UK house producer and DJ Joshwa has risen the ranks into the upper echelons of the house scene on the back of a steady stream of stellar and varied house heaters. Yet, despite the inability to truly pigeonhole his sound, his production carries a signature without being firmly similar. It's a rare talent to be such an auditory shapeshifter.
His entré into dance music came via trance hits from the 90s golden age of the genre. However, his music carries a distinct influence from American R&B and rap of the same era. This patchwork of influences is immediately apparent in a recent string of highly successful releases on lauded labels like Sony Fodera's Solotoko and Lee Foss' Repopulate Mars.
He broke through in 2020 with the release of "Energizer" on Solotoko, followed up with releases on Cr2, Nervous, Sink or Swin, and EMI. After his 2021 collaboration with Ossey James, "Pary's Jumpin," was signed to Rep[opulate Mars, he stayed on the ears of Lee Foss. This eventually led to their collaboration on "My Humps." The infectious Fergie sampling tech house stomper was one of the scene's most sought-after IDs for nearly a year before its release late in 2021 and helped put Joshwa on the map.
Your track "My Humps" with Lee Foss was one of the hottest IDs of 2021. How did it come together with Lee, and did you feel it was going to be this big? What about the original vocals attracted you to it?
This was a super exciting time for me and has helped shape my career in music moving into 2022! I sent Lee an early version of it. He played it out and then asked me to work on it together to finish it, which is now the track you hear today. The buzz around it after Lee and John Summit first started playing was crazy. Once people realized who the track was by, my DMs were going mental with people asking for a copy of it. Before we knew it, every DJ was asking for a copy, and it was getting played worldwide - mental feeling!!
You have often relied on vocal samples from American R&B and hip-hop, going back to one of your first releases, "Shake That Thing." Was American R&B and hip-hop your entry point into loving music? What prompted you to center your tracks around these samples?
I have always loved Rap and R&B and grew up listening to this genre which is why you hear a lot of influence from them in my catalog. House music and R&B/Rap work well on the dance floor together and often create a sense of nostalgia for party-goers which gets great reactions. It's a formula that works really well, and I think that's clear after the success of tracks like "My Humps" and ACRAZE's "Do it to it," which is why we saw a surge of similar-sounding tracks following these last year.
When did you first really discover electronic music?
My Dad is to blame for this! I first got into electronic music when he played me a compilation CD in his car called Rush Hour, which was full of 90s trance belters. I instantly fell in love with the sound of it and used to pester him to listen to it whenever we went anywhere.
Can you give us some insight into the early days of your career? Your first official release was in 2016, but it's safe to assume that you didn't start DJing in 2016.
I started producing when I was 13 or 14 and bought my very first set of Gemini CDJs by selling sweets at school. I taught myself how to produce and how to Dj by watching YouTube tutorials and reading music production forums such as Laidback Luke's.
I was hugely into EDM - music from artists like Avicii, Swedish House Mafia, Afrojack, Laidback Luke, etc., was really popular at the time, so I naturally gravitated towards making this. I also played football (soccer) at the time and was in an Academy, but looking back, music has always been my passion.
I pursued the football career for a while but then decided music was where I wanted to devote my time, and things got more serious later down the line while I was at University. I finally got to a stage where I was happy with how my music sounded and wanted to share it with the world.
In the last two years, your productions have varied. You've shown versatility with a few piano-heavy tracks, "La Vida" and "Be With You," acid twinges on "Energizer" and "In the 1980s," and, of course, a healthy dose of tech house bangers. Do you find you're making a conscious decision to switch things up in the studio, or is it just about what's inspiring you that day?
I don't sit down and think, 'I'm going to make a piano house track today' or 'today's a tech house roller kinda day' because I find this stifles creativity. I always try to write what I feel at that moment, and I think that's why I have a variety of music in my catalog. I think it's fun to show versatility and also means my sets never sound the same the whole way through when I play live.
I also think an element of this is that I was still discovering my sound and what worked best for me. I have a clearer direction for my sound now because of this, and you'll hopefully hear this over the next year with my releases.
Now that you've spent some time touring, what do you think the most significant difference is between the scene in The States and the UK?
I LOVE both scenes - both are very similar, in my opinion, but the US crowds sure love to party hard. Tech house has gained huge popularity recently in the US, which is exciting for me as I can really dig deep into the tech house tracks which were popular in the UK a few years back and play them.
What are your favorite secret weapons to play out in your sets?
I have an official remix of Madison Avenue's classic "Don't Call Me Baby," which is coming out soon and has been a real crowd favorite from my sets. I cannot wait to drop this one. I've also been playing some killer cuts from these boys, which have been getting a great response - Hyde (OFC), Damelo, Thomas Garcia, VLTRA, and a few others.
Any advice to up-and-coming DJs on how to break out?
Spend the time developing your own sound and branding so people can familiarize themselves with your sound. It's easy to copy what's popular, but in the long term, you'll see better results if you have your own unique touch to your records. Don't be afraid to be different. Networking is so key, too. It sounds cliche, but taking the time to build relationships with other artists on social media and in-person has been pivotal for me. Most importantly, enjoy the ride!!!
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