DJ Del

Ladies and gentlemen it's our extreme pleasure to present to you music producer, poet, writer, teacher and DJ, Delesse Francis aka DJ Del... 

Just Focus And Do It

1. How do you define creativity and what does it mean to you?

Creativity is the way you express your interpretation of various stimuli around you. Creativity has always been a way of life for me, whether it was a tool for expressing, for venting or interpreting things. It is what makes me this unique individual- whether it is using creativity to produce something physical or musical, or simply in thought. When I feel like I have lost my creativity, I feel empty - I have lost my spirit, or feel disconnected with the universe.

2. How much of your creative ability do you think is innate? Or is your creativity a skill that you have developed?

I think it is mostly innate, however sometimes it takes an external stimulus to discover your creativity. Sometimes, it can be developed or nurtured. When I was younger I played several instruments including pan, piano, saxophone and guitar, however I never really looked at it as being creative. It was only when I first started writing and performing spoken word poetry that I discovered my creative spirit and actually felt creative. However, I discovered that voice only after I attended several poetry shows and other creative minded events. So in a way, I look at that as something I developed through exposure to that creative way of thinking, but it had to be innate for it to be able to be developed.

3. When did you realize that you wanted to express your creativity? Was it encouraged by others (e.g., parents)?

I realized from an early age, I just didn’t know how to interpret or express it then. I tried several outlets as I said - poetry, music, photography, even sport. I think they all contributed significantly to how I think and interpret the world around me today. Luckily people around me were always supportive and encouraging. 

I grew up doing music and theory exams but I was never really exposed to the freestyle side of things and my attempts to create my own music was shut down by my very critical opinion of myself back then. Eventually I got fedup of regurgitating sheet music and decided I wanted to create my own. That’s when I fell in love with the idea of music production, sound design, sound engineering and DJing. By then I was old enough to make difficult choices and work around hindrances, and here I am today. 

My parents encouraged me even though they may not have realized it. They always supported my crazy choices and allowed me to do me at my various stages, in my various forms, and explore what I liked or what I wanted to explore. My family and friend network have always been my rock to get opinions, critique, etc.

Sometimes they see the perfection in the imperfection.

4. What is your standard for evaluating your own creative work and the works of other people? Do you think that monetary rewards can be compatible with creativity in general? Are monetary rewards relevant to your own work?

The standards for myself are set very high. Many times, I am my worst critic. However, in spite of this I believe in doing your best. Personally, I have struggled with the fact that if I think my product is not good enough I don’t put it out there, however friends and family try to discourage me from holding myself to the perfect level and just embracing my work for what it is. Sometimes they see the perfection in the imperfection. 

Djing tests me a lot. My page doesn’t have much mixes since it takes me forever to perfect it to my standard. The ones I have there I’m personally not pleased with, but it’s there as proof of growth for me to know that I have improved in skill. Being creative with DJing is a work in progress for me. Being able to embrace the technical side of things and marrying that with what is in my head.

… if you love what you do, you can do it for free, however we all belong to the creative industry.

Monetary rewards are definitely relevant, I have grown to learn that. To me it shows appreciation and respect for the craft and the creative process. At the end of it all, if you love what you do, you can do it for free, however we all belong to the creative industry. For it to be industry, it includes monetary transactions, exchanges and compensation. Take DJs for example, it’s not just about playing and interpreting music, one has to invest in their craft. Even an entry level setup of a controller, a pair of headphones, a small speaker and laptop can easily cost $10,000. 

Of course another consideration is what your creativity is actually worth to yourself and to others. That is another struggle for some.

5. Do you think your own perception and evaluation of your creative endeavors are influenced by the views of other people? What role do you think the culture that you live in plays in your creative efforts?

To some extent. When I am writing poetry or stories I tend not to care about other people’s views. However when I am producing music or DJing you have to consider other parties. Their feedback on my performance has extreme value to my improvement. Although sometimes I may want to do as I want or play what I want, creative compromise is a necessity for success.

The culture I live in plays a significant role in my creativity. Not just on a national level, but even everything I interact with, my community, my network, my social interactions and experiences all add to that influence. When I moved to Rome, Italy, this added to my outlook on a lot of things and exposed me to an entire new way of thinking. Marrying my exposure to Europe and that of the Caribbean and even on a micro level- that of my communities in which I live and interact with, helps me to look at things out of the box.

I feel like I have been experiencing a creative block for about 5 years

6. What do you do when you experience a creative block?

Funny enough, I feel like I have been experiencing a creative block for about 5 years. During this time, I have experimented with different things. What usually helps is meditation, listening to underground music, speaking with more experienced professionals in the industry and attending events to stimulate my mind. 

I basically try to reconnect with myself and the universe and try to find what drives my creative bursts. Through it all, I try to keep a positive frame of mind and go with the flow. I still write, still compose, still produce and try to accept the product, regardless of the quality and if I like it or not.

If all else fails, I usually end up either playing football with friends or playing football on the PS4 till my thumbs are numb and I can't keep my eyes open. 

Also, wine is a necessity to help any problem.

7. How do you make the leap from a "Spark" in your head to the action you produce?

It just happens. Once I feel motivated to convert an idea into words or music I just go with the flow. The more I think about it or try to control the process, the quicker the spark fades. 

A more experienced DJ told me once, "You have to forget the technical stuff sometimes, your brain already knows it- aim for the sound you want to hear, the sound you want to produce, the feeling you want to feel"

I’m still far from where I want to be and what I want to achieve, but closer to my goal than I was a few months ago.

8. Do you have any special rituals that you do in order to achieve your creative goals?

No. I try to let things happen as they are meant to be. Of course I strategize how to get myself closer to be able to achieve the goal, then I just let things fall into place.

For the past few years I knew where I wanted to be creatively so I invested in the educational aspect of the industry for me to be closer to achieving my goals. This entailed doing a BA in Music, Postgrad Diploma in Arts and Cultural Enterprises Management, an MBA and supporting that with a Certificate in Music Technology. Now that I have acquired a lot of technical skill, its just left for me to add my creative element to it. 

I'm still far from where I want to be and what I want to achieve, but closer to my goal than I was a few months ago.

9. Has your creativity changed stylistically as you have matured? If it has changed, please explain how?

Yes, it definitely has. I guess my creativity develops in tangent with the stages in life. With each discipline I am involved in I have evolved at different rates and with varying levels of involvement. Also, the investment in the educational aspect of life changes your way of thinking and how you process information. Learning from or being exposed to professionals in any industry definitely makes an impression on your creative output.

10. What has been the greatest sacrifice that you have made for your craft?

I’ll have to say a social life. I have been so involved in developing myself to achieve my goals for so long that one day I realised that I developed social anxiety and forgot how to simply hang out, relax and have fun. 

This is a terrible thing for a DJ as you have to market yourself, be social, expand your network, go out to clubs to hear what is playing, hear different styles of playing and observe crowd interactions and involvement. I have since made a conscious effort to work on that.

Somehow there is always someone there just at that moment when I need encouragement.

11. Who or what has helped you to persevere and not quit?

Family, friends and other mentors in the creative industry. Somehow there is always someone there just at that moment when I need encouragement. In the music industry they say that there are people who will ‘fight you down’, but I refuse to believe that. I think with that mindset and approach, I have met amazing people and had great opportunities that all challenges me to push further. 

I have to name drop here: my main drivers are my parents, sister and brother-in-law, Lesley-Anne and Robert Macfarlane and my manager Ria Khan. In the music industry, other than receiving indirect motivation from all lecturers from the Certificate in Music Technology programme in UTT, I have to say people like DJ Matthew Charles, DJ Z-Roc, Dj David 868, Carbon the Element among others are always there to guide me in both music and business decisions, show me new tricks, give advice, etc.

My production team: Darius and John (John John) are rocks when it comes to keeping me on the music path. There are so many more individuals who assist with my development not only as a DJ or producer, but as a writer, creative person and human being, that I am so thankful for.

12. Do you believe that it is important to be accepted by others as being creative or is just doing what you love to do enough to justify your work? Explain.

That depends. If I am producing something or hired to play for a client, then I as well as my creativity definitely need to be accepted. Acceptance in that aspect determines my success as a DJ and producer, or anything I aspire to be. Other than that, I welcome critique or criticism, but I don’t need approval or validation from others. I simply do it out of pure passion.

13. Has rejection ever affected your creative process? Explain.

It definitely has! There was a particular time (I cringe to remember it) that I almost packed all my DJ and music production equipment and decided to become a professional stay at home loafer. It lasted all of 2 days immersed in self-pity when my family and friends almost beat common sense back into me.

Dj Del studio.jpg

14. Looking at what you have created in the past, would you change anything today? Why or why not?

Probably not. I would like to change some experiences, but I think they all contributed to the creative and learning process. There is an advertisement that showed on television that I cringe at because I composed the music before I knew the technical side of things. Hearing it now makes me wish it wasn’t there, but I smile because I have improved and learned so much since then. There is however one poem in particular that I wish I never wrote and released.

15. Have you ever doubted your talent? If so, how did you work through your doubt?

I have a very high standard for myself in every aspect of life and I am highly critical of myself and my work, so unfortunately I doubt myself a lot. To work through that, I try to put the best foot forward. 

Thankfully, critique drives me so I accept opinions, analyse it and if its applicable, I go at it again. If I reach a very low point in my creative process, I seek advice from friends and professionals in the field, friends out of the field and family (they tend to be very honest). My manager is also always there to provide me with a healthy buff/ motivational speech when I am in doubt. They always, as I said before, manage to talk me into getting back into the groove.

16. What piece of work are you most proud of? Why?

I think I am yet to produce that piece of work. There are many compositions, mixes, poems and short stories that I am very pleased with but none that really stand out to me that I can say that was my greatest yet. 

I think that I have so much pent up creative energy inside of me that when I finally tap into it and it finally explodes, I’ll probably have difficulty in choosing just one. Check me back in about a year.

17. What is the best advice you've received that helped you move forward on your creative journey?

Strange enough, that advice came to me in a dream. The message I awoke with was to ‘use my unique experiences and express it in anyway that comes naturally. It would help you stay sane while providing enjoyment to others. Someone, somewhere out there will like your work.’ 

I always try to remember that and the phrase ‘Just Focus And Do It’. I got that from Mrs. Patricia Macintosh when I was a teacher in St. Francois Girls’ College who used that phrase to motivate students.

Help others, share ideas. Don’t ever let anyone steal your voice and your happiness

18. To a young Creative emerging in your field, what advice would you impart unto them?

I’ll probably tell them something similar to the advice I received in number 17. 

I’ll also add: Help others, share ideas. Don’t ever let anyone steal your voice and your happiness. Stay true to who you are and don’t change or adapt your uniqueness to fit someone else’s mold. Maintain your standards and just express your energy. Your energy is everything- Know yourself to express yourself.

19. What would you most like to be remembered for?

My positive spirit and energy, great music, great sound, great poet and overall, a human being that was an experience that everyone enjoyed, learn from and benefited from in some way.

20. If you were a crayon, what would be the name of your colour?

I would have to be multicoloured crayon - which is a true reflection of my outer and inner personality and also who I’d like to mature into.

So for your listening pleasure here's one of DJ Del's mixes. You can hear more by following her on Mixcloud. Also follow her on social media Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Don't forget to subscribe to our newsletter and keep up to date with what's happening in the BigBox of Crayons. Join in the conversation with us and others on your favourite social media networks: FacebookTwitterInstagramVimeo.

Until next time - Stay colourful.

A Creative Professional with over twenty years experience. Which he gained during his time spent at a few of Trinidad’s top advertising agencies. Then functioning as the Regional Creative head of the Caribbean’s largest retailer. Contributing to the development of the group’s regional marketing strategy. Forming the regional Design Strategy. Conceptualisation and execution of all creative, marketing and advertising communication for the group’s brands. With oversight of regional and local creative teams and creative processes. He continues to sharpen his creative edge. A passionate, twenty-four hour creative junky. Admirer of sexy typefaces, lover of words and aspiring life long learner. He is also the founder of A BigBox Of Crayons. An online and offline community for creative thinkers + makers in Trinidad & Tobago.