TIME TO GET ZEN
By Crystal Mello
If your the type of person who finds your zen in a crowded nightclub- music blaring, lights flashing, drinks flowing- then you will be at peace in the presence of this master DJ. Zen Freeman has become one of the most established club and event DJ's in the country, not to mention an LA favorite among A-list clientele. Find out how this international artist keeps cool under the pressure of keeping the hottest party going.
Q. How did your career begin?
A. Well, I started hitting the records stores at fourteen, buying different records and building a collection. I was making mix cassettes at the time. My first real gig in the states was ten years ago when I moved here. It was a black-tie, red carpet event in Beverly Hills. After that, I started hitting the clubs in Hollywood and promoting my own music.
Q. How has recent technology evolved your sets throughout time?
A. I was a big vinyl guy before this technology of file sharing and Serato came around. We would hunt the stores and get all the vinyl to mix and scratch that way. Now a days you can get very creative with sounds. Serato allows you to load sounds along with chopping and cutting the music; it makes the process a lot easier.
Q. What music inspires you?
A. I listen to a lot of different music. I like to go into the studio with fresh ideas, create new music through disco, R&B, 70’s, 80’s, electronic- a little bit of everything.
Q. How would you describe your sound?
A. Electronic/House production. As a DJ, I love abstruse but catchy music, makes people feel uplifting.
Q. Reading crowds and feeding off their energy is one aspect of a live performance, depending on the genre. Do you have any techniques in reading audience feedback?
A. Never plan out your set. Know where to go and have options. If you know the crowd isn’t feeling it, you need to be able to switch it up in a beat. I always have a few songs that I know will work for the energy of the crowd.
Q. Who has been your favorite artist to work with?
A. I always like to collaborate. Recently, I have been recording with Kenneth Thomas. He is a fellow peer. When we perform or make a track together, we blend our two names to - Zenneth! We will go into the studio pull live percussion & vocals, mix it all together, and create our sound until everyone is happy. If I want to test out sounds or beats of a track, I drive around in the car and blast it to make sure it sounds good. If not, I go back and re-adjust.
Q. What advice would you give to up and coming DJ's/MC’s?
A. When I moved to LA in 2001, I couldn’t get a job. Everyone here is in Lakers T-shirts and baseball hats. I was wearing fitted suits, very buttoned up, but I kept at it. I listened to Adam Goldstein (DJ AM). He showed me how to use Serato – god rest his soul. It really helped me a lot and if you can make people dance in Hollywood for 6-7 years then you can DJ anywhere. People in other countries want to have fun and are carefree. People in LA are harder to please. If you can handle that you are golden. Keep trying, it took me three years to get booked. Work hard, if your good, you will get your break.
Q. How do you see the scene five years from now?
A. Five years ago it was so different. The generation changed, literally kids were dancing to a swing beat. Now everyone is into electronic music. For instance David Guetta... everyone wants to work with him. The music today is going towards a more electronic feel. What happened in Europe in 1990 with the music scene is full blown happening in America now. They are saying Vegas is becoming the new house Mecca of the world and being compared to places like Ibiza, Spain.
Q. What are you working on currently?
A. I am currently playing weekly residency for Rain Nightclub at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas on Saturday nights. Ztrip was the Friday resident DJ for a long time. I typically play from (1-4) am or opening until one am. I’ve been playing alongside Paul Oakenfold for a year and half . I will continue Saturday nights at RAIN through 2012.
Q. Where can people find your music?
A. I'm currently working on singles and releasing A&B of two albums. The industry has changed so much it's more about keeping good songs coming out consistently rather than mass producing records. It is definitely a great time for DJ’s!
DJ Zen Freeman has been working in Los Angeles since 2001 as a DJ, producer, and music supervisor and his "mix tapes" are now used by corporations like Chanel, Soho House, Morgans Hotel Group and Weinstein Company to entertain their guests at chic events and Hollywood parties. He is well known in the celebrity circuit and has become a DJ of choice among the rich and famous with clients including Miley Cyrus, Black Eyed Peas, Justin Timberlake, and Lady Gaga, to name a few. He is also a regular in the Film Festival circuit playing events at Toronto, Cannes, and Sundance.