Zaxx maybe young, but he has quickly built up a sizable fanbase and has already played in front of a sea of dancing feet and bobbing heads. It is clear he is driven and motivated by one simple truth, his genuine love for music. It is perhaps the most important characteristic of any musical artist, especially a DJ whose job description requires them to find, curate and share the best tracks the world has to offer. He is unfazed by the status quo, and let’s his passion for music lead him in everything he does. In this Zaxx interview, he shares his approach and method in not only creating but finding the dopest tracks around. With an official website in the works and already on a bill of several big ticket events, 2016 is looking like a break through year for this talented purveyor of music.
SONIC HIGHLARK: When you make a beat, what do you usually start with?
ZAXX: If I’m making a new song or starting up a new track, I always start with the chord progression or the melody. I’ll mess with a bass line then think of notes that can complement it. I usually go from there. I focus on the melodies, then I go to the kicks and all the drums.
SONIC: So Staten Island…. I lived there for a little bit but it always seems to get a bad rep among the boroughs. It seems it’s a lot harder for musical acts to be taken seriously coming from there. Would you say that’s true from your experience?
ZAXX: Yeah, I guess there is a bad rep. Not many artists, especially a DJ comes out of Staten Island. The scene isn’t big here, it’s sort of the forgotten borough. Nobody really cares about Staten Island. I mean I love it here, but it’s very rare for someone from here to be turning heads.
SONIC: How did things start for you?
ZAXX:Back when I was 14 or 15, there was this club on the island called Eve. My friend was a DJ there and I used to beg him to let me get in the booth. I really wanted to get in the booth, it looked so crazy. It wasn’t even a stage or anything, just on the top floor of the place where you can barely see anybody but I thought “It must be so sick up there.” I would try and talk to the promoters after the show and I’d tell them “Yeah, so I make music.” blah- blah- blah, but they showed no interest. They would just say “Word, do you know a lot of kids? Do you want to sell tickets?” At the time I really didn’t know many kids because I was always working on music so I knew I couldn’t promote.
SONIC: Was there a memorable gig where you felt like things were starting to happen for you?
ZAXX: I used to play these shows in the city and Queens, but they weren’t shows put together by big promoters. You can see the difference between the shows that are really well made and the ones that aren’t. I think the first show that really made me go “Wow! Holy shit!” was when I played Pacha New York, I was 16 0r 17 or something like that. It wasn’t a favor either, they (Pacha) were interested in me and they put me in a slot to play with Borgore. I couldn’t believe I was playing there, it was crazy, you know? It’s Pacha, so it was insane for me, it was groundbreaking.
SONIC: Yeah definitely, must be so cool especially at that age to spin at a major club like that. Ok, so I hear you are a Star Wars buff. Which one is your favorite?
ZAXX: Ohhh come on! (laughing). Let me think, that’s a hard question! Hmm, I think I have two favorites, Episode VI and Episode III. I personally enjoyed them the most.
SONIC: So you like the conclusions.
ZAXX: Yeah, exactly. I mean everyone hates the prequels, but I like the prequels. I love the new one too but for sure III and VI I enjoyed the most.
SONIC: As a DJ you always have to have the dopest tracks. How do you find them?
ZAXX: What I do is I go on SoundCloud. I follow a handful of artists that I really like and check out what they’re doing. Then there’s the bigger artists that I like and see what they’re doing as well. I see what they ‘liked’ or ‘favorited’ and I’ll just peek through it. I also look at labels that aren’t really mainstream. When DJs played a set, years and years and years ago, well… it wasn’t that long ago but when the DJs were playing vinyl, they used to cover the names of the songs. The point was so the people went “This song is so good, but I can probably only hear it here. It must be an exclusive song, I wish I knew what it was because it’s sick!” I’m kind of doing the same thing. When I’m playing a song, I don’t want people to know what it is, I just want them to enjoy it. In the end they’ll find out what song it is, but at the time they’re wondering.
SONIC: That’s a cool way to do it. Kind of just let the music speak for itself. What’s a great track you can recommend me right now?
ZAXX: Right now? Let me think… There are these 2 guys, or 3 rather that I’ve been really listening to and honestly all their tracks are worth listening to. It’s what I personally think, but this guy Puppet, he’s a dude on Monstercat. Then there’s Murtagh and this guy Nitro Fun. They’re all on indie labels but they’re sound is just killing it. I think they’re outside the box so I think you should check those guys out. I think they’re great.
SONIC: I know you have Maxximize, and Something Wonderful coming up, and also just came out with your remix of Seven Lions’ “Falling Away,” what else is happening for you in 2016?
ZAXX: For 2016, I know a lot of people just want to play huge shows, but for me I just want to put important music out. I’m still trying to develop my niche, my sound, so 2016 for me is really a journey to more success I guess? I’m an impatient dude but I like to make sure everything is perfect before I release it. I used to just release tracks every week like “Here, have this, and have that.” but some of the tracks sucked so this is a better way to do it for sure.
SONIC: How do you know when a track is done?
ZAXX: That’s actually a good question. The reason I woke up late today was because I was up last night till 8 o’ clock and I finished a track in 3 hours. I started and finished it in 3 hours like it was nothing, but then I have songs that are months old that I still can’t top off, like something is missing but I just can’t figure out what it is. When you finish something in 3 hours, the workflow is really good and you know what you want to do. I sometimes have what I like to call ‘producer laziness’ where I say “Oh man, I have to do all this automation.” so I put it off till later and then I end up never going back to it and starting a whole new track. So it just depends on the factors I guess.
SONIC: Ok, last question… Who is your celebrity crush?
ZAXX: (Laughing) Alright, this is easy, Daisy Ridley.
SONIC: Of course!
ZAXX: Haha. She played Rey in the new Star Wars.
SONIC: Yeah, she was great in it.
ZAXX: She was amazing dude. All my friends are like “Dude she’s not even that hot.” But she’s for sure my celebrity crush.