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Z-Trip interview: Crowd Rocker

Author: Jeremy King
Thursday, March 16, 2006
A lifetime of rocking whatever party he could fit has set Z-Trip up - he's someone who knows just what that office party or headline show needs.

Z-Trip is of those DJs whose brain is just constantly ticking over to a funky beat. When I speak to him on his drive home from buying his mother a new house in Arizona (another story for another time) I know he's overtly concentrating on the interview, but deep down he's thinking about how some random hip hop track could be expertly mashed into Guns N' Roses. He's the sort of guy whose fingers are needles and whose organs are turntables and amps. Having DJed for the better part of his adult life, he's played every sort of gig imaginable from weddings to massive hip hop shows with Cut Chemist and DJ Shadow. He's also remixed everyone under the sun and last year he released his debut album which was filled with all sorts of fun and funky hip hop one would expect from such a character. However, it also showed him to be an astute producer and writer capable of working with Chuck D as well as artists such as Chester Bennington from Linkin Park. He can literally mix anything under the sun and is the sort of guy who doesn't order his records in chronological order, but puts them in order of BPM. Z-Trip is clearly both a massive music nerd and the consummate party DJ. Honestly, there doesn't appear to be much that he can't do.

For the most part, however, his infamy comes from his reputation as a DJ and Z-Trip always approaches this role with an extremely down to earth ethos learned through playing more gigs than I've had hot dinners. He's all about making sure he picks the right tracks for the right crowd. Turntable skills aside, Z-Trip is all about making the right track selections to get the party started. "When I was a DJ just getting started, fuck dude I'd DJ to whoever I could." He tells me over the phone in a very matter of fact voice. "I would set up and play records anywhere people would have me because a) I needed the money to buy more records and more gear and b) I was just into it. And I'm still into it, I still love to play in front of people. That was like everything: wedding parties, office parties, b-boy battles. Whatever the fuck it was, I had to have music for everything. It taught me early on that you can't always play what you want. Sometimes you have to play a little bit to the crowd to get their attention to get their trust and once you've got their trust you can take it anywhere. But it taught me early on that you really had to learn how to read a crowd and how to select the music. More so than just play it, you had to be a better selector."

Z-Trip is also one of those guys who has also played enough gigs to know that playing the same set every night is a one way ticket to boredom and bad shows. As such, when he brings his unique brand of mash up and hip hop to the stage, he is adamant that it has to be different every time. "When I perform I try and make it so no two shows are exactly the same." He tells me. "There's nothing worse to me than that. I've been on tour with bands who do that and they perform the same 15 songs in the same order every night. When you do that you sort of start to lose your punch. It's like getting a massage on the same spot for an hour. It feels good for about five minutes and then it's annoying."

While this ethos is most certainly commendable in a DJ who obviously takes his craft very seriously, it must obviously make his life a bit nerve wracking backstage. I mean surely for most DJs working out their set is something they do back in the comfort of their own home, so the only thing that will see their mistakes is their dog. Z-Trip has clearly never been happy with this kind of attitude and obviously never, ever stops actually thinking about his set or working on his set. Even if that happens to be five seconds before he goes on stage or while he's actually on stage. "A lot of it depends on my placement and when I per