Johannesburg – It may be fair to say that the past few weeks have been a whirlwind for local radio presenter DJ Fresh (real name Thato Sikwane).
The star, who had been the host of the breakfast slot on Metro FM, had many fans shocked when it was announced in early June by the SABC station that he had been "unscheduled" due to an "unfortunate choice of words" used on-air which allegedly landed the broadcaster in hot water with the Complaints Commission.
This suspension would eventually become permanent, with Metro later deciding to terminate their contract with Fresh.
While the news saddened fans of the DJ, Fresh confirmed, in a statement of his own, that he would be starting a new job on 1 August. That new job, we later learned, is as the host of the Afternoon Drive on 947.
Channel24 met with DJ Fresh one week before he is meant to hit the airwaves at his new gig, to find out what the move has been like, and what listeners should expect from the show.
As we sit down to chat with the star, his personality shines through from the get-go, and immediately I see the charming, kind guy many people have told me he is. This attribute is essential to him.
"I think in any industry nobody forgets the nice person. The minute you start being full of yourself, being full of crap, I believe, is the minute you're on your way out of whatever industry you're in." That attitude, coupled with hard work and consistency, is the secret behind his longevity, he believes.
Starting from YFM in the '90s, then going on to join 5FM, and later forging strong relationships with listeners at Metro – Fresh has spent over two decades cementing himself as a force to be reckoned with in the world of radio. One valuable lesson he's learned from every platform he has been on is the vital role the audience plays and how to cater to their exact needs. "I think it's important to know the audience you're talking to. I mean, every radio station I've worked at I've known exactly who I'm talking to, so I have to tailor-make my message and my content to that audience."
This has not gone undetected by Fresh's supporters, many of whom have pledged to follow the star to his new home at 947, including TV personality Bonang Matheba who he counts as one of his biggest fans. He speaks of Bonang with pride when he tells me that she has been in his corner since day one.
Fresh credits his innate ability to connect with fans to doing "content that matters" and saying "things people can relate to". And yes, that means sometimes being controversial. He calls this "The Eminem effect".
His explanation: "A lot of us gasp when we hear what Eminem says, but we know we were thinking it. I think when you can successfully do that on whatever medium, you're on to a good thing."
According to the DJ, Bonang is not the only celebrity who has got his back. "I'll call Oskido sometimes just to ask for advice on something. Euphonik is one person I'll also ask for advice on certain issues." At home, his wife and kids are a great source of counsel as well.
With all the drama that led up to, and even followed, his dismissal at Metro FM, Fresh may have needed those people more than ever. But he also praises one more person for being able to keep a level head through all of the chaos.
"My PR/media liaison is a good, level-headed person that will tell me, 'don't tweet that, don't do this, don't say that'. A lot of what I haven't tweeted is because of her, thank God. And some of what I have tweeted is her saying, 'don't forget to send this, and don't forget to express the sentiment'. Because generally, I'm not afraid to express how I feel. And often I shoot from the hip, so you need people that can reign you in."
Touching on the media storm he found himself at the center of since June, Fresh says that when the "shit hit the fan", it was important for him to "just keep moving".
"It was Winston Churchill who said, 'If you're going through hell, keep going'. And my attitude is generally always that. Just keep it moving. When the shit hits the fan, don't stop and try and smell the flowers, cause they probably smell like the shit that hit the fan."
When it comes to his new show, Fresh makes a point of mentioning the emphasis he will place on supporting the DJ industry – this will be done through a slot dedicated to mixes on the show between 18:00 and 19:00 which will also see him reunite with Euphonik.
Besides that, he says people should expect what his become known for: "Just the consistency in terms of larger than life perspective on everything. There'll be a lot of comedy, a lot of laughter. I've always been about the lighter side of life. Yes, we have problems, but every cloud does have a silver lining, and I'm a serial silver lining hunter when it comes to what people might be going through."
DJ Fresh joins 947 from 1 August weekdays between 15:00 and 19:00.