Zach Sciacca, aka Z-Trip, is returning to Australia with his highly acclaimed live AV show for the first time in two and a half years. In that time he’s kept busy and found a number of inspirations to help him keep pushing musical boundaries. Sciacca isn’t short of laurels to rest on. He has DJed in front of half a million people opening for The Rolling Stones, made the first official remix for Nirvana, been immortalised as a playable character in the video game DJ Hero, headlined festivals like Coachella and helped launch the mash-up movement with his 2001 release Uneasy Listening.
So it may seem odd that he finds himself “gushing like I’ve got a new girlfriend” when talking about a mixer that he helped design. Except that he describes the Rane Sixty-Two mixer as a major personal accomplishment that has helped re-energise him – and will enhance his upcoming Australian tour.
“[The mixer is] a little bit easier for me to navigate, it’s a bit easier for me to pull off things that were impossible to do before. I have a bit more dexterity when I’m playing, and it just makes it fun. It really gave me a third or fourth wind, if you will,” Sciacca says.
“I don’t want to speak for everybody but I think there are DJs who could probably relate; when you’re doing your thing and it’s going great, and all of a sudden you get to a point where you’re like, ‘I’m just uninspired’ or ‘I’ve hit a brick wall,’ and all of a sudden something happens that changes the whole playing field.”
Sciacca cites the first case of this being the shift from vinyl to Serato. “A lot of people, myself included, when [Serato] first hit were like ‘Pfft, really? Come on man.’ Until finally you got up and started messing with it and you’re like ‘You know what? This isn’t half bad’,” he says. The second is the emergence of new genres of music in recent years, such as dubstep and Moombahton, which make it easier for him to bridge gaps between tempos and genres.
“It’s gotten to be more fun because now it’s also a bit more fluid and there’s plenty more people out there who like all kinds of music. I can hit my reggae, I can hit my dubstep, I can hit my funk, I can hit my house, I can hit my rock, I can hit some ‘70s shit, some ‘60s shit, some psych stuff,” Sciacca says. “I can go wherever I want now, and I’ve got a way to get in and out faster because there’s more on my palette.”
He’s been particularly busy over the last year touring with hip hop legend LL Cool J. The pair met up a year ago, when LL was making a cameo appearance in Sciacca’s headlining set at SXSW. Over rehearsals they realised that they worked very well together as a traditional MC and DJ duo. “We bring out the best of each other onstage, like a true DJ and a true MC would do,” he says.
LL has been largely absent from music in recent years, preferring to focus on his acting career – until sharing the stage with Sciacca rekindled his interest in music. “When we linked up I was like ‘Hey man, how come you’re not doing any more music?’ He’s like ‘To be honest, I was just getting bored with it. Music wasn’t really exciting me’,” Sciacca explains. “When we started working together he was like ‘You’ve excited me; you’ve got me excited to do this shit again’.”
Sciacca has also been busy working on a new album. It has been in the works, loosely, for a couple of years, but he’s hoping to have it finished and released in late 2012 or early 2013. “[It’s] all across the board musically, kind of like what my sets are; all tempos, all styles, but definitely bass heavy and groove heavy and scratch heavy,” he says. “Basically what I would do as a record.”
But for Sciacca, the most exciting recent achievement has been the Rane Sixty-Two mixer. After an earlier mixer Rane designed was not particularly successful, he provided them with feedback on it. “I was very brutally honest with them,” he says. This led to an invitation to help design the new mixer. “It’s everything I ever wanted to put in a mixer. The bottom line for me is, as a DJ, I think any DJ who’s out there who’s been doing it for long enough, has always been like ‘Fuck, I just wish this thing could do this’,” Sciacca explains. “I actually got to do that.”
He says that Rane took a lot of his advice on board because he explained why each suggestion would help all DJs. “To be able to do put something like that together in a mixer and then have my name on it, it was very validating,” Sciacca says. “It’s the coolest thing I’ve done on a technological tip. I think being in DJ Hero and seeing me as a character in a video game was probably the closest thing, but this is so much more; it’s not about a video game, it’s about the real thing and my name is on it.”
BY JOSHUA HAYES
Z-Trip [USA] plays the Prince Bandroom on Thursday August 9.