How Z-Trip's Mission To Be a DJ Conductor at Wavelength Festival Almost Didn't Happen
By: Ian Joulain It's Friday afternoon and Z-Trip looks a bit groggy. Donning a black Vans t-shirt with grey Diesel jeans and sneakers, he orders a Chai tea along with some breakfast. We are at The Coffee Table in Eagle Rock and the DJ/producer/godfather of mashups has been on tour most of summer. He is fresh off his stint as LL Cool J's DJ on the recently concluded Kings of the Mic tour. Z-Trip has never had a problem staying busy.
This Saturday, Z-Trip--born Zach Sciacca--along with members of the Pacific Symphony are performing at the Wavelength Festival of Music at the Pacific Amphitheatre. In an evening curated by Jason Bentley, KCRW's musical director and host of "Morning Becomes Eclectic," working in conjunction with the Pacific Symphony, it's a night where Sciacca's creative muscles will be flexed. He's even more grateful that he's doing it since the whole opportunity was almost derailed because of a last-minute mix up.
The accomplished DJ has never had an opportunity to perform with an orchestra and the idea has his mind racing at the possibilities. "I've never really seen a DJ with an orchestra, up to this point, that has basically lead the orchestra in a way where the orchestra follows the DJ as selector, party rocker, performer," he says.
In order to help Sciacca integrate orchestral elements into his set Bentley put him in contact with composer/arranger, Joe Trapanese. Most recently Trapanese co-composed the Oblivion score with M-83's Anthony Gonzalez and before that he collaborated with Daft Punk on the Tron: Legacy soundtrack. Trapanese is a heavy hitter.
For Bentley, it was a no-brainer to have Z-Trip in the supporting role to headliner Bonobo on the evening's bill. "I have known [Z-Trip] to be just fearless and that is why I picked him for this project." He says. "I feel like he can take on anything and if he can manipulate that [orchestral] sound the sky is the limit."
While Z-Trip was told that parts of the Pacific Symphony would made available to him there are still ongoing discussions as to what exactly he will have access to, but it doesn't seem to matter at the moment during our initial interview. He's just excited at the thought of his vision-- DJ as conductor.
As he walks through ideas for his set it's easy to see why Sciacca is one of the best at what he does. His creative approach in combining unlike musical elements and blending them seamlessly is what has defined his career and made him a household name in the DJ world. While working the imaginary crossfader as he hums string parts to a potential routine concept, it's clear that despite having not spent much time on crafting the upcoming set his ideas are sound and the payoff will be big if he can execute what his mind has dreamt up. "A huge reason I am so stoked to work with this orchestra...just like the orchestra wants to infuse youth into its world I want to pull musicality into mine." he says.
One other complication outside of not knowing what orchestral resources he will have access to is the fact that Sciacca is heading to Russia in a few days for the better part of a week. Upon his return it will leave him with roughly four days to create, rehearse, and perfect his set before the performance on the 24th. Z-Trip has never met a challenge he didn't like. "Being up against the gun with the pressure and lack of time gets me hyped because it forces me to break through obstacles."
What could possibly go wrong?
Five days after the breakfast for lunch outing with Z-Trip the Weekly received a media alert about the upcoming performance. In the release, sent out by the event's promoter, The ACE Agency, the inaugural festival listed set times for each evening's program along with the acts that would be performing with the Pacific Symphony. Curiously, Z-Trip was not listed as performing with the orchestra.
After reaching out to the Pacific Symphony's director of PR, she confirmed what the release stated: Z-Trip would not be performing with the Pacific Symphony. With Sciacca still in Russia and 10 days before his big orchestral debut it appeared that his performance with the Pacific Symphony wasn't in the cards.
Despite the Pacific Symphony's confirmation, Bentley had a different take: "We're still working with Z-Trip on the ways he can engage the symphony. We absolutely have the intention, but it will come down to the wire. I don't imagine that the media contact has a sense of that."
He went on to point out the logistical problems of working within the classical world and the system in which they operate has made it difficult to coordinate last minute sessions with orchestral players due to union concerns. Despite all that, Bentley believes one thing: "I believe that the [Pacific Symphony] is committed to this process and all of its potential."
Up to this point, resources still hadn't been fleshed out due to the unknown nature of Z-Trip's set, but Sciacca left audio and notes before he left the country which included what elements of the orchestra he was hoping to incorporate into the evening's performance. These were all promptly forwarded to the Pacific Symphony's VP of Artistic and Orchestra Operations--Eileen Jeanette.
As far as Bentley is concerned, it was his understanding all along that Z-Trip would be performing with the Pacific Symphony. "The reason why I think [Z-Trip] took this opportunity was he saw it as a new experience for him to be working with members of the orchestra." he says.
Sciacca has since returned from his travels and has been in touch with the Pacific Symphony. Though he's been informed that he will not be performing with the orchestra as he once previously thought, they were prepared to let him use some string arrangements. The thing is, he and the string players are only going to be able to rehearse one time before the show on Saturday due to union restrictions to the tune of 50 minutes.
See also: 10 EDM Albums to Listen to Before You Die From what Sciacca gathers, there was a bit of miscommunication somewhere along the line and somehow no one was exactly positive if he was performing with the orchestra or not. "In my mind and in my camp I was under the impression that it was going down...but what I am realizing is, in actuality, the [Pacific Symphony] just got wind of me playing with [the orchestra]." he says.
Whatever ends up happening and however many strings end up performing with Z-Trip it won't live up to what he had originally conceived, but that's ok. He now realizes the massive undertaking of incorporating an orchestra into a performance and rest assured it wouldn't come as much of a surprise if he circled back to something like this in the future.
It's almost midnight now a few days before Wavelength and Sciacca is driving. By the time he gets home it'll be Thursday. He has just left a very productive meeting with assistant conductor of the Pacific Symphony, Alejandro Gutiérrez. The relief in his voice over the phone is palpable and he is excited that in the end it all ended up working out. "I'm feeling so much better. Jesus fucking Christ." he says.
Despite the initial disconnect between the parties involved, the show is on and Sciacca credits Jeanette to rising to the occasion and ultimately making this performance a reality. Though he admits she was a bit apprehensive during the meeting she saw the potential in the collaboration.
It's now time for Z-Trip to get to work. The sequencing will be crucial with the live players to maintain the ebb and flow of the performance and there is much to be done in the hours leading up to the show.
With a laugh Sciacca says there will be no sleep on his end until the show on Saturday is over, but this isn't the first and certainly won't be the last time he's short on rest in the name of pushing the envelope. "Now it's all about tightening the screws," he says, "I think it's going to be crazy and I think people are really gonna dig it. I'm stoked on it. "
Z-Trip performs Saturday, Aug. 24 at the Wavelength Festival at with Bonobo and members of the Pacific Symphony Orchestra at Pacific Amphitheatre. Show starts at 7 p.m. For full details and tickets, click here.
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