Calvin Potgieter, aka GREMLIN,is a professional party-rocker and an award winning club, festival & radio DJ.
GREMLIN’s performances are boundary-pushing, multicultural, genre-bending & energy-driven explorations through Hip-Hop, Trap, House and everything in-between.
As well as being a regular on the Cape Town clubbing and festival scene, GREMLIN is also a weekly resident DJ on GoodHope FM.
- Festivals: Rocking The Daisies, Synergy, iPotsoyi
- 2016 Red Bull 3Style Cape Town Champion & National Finalist
- Residencies include: 40/40 Club, Cocoon, SAINT, Jade Lounge, UNIK
- international Performances in New York, Miami & West Palm Beach
- Radio: Mouv’ Radio France, 5FM, GoodHope FM, Massiv Metro, Bush Radio, UCT Radio
- Alumnus: Scratch DJ Academy New York, SAE Cape Town – Scratch Lab
Tell us about your introduction into DJing?
Confession time – I wasn’t really into any type of music other than rock and metal till I was about 14/15. I grew up to my parents’ music – AC/DC, Guns ‘n Roses, Metallica, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Nirvana etc. – just to name a few. They had good taste!
So I learnt guitar from my grandfather and I taught myself how to play the drums. When I got to high school I was exposed to a ton of different music, so that’s when I started listening to a lot of house, electro, dubstep and hip-hop. Before I knew it, I was making mashups and mixtape CDs on Virtual DJ and selling them on break-up day at school and in my neighbourhood (in retrospect this might’ve been slightly illegal!)
When I got back to school the following term, everyone loved the CDs and I started to make a bit of a name for myself. So I sold my beloved drum kit and bought my first piece of DJ equipment – I believe it was a little Denon controller from Cash Crusaders.
Long story short, after high school I was lucky enough to live and work in America for a couple years, and that’s where I really fell in love with the art and craft of DJing. That’s when the real passion and addiction started.
You’re a former student at Scratch Lab. How was the experience and why did you do the course seeing that you had prior DJ experience?
The Scratch Lab course was one of the most memorable experiences I’ve had. Until doing the course, I had learnt how to play on standard club equipment like CDJs and controllers. But I just had this deep urge to learn how to play on turntables. To me, it’s just the coolest, most authentic form of DJing. When I saw that the legendary Beat Bangaz were the instructors I was like “WHO BETTER to learn from!?”
My initial goal was just to learn how to use turntables and how to scratch, but I gained so much more from the course. The time spent with such experienced people in the industry, and the knowledge, attitudes and mind-sets that they instilled in us was invaluable.
Has it been difficult to carve out a career as a DJ specifically being Cape Town based?
Yes and No. I am extremely lucky to have some very talented, hard-working friends in the industry. Within a month of coming home from America, I was booked by my good friends Fonzo and NV Funk to play at their new event – The 021 Connect. You’d think coming from overseas they’d book me as a headliner – definitely not! Haha! The first gig was an opening slot at 3pm to like 10 people. I did my best and the next time was 7pm, 9pm, and eventually I had a headline slot.
I think this little story speaks massively towards the type of attitude you need to have as a DJ – especially in Cape Town. I’ve always been conscious about making the most of every single opportunity, no matter how big or small. I really believe that every door leads to something greater, that’s why in the early days of my career (and even now) I did a lot of free gigs, charity events, birthday parties and so on. Every one of those things opened the door to a bigger opportunity.
So to answer the question, yes it has been difficult to make a career. It takes a lot of time, hard work, discipline and SACRIFICE – something not a lot of people are willing to do. But if you’re willing to put in the hours and remain humble, positive and genuinely just a good person I do believe that you can be successful.
How did your radio residency on Good Hope FM come about & what stories are you trying to convey through your sets to listeners?
Ok this is a great example of taking every opportunity by the horns!
Just over a year ago, I was invited to play on Ready D’s show on Good Hope FM after competing in the Red Bull Thre3styles. I put a ton of effort into that live mix and that night another presenter Loonie Lately was in the DJ booth listening to me play. He then invited me to play on his show a couple weeks later. A couple months go by and one day I get a call from Kyeezi saying he heard me on Loonie’s show, his DJ couldn’t make it and he needs a DJ for his show in the next hour.
So I had an hour to get home, prep a mix (CLEAN EDITS!) and get to the studios. After the mix, Kyeezi thanked me for saving the day (maybe he never used those exact words) and asked if I wanted to be a resident on the show.
I’ve always been about pushing the envelope when it comes to my sets – so I try to really experiment and see how much I can get away with on my radio mixes. I want people to be open to hearing something out of the box, and the more they’re exposed to it the more they’ll appreciate it, I hope!
You entered the Red Bull Thre3style competition – what was your motivation for entering and is it something you would do again and are there any other competitions you see entering?
The first time I saw anything about the Thre3styles was a video of the world finals where Four Color Zac was doing these crazy technical tricks and the crowd was partying to it. I got hooked on this idea of super creative, technical sets in the club environment, as opposed to the DMCs where it’s waaay more technical but you can’t really dance to it. I thought it was something I could do and I entered.
I did the university level competition in 2016, I did well so I decided to enter the World Champs last year and I didn’t do that well haha! But I knew the competition would be way tougher so I wasn’t too upset, but now I’m way more motivated to go further. I’ve spent the last year practicing my skills and I’m entering this year again. I’ll see where it goes from there but right now this is my biggest goal.
What’s your viewpoint concerning brand vs skill?
Very interesting subject. Something I battle with quite often. I want to believe that one cannot exist without the other – but that’s unfortunately not true in many cases.
There are some extremely talented DJs in the world that have absolutely no brand power or commercial viability. They spend all their time in their room practicing the most intense scratches and tricks, but they don’t know how to play to people. Or, there are some really good club DJs but they have no networking or marketing skills.
On the other hand – and this is the part I don’t like to talk about – there are “DJs” that have absolutely no talent and no skill but they have really strong brand power and commercial viability. These are the people getting the corporate and festival gigs. As much as “Real DJs” despise this, there is something to learn from them.
Also, I don’t blame either party for their success or their failures. The power is in the hands of the people. Promoters want numbers, and brand power brings numbers. BUT, people shouldn’t mistake brand power for talent. No matter how strong your brand is, if you’re a terrible DJ, eventually people will catch on. Hopefully.
I think finding the balance between skills and brand power is the key to being a well-rounded modern day DJ.
What’s your setup and why?
I like to keep it hybrid and flexible. At home I have 2 Technics SL1200 turntables, a Traktor Z2 mixer and an AKAI MPD218 midi controller. I’ve custom mapped the mixer and controller to Traktor. This would be my ideal setup for every show but unfortunately it’s not very ideal for most gigs.
So I also use Rekordbox on USBs as well as Rekordbox DJ in HID mode on CDJs for my club gigs. I also carry my Traktor control CDs and interface just incase. I think it’s vital to be ready for any scenario. Especially if you’re doing more than one gig a night and you don’t have time to pre-check the venue’s setup.
Top 5 influences and why?
My family and fiance: their unconditional, never-ending support and positivity towards my passion is so important to me.
My friends: I get so much inspiration from them. People from all walks of life doing amazing things in so many different fields.
Craze: multiple World DMC Champ, one of the most badass DJs in history, and a merciless disregard for competition, authority and the norm. And pretty cocky too, but he can back it up!
Skrillex: constantly ahead of the game, always innovating, genre creator, infectious energy.
Jazzy Jeff: the OG. He’s been through everything. And he’s still on the top of his game after so many years. Soulful, funky and super humble.
Yes definitely. I’ve been quietly cooking up some stuff over the past few months. I just have to pick through the pile and decide what to go forward with. I’d love to collaborate with local artists, and offer the industry something fresh and exciting. It’s a whole new ball game though! Stay tuned
You already have an impressive resume acquired over a short amount of time. What are some of your career highlights?
Performing at Rocking The Daisies 2017 is definitely one of the biggest highlights for me. Red Bull Thre3style University champ of Cape Town and national finalist in 2016. And a year-long-and-going residency on Good Hope FM. Still a lot more in sight!
If you weren’t DJ’ing you would be…
DAYM!!! This has pretty much been my life for like 10 years now so it’s hard to think about anything else. But I’d love to think I’d be involved in sports in some way – I’m a huge soccer fan. I was never a fan of the corporate life so definitely not a 9-5!
Famous last words…
“Where our music is welcome, we will play it loud. Where our music is challenged, we will play it louder”
I think this goes beyond music. Appreciate those that appreciate you, and ignore the naysayers.
Social Media: @gremlin_za