2012 has been a busy year for Zach Sciacca, the genre-bending DJ better known as Z-Trip.
Not only has he filmed a scene for the new Terence Malik film with Batman star Christian Bale (“He’s a big Stone Roses fan” is all Zach will give away), but he’s working on a project with Talib Kweli, collaborated with dubstepper Datsik on Double Trouble, remixed the Beastie Boys’ Don’t Play No Games with Santigold… oh, and provided the beats for the title track of the new Public Enemy album Most of My Heroes Still Don't Appear On No Stamp.
I know the balance and how to rock it: Z-Trip
Hooking up with hip hop legends is nothing new for Zach these days, having earned himself the “dream come true” of joining LL Cool J as tour DJ and musical collaborator (on the free download Superballer and as-yet-unreleased material) following a set on the Red Bull stage at South by Southwest in 2011.
“We had been taking meetings with a mutual contact, but the project never materialised,” says Zach of the LL connection. “During those meetings, we got to know each other and really connected musically. I asked him to do a surprise guest spot during my headlining slot at the Red Bull stage at SXSW. The night before rehearsals, while working on what we were going to perform, I realised an instrumental to [LL Cool J’s 1985 classic] Rock The Bells didn’t exist. I looked through old videos of LL doing that song and saw he was always rapping over his own original vocals because even he didn’t have the instrumental.
“That night I sat down and made an instrumental from scratch using the same samples Rick Rubin had originally used,” Zach continues. “I went to the rehearsal, and without telling him, asked him to take a crack at doing the song. The minute he went in to rap and didn’t hear his vocals; he stopped and said, ‘Where did you get this?’ I looked back at him and said, ‘I made it’. He was like ‘I like your work ethic, man’.
“After the SXSW show, we both realised we had the potential to really push the boundaries of a live show, so we decided to keep it moving.”
Keeping it moving is something Zach has specialised in across his career – both his own musical vision, and the dancefloors he regularly rocks across the planet. And even when faced with a less educated crowd, as he did with his residency at Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas in 2009, he knows he’s got the skills and the tunes to deliver the goods.
“It wasn’t challenging because I can play anywhere and make it happen,” Zach says. “You put me in front of anyone, I’ll adapt. Once I’m in the room for 30 minutes, I know.
“I used to have to pack four crates of music and hope I nailed it,” he adds on his gig preparation routine. “Now, I have all my tunes at my fingertips, so it makes that much easier. But sometimes having too many choices can work against you. That’s where experience takes over. For me, I know the balance and how to rock it. I’m grateful for knowing how to do this way before technology helped out.”
Having become something of an unofficial global resident for Red Bull Thre3style over the past couple of years, Zach has kept a close eye on the next generation of party rocking DJs coming through – and likes what he sees.
“There are still some risk takers out there,” Zach confirms. “I’d really like to see more of them go in on the whole ‘three styles of music’ thing though. I see DJs playing electro mixes of like Nirvana, Lil Wayne and say Nero or something, and be like ‘yeah, I just mixed three styles’. You wanna impress me? Mix country, classical and punk music, go all over the place with your tempos, mix it up. I want to see more DJs take bigger chances, bigger risks. The bigger the risk, the greater the pay off – if you pull it off.”
As for what to expect when Z-Trip headlines the Red Bull Thre3style 2012 final?
“Like always, a musical journey that changes from city to city, crowd to crowd. All music styles, no boundaries. Full on dancefloor, party rocking. Plenty of bass, plenty of drums, breaks, beats, and plenty of scratching. All done live – with killer visuals to top it off.”
Z-Trip headlines the Red Bull Thre3style final at the Metro Theatre on Friday August 10.