Currently playing dates across Australia as a part of Alison Wonderland’s natonal tour, Kiwi EDM producer Quix (AKA ‘Jonno Schmitt’) found time to chat to GROK on transitioning from local to international DJing, the American DJ scene and the idea of putting something on his head whilst performing.
Looking back on 2017 – how has the year gone for you?
This has been a year that has gone so fast, I feel like the stuff I did at the start of the year was August last year. That’s how far I feel I have been doing stuff. I have done about 130 shows this year I and this is my first year of touring, which if you were to ask some agencies they would say that’s quite ridiculous to do 130 shows in your first year.
But I have experienced a whole deal, like moving to a new country, experiencing the US and experiencing what tour life is like. Doing a part-time job on the side and having music at the full focus on everything I do. I’ve enjoyed it, it’s been very busy, I’ve had a lot of high moments and a lot of low moments and overall I am ready to just see what next year is going to be like. If it’s anything like this year I’m like crap I better be prepared.
You sound insanely busy – what keeps you going? Because burnout is a real possibility.
I have burnt out twice this year where I have literally crumbled, I’ve come back home after touring and I’d have been awake for the whole weekend and only having 10 hours sleep over the whole time. My wife really helps me in those times when I am about to quit it, or about to lose it. She helps me mentally, a lot of other DJ’s don’t have that which is really a blessing.
And just having good people in my life and talking about what I am going through and talking about the business can be a good way to vent through it. I am not the best at eating well, I’m not the slimmest dude, I have a dad bod and I am not ashamed of having the dad bod. But its about just eating well from now and not getting out of hand because the more crap you eat the slower you’ll go.
All those big DJ’s who are doing the craziest hours, the craziest shows and crazy schedules are all DJ’s that know how to eat well and know how to look after their body. It’s a long term thing where you’ve got to look after yourself.
How do you balance your time between living in the USA and New Zealand?
Honestly half and half because I’ve spent about six-and-a-half months over in the States and I’ve spent five-and-a-half in new Zealand and touring Australia as well. Definitely living in the States has given me a perspective of the world and what’s going on.
New Zealand’s a small little country that sometimes doesn’t get affected by the big world. There is a whole lot of politics and stuff that goes on all around the world and I’ve experienced a lot of that in the States. But nothing that is affecting me in a negative way. But obviously there are terrible things that happen, I’ve experienced different culture and having to adapt and live in a new culture is something I have never done before so it was a new experience for me.
Do you feel like you living two different lives between the USA and New Zealand?
When you are in the States and you have a spot you definitely know you are living in the States and it’s something you can’t really try and live back home as well. First of all there is obviously time differences but then its living in the moment and living in your reality and if you try and change that you’re just going to stretch yourself out more I think.
When I was living in the States with my wife, we had to just choose and say we’re here and we can’t change that, we’re just going to hope for the best and make a positive out of what comes.
You went some a small DJ scene in New Zealand to the USA – how do the two scenes compare?
I think there are a lot of kids in New Zealand that look up to – the scene in New Zealand isn’t as strong as it was in the U.S. It’s stronger in Australia if anything. A lot of DJ’s in New Zealand think there is this massive wall in front of them and there is no way to get out of New Zealand. The fact I have gone to America and come out of the small DJ world in New Zealand, I feel it’s a little bit of an encouragement for people back home.
I think it’s a really cool aspect of my life where I can help other people that are back home and don’t feel like they have a spot or platform to actually give them one. It might not be actually getting them out to a show in the States, but it might be like helping them out online with their songs or helping them on a repost or supporting them on word of mouth to industry people over in the states.
Everyone should know wherever you are in the world as a DJ or a music producer, a creator of music, where there is talent, and if there is talent and passion within you then you will get noticed. It’s like an inevitable rule of creativity and the world we live in is like if you do have talent and passion, you will get noticed. It’s just a slow process.
I remember asking the same question myself on whether I will noticed or making it but it’s just time. It sucks, but its time.
Do you think it’s a mental hurdle small producers have to overcome in order to make something of themselves?
Totally, it’s a natural and human instinct to think the size of what you are. If you’re a soundcloud producer and you’ve got a 1000 followers on Soundcloud you’re probably thinking in the sense of what 1000 followers means to you. I remember back then, my first 1000 followers, my first 1000 plays, my first repost. I’ll give you the perspective, back in the day I would have gotten a repost from an artist I really looked up to or that I knew was dope. So the fact they reposted my stuff meant I would get a lot more attention.
Now, I’m a lot bigger than that person was who reposted my song just because of my growth and what not. When you get to that other side it’s just perspective, they’re just doing what they think is right. Your thinking just gets bigger, I remember the first time when I found out Skrillex had heard my stuff. I remember freaking out. Now I think oh man I would really like to actually meet him and say what up, and now I’m in that position, I have connections in that sense.
Your perspective and your big thinking just grow and grow and grow. It’s a human instinct and human nature to have that small thinking at the start.
Were there any lessons you learnt through the transition from the local to the international stage?
Just learning the industry and how it worked. I remember thinking what’s a ‘tm’, what’s an advance, what’s a rider, what’s a promoter, what’s their job and role. Learning the ropes and becoming international, getting on board with management, agents. Making it a real deal, making the idea of Quix in my head into a full-on business idea.
Learning about the industry was one of the big challenges for me. I wasn’t the kind of kid who spent my time in clubs or after I finished school I was in college. I never went to clubs, I was just never brought up in that scene. I never was a drinker, I don’t smoke, I don’t do drugs. You would not think I would be the kid that would be into the club scene. But I love music so much and it’s the best place to play.
Is substance abuse huge amongst DJ scene in the U.S?
It’s there man. It’s pretty real, I have never ever tried anything before and I feel like that’s a win on my part because I therefore don’t feel tempted to go out and do it or try it again. Not that I’ve done it though, but for someone who has done it, if you’ve done drugs or whatever its very easy for you to go back and do it again if you liked it.
If you didn’t like then you obviously wouldn’t do it. For someone who hasn’t done it, it is very easy to just say no which is cool and people are awesome – people respect that. It’s pretty real in the States because there are places like California where weed is legalised and smoking weed is now more socially accepted than eating a burger. It’s a real place with drugs and people aren’t afraid about it, for me it’s not a problem.
How does it feel coming back to Australia and playing in your area of the world?
It is like being home again, I was in the States for six months this year and I got a good, little American accent. But I also have an Aussie accent as well for some reason. When I say what up to my mates I say G’day mates what’s going on and they’re like sick. I go up to friends who I haven’t seen in six months and they ask where did my kiwi has gone.
Being back in here in New Zealand and Australia it’s so nice, it’s refreshing. The crowds out here, you know you are always coming out for a good time. People party different over here I think, I feel that’s to do with the environment and the industry here. There is a good bass scene I reckon, especially in Sydney I found. Brisbane and a bit in Perth as well, kids rock out in a different way.
If all of Australia was to go to America and see how America partied, they would be like ‘what is this’, not like ‘wow this is so big’ where there are all these fireworks and craziness. The way people dress and the vibe of it here is so different. I reckon people would freak out.
Alison Wonderland’s Scarehouse project will feature ‘empty creepy fields’ have you played in any interesting locations?
I’ve played some pretty awesome locations, I remember playing EDC Vegas this year. It wasn’t a strange location, it was a speedway outside of Vegas. The stages were almost just unreal, it didn’t feel real. There were seven stages that would feel like a main stage here at a festival like Stereosonic.
I played another one out of Seattle called Paradiso which looked down into a Gorge which was probably the most beautiful place I’ve ever experienced. The Scarehouse locations are ridiculous, Alison and her team have really gone in on making this a lil’ scary. She’s hired actors to come in as zombies you can see that in her promo videos. There is a whole dark scary theme going through the whole thing, you’re not prepared when you go to the show.
As you progress later into your career do you consider more about the visual aspects of the show?
I see the whole DJ world as these levels, so there is level one where you start doing local shows and supporting big acts. Level two is when you starting getting your own headline gigs and you’re travelling internationally either to support gigs and headline shows and even just small shows. Level three is where you start doing the headline shows but making a bit more money of it. Where I am right now is where you start to think about doing big rooms and big plays at festivals.
You start getting noticed by a lot of the talent buyers, the big production companies. Then when you have your own headline tour when you come together with, that’s when you start thinking visually and what you want to convey. You can play music until the cows come home but it’s about putting on a show and actually visually what you can show people. You can hear bass all day, but if you can show people visually what bass looks like, that’s really cool.
Plenty of DJ’s like to put things on their head as a certain look – what would you consider choosing?
I’ve never really considered that. The problem I have with people who do – it’s not a big problem – the issue I have is if you were to stick something on your head or mask your face or dress up, its adding to the music where it doesn’t need to be added to.
Someone like Marshmello who obviously wears the hat and all white, he can do that because he’s built himself very quickly and fast and has a big platform to stand on, therefore he can put that mask on and people love him. Even really fresh, fresh local dudes who try and dress up with a mask and stuff and they’re supporting like another bigger act they just be like a little try hard, for my eyes.
If I was to dress up as something, I would probably have something black. Danger is also on the line-up, he’s got a really cool mask where its all black, but white bright eyes – I think I’d do something similar to Danger, but do my own thing.
What advice can you give to aspiring, young DJ’s?
It’s a cutthroat industry, really good advice would be to keep it about the music. Don’t ever stray from it being about the music. Make sure it is about the music. Practically to really boost yourself, connect in with your local scene, connect in with the local promoters and start playing opener slot shows for big acts that come through.
Be ready to do just whatever it takes. You may not want the 4am slot because you’ve got to go to work the next morning but if you do that it’s going to help you in the long run. It takes a lot of sacrifice at first, but when you’re passionate the sacrifice will have dropped and you will want to do stuff because you love it.
Quix will be playing alongside Alison Wonderland & ASAP Ferg + Friends at the Belvoir Amphitheatre on Sunday December 10.