Interview: YAKZ is an Open Book as he Discusses his Influences, Touring and Life Before DJing

Guest article by Shaela Johnston.

YAKZ, aka David Mitori, is a dubstep producer currently living in Las Vegas, who has made a huge name for himself within underground dubstep scene. The heavy, gritty tracks he produces are reminiscent of his past music endeavors in metal while invoking a feeling that only dubstep bass can deliver. YAKZ is no stranger to counterculture, having been a metal vocalist before entering the world of electronic music and his many influences translate well. His available discography on Spotify over the past five years is plentiful in singles and collaborations with countless underground as well as big-name artists. YAKZ’s collab and tour history is just as impressive, having recently toured with SVDDEN DEATH and headlined his own tour titled Escape Room after his latest EP release.

YAKZ brought SISTO along as support for Escape Room, giving him a huge leg up in his career with the opportunity to go on his first tour. He gives back to the scene, extending opportunities where he can to spotlight deserving underground artists. On the last day of the North Coast Music Festival, I had the opportunity to join YAKZ and some of his friends in his green room for a chat where we discussed his main influences, Dungeons and Dragons, and the magic of friendship to the tune of Jai Wolf playing below us in the stadium.

Can you introduce yourself tell me about a little bit about where you're from and what I got you started as a DJ?
My name is YAKZ, technically I’m from Las Vegas now but I grew up in California in the Los Angeles area. I started off in a metal band but being in a band with like four other people who are trying to do other things just didn't work out.
My sister was really into EDM music and she started taking me to raves. I was just like, "man I really wanna be a DJ" so I started practicing and trying to do DJ stuff; I slowly got into dubstep.

Dubstep is parallel to metal, right? it’s pretty heavy. What are your biggest non EDM or dubstep influences?

Slipknot, Thy Art is Murder, Whitechapel, Carnifex, Suicide Silence, and anything to do with metal.

Nice, I definitely recognize all of those. You just finished up your first headlining tour, what is your favorite memory or your favorite city from Escape Room?  

That's hard to say... I would say the first stop which we played in Tampa, we just started off with a bang.

Tampa likes to party
Yeah, it was just really good. My favorite memory on tour... it's probably when we drove, where was that stop we played? Oh yeah, DC to Virginia Beach. We just drove and it was cool scenery and stuff.

Do you normally fly between cities on tour?
We usually fly but since it was such a super close trip, like it was only an hour or two away, a friend drove us.

I asked Nick (SISTO) the other day about your headlining tour, I was like "so do you use venue showers, and if you do, do you wear shoes in the shower?" He had no clue what I was talking about. I decided I need to start touring with dubstep artists.
When I did the Excision tour I did have to shower at the venue, and I did not wear shower shoes. Everyone was like ‘you should wear shower shoes’, but I had never heard that before. But see, there's a difference though because I've been to jail, and I didn't know so I didn’t wear shoes when I was showering in there so it ain't nothing.

I have a question about the Escape Room EP. I watched and listened to it this morning in bed thinking "this is literally scaring me," in a good way... where did that inspiration come from?
I'm really into Dungeons and Dragons, Magic the Gathering and stuff like that. Escape Room is kind of based on a DnD game. It’s a story where me and my group of friends go into a room but it's just never-ending mazes, and we're trying to find our way out. The Escape Room was the vibe I was trying to bring to my tour.

That's awesome, I was listening, and all the songs are such a journey; it's kind of a trip honestly.
I appreciate that.

Regarding tour again, or even festivals and shows in general: do you prepare in any specific ways?
I guess if I’m playing by myself I kind-of prepare. I mostly just plan the first four songs and then whatever song catches a good crowd reaction I kind-of just go that route. When I play back-to-back with my friends, I don't think we ever plan it, we kind of just all mixed together for like the last like, however long our careers have been, so we just know everybody’s style. We go up there and have fun and I feel like it's better because if they play a song that catches me off guard I'm like "oh man I gotta one-up this song."

Here’s a heavy hitter, if you weren't a DJ, musician, producer, or anything to do with music, what would you be doing with your life?
I’d probably be in jail, to be honest. I'm not lying, before music I was just going to be a graffiti artist and a skateboarder, and I never was super good at skateboarding.  I'd be probably working a really crappy 9 to 5 hating my life so thank God for music.

Yeah, thank God! I love your song "Skate or Die," by the way. “Escape Room” and “Return to Dust” are your newest releases this year, is there any new music in the works we can look forward to from you, any collabs that you're working on?
As for collabs, I have a bunch of collabs with a bunch of my underground homies that I just I think deserve the spotlight so I'm giving them a shot. I do have a EP coming out in October with the Disciple Round Table that is really good and I'm working on something with Space Shot for next year.

Looking forward to hearing those projects! If you could tell your fans one thing about yourself that they don't know, what would it be?
I feel like I'm pretty open with my fans and they mostly know everything about me. I guess what my fans should know is that I can't swim so if anyone is trying to do me dirty, just throw me in a pool of water.

Speaking of doing you dirty...  I tried to look up any beef you have with other artists that I could surprise you with, I couldn't find anything
They all secretly despise me... No, just kidding, I don't have that much beef. I wouldn’t say this is beef, but I mean, I don't think people appreciate that fact that I'm too real with them. I just tell him how it is.

Do you have any last words or thoughts for your fans or anyone trying to be a DJ?
If you're gonna try to become a producer or anything, just stick to your own lane and don't try to follow the scene. Just be your own person and find a solid friend group and that's it, that’s all you need. My friend group is the best, I have the best friend group in all of dubstep.

Although I wasn't incredibly familiar with YAKZ before the North Coast Music Festival, I did catch myself listening to the Escape Room EP a few more times after the research once-over and even added his tracks to some of my playlists. Talking to David, I could tell that he’s got a good head on his shoulders and a kind heart; we also have the similar taste in music outside of EDM, which bonds us. YAKZ’s career has garnered many fans, all of which have a good amount of music to look forward to, according to YAKZ himself. I’m excited as anyone to see where else his career takes him and to hear the music that comes of his many existing and future friendships.

This interview with YAKZ, who performed at this year's North Coast Music Festival, was written by Shaela Johnston. You can see more of her work here.

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Shaela Johnston

Shaela is a West-Coast born freelance photographer and writer, relatively new to Chicago as of 2021. Specializing in live music photography, Shaela can be found attending concerts several times a week when she isn't traveling or working on her Bachelor's degree. In her free time she listens to metal, hardcore, hip-hop, and likes to chill at home with her hairless cat named Soup and wife Courtney.