The Hot Seat: Zane Lowe, Radio 1 DJ and artist

Published in The Music Network
Musicians love him, music fans trust him. In Britain’s fast-moving music scene, Zane Lowe is rightly regarded as one of its chief tastemakers. The New Zealander has carved out a formidable career in his adopted hometown of London: first as a presenter with MTV and now as a regular DJ on BBC Radio 1 where he hosts his own self-titled show four nights a week. An early champion of the likes of Arctic Monkeys, Bloc Party, Kasabian and Kaiser Chiefs, Zane is a music-obsessive who lives a separate – but connected – life as a club DJ and sometime recording artist. TMN caught up with the DJ when he toured Australia with the Future Music Festival.

How do you keep connected with music? In many different ways. There’s no real method to it. Like everyone else, you pick your favourite places to go, and you share information with blogs and people within the industry. One of the privileges of working for a radio station or a magazine is that you’re an outlet, so people choose to bring new music to you. Some of it comes to you, sometimes it’s as simple as a link to a Soundcloud. If there was a book that could be written about doing it, then it would lose a certain amount of that magic. It’s a treasure hunt.

You’re an elite Kiwi working in the entertainment business abroad. Did it help or hinder having the accent? Neither. I was told it would hinder, but it never proved to be a problem. There was a hurdle initially when I worked at MTV in the UK; there was talk that they weren’t really keen on anybody who wasn’t British on that channel.

But somehow, with help from some friends, they skirted around that issue and since then it hasn’t really been a problem. Like anything, if you’re enthusiastic about what you do, and that comes across and people can identify with that, all that stuff is overlooked. Plus it’s a small world. There are no borders anymore.

What’s the secret to your success? Just simplicity. If you consider what I do to be at some level of success, it’s because I simplified the journey to very small components. Music has always been the primary professional and creative focus for me. There’s never been anything else. In front of that now, which is a motivating factor to want to succeed, is my family. But that’s it. It’s work and nurture. If you can simplify the things that inspire you, down to a small amount, you can give more of yourself to them.

What sort of feedback do you get on Radio 1? During the show we receive text messages at the studio and now with Facebook and Twitter we’re fully connected worldwide. It’s mostly positive. People tend to get online to tell you something constructive, or they share that enthusiasm for a record or whatever. You still get the odd person going online to be a bit rude, but that’s been going on forever. That’s just juvenile and silly. You laugh at it.

We often hear from industry types that radio is on the way out, it’s being replaced by the Internet. Any truth in that? Nah. Nothing is replacing anything. They said that about vinyl and vinyl still exists. They said video killed the radio star, then they said CDs would kill vinyl, and that downloads would kill CDs. You can cease to manufacture CDs, but people will still own them and they’ll still listen to them. The Internet has a very important function in that it has opened up the world of people with opinions, and the people who make music, and people who want to read about it or listen to it. The Internet has made that world smaller and enabled those things to be connected easier, which is great. It’s a free market, essentially. What it’s also done is reinforce the importance of filters, trustworthy sources of information.

Your group Breaks Co-Op had something of a hit with The Otherside. Bob Lefsetz belatedly gave it the thumbs- up. Does that make you keen to go headlong into making music? Yes and yes. The Breaks Co-Op project – the band – took a break. But the music making has always carried on. That album reached its course. And at that point, you have to let the album go on its own journey, which it has done. And most recently, it met Bob, and Bob liked it and told people about it. That’s the album which is on that journey now. We’ve let it go and it’s for people to discover it now. I’ve been working in the studio, getting to that point of learning my trade again so I can make something solid under my own name, or whatever band name. Which I will do. Something will come out in the next three months, independently- released, that will give people an insight into where I’m at in terms of my DJ set. The Breaks-Co-op project is underway again, but I can’t give too much away – because it’s in a wonderful, awesome developmental process without any time restraints. The guys are writing music again, and sharing music again, and that’s how the last album got made, and it took a long time to do. It was worth the wait for us. Hopefully, that’s what will happen again.

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