We have some breaking news from the world of bass and trap today, and it comes via UZ. The Quality Goods Records boss and all-round unequivocal talent has shrouded his identity in mystery since he emerged five years ago, but he now fully reveals himself.
Coinciding with the full release of his Layers LP today, which fans have been eagerly awaiting, he exclusively speaks to us about exactly who he is, what he has previously achieved and what direction he intends to take with this alias in the future.
The mask is off, and it’s time to get to know exactly who the real UZ is…
UZ… now you can finally talk freely about who you are. Who are you, and where do you call home?
Hey, you can call me G. I’m originally from France but I got tired of flying back and forth so I moved to the US in 2015.
What was your journey like into the world of music? Were you influenced by it from an early age?
Well I’ve always been into music, from when I was much younger: my 2 brothers were DJ’s, one from the end of the 70s/beginning of the 80s (funk and disco) and the other from the 90s (house). The younger one had a DJ booth in his bedroom and would practice for hours. These were my very early years in music, and then when I was around 15 I got into hardcore and punk music, so I started playing guitar. I would go to my friend’s place on weekends and play in his garage, and I also self taught myself how to play drums there.
A few years after that, me and my friends started hanging at another kid’s place, and he had turntables! When we were there, I’d play with the vinyl, and finally one day he told me I should buy turntables because I was pretty good at it.
Do you have memories of when you first realised you wanted to make a career out of it?
I think after I bought the turntables, my only goal in life was to push myself to the limit: be the best and be a world champion! So I guess that was the beginning of a career.
We understand you are also the alias DJ TROUBL and were a twice DMC world champion! That’s pretty incredible. How did you get into that world, and what were some of your favourite moments from those times?
Like I said, in that period of my life the only thing I had in mind was being a DJ and scratching all day, to be the best. I was around eighteen and I had finished school, so my parents decided to send me to L.A for a year – my older brother lived there. I said yes, but with one condition: I would go if I could bring the turntables, haha. I basically spent a year practicing in my room – I had access to videos, tapes, vinyl that we didn’t have in France at the time, this was in 1999! When I came back I was literally a scratch machine, I did a few contests and immediately had the attention on me. I quickly won the French chapter and went to my first World Championship in 2000. It was only in 2002 that I was really ready to win the world title, and not only did I do it once, but twice that year! My favorite moments were definitely when I won my first French title in Paris in 2000 and also when I won my first World Championship in New York. It was actually organized by DJ Craze and the allies. Big up to Craze!
Fun facts: the day we were supposed to leave for New York, I got stopped at the TSA because my passport wasn’t valid anymore. I had to get a new one last minute and pay for my ticket to arrive right before the Championship. I was ready to win!
Would you ever be tempted to get back into competing?
When I was competing there was no laptop, no digital software: it was raw, we only used vinyl and the luckiest of us would press special vinyl. Now things have changed, you can pretty much bring and use whatever you want. Also practicing is very, very time consuming, you easily spend hours, days and weeks perfecting your sets. I’m not sure I’d be patient enough to do that anymore. But never say never, right?
Never say never indeed! You’re also PLEZIER? (Our minds are being blown right now!) When did you first start making music under that name? What do you feel you were able to take from that project and carry into your work as UZ?
In around 2001 I think I started producing music, mainly beats to scratch to at the time. After I won the championships, I decided to really concentrate my energy into producing, just like I did with scratching a few years before. By 2011, I had produced a few scratch/breakbeat vinyls, produced lots of beats for rappers. But I wanted to start experimenting with different sounds so I thought to myself, ‘Why not start a new alias?’
I was making house and weirder stuff, having releases here and there but nothing crazy. I was still trying to find my sound and after a few weeks it was clear. I wrote ‘Plezier Anthem’, sent it to a few people, and Claude Von Stroke got back to me, but MODA just hit me up right before. The track got a lot of support from house DJs and it was a great push for me. I released 2 EPs with MODA and did remixes for Soulmagic, Crystal Fighters, etc. I also got played by Tiesto… haha!
I started UZ around the same time and UZ blew up really fast, so unfortunately I had to stop Plezier. Pushing both projects equally at the same time was impossible…
How difficult was it keeping your identity a secret as UZ? Have there been other times you’ve wanted to reveal yourself? How do you think fans are going to react to the news?
At the beginning of the UZ project it was fun, but also really difficult to keep the identity secret. I had to hide, not speak too much, be discreet, walk behind everybody, and wait until everybody had gone to be able to leave the club. I mean it was a whole process, people had to sign NDAs and not talk about me. After a while I felt kind of isolated, and often had to stay alone. It started to bother me a little bit. I never really wanted to reveal but I wanted to have more contact with people.
A couple of months ago, I was playing ‘Mask Off’ by Future and the idea just popped up in my head: Let’s close with the track and take the mask off – well I would look down so you couldn’t fully see my face. This was the perfect opportunity for me and also to see how the crowd would react. I first did it at the Belasco for the Quality Goods Records Tour without really telling anyone and the reaction was crazy. I started doing it at every show and people loved it every time, so after discussing with the team we decided to do the unveiling. The time had come.
Tell us a little about ‘Layers,’ which is out today. Did you always know you wanted to take off the mask at the same time as it came out?
Not really actually but the timing was perfect and we thought, why not do the unveiling for the release of the album? It just felt right.
What did you most enjoy about making the collection? Do you have a couple of favorites from the LP?
I started working on the album last year when I came back from a long 3 month tour around the world. I felt like it was the next step in my career and it was the right time to do it. I had a couple of ideas but I mainly started fresh. We had to take songs off the album and make new ones at the last minute; it hasn’t been easy to get to the final collection but at the end of the day, I love it. It’s raw, it sounds big, you have vocalists, rappers, happy vibes, dark vibes. It really represents what I can do, but also I want to make a better one already! I don’t really have favorites, I really love all the tracks, they all have their own vibes!
Finally, what does this mean for you as an artist now, going forward? Do you feel a sense of relief or freedom to just continue your unique journey without having to conceal anything?
As an artist, I feel like I have more freedom now, It’s definitely a relief! People knowing what I did and what I can do. I’m not just a trap producer, I’m way more than that: I have a vision, I’m a curator, I have my label now, and a lot more music to make.
I really want to focus on my label Quality Goods Records – discovering new talents, developing the branding. It’s really exciting and I have lots of ideas. I really think we already have a sound, which is really difficult for a label.
To coincide with this exciting announcement and UZ’s album release, he has also taken over the Bass Face playlist on Spotify, which can be listened through in full and enjoyed below…
Make sure to pick up a copy of UZ’s Layers here, which is now out through Quality Goods Records.
Photo via Oh Dag Yo Photography © 2017