Los Angeles' Troublemaker is one hardworking & talented producer/DJ. Born Josh Kouzomis, the artist has been honing his skills since the early 1990s when he started out as a college radio DJ and music director while at school in Ohio. After leaving college and returning to LA, he got an internship at punk label Epitaph Records where he gained invaluable inside music business and production experience.
This led to him co-founding the hip-hop/drum'n'bass label Celestial Recordings in 1998. Fast forward into the beginning of this decade and Troublemaker joined forces with fellow producer/DJ talent E. Moss to form the Backyard Bangers, whose eponymous debut track was a collaboration with Z-Trip on the Constant Elevation compilation from 2002 on Astralwerks. The Backyard Bangers released several wonderful recordings, including the CDs Get That Shit Outta Here, Pardon My French, and Spunkbubble, all through the Hollyrock label. Their great song “Road of Good Intentions” appeared on the Amoeba Music Compilation Vol. V.
As a solo recording artist & performer Troublemaker has remained incredibly prolific. He's toured with Z-Trip, recorded lots of original tracks, and done many more remixes of music by a wide variety of artists including Bonde do Role, Justice, Johnny Cash, Linkin Park, and Peter Bjorn & John. Download his inspired remix of their infectious hit "Nothing to Worry About" featuring Adam Tensta, U-N-I and The 87 Stick Up Kids on his website. Also there you can check out Troublemaker's impressive discography including tons of remix projects.
In the past week alone Troublemaker has performed in both the UK and Nairobi and in January got invited to DC to DJ at the Manifest Hope Inauguration Party. He holds down a monthly residency at Wasted Space at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas. To celebrate the release his all original new solo album Maestro, to be released on July 7th and featuring the lead single "All Nite"/"I'm Famous," he will be doing a series of US concert dates. Click here for details.
Recently the Amoeblog caught up with Troublemaker to talk music, the music biz, radio, the changing LA music scene, and many other things.
Amoeblog: You first got into DJing at a college radio station. Where was that and how instrumental was that experience in shaping your later career?
DJ Troublemaker: I began DJing at my college radio station, ACRN at Ohio University. It was definitely
an instrumental point in my career and it was also integral in piquing my interest in audio production and recording.
Amoeblog: When and how did you get the name Troublemaker?
DJ Troublemaker: It was around 1997/8 at Winter Music Conference when [I was] doing a show with my old Celestial partners. A bouncer was about to throw one of us out of the club for smoking the special stuff. I thought it would be a good idea to get in the middle and jumped up and grabbed him around the neck. At that point a group of large men picked me up cartoon style and carried me towards the door. Fortunately the promoter wasn't gonna let that happen and asked them to kindly let me down. All the while Raymond Roker (founder of Urb magazine) was off to the side watching and said, "You're such a troublemaker."
Amoeblog: How has where you grew up shaped you musicially?
DJ Troublemaker: I was born in Columbus, Ohio, but I've lived in southern California since I was 3ish. I consider Los Angeles my home and it has definitely molded me musically. Four letters, KDAY.
Amoeblog: Has the LA music scene changed over the years?
DJ Troublemaker: Without a doubt it has changed. Just in my "grown up years" it has gone from a
family feelin' hip-hop and old school rave scene to what is now a cracked out on cocaine and red bull new school celebrity DJ club and rave scene. Basically, we lost our soul, and it sucks.
Amoeblog: What did you do at Epitaph and what from that experience has stayed with you and benefited you to this day?
DJ Troublemaker: I started out as a grass roots marketing intern at Epitaph and then ended up doing radio promotion. Epitaph taught me the business of the music business and how to do it right, staying true to the music, and ultimately supporting the artist first and foremost.
Amoeblog: Backyard Bangers are, or were, a great group -- can you give me a brief history of the Bangers and tell me if you guys still together as a group?
DJ Troublemaker: Backyard Bangers was E.Moss and myself. We got together when we were both doing radio promotion at labels and had mutual interest in making music. We definitely helped each other grow and were able to accomplish some great stuff, but we no longer work together.
Amoeblog: I know you were on that Constant Elevation comp seven years ago, but how was it you hooked up with Z Trip and what exactly is it you do or have done with him over the years?
DJ Troublemaker: Jazzbo, Z-Trip and I met around 97 thru the industry and became friends from the jump. Over the years we have worked together on music, toured together, and at one point we lived across the street from each other. He's basically like my older brother; I have immense love for him.
Amoeblog: How beneficial to you has it been to be connected to someone of Z-Trip's status?
DJ Troublemaker: Without sounding like an asshole, I think this is kinda an obvious one. Z-Trip is one of the greatest DJ's of all time. It definitely does not hurt to have him on your team, or more like the other way around.
Amoeblog: What has one of your DJing highlights been?
DJ Troublemaker: Definitely DJing in DC for Manifest HOPE during the [presidential] inauguration was one of them, if not the one to this point. Not only was it the induction of our first African American president, but I shared the stage with De La Soul, Santogold, Shepard Fairey and a host of celebrities like the lovely Rosario Dawson (she said I was amazing... sigh).
Amoeblog: As a traveling DJ, how challenging can it be to adapt to different settings & different cities?
DJ Troublemaker: Every day is a new day, and every crowd is different unto its own. It is kinda the
joy of the "job" to be able to adapt and set off a party no matter where you are. I love it. I feed off it.
Amoeblog: What is your favorite equipment for performing on the road and in the studio?
DJ Troublemaker: On the road I use my Mac, Serato, Rane mixer, Technics turntables, shure needles and Sennheiser headphones. In the studio I have a Mac tower, pro tools, a Midi controller keyboard, the above mentioned dj gear, and a shit ton of plug ins.
Amoeblog: You are a most prolific producer; just how many different tracks -- originals and remixes-- have you done to date and what do you think are some of the most noteworthy?
DJ Troublemaker: The list has been growing pretty rapidly, especially in the past couple years, so I'm not sure of exact numbers of tracks. But of note: Phoenix Orion "Zimulated Experiencez" (first album I ever produced), Johnny Cash "Straight A's in Love" (Troublemaker Remix), and The Maestro (my solo debut album coming out July 7th).
Amoeblog: That recent remix of Peter Bjorn and John you did is sick. I love it! You take an already killer track and elevate it further. What has the response been like and have the Swedish originators of the track heard it?
DJ Troublemaker: The response has been amazing, there is definitely power in numbers. I think we had something like 20k downloads the first week it was posted. PBJs label just hit me up about making it an official remix, dopeness!
Amoeblog: As a result of that remix I have fallen in love with the 87 Stick Up Kids. They are a dope crew from LA right who just put out their official first release, right?
DJ Troublemaker: Yeah, SK87 are great. Their debut EP Out 4 Fame is available on the net now. They
will have a new ep this summer which I contributed production to. Keep ya ears peeled.
Amoeblog: First record you ever bought?
DJ Troublemaker: Ha! The Kiss gatefold with all the faces, pretty pathetic if you ask me. It wasn't even for the music; I liked the artwork.
Amoeblog: Your all time Top 5 albums?
DJ Troublemaker: This is not a fair question. At the moment, in no particular order:
Rolling Stones - Sticky Fingers
The Pharcyde - Bizarre Ride II
Beastie Boys - Check Your Head
Portishead - Dummy
The Clash - any album
For more information about and music by DJ Troublemaker, visit the following websites: djtroublemaker.com, his myspace, or follow him on twitter.