“When you're DJing to people who are really drunk at one in the morning,” Z-Trip says, “if you come with something superintelligent, it's going to fly over their heads, but if you give them something kidlike, chances are they will sort of revert back to their inner child.”
Not only is it a prerequisite as a DJ to be able to accurately judge and decipher how externally influenced the crowd is, but it's also a requirement to be able to cater to them. However, it also means you get to buy records like Music Magic for Moppets and write them off.
But that's simply understating the amazing feats and perplexing pairings that Phoenix, Ariz.-bred Zach Sciacca, aka DJ Z-Trip, has built his career upon. He burst into national notoriety in 1999 with his extremely limited, self-released album, Uneasy Listening, Vol. 1. (His Website claims that copies have sold for as high as $500 on eBay.) And Z-Trip soon found himself sharing studio time and stages with everyone from Chester Bennington of Linkin Park to Cut Chemist, Chuck D, Mixmaster Mike, Lyrics Born, DJ Shadow, Aceyalone, Gift of Gab and Rakim.
Playing more than 100 shows a year (mostly DJing with Serato Scratch Live), Z-Trip has performed for 50 people, and he's rocked 500,000 with nary a difference in intensity or dedication. It was in between a recent string of such dates that Remix was able to catch him scouring for ammo at Don's Music in the Eagle Rock neighborhood of L.A. “I'm always looking for 30 things at a time,” he confides. “I try and hit as much of the shop as I can — not sticking on just jazz or just funk or kids records — I try to hit it all.”
Who else can pick up Madonna, Depeche Mode, The Police, Redman, AC/DC, Herbie Hancock, Cyndi Lauper, Rage Against the Machine and The Beatles, mix and mash them into a cohesive cacophony of careful carelessness and emerge from it as one of hottest underground hip-hop DJs around? “The criteria is to always keep an open mind,” he says. “For shows, I try and go after things that are familiar. But if it's a project with a specific thing I'm going for, usually I go for things that are rare or odd.”
Z-Trip's latest endeavor is dedicated to the gamers out there. For Decon's All-Pro Football 2K8 (2007), Z-Trip has masterfully mustered up 13 original tracks and mash-ups, including Dead Prez over The Deftones, Rakim over alt-rockers Chevelle and a rousing remix of Rush's “Tom Sawyer.” But for this particular record trip at Don's, it was all about searching for some comical, unexpected surprises for future sets, followed by washing off the dirty record-store grime with help from a handy “KFC moist toilette.” Hey, can't afford to get sick before the gig….
BREWER & SHIPLEY
Archive Alive (Archive)
This one has a song on it called “Crested Butte,” and I'm doing a show in Crested Butte [Colo.], so it just works out. I can throw it on at the end of my set, and I think everyone will get a kick out of it. Anytime you're playing in some place that's extremely rural or specific and you throw on a track that coincides with that place, the crowd appreciates the effort you throw in. They're like, “This isn't a set he's just playing from town to town to town.” It's not really the best song, but the mere fact that I have a festival show in Crested Butte, it works.
“Stoned Out of My Mind” (Brunswick)
I picked this one up because it's a cool track to throw at the end of a set, especially if you're going to a place like Colorado or Vermont where a lot of people get high. If you're out in a festival or out in a free-spirited sort of place, and you throw on a track like this, it just fits the mood. Plus, there are a million songs — whether it be dancehall tracks or rock tracks — about getting high or getting stoned. If there's a party, tracks like these fit really well because they fit in the moment — a closer to the night, if you will.
Learn-Play Bongos (Liberty)
There's a little bit of stuff where he's like, “Hey, can you play along with these?” and it's really old-sounding. If you're trying to work on a track, and you need to sort of tell someone or tell the track to go a certain way, these usually help you with changing of time signatures and changing of sounds without having to be abrupt. If you have somebody introduce a new sound via a sample, something like this can work out.
THE FLINTSTONES & JOSÉ JIMINEZ
In the Time Machine (Hanna-Barbera)
It's from 1966, but it has the original voices from the Flintstones. A lot of records from that time are all so interesting because they really took a lot of time to write voice-over work and throw in sound effects and interesting stuff here and there. And the fact that they're in a time machine…if I'm playing a set, and I want to do something where I'm talking about time — going backward or forward — this is perfect. There's a million songs that talk about time and space, but to throw Fred Flintstone talking about time travel into the mix will throw people a curveball.
MATERNITY TO MOTHERHOOD
Common Sense Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth for Parents-to-Be (Ampex)
I just love it because it's sort of a breakdown by a woman speaking really softly about motherhood and pregnancy: “The growth of you and your fetus.” To me, you can never have enough spoken-word records. It expands your vocabulary, so to speak. Say you're coming out of something crazy like 2 Live Crew, and you want to go in a completely different direction — this might be the record. Might be. At the same time, I got married about a year ago, and the fact that I might have kids soon, this is kind of a record I might want to listen to so I'll know what to expect.
TANTO METRO & DEVONTE
“Everyone Falls in Love” (Penthouse)
This is a dancehall classic that's sort of like an R&B track. I have it on 12-inch, and I have remixes that people did of it — the originals and the dub of it — but not the 45. This one's just a great one to have in the arsenal.
MUSIC MAGIC FOR MOPPETS
Music Magic for Moppets (Listen & Learn)
This has a girl teaching kids how to do things. Kids records are the coolest things to sample from. If you can find the old ones or the weird ones, they're the most original. They speak to people in such a primitive kidlike fashion by nature that they translate really well into a song. If you're doing something that's really busy, and you bounce to something where someone's telling you to do something in a very old-person-to-young-person manner where they're dumbing down their instruction, it's really funny. Stupid records like this are fun to fuck with.
“Run for Fun” (Kid Stuff)
Not that long ago, I did a 20-minute set based around every video-game record I could find. I thought I pretty much had most of them. I had a Pac-Man LP, but I've never seen the 45. So next time I do another video-game set — whenever that is — I'll have this one.