Z-Trip: How ‘America’s Best DJ’ Pushes the Boundaries of Creativity

z-trip discusses career with the conduit podcast
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In the ‘90s, rock was rock, hip-hop was hip-hop, and never the twain did meet. Then, at the turn of the century, a 73-minute, genre-bending bomb exploded onto the music scene, shattering notions about the limits of creativity and collaboration. Uneasy Listening, Vol. I, a joint record from like-minded DJs P and Z-Trip, broke genre conventions by mixing rock ‘n’ roll mainstays like Rush and Pat Benatar with dance and hip-hop cuts from Madonna, Redman, and The Pharcyde.

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Welcome to The Conduit, a podcast featuring candid conversations with professional musicians who give listeners the unvarnished truth about being an artist in the music industry. In today’s episode, host and LA-based DJ, producer, and musician Dan Ubick (aka Constantine “Connie” Price) sits down with Zach Sciacca (better known as DJ Z-Trip) to discuss the musician’s pioneering work as a key player in the mash-ups movement.

“It wasn’t like I set out to become a DJ,” says Z-Trip, whose Uneasy Listening arrived on the scene in 2001, just as samples, remixes, and mashups were gaining credibility as a valid form of self-expression. “It was very much about me having this music and wanting to share it,” he continues. “Once I realized that I could put it together and I could expose people to the things that I liked, the DJ thing came into play.”

Widely known as both the godfather of mashups and “America’s Best DJ,” an award he received in 2009 from the DJ Times, Z-Trip is also renowned for his technical abilities and production skills. Over the years, he’s collaborated with innovative artists like Nas, Beck, Public Enemy, and DJ Shadow, remixing songs from artists as varied as Bob Marley and the Butthole Surfers. In his interview, Z-Trip shares the brightest pearls of wisdom he’s pocketed along the way: “One thing I learned through the arc of my whole career is take chances,” he says. “Be risky, try to push boundaries. Don’t always play it safe. There’s a time to play it safe, there’s a time to lock in.”

Z-Trip also touches on his favorite genre-bending tracks (see Afrika Bambaataa’s “Planet Rock”), why creative consistency trumps big milestones, and how to find like-minded artists traveling a similar career path. His advice to aspiring DJs? “Every gig, go into it like it’s your first [and last],” he says, adding, “put your heart and fucking soul into it because you never know who’s watching.”