Meet DJ GREMLIN, SA’s Freestyle King Of The Decks
The party starter. The mix master. Or simply, the guy you give the AUX to when you need some good tunes. There’s always that one friend who’s the designated DJ if there’s a jol. If you’re lucky enough to be around when Gremlin’s on the decks, you’re in for one epic experience.
Calvin Potgieter aka GREMLIN is a 27-year-old professional club, festival and radio DJ from Cape Town who has risen up the ranks in South Africa’s music industry. He has played at some of the country’s most popular festivals such as Rocking The Daisies and Castle Lite’s Republic of Ice Cold, while mixing in regular club and radio slots into his schedule.
Recently, he beat five of South Africa’s top DJs to claim the crown of Red Bull 3Style National Champion, and now he’s set to go to Russia in April to represent SA in the global leg of the competition. But long before he began scratching on the ones and twos, GREMLIN was simply just a fan of music.
“It all started with playing guitar and drums as a child,” he says. “Gradually, I got into DJing after becoming a huge fan of electronic music in the late 2000s.
“I started making mix CDs during high school and that’s when I got my first ‘gigs’. And after living in the USA for a while and being exposed to some of the top DJs in the world, I was inspired to delve deeper into the craft.”
After a good run as the music plug back in high school, what started out as a hobby became his mission. He dedicated his time to improve his skills and make a name for himself, because he knew that this wouldn’t be easy. Along the way, he learned the importance of collaboration and opening himself up to different opportunities – a lesson that proved to be vital.
“Every day I learn something about myself, the industry and the audience. I’ve realised that every person you meet could potentially be the most important person in the room. Sometimes the most plainly-dressed, quiet individual is the one that could lead you to the next level in your career.
“Respect and give time to every single person that shows interest in what you do, because you are nothing without them.”
GREMLIN has also equipped himself with an arsenal of tricks that make his mixes stand out, such as the blending of multiple genres and sequencing songs that have similar titles. This gives his listeners a musical story to follow, as opposed to just something they can nod their heads to.
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“I’ve always been a fan of a ton of genres,” he explains. “Growing up listening to so many different styles of music has taught me how to find the links between them all and fit them together in a creative, digestible way. That’s why I enjoy the 3Style Competition so much, because it encourages that freedom to experiment with ‘non-club’ music. That’s something that has carried over into my usual style of DJing now.”
Local music is also a big part of what he does on the daily. Whether it’s on radio or in the club, GREMLIN always highlights South African music throughout his sets and constantly has his ears out for upcoming artists who have undiscovered potential.
“Some of my favourite local artists are FonZo, Dunn Kidda, Beat Sampras, Muzi, Kymac & Dawson. I’m also a big fan of SA DJs – Grandmaster Ready D, DJ Willy, Ryan The DJ, Luwayne Wonder, VJ Jonno – just to name a few.”
He made sure to include some local flavour when we asked him to put together a playlist for us in our February issue. Give it a listen here:
After many years of honing his craft and finding ways to make himself unique, he has finally earned the chance to rep his country at the Red Bull 3style Finals in Moscow later this year. But, it didn’t come easy – this was his third attempt at the National Championship. Now he’s stoked to finally get to show the world what he’s got.
“I always knew I could win it. Every time I lost I knew what I could’ve done better and then I would work on improving that. There were so many people that supported me and believed in me – that’s what really kept me going. Family and friends are so important.
“It’s going to be one of the most amazing weeks of my life! Not only am I gonna represent SA and compete – I’ll get to spend time with some of the best DJs in the world and learn from them. It’s a huge opportunity and I’m truly grateful for it.”
For more about the incredibly talented GREMLIN, be sure to follow him on Instagram @gremlin_za and grab a copy of our Feb issue, where he gave us some major pointers on music selection. From us at MH, we wish GREMLIN all the best in Moscow. You’ve got this!
Why ‘GREMLIN’ ?
“The name came about very randomly, it was a nickname some of my friends gave me after a night out and it just stuck! Over the years the meaning behind the name has been developing – so I’ll explain it all in my autobiography one day haha!”
What advice would you give to aspiring DJs?
“Learn your craft FIRST. Learn the basics, know your gear in and out, know the history, be a fan of the game and never stop learning. Show love to the art and it will show love to you. Don’t do it for the money or the fame.”
What are some of the misconceptions that people have about DJs?
“That we’re overly paid button pushers haha! Many people think that we just go up there and do what they do every day on their phones. An ‘I can do that, too’ mentality. When in actual fact it’s waaaay more than that. We spend weeks finding music, preparing sets, practising routines. We know how to navigate a room, read people’s moods and control the crowd. These are skills that take years to learn and master.”
How do you prepare for such a big contest?
“I’ll be honest, I’m a bit of a procrastinator! I tend to work better and be more creative under pressure, I’ve just always been that way. I usually start by researching the other competitors, listening to what they do and start conceptualising ideas. My mind is on constant alert for hearing new sounds, new ideas and tricks that I could do. So I keep notes of everything and start from there. Once I have a set together, I practice non-stop until it’s second nature.”
What’s next for you?
“Taking my passion all over the world. And making my own music. One step at a time.”
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