Damizza By Rachel Burley
He’s an artist, producer and record label CEO, but he’s not about to give up his day job. Damizza talks to The Situation about his youth, his beats, and his plans for the future.
27 years of age, Damizza
has already worked with Ja Rule
and Warren G. But he’s
not content with just being a hip-hop producer, and has recently rocked
with Korn. Can he realise
more than his dream?
During the day, Damizza is the Senior Vice President of Programming and Artist Relations at top Los Angeles radio station, Power 106 FM. Add to that his credentials as an artist, producer and owner of record label Baby Ree Entertainment, and you have a rather impressive portfolio for a 27-year-old.
Born Damion Young, Damizza was raised by his grandma in Santa Barbara, California. “My grandma is the biggest influence in my life. She raised me since I was a year old and her name is the name of the record company, Baby Ree. She taught me all about life and she has always supported me.”
Damizza grew up listening to many different kinds of music, many of which continue to influence him today. “Living with my grandma, I’d listen to Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra and Elvis. My father listened to everything from Led Zeppelin to Michael Jackson. All of these things were influences in my life.” He continued, “Being around music at such a young age and being around a radio station, I could be around music 24 hours a day and get any CD I wanted. I’m totally influenced even down to recording techniques by 80s music, rock, pop and jazz.”
Music has always been an important part of his life, and this has helped him develop an ear for hit songs. “There are two things. The first is when I hear a hit song or record, it’s like I get the chills. You know what I mean? It’s something that happens in your bones, you just know it’s a great record. I guess that I just don’t think of it as a hit record, but that’s a record that evokes an emotion,” he explained. “It makes you feel a certain way every time you hear it. Also, all you’ve gotta do is play it in a room full of people, and if everybody’s dancing and saying, ‘What is that?’ that’s a hit record.”
As a producer, Damizza uses a variety of techniques to put together his beats. “It very much depends on the artist. If you take Mariah for instance, and the song ‘Cry Baby’ which I did with her and Snoop Dogg, that record started after a night out and we were all in my car on our way home. I had some beats in there and she wanted to hear them. She just picked that track out of several and then said I wanna put one of those high keyboards into it. She was like, ‘Wow, that’s crazy’, so I added it and tailored the song to her liking.” Situations like these don’t occur every night, so what about all the other times? “Sometimes I’ll do a beat in the middle of the night and then I’ll be jamming the bass line or whatever it was at the studio the next day; every track is different.”
His latest release, ‘Where I Wanna Be’, is a compilation that Damizza laid together back in 1997 and it was recorded at a crossroad in his career. “It was a place in my life where I was trying to figure out what music I wanted to do. I wasn’t as free musically as I am now, but it was an amazing time in my life. The record company I was with was going bankrupt in the middle of the project, so we never got to really finish the album. ‘Where I Wanna Be’ was probably one of the last songs that I recorded for it and that was the end result of where I wanted to go musically.”
More recently, Damizza has produced ‘Lights Out’ for Westside Connection and the mix tape ‘What Would You Do’, which is hosted by Pamela Anderson. His transition from the unknown to the limelight in just a few years has been a remarkable experience for the Cali native. “For so long I was just a kinda behind the scenes writer and didn’t really think about that kinda stuff. But the more I did it, the more fun I had and ‘What Would You Do’ was really my new evolution of sound,” he said. “Mariah wrote that song with us and to be able to perform it with her and Nate Dogg at the Universal Amphitheatre, it really meant a lot to me. Nate Dogg is LA and Mariah Carey is of course the biggest selling single artist of all time. So it can’t be bad at that! It’s a dream come true for me as a producer, an artist, a writer and just as a person loving the song, telling a story.”
Over the last few months, Damizza has broadened his horizons and worked with the rock band Korn. So is this a new direction for him as a producer? “Well, they are primarily a very hardcore rock band, and I wanted to take them on a different route…R&B. It was incredible being able to take a song like ‘Word Up’ and to go in pretty much whatever direction I wanted,” he recalled. “I thought that Jonathan’s vocals, along with some of the elements of the original track were such that I could definitely take it to a different place. Michael Slazenger, my engineer who’s just an absolute nutcase, really tweaked out on some of the sounds, so it just kinda formed its own direction as we went with it. We just kept the original vibe of the cameo record and that was the fun part about it.”
Being a record producer, Damizza has had to take the best aspects of the job with the worst. “Dealing with people that are purely motivated by dollars and not by the music [is the worst]. It's when you have to create from a place that isn’t genuine. I’ve been lucky to be around some of the greatest musicians and artists that the music business has ever seen. My job is hard but fun,” he reasoned. “You get to travel the world, meet the most amazing people and the best people in the field. Every artist that I have worked with has always been an amazing journey.”
So what else is ahead for the guy whose dream has already come true at 27? Well, Damizza has been busy with his new artist O’Shai, and there are plans in the pipeline for work with actor Billy Bob Thornton. As well as working on his own solo projects, he’s also started on a more unusual pastime, teaching! “Today I taught a class at Santa Barbara City College,” he revealed. “I’m also going to start teaching a class at UCLA Extension. I wanna do more of the teaching thing. I wanna put out another ‘Damizza Presents’ record and that will be coming out in the first part of next year. It’s called ‘Guilty By Association’ and it’s by far my best piece of work,” he declared.
What about a return to the UK? “I hope to get over there again sometime soon. I did a promo tour there two years ago and did ‘Top of the Pops’. I was hot on ‘Top of the Pops’ we had a good time with that, West Coast rap all up in your area! The last time I was over there, we had fun and had the drunkest tour. I was off my head and I was walking past Buckingham Palace… I almost got busted but that’s another story!”
Official Website - www.damizza.com