Some of you may know that Brighton’s very own Wild Life Festival held a competition a number of weeks ago, offering a DJ slot to whoever could create the best mix. The contestants were asked to post their mixes on Twitter with the hashtag #WILDLIFEDJ. The hopefuls were then shortlisted before the winner was chosen by Koppaberg UK and, festival organisers, Disclosure themselves. After much deliberation the winner was announced yesterday – University of Sussex student and budding DJ, HenryJ was handpicked to perform on the Saturday alongside other big names from the music world.
We managed to nab an interview with the winner himself, HenryJ. Here’s what he had to say about life as a DJ, nightlife in Brighton and how it feels to be performing at Wild Life weekend.
Brighton Journal: Hi Henry, congratulations on being announced the winner of Wild Life’s DJ slot competition. How did you find out about it?
HenryJ: I found out about the competition in an article written by University Radio Falmer (URF) on their website, which I found shared on Facebook through their members page, as I do a radio show with them.
B: So, what inspired you to take the opportunity to enter your mix in this competition?
H: I guess what inspired me was the thought that I didn’t have anything to lose by trying, and I’ve wanted for ages to be able to kick start getting more shows, and saw this as a great way of doing this, even if I didn’t win (which I 100 percent did not expect), just because other people may potentially see it. However, although it sounds cliched, you have to enter to win it.
B: And how does it feel to know you’ll be playing amongst such iconic names as Jackmaster, Denis Sulta and Armand Van Helden?
H: It’s absolutely unbelievable to know I’ll be playing alongside some of my favourite DJs, and something I’ve wanted to do for a while, but always thought it was an unlikely dream.
B: When you entered, did you think you had a good chance of winning?
H: Not at all really, I had a quick glance at some of the other entries, and honestly they were fantastic. I couldn’t believe a huge panel and Disclosure themselves would favour mine.
B: So it’s safe to say you were taken by surprise when you found out?
H: I was completely shocked, let alone surprised. I was convinced at first it was some spam email because when you put your email out there on Soundcloud and the like, you do get some weird emails. But after checking Murray Chalmers PR, who initially sent the email, and seeing their following on Twitter etc., I realised it was in fact true.
B: How does it feel to know that your entry was handpicked by the organisers of Wild Life, Disclosure themselves?
H: It feels amazing. I feel truly honoured (again sounds cliche but completely true). I’ve been a massive fan of Disclosure for years, and it’s mad to think they have listened to my mix and chosen it as a winner.
B: Have you attended the festival before? If so, how was it, if not what made you more appealed to it this year?
H: I have not been to Wild Life before, but what drew me this year was how close it was to the end of my exams, so a really good way to finish my second year at Sussex University, as well as a stormer of a line-up, including Jackmaster, Armand Van Helden, Disclosure etc. I was always intending to go before I even heard about the competition.
B: Those are some pretty big names, so how do you expect the Koppaberg Urban Forest stage to be different to previous sets you’ve played?
H: I expect it to be different compared to club nights I’ve done, as I feel I will have more freedom during my set. Most of the stuff I have done in Brighton (apart from Midnight Funk Association) has been early, warm-up stuff, so I haven’t been able to truly play my own style, despite this, I would not feel confident playing at Wild Life if I hadn’t first got these sets. Also, I think playing in the afternoon will be a nice change, and might reflect a difference in what I’ll play, but we will have to wait and see.
B: Your previous mixes are more techno based, what inspired you to go more funky with this one?
H: While most of the stuff I’ve posted is more techno and tech house orientated, I’ve always loved (often preferred) feel good party atmosphere music, and is what I originally started mixing. I suppose I chose a more funky mix for this competition because I think that festivals require a certain ‘party’ atmosphere, especially when you’re playing during the day, and I wanted to keep it more lighthearted. I’ve always wanted to do a more ‘garagey’ set as well, so I guess that influenced it.
B: So did you feel inspired by the Wild Life line up when you created your winning mix?
H: Yes, I definitely felt inspired by the line up to some extent. I really love what the likes of Horse Meat Disco, Jackmaster, and Denis Sulta have been doing, especially when I’ve seen them play in the past, and I’ve always preferred to hear multiple genres during sets.
B: You named some big names there, who are you most excited to see over the weekend?
H: Who am I most looking forward to seeing? Well, Jackmaster always delivers, but I’m also looking forward to seeing some new acts, such as Fatboy Slim, Chaka Khan and Joe Goddard (live), although I can’t pin down one act I’m most looking forward to seeing. I definitely want to spend some of the weekend listening to live sets as well as DJs.
B: Sounds like it’ll be a busy weekend for you! Being a student at Sussex and a DJ you must know a thing or two about Brighton’s nightlife. What’s your favourite thing about the DJ and club scene here?
H: My favourite thing about Brighton’s nightlife scene is probably it’s variety. You can go out and choose to listen to something completely different to the next night. Also, people seem very friendly on nights out, and there is a certain sense of community amongst people going out in Brighton, perhaps because it’s a little smaller than other cities.
B: I’ll agree with you on that one! So you enjoy DJing in Brighton?
H: I’ve had a great time DJing in Brighton over the last year or so, and have especially enjoyed my residency at MFA (Midnight Funk Association) at Brighton’s well renowned club, Patterns. This is probably because it has a certain fun atmosphere about it, and I get to play some different stuff to what I normally go for in my mixes.
B: Where do you hope that this opportunity will take you in the future?
H: I can’t really say where this will take me in the future, I’m just so grateful to be given this opportunity. However, I’m studying for a year abroad in Adelaide, Australia as part of my degree, so I would love to be able to continue playing there. Even if that doesn’t happen, I would love to be able to warm up for exciting acts in the future. Quite simply, I just want to carry on playing music to people.
B: Sounds like a good place to start. Finally, what would you say to other young hopefuls, hoping to kickstart their DJ career through similar competitions to this?
H: While this is a difficult question, I would say that if you have a passion for it, go for it, and keep practising, you never know where it might lead you. If someone is having a party, ask if you can DJ it. I’d also say to anyone joining university, try things you wouldn’t think in a million years you would like, because you may change your mind. I first got the bug for DJing when I went to a DJ workshop on campus, so it can start anywhere. However, it takes a bit of luck, and I’m incredibly lucky to be in this situation, and I hadn’t planned for anything like this to happen, I just started doing something I really enjoy.
B: Wise words. We wish you the best of luck with your set at Wild Life and anywhere else your DJ career takes you!
Follow HenryJ on Souncloud.
Follow HenryJ on Twitter.
Follow HenryJ on Facebook.
Wild Life takes place on the 9th + 10th June. HenryJ will be playing on Saturday 10th June at the Koppaberg Urban Forest Stage. Set times will be included in programmes to be purchased over the weekend. Tickets are available to purchase here.
We’ll be covering Henry’s set on the day but in the mean time, to see which other DJs we’re most excited for, click here.