Updated: May 27
Times are changing. And so are the SZN’s. We linked up with Josh Kilimanjaro to discuss his mounting schedule and future plans for his emerging brand.
INSZN was established by Josh in the summer of 2019 and was an instant hit. Josh’s already established reputation within the central belt’s underground scene may have helped. But don’t let that fool you. There’s a lot of hard work going on behind the scenes. There’s plans to take INSZN further afield as well as imminent collaborations with fellow creatives. But I’m getting ahead of myself. We’ll cross that bridge in a minute.
Firstly though, when initiating Josh’s feature, I suggested we snap him in a Dundee United kit to tie together the colour of INSZN with Scottish football. He willingly agreed. That was easy. But, during his shoot, he revealed he was actually a fan of The Arabs. At that point, a lot of things made sense! So lets start with that, shall we?
Lets get straight in to it, you’re a follower of the United’s - both Dundee and Manchester. Just how big a football fan are you? Football is a massive part of my life. It’s just something to get passionate about. I’ve been playing football since I was about 5, so it’s just been heavily engrained on me for as long as I can remember. I went to see my first match at Tannadice when I was 7 - I think it was Dundee United versus Motherwell.
And what made you pick Dundee United over their city rivals? Dundee is strange when it comes to football - it’s like a 50/50 split; sometimes even in the same household! But United were the first club I went to see; I liked the colours, the stadium was pretty cool and the people around me at the time all supported them, so I was shepherded in to being a Dundee United fan!
And tell us about how you got in to supporting Manchester United. So I was born in London, and I think I was just trying to be different as people were expecting me to be an Arsenal fan or whatever!
It’s interesting you should say that as London has a massive Manchester United following. Even in the music industry, there’s guys like Stormzy, Headie One, Not3s, Dave, Avelino and Sam Wise who all who make their love of United known, despite hailing from the capital. Why do you think that is? Well, obviously all of the artists that you named there are black. And, for me, when I first started developing a relationship with football, I looked up to the black players that United had at the time. We had Dwight Yorke, Andy Cole, Paul Ince - there was a lot to aspire to at that time as a young, black kid. But being successful helps as well!
What’s been your favourite moment as a Red Devil so far? Obviously ’99. Although it’s vague. So, in terms of one I can fully remember, it would have to be the Champions League win over Chelsea in 2008 when Terry slipped; that was amazing!
What about your own football career - did you play much as a kid? Yeah so I actually played for Dundee United! Myself and my older brother were scouted through the United training camps - I got scouted first, I just want to get that in - and then he was picked up maybe a few months later. I enjoyed it but I think it’s difficult up here for young Scottish footballers as we don’t have a support network in place - schools, clubs, the SFA - so it’s difficult for young players in Scotland to progress, I think.
When you started getting in to music, did you ever have to choose between the two? It never really got to that stage as I stopped playing with United when I was around 15. I was playing drums from the age of 12 and started up the band with my brother when I was 14, but it never really got to the point of choosing between the two.
Tell us how you got in to music then. Who were you listening to in your teenage years? So because I played drums, and my favourite drummer was Matt Tong from Bloc Party, I was heavily in to rock music from a young age. I still liked the classics; your 2Pac’s, your Jay-Z’s, but it was predominately rock for me. From there, I transitioned in to hip-hop when I was maybe 15-16. Kanye West was a massive influence on me then, and still is now - I liked how he came from being a producer to an artist to, now, working in fashion. He’s just doing his thing. I like his energy of “I want to do this, I don’t want to be pigeonholed in to one area’. As a creative, he’s someone I look up to.
So its fair to say you grew up with a fair bit of diversity in music. That’s one thing you continue to do now given you’re relationship with FLY Club. Tell us more about that. Yeah! So my friend, Tom Ketley, runs FLY Club who I’ve known for about 10 years. He gave me an opportunity to play at FLY from quite early on in the process. When I play for them, it’s more house music. Afro-house; good energy, good fun. I like to dance so I want to make people dance too.
Focusing now on the last 6 months, you recently created a new lifestyle brand and motive: INSZN. With other events and brands in Glasgow like Peach and Magic City already, what was your inspiration for creating your own thing as opposed to DJ’ing as Josh Kiliminjaro with those guys? I was deliberating starting up my own thing for a little while but, I was sure I didn’t want to ‘a night’ - that’s being done; and people are doing it well. I didn’t want to step out there and be like ‘I’m creating Glasgow’s next biggest night!’ - that’s not my energy at all. I wanted to create a brand that is an extension of my personality; what I love about hip-hop, what I love about the culture: music, fashion, parties, entertainment. We threw the first party last August in The Dam - where we are now! - which was very nerve-wracking, despite running other people’s parties for years and years!
What was the biggest thing causing you that angst ahead of your inaugural INSZN party? So we didn’t do tickets; it was just an on the door event - that was scary! Just because it was the first one, really. I’ve ran nights where the Facebook event is popping off and, when it comes to the actual night itself, it’s dead. But it was one of the best things I did last year. It was just a good vibe. My mantra for INSZN is just: come along, trust us, trust the process, come and dance… and we’ll do the rest.
A good policy! But I think it helped that, as it was the first party, people never had any expectations of what INSZN was like, so you could just turn up and have fun. Would you agree? Exactly! And then, because that night went so well, it allowed me to host our second event at The Locale in October. We did a, kind of, food fusion day-party which was great. We just wanted to do something different, something that people haven’t really been doing: get people together, have some food, good music, get a few different guys jump on and play - it was really good.
You had jerk chicken at your day party; jerk chicken is an Afro-Caribbean inspired dish - is that something you purposely wanted to incorporate in to your brand? Yeah, for sure! When I was starting up the brand, the full SZN/seasoning thing really allowed me to broaden our horizons, which gave me the platform to host a day party. We also got a rum sponsor for that day which was sick. So we done a little rum punch as well. So yeah, we wanted to create that, sort of, Afro-Caribbean party vibe…. in Glasgow….. in October……… (laughs) I’m pretty sure it rained on the day as well! But it was such good fun, man. We’ll definitely do another one at some point.
Talk to us about performing for a minute. How much do you enjoy being on stage and in the booth? I’ve always loved performing. Even at primary school plays, I would always be trying out for the lead role! I just liked to be at the forefront - being a 6ft tall black guy with peach hair also helps! But when you’re on stage, playing your own music and can tell people are enjoying it; when you see those things together, there’s not a better feeling.
Do you feel that your music career has a crossover with football, in that, your booth is your pitch where you can just go out and express yourself? Yeah definitely, man! When I was playing football, I was a striker because I wanted to score goals and get all the attention. That feeling then transferred over to DJ’ing and performing. Holding a room when playing music as well is such an experience, which, in a way, is similar to how footballers hold a stadium.
Just on links between football and music, the rap and hip hop culture in England seems to have a strong connection. Do you think that is missing from Scotland at the minute? I think, down south, there’s a lot more money involved. And, at the minute, pop culture is UK rap and hip-hop. People at the top are taking note of that and using it to their advantage to drive revenue. For example, when Pogba signed for Manchester United, it was announced with Stormzy so that it would generate further interest. It think it also helps that these rappers have supported their English clubs since they were kids. So, now, getting the chance to work with them is good for them as well. Up here, there aren’t as many people in music with that level of profile that are on par with the bigger names in Scottish football. So, at the moment, it doesn’t make sense for, say, Rangers or Celtic to link up with someone that doesn’t have that level of following. I think there’s definitely scope moving forward, though.
You seem to be all over the country on your socials. Tell us about how you split your time both geographically and professionally. So I left my previous job in March last year as I was losing the passion for it. That has helped me focus my attention on my creative outputs. Freelancing has given me an opportunity to focus on what’s important in life, including family. I’ve got my big brother who I was in the band with, my little brother is up in Dundee and is also a solo musician - and probably more talented than I am! I’m just a better blagger! I’ve got a little sister down in Birmingham who is at the Conservatoire doing music as well. When I was working full-time and DJ’ing, it made it difficult for me to visit. I definitely have a better balance now.
I’m glad you mentioned Birmingham as that’s helped me reach my next question! From what you’ve said so far, I can see similarities with what you’re trying to do at INSZN with the guys down in Brum at Trp.Hse - have they inspired you at all? Yes, definitely! The Trp.Hse guys are smashing it; shout out to them, for sure. I’m going to try get down to some of their parties this year and just see how they do things. I just love their energy. The energy that their shows provide would work really well in Scotland. But, with INSZN, we can add a different dimension so, that’s why I want to take the brand down south and abroad.
That would be interesting! With that in mind, what make up your plans for INSZN moving forward in 2020? So we are looking at doing something through in Edinburgh at some point this year which hopefully I can announce soon. But I’m also really keen to take the party down to England - Manchester seems like a good spot. To me, it feels like a central point for guys in Glasgow, London and everywhere in between to come and have party! I also want to branch out in to fashion. I’ve been in talks with a couple of Glasgow based guys about some collaborations - they should be dropping this year which I’m excited for! We’ve got some stuff coming that people will expect and some other things people definitely won’t expect! So that’s going to be cool - I’m looking forward to it!
Words: Scott Kelly
Photography: Connor Stewart
Location: Glasgow City College & The Dam
Styling: Scott Kelly / Josh Kilimanjaro