affair with psychedelic experiences was seen as a loved-up notion, it also exposed a darker underbelly of drug use, dealing, and indeed, the fragility of humanity when under the influence of any mind-altering substance for an extended period of time.
If there’s anything we can learn from the “Death of the Hippie”— a mock funeral used to signify the end of the “Summer of Love”—it would be that people don’t always see when they’ve had too much of a good thing.
Fast forward to the early nineties, just years after the “Second Summer of Love” in 1988-1989, and a young Jerome Dreyer is making moves on the DJ circuit in Cape Town as DJ Viper. Young and impressionable, he becomes a well-known name, before losing it all to drug addiction in 2001.
After four visits to rehab in the last 14 years, Viper 2.0 emerged as a fresh face in 2012—with a positive outlook, new ideas and a brand new party to bring punters together in the name of house music.
Ahead of the launch of his Soulshaker Movement this weekend, we chat with Viper to find out more about his inspiring story and what lies ahead for him in the future.
Where did your journey as a DJ begin?
My journey with music and the love for DJing started in the early ‘90s with acid house and hip hop, while attending the matinees at the Base nightclub and Space Odyssey. I was fascinated and blown away by how DJs have the ability to take partygoers on a musical journey. A few years later in 1994, I decided to give DJing a go and asked local mobile DJs in my area to show me the basics. I was hooked immediately!
Can you describe what partying and DJing was like in the '90s?
It was awesome! Every club had its residents that was totally amazing. Even DJs would club-hop to various venues after their sets and say "hi" to fellow DJs maybe even spinning a few tracks there. There was a cool sense of community. I guess it’s still the same today, but there’s so much more to experience and you’re really spoilt for choice.
After many years as DJ Viper, you hit a rocky patch in your life. How did it happen and how did that affect your outlook and passion for DJing?
Between 2001 and 2002, after succeeding as a DJ on the local Cape Town scene, I began to experiment with drugs. This was the beginning of a downward spiral that I didn’t see coming, and piece by piece I started losing myself and my passion for everything. My DJ career faded as I dove deeper into addiction, until it was completely gone. At the time, all I cared about was getting high.
What brought you to realise that you had hit rock bottom?
Love! After being completely broken, ashamed and hopeless, the love of my wife, kids, family and close friends really broke through to my soul. I didn’t want to give up on life anymore. I was determined to give recovery my all! Even after failing a few times, the desire to get clean remained.
How did you pick yourself up and find your new direction?
2012 was my final stint in rehab, and I was determined to use all the advice from other ex-addicts and all tools I had available to get well. I basically had to learn to crawl, then walk, unlearn the “addict” behavior, and eventually build up confidence in myself. This was a process of about three years—just trying to stay clean and begin to trust myself. After reacquiring some DJ gear, I got some new music and started all over as a bedroom DJ again.
At the end of 2016 and the beginning 2017, I produced two parties, and the response I received from the crowd at the events was amazing. The support and well wishes from very special Cape Town radio DJs, and close well-known DJ friends after the event, gave me the boost I needed to really start DJing again. After not believing in myself for such a long time, it was really heartwarming.
How important was it for you to reinvent yourself as Viper 2.0? What did it signify for you?
The 2.0 was something I joked around with while chatting to my family and friends. But it actually made so much sense as a new-and-improved version of myself. Once I scored a residency on Good Hope FM’s ‘The Main Stage Show’ playing underground house, I decided to go full-on with the name as a house music DJ.
Now, with a fresh perspective and a few gigs around the city, how do you feel about moving forward and reigniting your love for DJing?
I’m very excited about what’s to come. There’s such a lot of awesome talent out there and the industry has grown so much. A close DJ friend of mine always says: “There’s a place under the sun for everyone”, and I couldn’t agree more. With new technology and music at the drop of a hat, you have to stay focused and sharp, otherwise you’ll get left behind. Once the passion hits you, like it did with me, no mountain is too high. It’s all about making people happy through our presentation of music.
One of your latest projects is the Soulshaker Movement event this weekend. How what do you strive to accomplish with the party?
My love for house music and the way it’s evolved, got me thinking of creating a space and platform to showcase all the sub genres, especially tribal and tech house, as well as promote some up and coming DJ talent. A space to get lost in drums and different house music flavors. With so many cool parties and brands out there, we just looking to ad our flavor to the scene and hopefully take it internationally.
What is the essence behind Soulshaker Movement?
The essence behind this movement is love and camaraderie deep within your Soul, with house music being the catalyst.
Is there anything else we can look forward to from Viper 2.0 this year?
I’ve been making some connections with some hot international producers and DJs that would love to visit SA. There’s also an opportunity to do an exchange project to showcase our guys in the United States and Europe. I think the talent here in SA deserves more recognition internationally, so I’ll be working on trying to promote that. Other than that, trust me to find the best dance music and druk it on the dance floor.
Tell us something people don’t know about you.
I secretly belt out to ‘70s, ‘80s & ‘90s love songs when I’m alone in my car. I think I’m actually a good singer, but I’ll rather stick to Djing.