Music

DJ Bliss: The Emirati Producer and His Empire

dj-bliss

Cindy ReFrameMusic,,,,,,

It’s a been more than a few weeks since the album release party of Made In Dubai by a true ambassador of the UAE, one who almost needs no introduction, Emirati personality known to all as DJ Bliss.

With the dedication and commitment to find time in his busy schedule to meet on a perfect-weather late Saturday afternoon no less, Bliss’s ever enterprising and connect-the-dots thinking as usual, decides that the time spent could easily be another piece in a documentary about the making of this album and how it all came together as a curation of his doing.

Bliss’s thoughts on talents available to us in this region, on pop music, discussing the word ‘producer’, and the dynamics of making songs is the ground we covered.  Welcome to a snapshot on the sunny side.

“Made In Dubai’ album which has reached a top selling album position in the UAE includes outtakes from the following artists:  DJ Bliss & Ayze, N1Yah, Hamdan El Abri & Mike Classic, Dia Hassan, Clarita de Quiroz, Moe P & Solitaire, and Sasha K.

1. Tell us about  your latest album release entitled, ‘Made In Dubai’.

DJ Bliss: Well…I have been working on this for about four or five years. When you watched some of those interviews and take me back to those years, I was working on these songs the whole time.  So I almost think it was like a journey reaching to where I was today.  You know, everything happens at the right moment within the right time, and it was just the right time.  It was time for it to happen.  We are here now and the album is out.  So, I couldn’t be happier.

2. You have had this record deal with Universal Music MENA.  But how did you come to decide who was going to be featured on this compilation?

DJ Bliss: Because we worked on the album for so long I kind of just worked on it with whomever I came across. I had about twenty or thirty songs sitting in my computer. And then these were the eight songs we picked for the album, but Universal wasn’t really involved while I made the album. They were kind of more involved working on taking the decision of which songs to put on this album and in which order to put them on there, but the songs were all already recorded.  So as far as this album is concerned, they didn’t have much creative input, they kind of let me do what I wanted to do and that’s what I went to them for in the first place.

3. The word ‘Producer’ can mean so many different things. So ,regarding your role as a producer and selecting tracks;  are you a technical music producer  or are you the creative or  financial producer? What is your view on this word?

DJ Bliss: It could mean a whole bunch of different things. You know these days you could put out a song and not sing on it.  Or you can put out a song and not even have produced it.  There is so many different things that could happen. As far as this project is concerned, I am kind of technical because I have a music background. I used to be in a rock band. I played the guitar, the drums, and I can produce basic stuff on the computer as well. But its really my experience and my music knowledge that contributes to a project like this. Prince Q, my producer, and I got together to produce the songs ourselves. I’m one of those who kind of put all the projects together. So I got hold of the artists.  I told them, look, we’re going to this, we’re going to work with that hook, and then we are going to arrange it like that.

DJ Khaled doesn’t produce any of the songs he does, but he’s making hits.

I’ll give you an example, DJ Khaled for example, he doesn’t produce any of the songs he does, but he’s making hits. David Guetta, same thing, he’s not singing on any of his songs.  So its really the person who is making the song, putting the song together. Even if we talk about stars like Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga or Britney Spears, sometimes they are not even writing the songs themselves.  Someone has written the words for them, written how to sing it, the beat is set to them and they just put their voice on it.  But I think it really just boils down to a product at the end of the day,  you know, like what you put out as far as what the song is, and I don’t say just like go out, get a girl to sing and get a guy to produce and get this and that and just say its you.  I definitely put all my energy into this thing.

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4. Regarding your producer Prince Q, lets talk about him. You guys have been friends for a really long time. Tell us all about him.

DJ Bliss: You know I had been wanting to work with him for a long time. He’s one of the few Emirati musicians in the country. We had been in touch for maybe about ten years. He would try to send me some ideas, I would try and send him some of my ideas. When we started working together in the studio it was really the start of this project. We started a studio together called QB7.  

We were going to call the album QB7 first but then we changed it to ‘Made In Dubai’ because of where it was made, and he’s a guy from Ras Al Khaimah.  He was born and raised there.  He’s self taught.  He’s one of the best producers in the Middle East and he definitely has potential to go worldwide as well.  He just needed a platform.  He was short of a missing link and I was his missing link.

Prince Q is one of the best producers in the Middle East.

5. So basically you are kind of co-producing, maybe he’s doing a bit more of the technical say with the actual software and sound engineering?

DJ Bliss: Yes, he is the expert in the beat, what he will create. So what I really need sometimes is the core. He’s really good at just creating that. So he will come to me with an idea and I will like you know, completely change it, flip it, turn it around.

And some of the songs when I look through the files there are like a million versions because we changed it so many times. A few years ago we went into the studio with Wyclef from the Fugees and it was the same situation.

6. So working with Wyclef is your next project?

DJ Bliss:  Music wise its very difficult to tell you because its not about just having the song, its about, again, the right time for the artist as well. I have already given Wyclef one song that he’s got which is called “Midlife Crisis” and we’re set to probably release this song very soon.

All the artists who are my friends always tell me its not about whether we’re going to work with you or not, its about when we will work with you, and its about having the right product at the right time.

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7. So my question is regarding yourself and Prince Q as Emiratis;  almost a philosophical question. Export vs Import in terms of the talent here; what’s your take on that?

DJ Bliss: I definitely think there needs to be more support for local talents.  In order for it to grow radio stations need to be playing more of our local music they need to support local artists more. We need to have more venues where they can perform.  But you know its very small and if you ask a lot of people they won’t know about the local artists, so that was the main point of this album as well. It was a selfless album.

You know I’m not even on most of the songs, I’m promoting a lot of the local artists on there. It was a nightmare to get the whole project together at one point I was just thinking of throwing it away but we worked on it so much and I really wanted to contribute to the local scene. I can put out ‘Made In Dubai’ album 2,3 and 4 with other artists and I hope it inspires other people to come out from their bedrooms and create music too.

8. But to me this word ‘export’  – do you want this to go somewhere else like the United States, to go to LA radios, to go to Europe?

DJ Bliss: One hundred percent. My goal as DJ Bliss is to be the first artist from here to go out there and be recognised. You know every country you think of has someone you know from there. Each country has an artist.

If you think Turkey you think Tarkan, you think of Sweden you think of Ace of Bass or Roxette, you think of Canada you think of Celine Dion, Bryan Adams or Drake, you think of South Korea, you have Psy, so I would like to be that guy, an international guy.

9. You have quoted your brother as being quite responsible for getting you involved in music.  Tell us a bit about him and what he is doing?

DJ Bliss: He taught me how to play guitar and at the launch party he performed a song with me.  We did an acoustic version of my song “Shining”.  He went down the corporate route for a while. Well after doing that for a bit, my other friend and him started a restaurant and traveled the world. But he’s super talented, sings well and plays the guitar.

He’s definitely responsible for some of my music influence and my second brother brought me back a bunch of CDs when he was studying in the US and that helped my DJ career so I can actually say my musical influence is from both of them.

10. And how about your parents, how do they feel about everything you are doing, and compared to where you started and where you are now?

DJ Bliss: When I first started they weren’t too ecstatic about it when I started deejaying but I was just doing it for fun.  But as it grew I was really turning into a business so through my own events, opened up a company, I was booking other deejays, I went into radio, then I went into TV so they didn’t like the concept at the beginning you know just being from here but I think they like what I did with it and where I was going with it.  

They never really came to me and said, look you need to stop.  They never said that.  They did say why can’t you be like your brothers why can’t you do this or that but they were great.  They were very supportive.  I think it really boils down to what kind of relationship you have with your parents.  Tried not to be a menace, or go against them that’s not really what I did and I think it worked out pretty well for me.

 

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Marwan and his brother playing at the launch of Made In Dubai

11. Well in regard to these aspects one observation about you its not really even so much about entrepreneur or a brand but that you want to build an ‘empire’.  So all of those would contribute to an empire as building blocks with those goals.  Tell us a little about how you see that working without probing too much…

DJ Bliss:  Correct.  Yea you said a key word, “empire”.  I came to the realisation that when I took like one or two weeks off I wasn’t making any money it was always based around whether I was doing the TV or radio etc so the DJ problem I solved by getting deejays under our talent booking agency it used to be called The Real Flava and now it’s called Selekt Talent Agency and we started doing all these events started throwing my own parties.  We have one of the most successful parties called ’411 Nights’ and then we got an office, because like if Puff Daddy had an office, we needed an office too…

So then I opened Bliss Inc and it was the bookings and events and first thing was on there, then we got the recording music studio into the office and then we had the video department at some point, then I opened the barber shop as well so I added stuff like what you said, the empire and I didn’t want to stop there either, you know I want to do as much as I can.

I tried a couple of things that didn’t work the few things that did work you know I am happy about and that’s really what its about.  I mean if you want a kind of business like build an empire you have to really be willing to take the risk and not worry about failure or what the consequence.

12. Ironically, we just had Redfest DXB and we had Redfoo in town, and were noting how a lot of people don’t know how Redfoo’s dad is Berry Gordy, the creator of Motown and I saw they were making a West End theatre play about his life.  The reason I bring this up is because your story here, and as I can see how you have taken this villa, made it your office, put the recording studios in, with the talent agency is reminding of the very beginning of Berry Gordy’s story a bit in terms of he and his wife set up the business in their house in Detroit, they put an office in there and some recording studios and started choosing talent he believed in to record songs and develop the talents and built it up from there…

DJ Bliss: Yea well that’s what I want to do.  The goal is that one day someone will sit and tell a story like the one about Berry Gordy again and that’s what I would like to be able to do.  I really want to help the community as well because I am from here it makes a big difference.  A lot of people come to Dubai, call Dubai their home, but you know I am not leaving, ever, that’s the bottom line.

This is my home and this is where I am going to be forever.  The people who call Dubai their home we should all just need to work closer together to build this music scene.

‘Made In Dubai’ is available on iTunes UAE, just went to Europe and Australia, its going on Spotify as well, on Apple Music, probably going to the states next week, and I also did the physical one on this too, so you can go into Virgin Megastore.  A lot of people said don’t do physical.  

No one is buying CDs but I think we are at an end of an era with CDs and this is my first album and I really wanted to have be physically available in stores because you know one day we might not have CDs anymore.  So it was very important for me to do that.  I made this record for people to listen to in their cars and to for radio.

Check out the record and you can also check out @411Nights  ‘411 Nights’ which is held at ‘People by Crystal’  – other links to see are @blissinc and @djblissdubai on Instagram