London’s DJ Zinc tells Time Out about disliking cheesy pop music
Recession, recession, recession. You can’t escape it at the minute. The stress is even making our hairlines recede. But as grim as everything may look right now there’s no reason to give up your plans for the future – especially if you want to be a DJ, MC or producer. See, the Red Bull Music Academy is coming back to Dubai once more, bringing with it a one-day DJing workshop and club night to act as a taster for potential new students. But for DJ Zinc, one of the two lecturers on this Middle Eastern leg, his appearance at the Academy was never a sure thing.
‘When I first heard about it four years ago, I was like, what am I going to say to kids about G-sharp and all that crap? But when I saw the classes I realised it’s about electronic music and most of the participants are between 20 and 35 years old. It covers techno and drum ’n’ bass and all these genres that you wouldn’t think a music academy would cover.’
The aim of this Dubai trip is, he says, to give potential applicants a brief taster of the academy, so they can then apply if they like what they see. If the application is successful, they will be one of 60 students from around the world who will be flown out to London in February and March of 2010 to take part in the course. But don’t panic if becoming a DJ in London sounds a little intimidating – Zinc says anyone can do it.
‘I don’t think I have any particular talent and I think that anyone can do whatever they want to,’ he says. ‘I’ve had people get angry with me for saying this in the past – they’ve said, “No, no, no – you mustn’t say that you’ve got no talent and that it’s easy!” But it is. And now there’s all this software that will do the beat-matching for you, so you don’t even have to mix any more.’
Woah, woah, woah – anyone can be a DJ? They don’t have to bother mixing? Surely Zinc doesn’t think this is a good thing? Surely this is disc jockey heresy? He laughs. ‘I’ve heard people talking about it and saying it’s this awful devil thing but if I was starting now I’d think it was great. I don’t think I’d bother learning to mix. It’s like when you’re learning to drive – why bother with gears when nearly every car you get now is an automatic? It’s exactly the same thing.
‘I’ve seen big, big DJs using software like this. I think I saw Carl Cox using it, and he’s a guy who can mix really, really well. He definitely doesn’t need help. I’m not sure, because I was standing a little bit away, but I think he was using it. And fair enough, it means he can use his time and skill behind the decks to focus on other things.’
For Zinc it’s picking the right tunes and reading the audience that are important – though his own collection and target audience have shifted dramatically over the last few years. ‘I stopped playing drum ’n’ bass in 2007 because the new releases weren’t exciting me any more – it just felt like the genre wasn’t evolving. This year I started playing house: fidget house, tech house and UK funk, which is the new London sound. There’s this Dizzee Rascal and Armand van Helden track called ‘Bonkers’ that’s right up my street – it’s house tempo, it’s got a big bassline and it’s got a London MC shouting all over it.’
And, while Zinc’s clubbing career has proven pretty eclectic, his musical interests outside the club are even wider. ‘I don’t tend to listen to much music at home because I’m always working, but when I do it tends to be jazz or classical. And I just worked out how to get Rinse FM, a pirate radio station, in my car, and they play a bit of house, dubstep and hip hop.’
Hmm, this all sounds a bit too credible. Surely he has some guilty pleasures? Will he be bringing out ‘The Birdy Song’ or ‘Macarena’ at any point? ‘Not at the moment,’ he laughs, ‘but, if you specifically want some of that, I’ll try to hunt it down on iTunes. Nah, I don’t really like pop music at all. Although, that said, ‘Bonkers’ went to number one in the UK and I guess that makes it pop by default. So maybe I’m finally getting into pop music as I get older. Maybe.’
DJ Zinc plays Alpha, July 3, Dhs75, 10pm-3am. The Red Bull Music Academy is at The Shelter [www.theshelter.ae], Al Quoz Industrial Estate, July 3, 3pm-6pm.