Hidden Beats

We Are Story Tellers

Today our Spotlight – DJ Killa-Jewel. We got the chance to chat with Killa-Jewel about her music and her latest release Sagittarius. Check it out right here!

To start us off how would you describe your essence or brand in a single sentence?

I’m an emotional, calculated, gritty, dark, and honest artist/DJ/Producer.

Tell us about your early days in music. Who got you your start? What were your first instruments?

When I was younger, I spent 10 years studying classical piano. By 17 I was ready to be creative in a new way, and that’s when I met DJ Mana.  He had been DJing for 6 years when we first met and he was an amazing teacher. He was really happy to teach me anything I wanted to know. He introduced me to Techno, House and Drum n Bass, and we practiced our mixing skills for close to 6 hours per day.

Scratching and Turntablism came into the picture a couple of years later when we migrated further into the Trip Hop and Hip-Hop scene, learning off of our friends and peers who had the same passion for the music as we did. I really felt accepted in the Hip-Hop world. For added motivation we would watch DJ Q-Bert’s ‘Turntable TVs’ and all of the instructional videos he would put out, feeling truly inspired by everyone around us. In a way, Hip-Hop and Turntablism helped me through some pretty rough times in my life. It was the perfect outlet for me, and I loved it.   

When you think about those early days, what was the best piece of music/career advice you have ever received?

The best advice I received I think was in the later stages of my career. As an independent artist, I would say yes to every opportunity because I felt that at that time it was important to get out there and try many different things. I’m happy I had that attitude because it did give me a ton of experience and I’m thankful for that now. Later, once I was a little more established, however, I was told that being a little more selective was important because not all opportunities would help me reach my goals; some were just a distraction from what I really wanted to achieve.

Now, when I think that way (and it’s not always easy because I inherently feel like a bad person for saying no), I notice that I can achieve certain milestones faster because I focus more on building a straight path to achieving my own goals and more time to focus on putting in the work needed to get there. It’s helped me feel a lot more productive and in control of my own destiny, which has been really empowering.

Every DJ has a piece of gear with a story behind it. What’s yours?

My turntables, of course! I remember the day I picked them up. They were second-hand but worked like a charm. They were my first babies. I was proud and beyond excited that they were my very own. Outside of some minor repairs over the years, those Technics 1200s are still going strong.

Take a look at your newest EP "Sagittarius" what inspired the name? Are you studious in the world of astrology?

When I come up with names for projects or songs I always try to find meaning and connection. The name ‘Sagittarius’ made so much sense, being that I am born in the month of Sagittarius. When I write music it comes from the depths of me and who I am as a product of all of my own life experiences. It’s very personal, like a journal but using sound to tell the story. I was never that well-versed in the world of astrology when I started out, but when I listened back to the songs and the sounds, they struck me as spacey and outer-worldly. From a very young age, I should point out that I was fascinated by the cosmos (and a huge and unapologetic Trekkie) so I’m certain that influences my music today.

As I delved a little deeper into what characteristics the Sagittarius personality type holds (energetic, adventurous, wild, curious, and courageous) I was pleasantly surprised at how much I had in common with my sign and thought it was the perfect name for this EP. Not long after the release of the record a friend of mine gifted to me “You Were Born for This”, the book by Chani Nicholas, and that further piqued my interest in astrology by helping me understand my birth chart.

How do you feel now that the EP has been out for a couple of months? Are you pleased with the way it was received by your audience?

I am pleased. I’m really excited that it charted here in Canada for the first few weeks and was even more honored by all the positive reviews. Music is a very personal thing and as an artist, it feels like you’re putting your heart out there for people to feel and to judge. It’s such a personal thing, and if it touches even one person then I feel like I’ve done my job.

What is your favorite song on the album and why?

My favorite track on the record is “Without You”. It was my first attempt at a dance track and it came really easily and naturally to me. The idea was actually born as I was producing “Pipe Dreams”. All of a sudden I put a house drum beat to it and thought this would be a super cool idea, and it literally blended and turned into the next track on my record. Some of the elements and instrumentation in “Pipe Dreams” are also used in “Without You”. I’m really happy the way the music video came out as well.  

Do you ever struggle to portray feelings through your music without lyrics?

That’s a great question and I would have to say no, just the opposite. The type of music I have the most experience producing is instrumental, with the goal of it to be able to stand on its own, without the need for lyrics. The more difficult task for me has been the lyrical writing part. That is something I’m trying to incorporate more into my songs and something that comes less naturally to me. As I work on my new material now and listen back to it, I’m actually taken back and a little bit shy at how big and emotional it can become just as an instrumental…worried in a sense that people might think I’m crazy the way all the musical themes and sound design come out. It’s really not subtle. 

What is your current setup like? Do you rent studio space or do you have a home set up?

I’ve always worked from home and have a nice setup that works as both a recording and a live performance space. It’s where I record all of my music, practice for my live shows, and film all of my DJ videos. I’ve kept it pretty modular so that when I’m going through a recording phase I use it in one way, and when I’m practicing for a live show, I use it in another way. I’m also building a new studio at my farmhouse so ideally I can just plug and play depending on where I’m located at any given moment.

You have released several EPs and even made a Spotify. How has the pandemic impacted your career?

The pandemic actually did wonders for my career. I was able to hunker down without any distractions and really focus on finishing my demo which eventually led to my record deal with Hydrophonik (Indica) Records and the release of ‘Sagittarius’. I felt pretty lucky given the fact that I already worked from home so it wasn’t a huge, uprooting experience as it was for many who work remotely. 

Your music visualizors are mesmorizing. Do you make them yourself or do you have a collaborator?

Thank you! I have to thank the team at Hydrophonik Records for creating those. It was very much a collaborative effort. I came up with the concepts and made the final call on the source material. Jonathan Verreault did all the editing on “PixStar” and “Pipe Dreams”.  

DJing is a profession often associated with men. How do you make yourself known in this field?

When I started out there were very few female DJs around, and only a few in the Turntablist genre who I could name. In that sense, it was actually easier to stand out. Over the years the technology became a lot more accessible and affordable and there was an explosion of female DJs on the scene. However, it’s always been important for me to represent my art form through my skill sets and not depend on the fact that I am a female to bolster my career. I’ve always felt like using my sexuality undermined my efforts to gain the respect of my peers. I’ve only ever wanted to be the best DJ/producer/composer/artist I could be, and for the quality of my music to reflect that first and foremost. 

After 25 years in the DJ industry, how have you seen things change? Do you feel like it has changed for the good?

I’ve watched the scene grow and for a younger generation of talent take over. I’ve seen social media enable this explosion in opportunities and visibility for many people. The downside is that there’s a lot more ‘noise’ you have to cut through if you want to stand out. I see the challenge now more than ever as to how to be different so you can break through. I’m personally more interested in keeping the artform alive by producing and creating music that helps contribute to the evolution of Hip-Hop.

I’ve chosen to use my abilities as a DJ/Turntablist as a powerful tool in the toolkit of what is the bigger challenge of producing original music and being a music artist. I’m as excited about producing music now as I was when I first discovered DJing and the fact that I can use Turntablism in my production to add to my own musical signature is more than I could have ever asked for at this point in my career.   

To send us off today can you give us a sneak peak of your next project?

I’ll have to ask my label about that one 😉

Our Spotlight – DJ Killa-Jewel is a wrap. It was a long time coming but we are glad to get this one in the books

Check out Sagittarius right now

Keep up with DJ Killa-Jewel right here

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