One-on-one with DJ Lion

As we count down the days to 'White Noise pres. DJ Lion’ on Brown Alley’s iconic garden bar on Friday the 20th of April, we stepped into the cage with the lion himself, Zhivorad Milich. As owner and co-founder of the hugely successful Patent Skillz label and recent signee to Ballroom Records, Zhivorad is quite possibly the Balkans’ finest electronic music export.

Here we get intimate about inspiration, Patent Skillz and movie soundtracks.

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When and how did it all begin for DJ Lion?

I think the very beginning was when I was around 14 or 15 years old, as a grammar school student my friends asked me to bring music cassettes to their birthday parties that I'd made from my parents’ collection at home (initially just for myself to listen to)…eventually I started to mix them as I was invited to more birthday parties. In 1997 I became a resident DJ at the then-biggest club “LAV” in town where for the first time I had modern equipment, so the idea of making “The Best Of” crossed my mind. So I did it, as if out of nowhere, spontaneously revealing some inner inspiration and love, so I set off recording the second and the third…

A year later, "Buy Italy" club was opened with the ultimate technique of the latest fashion. As a resident there until the end of grammar school, I was lucky to have a great experience both with the audience, and with a new mixing technique, as well as a huge collection of records. Marathon sets during the bombings for 3 months on end (without a night off), the club in the basement of the hotel became the hidden "Disco Church" in the most difficult moments of my youth in Serbia. All in all, my inspiration stems from my home country Serbia, its spirit and my parents’ love of music; the family piano; the music collection of cassettes and records at home increasing in number and style all the time…ever since I was born.

My hidden potential (which I wasn’t aware of) was being developed at that time. That ‘something' was rooted deep in the background of my family tree I think.. none of my family were ordinary, habitual or ‘standard'. The price of it is high, and challenging! But that is the way you are, and that is beyond the everyday flow. Over the years you get used to feeling like an intruder who shakes the standard, just by being there (meaning, to be heard and seen)... but we must push further and upwards, for the sake of your purpose which is worth a lifetime.

Is this your first time in Australia?

Yes, and I'm very excited!

Who, or what, inspires your production?

All sounds around me, and the reactions of people when they listen to my music. For me, inspiration comes from inside, thank God. I get struck by it all of a sudden, and here the music is born. It becomes part of my life, I breathe it. Each event turns into a melody and story of myself, my soul. The location and atmosphere influences all of it. For the last three years, it's all happened on my feet – with my laptop and headphones on – actually against all the standards and rules… but big things occur by breaking the ice, don’t they? Moreover, that is my lifestyle – on the feet, on the move – though accompanied by the latest high tech (which is of crucial importance), having in mind the long lasting experience. All of these things make up the rules of my game.

What is your favourite movie soundtrack? Why?

To be honest I can’t remember at the moment! I asked my girlfriend who is sitting next to me, and she said “A Love Song For Bobby Long”.. so I guess it's mine as well.  :)

What brought about the creation of Patent Skillz, and how has this changed your career?

I was just too impatient to wait for big labels to release my tracks - so I made my own in 2012 to release on. Soon after that I moved to Berlin to study and didn't have much time to produce, so I started to release young artists I liked to play. After that, many demos started being sent in so we released more than 800 artists from around the world in just 2-3 years - only good quality music, but without any rules such as releasing 3 to 4 times per week for 3 years in a row. It was kind of crazy, but it was just natural for us to take interest in young producers, and this just happened to be the number I felt deserved to be released. I didn’t always know what I was doing, but I think that's how we became known pretty fast, and at the same time promoting young talent fast-tracks to bigger names around the world and to play their music and get their attention and respect… even their motivation to be released on bigger labels and through booking agencies.

What’s your favourite song, ever?

Leftfield - "Afro Left".

What’s the best thing about the house and techno scene in Germany?

It still keeps uniting young techno DJs and producers from all over the world.

What has been your favourite gig, ever?

It's impossible to answer this question. For me, each gig has its own value, telling a story about that very moment.

Star Trek, or Star Wars?

What's Star Trek? (blushing)

What are you most proud of in your career?

That I managed to make my dream come true having a bachelor in sound engineering, and as the first ever English student in Germany.

Who do you look up to in the electronic music / techno scene? Why?

All the big names in the music industry because of how they work, and the impact it has on people.

What does the future hold for DJ Lion?

I'm quite sure I'll have more live performances, and make people on the dance floor a big part of my show, as always.

For the first time in Australia, the Lion is out of the cage and set loose in Brown Alley’s garden bar on April 20th, 2018