International world-star DJ Z-Trip is considered to be one of the best live performance DJs in history. He's infamous for being dubbed as the Rick Rubin of the DJ world with his roots based in hip hop.
Z-Trip is set to hit Australian shores and we catch up with him to chat about the changes of DJing, how working with LL Cool J is one of his career highlights, and his recent move working on silent film projects. Ayla Dhyani writes.
You're set to play a couple of shows in Sydney and Melbourne next year. What can audiences expect from your live performance?
Each show on this tour is different. I'm leaving a lot of room open for improvisation this time. Depending on where the crowd wants to go each night, I'll take us there.
You've worked and collaborated with so many hip hop legends over the years. Tell us about one of the most pinnacle moments in your career so far.
There are a lot to consider, but I would have to say linking up with LL Cool J is something I wouldn't have believed if you told a sixteen year old me. Working with him has been incredible. I'm still blown away that I was able to put together a supergroup and close out the Grammys with him, Chuck D, Tom Morello and Travis Barker. There is still so much more I think we'll achieve though, we've only scratched the surface. When we're on stage, it's a thing. It's powerful.
How did DJing and producing begin for you?
It all started from collecting records. I was always searching for the extended twelve inch records which had different versions on them, instrumentals, acapellas, etc. The way songs were put together always intrigued me. Friends knew I had a huge collection, so they would always ask me to bring my records to their parties. DJing kind of found me actually. But once I started manipulating these sounds, blending records, etc, it all became clear to me. I had to do this on a bigger scale. I bought a sampler and started making my own stuff. The parties got bigger, mix tapes turned into making actual records, I never planned on any of it. It was, and is, always about the music and sharing what I hear in my head with those who want to listen.
How do you think DJing has changed since you first started?
It's way more accessible now. Before you used to have to really dig for the records you wanted to play. You had to find the right equipment, learn how to use it with no help, it was a struggle. Now anybody can get the materials, hop online and get the help they need and I think that's amazing. The only downside to that is with so many people doing it, the skill level is a little off. You still have to spend the hours working on your craft to become good at it before you present it to the people. There are a lot of DJs who get really good at the home alone portion, but have no clue how to perform, a lot of them just jump out there and do it anyway. It's getting better, but there was a time when all these new DJs started popping up. Nothing is worse than watching and hearing someone learning how to do it in front of a crowd because a song they produced in the studio blew up and now there is a demand to "see" that person live. Some can pull it off, but many can't. When you jump from one to the other too fast, it shows. Some crowds might not notice as much, but those who do know what I'm talking about. I'm all for people learning and practicing, but when that sort of thing becomes the norm, it sets a bad example. The skill level, the art form, they drop a bit.
Tell us about the development of the Rane 62Z.
Rane approached me after they made the TTM 57 and asked me what I would have done different. I gave them a ton of feedback and we started worked on making a new mixer that had those features. Other DJs also weighed in on it once we got it to a prototype stage. It took a couple years, but it happened. I have to say, there's nothing like pulling a mixer you helped design out of the box and jumping on that thing for the first time. I'm really proud of it. It still holds up strong against all the new stuff that came out after it.
Any new projects you're working on?
I've been working on these silent film projects where I score the film and perform alongside of it live. It's amazing. I've done it a couple times at Tribeca Film Festival and AFI film fest. It's a completely different approach and execution to anything I've ever done, but I love it. I'm hoping to bring it out here soon.
What stimulates your soul?
Sydney FB Event
DJ Z-Trip Website