DJ Semtex: Do The Work
DJ Semtex hugely increased Wale’s Twitter following after the UK Disc Jockey called him out for blowing off an interview. Wale gave up on Twitter, the two made amends, Wale returned to Twitter and has since become one of the most update friendly emcees. Meanwhile DJ Semtex has continued to do what he does best, carefully and skillfully get inside the heads of today’s top Hip Hop artists. In addition, he still makes the club rounds, and serves as Dizzee Rascal’s official DJ. Here, DJ Semtex talks with us about 15 plus years in the game, how far originality and work ethic will take you, the power of Twitter, Oasis and much more. Check it out below.
RubyHornet: Thank you for your time…What’s the day to day like for DJ Semtex nowadays?
DJ Semtex: It’s literally day & night, rather than day to day. I leave the House at 10am, then anything can happen depending on who is in town or what project I’m working on.
RubyHornet: You’re on the other end of interviews with artists big and small. I’m sure many people ask you about your favorite interviews, any
DJ Semtex: Kanye West and Lil’ Wayne do the best interviews because you can never anticipate what they’re going to say. I might be up for a Sony award for my most recent interview with Kanye. I recently interviewed a kid called Charlie Sloth who is incredible. He plays the role of 5 different characters in one show, for the interview I interviewed Charlie the artist, then Charlie the manager, watch out for it on Semtex TV, it is crazy funny, but also a blast to do. It’s good to work with people doing something different, and yes, he did this well before Pimpin’ Curly existed.
RubyHornet: Obviously news, music, etc. is moving much faster with blogs, twitters, and so forth…Is it also getting better, or do you feel that the speed of music, DJing, and music journalism comes somewhat with a loss of quality?
DJ Semtex: Definitely. The net is a gift and the curse. Now you have the £50 DJ who will try to jack what you do, no respect for the artform, will play mixtape rips in the club, can’t mix etc…I’m sure journalists have similar issues with the ‘overnight journalist’. Kanye has the ultimate PR machine thanks to his blog, you’re going to see a lot more of this kind of action from other artists, due to the growing number of overnight journalists that use Wikipedia or TMZ for research, or can’t be bothered to use spell check.
RubyHornet: The path you took to being DJ Semtex, according to my research, started around 1992 and involved live shows, moving up through radio, and also doing A&R work for record labels. Looking at a DJ in 2009 that is the age you were in 1992, does that path still exist? What may be the same or different?
DJ Semtex: Yes, you’ve just got to hustle and figure it out as you go along. It’s probably a lot easier now to get on. Right now anything goes as long as you have originality and a killer work ethic. It is a case of go hard, or don’t get out of bed, and rot.
RubyHornet: I read that you were instrumental in starting 1xtra, the UK’s first national black station. Can you speak on the significance of 1xtra for the UK, and how you got involved?
DJ Semtex: 1xtra is the hottest radio station in the UK for Urban music, they don’t discriminate about where you’re from, who you’re affiliated with, etc. As long as the music is hot, they’ll give it a chance. I was there from the beginning when it was called Network X. Having undeniable passion to achieve a goal helps. I was going to get on 1xtra whether they liked it or not lol!
RubyHornet: What’s the general consensus about Oasis nowadays? Does “Wonderwall” get any play over there? Just wondering…
DJ Semtex: Yep, its a classic!
RubyHornet: You are Dizzee Rascal’s tour DJ, how do you feel about his reception in the U.S.? Has he shared his thoughts on his place in America’s Hip Hop scene with you? Want to share them with us?
DJ Semtex: Dizzee is the number 1 MC in the UK, and the rest of Europe. If you can tour the whole world constantly, sell albums in the UK and get a number 1 independently, do you really need to sweat the U.S. market? 99% of U.S. artists can’t get it in, in their own country. When people finally do ‘get it’ in the U.S. he will go clear, but for now he’s the king of his own castle.
RubyHornet: Being that you are a bearer of information, where do you go to stay fresh? What are some other spots you’re familiar with and check out on a regular basis?
DJ Semtex: I watch everything, and keep in touch with a lot of people.
RubyHornet: I got the chance to meet you at SXSW. There’s so much to do there, it’s easy to get caught up. What did you end up doing while in Austin? Anything you wish you would have caught?
DJ Semtex: I basically stayed at the G.O.O.D Music stage. I was there for 1 day. I wanted to catch B.O.B, and Asher Roth, and more. These guys are going to have huge careers and take Hip Hop forward to a different level in 09′.
RubyHornet: Your UK radio counterpart, Tim Westwood, kind of went in a little bit on Asher Roth during his interview. Did you happen to catch that, if so what are your thoughts? What role does Tim Westwood play for UK radio, has he influenced you at all?
DJ Semtex: Tim is a pioneer and a legend within the UK scene. He’s put in the work over the years.
RubyHornet: What do you see as the relationship between the UK and US as far as Hip Hop goes. While it seems like Americans are somewhat quick to embrace UK rock, we still kind of shrug about Hip Hop. Any thoughts on why that is?
DJ Semtex: It’s like selling Ice to Eskimos. A lot of people see MIA as a cool UK act, she’s cleaned up in the U.S. and it’s probably the best example of what needs to be done.
I think we need to focus on sticking to our sound/format…on the flipside you guys are loving Estelle who is actually a UK rapper.
RubyHornet: You called out Wale on Twitter a couple months back for kind of blowing off an interview, and you since made amends with him. Beyond that situation, which I find happens to me 1 out of every 5 or so interviews, is quite common and frustrating. What do you see at the heart of the problem, is there a discrepancy in the respect levels writers have for artists and vice versa?
DJ Semtex: It’s very simple. If you want to sell more than 10 records, you have to do the work. You have to be able to host great interviews to get your story across. People want to buy into artists more than ever before, but they also want to know about them than ever more. Funnily enough, the Wale incident indirectly did that for him, after he left Twitter his following grew by a couple of thousand, and he will probably be one of the most interviewed artists of the year. People wanted to know what was going on, even though it was a minor incident that lasted 2 hours. I honestly didn’t know the impact of Twitter until that happened, I actually didn’t know how it worked properly until then…Every year there is a new generation of Hip Hop fans, they don’t know your story or care who you are unless you’re a multi-platnum artist [which is few and far between these days] or constantly on a global tour. You take a year out, you are starting from scratch again. A myspace page, or a blog that is run by ‘your man’, a few mixtapes isn’t enough…Whether artists like to admit it or not, they need the blogger, they need the DJ, they need to do a hot interview.
RubyHornet: Name 3 artists that came on the scene in the last year that you expect to be on the scene next year at this time…3 that may not be…
1. Kid Cudi
2. Asher Roth
3. Bobby Ray [the artist formally known as B.O.B.]
Three artists that may not be around
1. Any artist that hasn’t been on my show.
2. Any artist that hasn’t hit the UK for promo or shows.
3. Any artist that refuses to embrace the power of the net.
RubyHornet: Lastly, tell our readers where they can find out more about DJ Semtex.
DJ Semtex: DjSemtex.com, all day everyday.