Artist Interview v.1
Welcome to our first installment of the new Artist Interview series. We will be using this series to interview artists across the culture to expose you to some new talent and get unique insights into the culture.
My first interview is with Eric "DJ Meeshu" Boltz. Meeshu recently came home to visit the Philadelphia/PA area after a long stint out in Hawaii. We've all missed him so! Before he could go back, I lured him into an interview by offering him a bounty of Pin-up models, LOLcat gifs and Cheeze-its. Unfortunately, I only had Cheeze-its. Of course I didn't tell him until after the interview had concluded.
Where to Find DJ Meeshu
CR: DJ Meeshu! Good to see you roaming around Philadelphia recently! How does it feel to be hanging out in your old stomping grounds?
Meeshu: Thank you for the interview, it’s very good to be back and it’s been a great summer catching up with friends and family after almost 2 years. I love the city of Philadelphia and I always tell people I have meet in Hawaii that have never been to the east coast that Philly is the city to check out. Not too big, not too small, lots of independent arts and culture and it integrates a good amount of natural settings with the parks. The people are some of the best people I’ve come to know and it’s always fun to see how people know each other through what seems to be less than 6 degrees of separation. Definitely a great place for people who like a feel of community that goes beyond just the street you live on. I never actually owned a place in the city, I lived outside of Reading, PA most of my life but always drove back and forth to see friends and hang out. People here really did a job on making me feel accepted and I feel quite fortunate for that, I’m a bit of an eccentric character.
CR: You have been in Hawaii for quite some time now though. How have you enjoyed it?
Meeshu: It’s pretty awesome! I’ve been living on the island of Kauai which is known as The Garden Island and it lives up to the name. If you ever want to see what the Garden of Eden is like, there is your spot. Chill vibe, lots of cool people that live there and that pass through and beautiful beyond words. I’ve been to the Big Island a few times now and it was actually the first island I was ever on in Hawaii, fell in love with it. Great balance of lush jungle and drier volcanic feels, definitely a strong primal energy in all it’s beauty. I’ve passed through the Honolulu airport a few times but besides that I haven’t spent time on the other islands, definitely a must in the future to catch up on. Overall, it’s been like living in a strange dream land of tropical paradise meets Burning Man in the Twilight Zone. I’ve had adventures a plenty, too much to get into here but one day, maybe a book J
CR: Let’s get a little background on you. Inquiring minds want to know. Can you tell me about yourself?
Meeshu: Well I’m 36 going on 16, that about sums it up, hehe. I stick out in a crowd…6’3”, long hair, covered in tribal, wallpaper-like tattoos, a few piercings and I smile a lot. A huge music lover of all sorts from a young age…funk, rock, jazz, electronica, you name it…just not a big country music fan but I’ve tried. Hopeful romantic, somewhat shy, somewhat crazy. I have a strange way of walking into a room and getting a lot of attention yet my personal life is more reclusive than most might think. I can get up in front of a crowd of people at a party or festival and get them feeling the tunes yet will talk myself out of going out to public social spots at times. Laughter is my way of getting through the day and it’s one of the best things you can do for yourself daily, especially at yourself. My favorite color is blue, I’m a big fantasy/sci-fi geek, I adore Cheez-its and meat (not necessarily together) and I believe honesty is the best policy, even when it stings.
CR: Ah, the tattoos! Do they have any specific meaning to you?
Meeshu: Oh, you mean my birthmarks? Hehe, they definitely get me lots of attention and really didn't think about how much they really stick out when I was getting them. I haven't heard a negative remark in a lonnnnggg time, actually I get the opposite quite often, people really like them and let me know. Funny thing is, 9 times out of 10, women will remark on how nice my legs are before anything else. I always thought it was my job to be saying something about their legs, hehe, but it's all cool. There really isn't any sort of magic meanings I had in my tattoos, half of them were designs that just came to me, I drew up and then had put on me. Others are graphic design templates of multiple cultures that I really liked: Egyptian; Japanese; Polynesian.
I had shown a man on the bus on Kauai the sun on my back once and he said it's a Buddhist sun, that I was a farmer or warrior in a past life, the sun always at my back. I also found out on Kauai that the necklace design I have contains a symbol that is seen as the international sign of peace. I can live with that
CR: What’s your back-story with DJing? How did you get into the craft?
Meeshu: Well I’ve always enjoyed listening to music as long as I can remember. Before I was even a teen, I remember receiving my first 7” vinyl record for a birthday present. One side was Lipps Inc. “Funky Town” and the other was Rick James “Super Freak”. I would just flip it back and forth and dance around my room, the sounds and the vibes of those tracks just blew my mind.
The electronic sounds in those tracks were what I really paid attention to and from then on I was always a big fan of music with electronic elements to them. Synthetic sounds have ways of expressing one’s imagination that are so unique and fantastic to the feel, I just love bleeps and tweaks. So, over the years I would explore into different genres and find good labels that were putting out more non-mainstream music and I would collect and collect. Eventually I started to buy vinyl records of modern club music and tried my hand at DJing and mixing records in 1998. My very first paying job was at the no longer Agent Aloha store on South Street in Philadelphia. One day a guy stopped by who was a promoter from York and heard me playing, asked me for a mix tape and then booked me for my first club party, I was pretty stoked.
From then I did various "rave" parties through the years and have had residencies at some bars and clubs but my heart always came back to more chill music, stuff that wasn’t really mainstream and party pumping. I love going out and dancing and partying and there are plenty of good DJs for those roles that can rock the party and it’s good to learn to appreciate that in others.
CR: You are known for your cool and smooth downtempo style. This is some of my favorite music to dance and listen to by the way. What got you so into this genre?
Meeshu: Back in the late 80s/early 90s, a lot of my friends were either big into metal bands or gangsta’ rap. Neither really grew on me too much…a lot of the content would contain negative messages and the sounds could get heavy too, the actual frequencies. I have a personal issue with spells of depression that can take me on an emotional see saw so I try to use music as a healing tool. Therefore, I enjoy trying to keep it light, smooth and chill…stuff that makes you close your eyes and imagine you are in your perfect place. I am drawn to music that doesn’t need lyrics to always get a message across, leaving more for your imagination.
CR: Do you have other styles you like?
I love house music, the deeper the better. Trip hop more than hip hop. Atmospheric drum and bass is lovely in doses, dubstep is very hit and miss and trance doesn’t do much for me.
CR: Tell us about your radio show on BSP.org.
Well it’s called Soul Spa w/DJ Meeshu and it’s every Sunday at 9pm-11pm eastern standard time. I wanted to keep that the same time when I moved so it’s on in Hawaii at 3pm-5pm on Sundays. I’ve collected so much music of the chill out/ambient/trip hop sound over the years and I’ve always enjoyed sharing it with others. At parties, unless there is a designated chill out area, it’s not what rocks your socks off. So when my friend Ruben told me about the station and asked if I would be interested in doing a show, I saw this as my chance to share my eclectic taste to a larger audience that wasn’t hearing it at most parties. I’ve been doing it almost every Sunday for the past 3-4 years now and it’s all fueled by love, I’m not seeing a dime and that’s ok. Payback comes in positive responses from others and affirmation in knowing someone else hears a similar beauty in a song. It’s also had it’s trophy moments too, I thought it was really cool when my pod casts got on iTunes for free downloading. Now, we’ve just recently been voted Editor’s Choice on Windows Media Player for the 3rd time now. A little bit of vision and a lot of determination goes a long way!
CR: Where else can someone go to see or hear you play?
Meeshu: I used to have steady gigs in PA for a few years but with moving things have changed. I’m doing random gigs in Hawaii, Earthdance is a big one coming up in September on the Big Island. An upcoming gig Sept. 10th at The Arts Garage in Philly is starting to come into shape also. I’ve been doing events with PEX (Philadelphia Experiment) over the past few years and they are always guaranteed fun, lots of good people doing music and performance art that goes above and beyond a good time.
CR: So you have been Djing for quite a bit now. Any memorable moments from your adventures you would like to share? An awesome venues, fun events, naughty escapades?
Meeshu: I remember doing Lollapalooza in 2003, in Camden NJ. I was set up at the 2nd stage area in the parking lot and I had to bring all my own equipment. Luckily, there were some guys with a solar energy display next to me so I ran off solar power all day long, it was neat. Archedream, a local dance troupe from the city, came out and performed with me as well. I got a kick out of having been told 3 times to turn it down because between the band songs, people would hear this “untz, untz, untz, untz” behind them and I kept stealing people from the rockers.
Also, when spinning a down tempo set and seeing people in the area you are playing having actual full blown sex and not giving a damn who pays attention, you must be doing something right!
CR: How do you feel about the trends in overall electronic music today? How about in regards to the genres you play and produce?
Meeshu: I think electronic music is just like any other form of music and it needs to progress because our minds and senses are progressing as people. There is electronic music I listen to that I’ve had for years and years now and you don’t hear the same sounds and styles being used. Technology with equipment and hardware has evolved so much, for good and bad, it’s hard to keep up anymore sometimes with gear and programs. I loved my vinyl but it’s all gone now, its now all data on hard drives. The convenience of mobility is awesome but laptops and controllers can’t make up for a lot of that hands-on feel. On the other hand, computers and software for creating music have made the sky the limit. I used to do a live pa show with a friend and we used all analog gear…fun for playing but producing, the software is the winner on convenience terms. A drawback for the way DJing has progressed into software is now anyone can call themselves a dj, just own a computer and a program and people want to see their names on flyers. The only problem is DJing has a lot to do with character also. I’ve gone to parties to see big name acts who sounded horrible when it came to mixing or track selection. DJing will always have that air of “superstar” status about it and it’s good to be able to recognize when you are responsible for being the life of the party at that time but some people take it too far. I think those who truly love music and know what they like to hear when they go out pick up on that though, the audience tells it like it is.
I personally have a certificate of graduation from the Pennsylvania Broadcast Institute in Reading, PA. It’s no longer around but I’m glad I did it. It taught me more about the field that I enjoy participating in. I think more DJs these days should do more training like that, not just go out and buy the new copy of Serrato or Traktor and say “it’s on”.
Want a real DJing test? Go do a wedding. Seriously. Stand up in front of a crowd of people you don’t really know, for hours, being the host, deejay and mc all in one, playing music you might not even like and making sure everyone leaves satisfied. Different story from a club but most people can’t pull it off and one of the secrets to good DJing is being flexible, being able to shift gears for different events.
CR: Downtempo doesn’t seem to be the kind of genre you can take to a massive banger party. Or can you? What kind of environments do you look forward to play in?
Meeshu: I’ve already heard of parties being just a chill theme to them rather than ragers and I think it would be great to experience that. It’s cool to go out to an event and rock it out, get wild but then have access to a change up…music that moves your soul more than your body. I think it’s great for parties to have a separate chill area so you can use it to take time to make a deeper connection with someone you might have been sweating your face off with in the main room for hours.
CR: What are some of your favorite artists to listen to?
Meeshu: I’ve always been a big fan of music that takes you on an audio adventure of sorts…bands like Pink Floyd, The Art of Noise, Brian Eno to name a few. Then there are times when I like something that still has some mystery to it but gives you a groove to follow along to like Thievery Corporation, Tosca and Nightmares on Wax.
CR: Any shout outs to people?
Meeshu: There are too many people to list here personally but mostly my mom who is still with me in spirit and keeping me inspired.
My family and friends in Reading, PA, my family and friends in Philadelphia, Pa, my family and friends in Hawaii and my family and friends scattered in the other parts of this crazy planet, you know who you are if you are reading this.
CR: Anyone who knows you, knows you have an affinity for cats. Care to elaborate?!
Meeshu: You know, I’ve always been an animal lover but I’ve usually dealt more with dogs than I have with cats. Something strange just kinda shifted when I moved to Hawaii and since then I’ve had cats popping up in my life on a daily basis, in real life and in various media. It’s almost like it’s become my totem animal as the Native American Indians would see it. I dig it, I feel a strong affinity towards them…wandering here, wandering there, adventures and being silly and very loving but usually on our terms, hehe. They are magic animals and a lot of history shows they are recognized for being so, the little healers in fur coats.
CR: Eric, Thanks for taking time to tell our readers about yourself. For anyone getting into the industry, do you have any wise man advice for them?
I would say to someone just getting into the industry to try to be as self-reliant as possible. Working with others is fine and I do enjoy making friends and trading work at times but it's always good to know how to do something yourself. Know your equipment, think ahead of being in different situations and making sure you are prepared...the right cords and connections at the right times are key. Most importantly, never turn down a job, no matter how small, so long as you can do it. Little freebies starting out can add up to paying gigs in no time and by then you can be seasoned and have a small fan base to help promote yourself. Collaboration with other artists of other mediums besides music is also great...live dancers, live painters, live fire play...all adds to the good time and makes things more memorable. Most importantly though...have fun and do what you enjoy. I don't think i was ever meant to be a big room banger of a DJ and I’m well at peace with that. I know what i love to hear when it comes to downtempo and when you realize people are also enjoying your taste, it just makes it that much easier to continue doing what you love. Everything has a time and a place and if you aren't doing something one way, be glad someone else is doing it, that way you can shine more uniquely and everyone wins.