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The DJ Interview: The road less traveled

DJ Z-Trip is about more than just mash-ups

Deanna Rilling

Z-Trip isn’t your typical mash-up DJ. He’s been in the game and melding tracks since before the industry knew what to call the style of mixing. Though he’s billed as the “founding father” of the genre, he seems reluctant to fit into one single box or hold the specific title. “I was probably one of the first people to really take that as a style of mixing and really make it more well-known than it was at the time,” he says. “It’s one of those things where I don’t mind the title, but I can’t really say that I’m ‘the guy.’ I’m just sort of one of the more well-known guys at the time that it came around.”

The popularity of mash-up music has skyrocketed in recent years, especially in Las Vegas (just look at the Weekly’s own Club Grid and the number of DJs spinning mash-ups on any given night). Z-Trip acknowledges the rise in DJs who have embraced the style, but finds it frustrating when he hears so many call themselves mash-up DJs. “Unless you’re doing it live and you’re pulling the spins off live, it’s sort of a cop-out.” Z-Trip’s passion for music is evident when he explains that many of the “mash-up” DJs are actually purchasing other people’s mash-ups and playing pre-made mixes. “It’s almost like packages. ‘Oh, I’ll take the fish and chips combo’ and boom! You buy that for five bucks, and now you’ve got fish and chips, and you play that as one thing,” he says. “Before you know it, you’ve got these guys who really aren’t mixing. They’re just playing.” Z-Trip feels this has caused a loss of creativity and the “art of DJing” is becoming a dying form.

Z-Trip believes Vegas club-goers are starved for something new and hopes to provide it—at least for one night—when he comes to spin Thursday, February 21 at the Revolution Lounge. “A lot of people play the same mash-up, the same tunes. You hear Fatman Scoop on every fucking song,” Z-Trip laughs, and cites “Be Faithful (Put Ya Hands Up)” as one of the most played tracks in town.

“One of my least favorite things about Vegas DJing is that it’s very hard for people to have their own sound and stick to it because the crowd is usually such a transient crowd.” He knows there still are DJs in Vegas who take risks and try to do their own thing, but wishes DJs would quit playing it “super, super safe.”

This “founding father of mash-up” feels a good DJ should be able to play everything and play it well; he himself also spins funk, drum and bass, house, breaks and even dance hall and reggae. “It’s kind of sad when people call me a ‘mash-up DJ’… Just the fact that I like to incorporate different stuff, rock or whatever, into my mix is one of many, many flavors. I like to consider myself a well-rounded DJ.”

Z-Trip spits a good game, but what can we really expect from one of his live sets? He explains (in vivid color) why locals and tourists alike should venture out to see him spin: “The cool thing about this night is when you bill it as strictly an underground set, it allows me to go in there and say, ‘Alright guys. We’ve all heard all the fucking Top 40 tunes that everyone plays, and all the club tunes that everyone plays, but now I’m gonna try to derail the train. I’m gonna try to take it down a different side road. I’m gonna try to go down the dirt road, and we’ll still end up at the destination, but I’m gonna try and take the more scenic route. I’m gonna pull over sometimes. We’re gonna take some pictures and go on a hike. Then we’re gonna get back in and keep driving.’ Most of it I’m going to be making up as I go, and that’s the fun thing about it.”

All travel humor aside, Z-Trip hopes to offer a different outlook on DJing and challenge the norm. “It’s a harder road to take, but at the end of the day, for me, it’s way more rewarding.” He continues, “At this point, I’ve got a crowd of people that have followed me, or recognized me for being a little bit different than every person out there. When I’ve got people who are driving and flying from two or three states over to come see a show, that weighs heavy on you, and you want to give them what they’re looking for.”

Z-Trip will be spinning Thursday, February 21 at the Revolution Lounge, and February 29 with MSTRKRFT in Los Angeles. For more information, free downloads, and additional tour dates, go to www.djztrip.com.

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