Getting To Know Deniece Marz…: A Life of Beats, Fashion & Sisterhood
Deniece Marz… tells us about her life outside the DJ booth as a fashion designer and stylist. She also shares how it’s like being a sibling and sister to beats music extraordinaire Daev Martian; their family dynamics and shared love for music and how she was able to build her career as a DJ within the hip hop and beats/electronic music scene and take it to greater heights.
Before we get into your life in music and DJing, we would like to get to know you as a person. Who is Deniece Marz… outside of music?
It’s tough because I am music [laughs]. I’m just kidding. Outside of music I am a qualified fashion designer. I do freelance fashion styling, consulting and creative direction. I’m just as crazy about fashion as I am about music; well, almost as much [laughs].
Take us through your daily routines and rituals
My days are never the same. I have a skeleton of a basic routine that is very flexible. Some days I wake up and do admin and work-related things, whereas other days are a lot more relaxed and laid back. I basically do work for both my work as a stylist and as a DJ at the same time on a daily basis.
What are the types of things you do as a stylist and fashion designer?
Most of the work I do is related to creative directing of things such as photo shoots, where we archive photos and other things that we do on set. So, I mainly handle the styling and creative direction. I have worked on a couple shoots or campaigns for a number of companies and I also used to style a TV show called Shiz Life on ETV, where I styled their presenters on set.
I haven’t entered into the clothing design side of things yet. I want to get into that later once I have been able to put my name out there. For now, I find that I like the end product of clothes more than the process of making them hence why I went into styling, which deals more with coordinating clothes or looks and putting them together, rather than making them.
Your birth name is Denise Moyo, however your artist name is “Deniece Marz…” Please explain how you came up with your unique DJ name and what it means to you as an artist.
Yes, my real name is Denise Xoliswa Moyo, but my dad wanted my first name to be spelt “Deniece” after a singer that my parents really loved called Deniece Williams, however when I was born but they got it wrong on my birth certificate. The changing process was going to be so long that my parents ended up leaving it. So when my parents told me about that I thought well I like the “Deniece” spelling because it’s less common, so I use that name now for my professional career.
The “Marz” comes from my love for space/ astronomy and my favourite planet is Mars. I’m also really in to afro futurism so that’s how the “Marz” part came about. I can’t remember fully why I added the ellipsis part (“…”) at the end but I liked it because it creates an anticipation of “what now?” or “what’s next?”. I’ve sort of had to let that part go though, because people never put it in on posters or flyers and I got tired of fighting with promoters about it. Now I’m just happy if people include it in my name but if they don’t, I let it go.
Tell us about being a sister to music maker Daev Martian. How is it being siblings who are both musically inclined?
I am honestly very lucky to be his sister because he is the reason why I am in the industry the way that I am. I used to do all this DJing and finding out about music alone in my room behind closed doors until one day I went to an event that Daev and his friends hosted and got my first chance to play. What happened was at the end of the event the music stopped because everyone who was on the line-up had played, but people were still there and they didn’t want to leave, so I just went up to plug on some music and then my brother Daev came up to me and told me not to just run a playlist but to DJ and make sure it’s a whole DJ set.
Before then I had never played for people except for playing for myself in my room. I was super shy but I did it and people really enjoyed it. So after that I thought maybe I should start doing it professionally since I am a big fan of music and I was already DJing in my room. So Daev was the one who gave me my first shot at being a DJ.
Did Daev influence your interest in music or was it something you loved outside of him?Not necessarily. Daev and I come from a very musical family. My dad is a Jazz bassist and very obsessed with music and my uncle was also a super hip hop head, so I guess we got the musical genes from them. So we both picked up on music through my dad and my uncle separately, not that he directly influenced me into it. However, he was the one who got me to be interested in DJing in particular as I saw him doing it on his laptop and he loaded the DJ software onto my laptop and said I must go do it.
How did your parents/family respond to you being be a DJ, especially as a girl child, with the often negative connotations that come with the DJ industry?
As I said, my parents are musically inclined so it wasn’t a shock to them when I did it and they were super supportive of it. They just said to me I must go ahead if that’s what I want to do.
Did your parents respond differently to you going out to DJ, particularly at night, to when Daev did as a boy?
No, they were fine with it. What helped was that my brother or my cousin or friends were always there with me when I go out to DJ at night so that made them trust that I would be safe. When I started, my brother and I were basically like twins and we would go everywhere together, especially to his gigs, so it was never an issue with my parents. They never treated us differently based on our gender, even with us getting into music.
Did you find that there is a stigma around being a female DJ in the music scene coming up or has it been an un-gender biased journey for you?
It’s better now. I came up at a time where it was becoming easier for females in the industry to be given a chance to play. It’s almost become the “in” thing now to put females on, particularly black females, so I’ve kind of used that to my advantage. I think because of social media and other things it has helped because people are more aware of these issues of lack of diversity in the industry, so it’s become a bit easier. There are still problems though but it’s definitely much better than perhaps 7 years ago.
Do you still remember your first time behind the decks? When was it and how did you feel during that time?
Yes I do. It was crazy. It was at a roof top in down town Johannesburg. I didn’t expect to even perform and my brother said I must just go do it. I also didn’t expect to feel so much joy after it. The place wasn’t packed out but I wasn’t there to play for the crowd, I was just playing for myself and then seeing that people actually enjoyed the music while I was playing felt quite amazing. It really felt great to create such a nice atmosphere for people to enjoy being there. The rush I felt after as well because it was my first time playing was great.
I wasn’t even scared or worried about how my mixing and selection would be as I had been doing that already by myself in my own space for a long time, it was just doing it in front of people that was scary. But after I finally did it, it was amazing and I literally fell in love with DJing from that moment. I will never forget that.
You’ve played at some of SA’s biggest music festivals including Red Bull Music Festival, Oppikopi, Weheartbeat and the internationally acclaimed Afropunk. How have those experiences been for you?
They have been crazy. So far my two favourite sets were firstly Red Bull Music Festival, when I closed for Skepta, and it was nuts. I remember on the day, before the event started, one of the organizers sent me the set times and I saw that I will be playing at the same time as Skepta. Then when I was performing, literally about half way through Skepta’s set, the organizer tells me that my set has been moved and I’m closing the show. There were now a lot of people outside in the alley where I was performing and eventually I had to get moved inside because everyone was still within the vibe and it became too packed in the alley. So that was definitely my favourite set and I even got a round of applause after from the crowd.
My second favourite was at the 2018 Afropunk festival. I played two sets and the second one was my favourite as I had to play in the basement because it was raining hectically. I played for around 2 hours of a strictly house music set and people were amazed as I am mostly known as a hip hop DJ. Weheartbeat was also great because I was playing the same stage as Black Milk, who I have always been a big fan of.
How has the transition been for you from playing smaller venues/events to playing big festivals?
I don’t like to make myself think that one is bigger than the other because I then get nervous unnecessarily and I flop when I’m nervous, so I like to keep it on the same level. The nice thing about festivals though is that you get new ears and people who didn’t know me before discovering me and my music. At festivals people generally know what they are there for, which is mainly to listen to new music, so no one is too uptight about what they are hearing all the time. It’s also very nice to perform to a great stage production, with great sound engineers and a great stage team at festivals as well.
How have you managed to build your career and brand to getting to where you are now? Was it a planned or an organic process?
It wasn’t really a planned process. The only thing that I would say was deliberate was that I knew who I was and I wanted to remain myself in this whole journey. So I did it both deliberately and organically because I deliberately stuck to who I was in everything that I did from the music I played to how I present myself personally to people. I wanted everything to be as me as possible because it’s just so much work when it’s not.
The number one thing is firstly to know yourself, because then you will be able to know what you don’t want and you will know how you expect people to treat you when you are in certain spaces, as well as what you want for your brand. Even if it sometimes means turning down gigs or deals that you feel don’t align with your brand. People won’t respect you and will try to take advantage of you if you don’t know how to stand your ground, especially if you are a young female. Just know who you are and what you stand for and then everything else will come easy.
Finally, what can we expect from Deniece Marz… in the near future? Any projects or ventures you want to share?
Something is coming towards the end of the year which I will only announce later as I’m working on it with other people, but I’m quite excited about it. I will also be trying to put out more music in terms of my own production. I’m kind of nervous about it [laughs] but I have to do it. I have to put it out and let it be out there. The first song that I will try to put out will be with a musician called Rams which is on a beat that I produced. I also play drums and my production is part of that so I’ll be trying to push myself to do that more and get my music out.