Words by Jemah Finn
Julz Janzen is a natural storyteller. He has a poetic-like ability to put emotions and life events into lyrically beautiful songs. Using rap, Julz Janzen can transform a cool beat and catchy tune into a moving story.
What is really special about his raps is the brutal honesty of his life struggles that he exposes. From addiction to anxiety, this guy delves into the darkest corners of his life experiences to deliver touching and inspiring music.
I caught up with this up-and-coming local rapper and talked about everything from his latest music video that dropped yesterday to his struggles with alcohol and drugs.
So, when was it that you started rapping?
I started writing poetry after listening to ‘Rodriguez- Cold Fact’ on repeat for like 3 months straight when I was about 7. I got into ‘The Doors’ pretty heavily around that time as well & started writing songs of my own based on that poetic lyrical style. I think it all started there. My Mum was a pretty avid collector of music & I found the ‘Tupac- How Do U Want It’ single in with a pile of other stuff around 1997- I was about 9. I started to emulate the rhyming style of that track and the others on the single, which included ‘California Love’, & ‘Hit ‘Em Up’. From there I was trying to get my hands on any rap records I could & rapping along, as well as writing my own songs – all while still taking in all of the other amazing music (all genres) I would hear my Mum play. When I was about 11, my brother (who is 2 ½ years older) and his friends exposed me to all of the classic 90’s New York Hip Hop including ‘Mobb Deep’, ‘Big L’, ‘Biggie Smalls’, ‘Nas’, ‘Gangstarr’ & the list goes on. I fell in love and continued to expand my Hip Hop taste. I loved it all- West Coast. New York. I even started to sink my teeth into the sounds of the South, the ‘heavy percussion and repetitive hooks’. I was freestyling and writing all the time by the first term of year 7.
Is it the ability to express yourself that attracts you to music or something else?
I have always felt a NEED to express myself creatively. There have been times in my life, when I have been caught up in other things and felt like there was something missing. But then I start creating and it all makes sense again. Music is the one constant that has always remained. No matter how high or how low, no matter what I have done or where I have been, the music is always there. It is a part of my soul- my being. In saying that, there have been times that I haven’t been able to find peace with my creative side. It has led me down many roads and on many adventures. The last 18 months has seen me finally give up the struggle and end up back in the place where it all started- true connection with the process. What once may have been attraction, has now well and truly evolved to become unification.
You talk freely about your battles with alcoholism and addiction – how difficult is it to be so open about this aspect of your life with your fans?
It took a long time to open up ‘explicitly’ about this aspect of my life. I mean- I have written extensively about addiction and alcoholism for a long time- but always in a very abstract way. I decided to write and record a song that discussed all of these things in heavy detail. I didn’t want to hold back, and although I still did to a certain extent haha- I felt a big weight off my. The response I got for being so raw and honest about it all has definitely ‘helped me’ realise that I can ‘help others’ by opening up. I was worried that people would think differently of me, or judge me, but that’s all fear. The overwhelming majority of people that reached out after I dropped that video had nothing but love! It was such an amazing feeling to hear from people I had never met that I had given them hope! To those that wanna judge me or think a certain way about who I am for being honest about my battles, well, you can go fuck yourselves! Nah, it’s all love haha… I know what it is like to live in fear and resent others- It’s a vicious cycle… I am ALWAYS here to help those that want to help themselves…
You’ve been clean and sober since 2013, do you think music played a part this new way of life?
I’m not sure if it has or not… When I first started going to perform at shows & doing battles sober- I started to really see how messy it could sometimes get… I wasn’t in the right place mentally yet to be around the drinking/drug culture- it wasn’t a temptation thing- it was more a situation where everyone knew me as a person that I never really was… The person they thought I was- was merely a mask… A mask that I wore for so long that no one had ever seen my real face before. I battled with it… I stuck around for a bit before deciding to disappear altogether for a while. I took a break from performing- I was still writing but felt like there was no purpose behind anything. The first six months to a year was a very testing time in many ways. I came out of it all stronger than I had ever been & I continue to grow every day. This July will mark 3 years clean and sober for me- the longest amount of time since I was 11 ½ years old. I am grateful every day.
Besides this side of your life, what is it that inspires you in music?
Love, life & the universe! I draw inspiration from absolutely everything… Sometimes I am aware & fully conscious- other times I am almost taken over- the pen moves and I just try and keep up.
In terms of the writing process, how do you go about writing new music? Is there a certain process you go through to perfect your music?
I am constantly writing. Sometimes it flows- other times it may just be a small thought or idea that I will build on at a later stage… Some ideas never go any further than a few words on a page- others turn into songs- some end up becoming poems- some even end up becoming the bones of movie scripts or novels (I have a dream to write a film script & a novel one day… One day). Most of the stuff I write when I am writing without music to guide the writing process doesn’t get used- the stuff that does get used ends up very different to what it was originally- but there are always exceptions to the rule. Most of the stuff that I write that people hear as songs, is written to a specific instrumental, or part of an instrumental. I can spend hours & hours listening to the same instrumental over and over again when writing specifically for a track. My rule when writing is there are no rules. I try and let the music guide me- whether that ‘music’ is an instrumental that I have received from a producer, the sound of birds, the noise generated by the multiple conversations of strangers all happening at once (I sometimes go to the casino to write- don’t know why- just something I have been doing for a while), or my dogs snoring, the vibration of the train on the tracks while I sit & look out the window, the sound of the city, or a melody in my mind… The infinite energy of the universe is my ultimate inspiration… It is hard to describe my writing process in any more detail than that… Sometimes it almost feels like it just happens haha…
What can you tell us about your year ahead? Any tours or new music coming our way?
Mixtape ‘Look What I Found// A Song For Me’ dropping very soon! First single off of that, which is actually 2 tracks merged into one with a film clip is that dropped yesterday called TIMES UP//ANXIETY. I have started performing again this year, in March I have already performed at Black Market Hip Hop Party & supported ‘The Tongue’ for the ADL leg of his ‘Hard Feelings’ tour. I have many more shows lined up for the coming months including a launch show for the LWIFASFM mixtape here in Adelaide at ‘Ancient World’ on the 21st April.
I have an EP that I will release later this year. At this stage it will drop early August. All of the details about this EP will be revealed after LWIFASFM launch show… I am planning to tour the EP nationally, with dates already locked in for NSW/QLD/TAS/WA
There are also a few surprise projects that I will drop throughout the year.
Keep an eye on this talented musician and make sure you check out his latest music video for a bit of inspiration!