German Virtuoso DJ Explains The Critical Link Between Being A Creative And Being An Entrepreneur

At Heavy Chef’s end of year celebration lineup, one name that stands out from the entrepreneurs and technicians is JanuaryOne, the DJ who has taken up residency at some of the finest clubs in Cape Town. JanuaryOne will be closing out a long, tough, rewarding year for the Heavy Chef community. Far from his home in Germany, he established himself as one of Cape Town’s most in-demand creatives with residencies at highly acclaimed establishments like Asoka, Grand Africa, Jade and Orphanage. Guest appearances across the country have seen him share decks with some of the international greats of House Music. Weiss (UK), Hot Chip (UK), Superflu (GER) Ryan Murgatroyd and Goldfish (RSA). Not content with a straight up festival sound, however, over the years this enigmatic artist has been evolving his own sound called  #TANZMUSIK, a deeper and less obvious approach on House Music. JanuaryOne’s Music Podcast series reaches over thousands of listeners every month from well beyond the borders of Germany and South Africa. 

Before our year end event in Cape Town, I cornered the deep thinking virtuoso to find out his thoughts on business and being an artist in South Africa. 

JanuaryOne, as a DJ, do you consider yourself more as an artist or an entrepreneur? 

When I am in the booth I use creative material to have an impact. Reading and responding to the energy of people in a particular space is something that is unique to every person or every DJ for that matter, there are no hard rules on how to do it, the choice of tracks are the result of a subjective interpretation of the current energy and what is suitable to be the soundtrack for that moment. That is closer to art than entrepreneurship.

The marketing, communication with clients and colleagues, admin and everything else. however, is as much a regular business as every other. This often seems to be overlooked. 80% of the actual work as a professional DJ does not take place in the DJ booth. How you go about those 80% is how much of an entrepreneur you are. Since this is my full time profession and not a hobby or a side project every question I ask myself does have an entrepreneurial nature. How do I communicate? How and where could I grow? Smaller and bigger details about the identity of my DJ alias as a brand and so on. 

"80% of the actual work as a professional DJ does not take place in the DJ booth."

What's the most extraordinary gig you've ever played? 

Playing at Afrikaburn is special. The absence of money as a social measuring tool falls away more than it does in nightclubs or bars. The barrier for people to come and go is lower because nobody needs to worry about being over or underdressed, having to pay admission or book a table. If people stay, they stay for the music, the responsibility as a DJ to tie people in is much greater and the reward when things go well is too.

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You've attended a few Heavy Chef events now. What impresses you about the entrepreneur sector in South Africa? 

I find young businesses in Cape Town and in hospitality particular very creative. You often hear that being so far away at the very tip of Africa is a disadvantage and I suppose in many way it can be, but it also means that not everything that happens in London, Berlin, Barcelona is copied here in Cape Town two months later. There is a unique approach to many things that I believe to be an advantage rather than a handicap.

What advice do you have for young creatives working in South Africa? 

I grew up in Germany. One of the reasons I left is that life is very structured. By officials and administrations, politically, socially, there is very little air to breathe. When you cross a red robot as a pedestrian in Germany and a cop catches you you will be fined and it might even have an impact on your drivers license. In South Africa you can cross a red robot right in front of a police car and all that might happen is they might shout at you to walk faster. You do not necessarily need to break the law, but there is a more human and liberal take on things here. Make use of the longer leash.

Back in your land of origin, Germany, what do you think the secret is to the 'German efficiency' label that is so prevalent amongst German businesses? 

Similar to what I said earlier, the leash in Germany is tight. Things are so structured that the execution of a job can be much more mechanical than creative. To simplify this I want to say it is a streamline of automatisms. The moment you go too far to the right or left you will be put back into order. These automatisms are surely great for productivity but for creativity maybe not so much.

Thank you! - and good luck for the event. We look forward to letting our hair down with you. 

Readers of Heavy Chef can dive deeper into JanuaryOne's amazing talent at his SoundCloud page (click here) - or connect with him on Twitter, here