26 Feb My Day Job: Riaan Botha | Broaden A New Sound
Riaan Botha is a man of many guises and the person behind all those parties you’ve been going to and loving for years. Yes, the ones with the fantastic names like Shut Up I’m Dancing, Space Travel Is Boring and Disco De Moda. When it comes to music, no one know more about what’s so-new-it’s-not-even-released-yet, than Riaan. Here, we chat to the guy whose day job makes our nights out a sonic adventure.
What is your official (or unofficial) job title?
Music Curator and Event Designer. I curate the music at Kitchener’s in Braamfontein and with my own events under the umbrella name Broaden A New Sound. My own parties/brands include Disco De Moda and others I do with partners like Sunday Jive and Hi5. I am also a DJ, the easiest way for me to spread the love of the underground, the stuff you might not have heard of yet. Unofficially, people call me things like “tastemaker”, which is fine to an extent I guess.
Music and parties… we all love them, but very few of us think of that as a career path. How did you get into doing what you do?
It started as a way to promote the music that I imported through my store in Melville called Canned Applause Records. My first ever event “Damn The Man” was an event to launch my store and I hosted bands like BLK JKS before they became famous. Then events kind of just became a part of everything that I do. And it helps enjoying what you do, so I guess I am one of the lucky ones.
What characteristics and skills does it take to do what you do?
Overall, for what I do and what sets me apart is my music knowledge and taste. It’s pretty specific, really current and super eclectic. Also the knack for putting together a line-up in a way that gives it complimentary flow throughout I would think is one of my strong points.
Events wise, characteristics… Honesty and strong ethics I believe comes first. The artists you book are the most important so even if you lose money you need to pay them no matter what. Events are realistically a risky endeavour. There are too many chancers in this industry that don’t do that.
Skill wise, personally, since what I promote is more underground than usual, I do most of the things myself. From the artist bookings through to all the logistics of hosting the event, the artwork (either doing the graphic design myself or paying someone else to do it) and managing everything behind the scenes. I most recently employed someone to take on the Press and PR side of it all, so as things grow I am sure some more delegation will come into play. And patience. I am often too ahead in this game, current with sounds breaking in the rest of the world. Most of the music I promote will only catch on as a trend or break in some other way months or even a year later. Or never. But hey, I am Broadening A New Sound, you know? I help break acts and sounds, that’s my niche. So I can’t really complain.
What do you love most about what you do?
I love introducing people to new music.
And like the least?
Losing money on events.
In the years that you’ve been involved in music and parties, what are some of the important lessons that you’ve learned along the way?
Make sure you can cover the money that you might lose on an event. Don’t even think of hosting something if you can’t cover everything in case no one comes. Don’t book someone you don’t know or feel 100% about. Trust your gut. Get EVERYTHING on paper.
You’ve played a significant hand in creating a particular music scene in Joburg – what’s always been behind you, driving you on; inspiring what you do?
Again, introducing people to new music is a constant. I also like the thought that in some way I can help new sounds develop, a combination of influences that make for something fresh and exciting. There is also of course the select few that have supported me in everything along the way and without them I would not be able to keep going. Especially my fiancé, she has supported me the longest, her patience and entertaining my crazy notions have helped work towards the bigger picture. I actually do a terrible job of promoting myself and what I do, I am just someone in the background doing what I do. Chances are people have gone to an event of mine and really enjoyed themselves and thought it was cool, but they have no clue who is behind it all. But I’m totally OK with that, I thrive with less spotlight on me. As a DJ, literally! But then again I realize I need to work on that now to grow it all more so hey, you’ll probably hear or see more of me soon!
You’re something of a chameleon, slipping between musical alter egos – can you tell us a little about each of these ‘characters’, and what you love about each one…
Yeah, I DJ under various aliases. It came naturally since I love way too many different types of music to play it all out under one guise. Also I can’t just play the same music, like House for example, for a whole set; I just get too bored. I need to change things up within each set with each alias.
I have ascribed certain sounds to each alias, or ‘character’, for more cohesive sets and performances. It’s way more focused that way. I have even enjoyed buying clothes more because I can dress up in a certain vibe for each one. These are them:
Data Takashi. My modern disco, dance punk, punk funk, slo mo, house, techno, Balearic, 80s etc. alias. Fashion sense: nautical, tropical, 80s and dance punk.
DT was my first DJ name and it’s my most comfortable, fully realized alias. I am a rock n roll kid at heart so when I discovered Dance Punk and the like (DFA Records, LCD Soundystem and The Rapture etc.) I got into beat matching and mixing for the first time – so you could say I found my way into dance music in quite a backwards way. Also, House music you can mix with one hand behind your back! Disco and Dance Punk etc. is more hands on, more challenging, it has a live element to it so it’s not perfectly on a click or a beat. It’s more fun! And if you can pull it off there is nothing quite like it and that is something I really enjoy!
DJ Danger Ingozi. My (predominantly) Bass music alias. It’s my most progressive alias and I tend to experiment way more with the kinds of music I play out. Lots of ‘future’ bass vibes and a sound I have nicknamed “Township Funky”. I also have a soft spot for dub too so it’s the alias I use for my We Heart Dub sets where I just play dub, reggae, ska and dubstep. I love those sets. Thank goodness it’s pretty regular. Fashion sense: Tribal, African, Futuristic. Most fun thing is seeing people respond to something that is pretty crazy and to top it receiving a fist bump (mad respect), ‘cause then you know you doing something right regardless of how crazy!
Plaat Japie. My ‘Pop’ alias. Mostly indie pop and rock n roll mixed with all kinds of retro stuff like swing or electro swing, rare groove, a bit of hip hop (without being too cheesy) etc. I also do weddings, corporates and themed parties under this alias as well as the odd ‘background music’ set at art exhibitions. Fashion sense: Casual, unless a dress up theme. What I most enjoy about my Plaat Japie sets is beat mixing songs together that you wouldn’t think of and making it work.
Brahm & Fontein. This is Data Takashi and my Kitchener’s partner Andrew The DJ playing together. Total club music vibes: House, Techno & Disco. It’s fun playing with someone else!
There seems to be a continual evolution of new sub, sub, SUB genres in music… is this infinitesimal categorisation a distilling of sounds, or perhaps, a diluting?
I can see how some would think that, but I actually enjoy it. I think sub genres add colour to sounds – it’s added vocabulary to a language. It gives you a timeline, perspective, a history. It’s like a family tree of sound. It can give the main root or genre new life, make something old new again. It’s exciting!
Let me give you an example, an aged one at that – Dubstep. What people call Dubstep these days is actually Electrostep. If you know the history of the sound and you’re not just a sheep, you can find out and hear the difference, it’s a google away! I don’t like (or listen to) electrostep, but I like dubstep and still play some out now and again, though mostly in my dub/roots sets.
Sub genres also definitely helps me source my music – to wade through the crazy amount of music getting released every day. Whenever there is a new made up genre name I investigate it and if it’s something I like then I know I should check out a release in that genre whenever I come across it. It’s also worth noting that these sub genres often stem from a whole little scene happening somewhere with like-minded artists working together and doing something new and exciting. I would not be able to do what I do without that really.
“Shut up I’m dancing”, “Canned Applause”, “Damn the Man”…you’ve got a knack for cracking good names; tell us a little about the thinking and conceptualising that goes into creating each new event…
These days it’s often just me having fun and referencing a song title of an artist I feel represents the sound I am promoting. If it’s a song title people recognize then that’s even better. People might identify the song with an artist they love and then it helps get them excited for the event and gives them an idea of what music to expect. To me, naming a party after a song is also a tribute and I like the idea of putting it out there in the universe like that. Often at the Disco De Moda parties one of the DJs will play out the song the party is named after, sometimes more than one DJ will play it or play a remix of it and then it becomes a little anthem for the night!
As with my DJ aliases, each of my brands have their own identities and collection of complimentary sounds. Disco De Moda for example is also my Data Takashi residency.
But usually the song title will come first and then I most often give it to my graphic designers and they know the identity of the brand so I leave it open to interpretation and trust that they will nail it with the design.
Alternatively I will get asked about booking a band and then I will first think of the best bands that can complement the line-up and take it from there. Basically the music always comes first. It’s the inspiration behind everything else that goes into the conceptualisation. My designers and I also try to stay in touch or current with design trends at the time or at the very least the design styles of the music we are referencing.
For example, I did a swing style party as a tribute to Baz Luhrman’s movie “The Great Gatsby” around the time of its release just for fun. I ended up calling it “It Don’t mean A Thing if It Ain’t Got That Swing” since it wasn’t strictly a swing music party (tribute to Baz Luhrman and all) and I wanted to leave the music a bit open to interpretation for the DJs too. But the design and styling was very “roaring twenties” including a 20s style Cocktail menu. People could also dress up for a discount.
Damn The Man was a reference to Empire Records, and a tribute to the underdog. Funnily enough the store at that time was located in a converted garage space on the premises of Underdog Productions. Canned Applause, a reference to Radiohead around the time they were recording “The Bends” and Shut Up I’m Dancing was having fun with the idea that it’s all about the music.
Truth be told I also just really like naming things!
What have been some of your highlights along the way?
Shut Up I’m Dancing at the “Cosmic” Ten pin Bowling Alley in Bramley was my first party series and was really fun and a learning experience. The rooftop gigs I have done at the Lister Medical building in town 19 stories up like Space Travel Is Boring and We Own The Sky are definitely highlights. Most recently, Marcus Marr with Disco De Moda, my first international headliner for the brand and I finally got to put a DFA Records thunderbolt on one of my posters, which was a big deal for me! It’s also of course a highlight seeing bands I hosted along the way cross over to a bigger audience!
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
I actually wanted to be a helicopter pilot after I saw Airwolf for the first time.
What are you listening to now?
Everything. My working day is pretty much going through new music while I work on whatever. So it can be stuff I am sourcing for my new record store’s catalogue, stuff I will be playing out with my next DJ set so it’s really across the board. There’s good stuff in every genre, you just need to look hard enough and I spend my time doing just that.
What should everyone be listening to?
John Wizards. One of my favourite albums of last year AND they are South African. Best production I have come across locally. Super proud of it being so ridiculously fresh and released on an amazing, forward thinking overseas label, Planet Mu!
I am working on a new event with 2 stages and a killer line-up: Spoek’s new band FANTASMA, John Wizards for the first time in Jozi, The Brother Moves On, Motel Mari, Felix Laband, The Watermark High and more.
Also working towards the launch of my new Bass brand BELOW THE BASSLINE and sourcing international guests for all my brands and projects that I am involved in and looking for new spaces to host various parties/events at.
In between all of that in what folks would call spare time I am finishing up my Broaden A New Sound website which at the moment is mostly a portfolio for all the events I have done. The site will officially launch soon as the Radio/Podcast, Reviews section, online store, etc. are done. And soon as the online store is finished all the loose ends will get tied up nicely! There will also be a physical space of some kind for the store with pop up versions coming to a place near you.
Listen to more of Riaan’s mixtapes on the Broaden a new Sound Mixcloud channel.
Party/event photos by Maxine Rothbart-Thomik