[INTERVIEW] Zane Lowe
I'd been hoping to get a chance to pin down BBC Radio 1's Zane Lowe for a chat at Rhythm & Alps festival, but as the evening rolled on and we hadn't heard for sure if it was happening, I decided to go have a few drinks and soak up the festival atmosphere.
This is how, at about 11:30pm on the eve of the new year, I found myself several gin and tonics under, on a faded old brown couch behind the main stage, bewildered and chatting to Auckland-born presenter, DJ, producer and music guru Zane Lowe.
Lowe and I discussed his beginnings in NZ Hip-Hop group Urban Disturbance and how he's always been involved in music, before I jumped right in there and asked him straight up - how did he get to where he is now.
So tell us, how did you end up at BBC?
Well I'd always been, you know, I suppose close to music and eventually that ended up at MTV thanks to the good faith of a few people, and a fairly decent show reel of the stuff I did in New Zealand. Did some time at MTV and then MTV lead me to XFM, XFM lead me to MTV2 and then MTV2 and the XFM together kind of got the intention of Radio 1, at a time that they wanted to make a change and so I went for the gig and I got the gig! And that was 10 years ago.
And now you call London home?
Oh yeah! I mean I've been living in London for 17 years, my wife's been there for 16 years, she's a kiwi too. We've got two kids, I mean they're London kids man, they were born and raised in London. I mean they're English, they sound English.
And what about when you come back here to NZ? Is it also home?
Yeah, I mean London's home away from home. We feel at home in London but when we come back here we always tell people "were going home" and they go "where's that" and we say "no well, sorry, we're going back to NZ for three weeks" you know. We still refer to it as that, I mean this is where our families for the most part are still based and whenever we arrive here, wherever we are, we're always a part of this country. We recognise the smells, we know what it's like to be in this country you know, everything else is still an adventure. London is still a place where we feel like we're on this big adventure, but New Zealand is a place where we feel instantly comfortable.
Yeah exactly, well London is such a big city, there's always something going on, something new around every corner.
So you obviously do a lot of interviews yourself, but is it a bit weird BEING interviewed?
Yeah I'm not very good at it, it's almost something I should put on a t-shirt or something before I get interviewed. I mean I'm more comfortable where you are, when I'm conducting the conversation you know? It's interesting though. I mean I have no problem at all talking to people but I think my fundamental flaw with being interviewed was like, just pretty early on I always thought - being interviewed for doing interviews seems weird you know?
Yeah I know I was like oh god what do I ask you haha
Yeah exactly. I mean now that I've started making music again it's a bit easier because people are like "let's talk about music or your DJing or the records you're producing" or whatever, I can understand that. But when people are like "let's talk about the Kanye interview" I'm like... well it's all there, you know? What do you want me to say? I mean we all decided not to reflect too much about it because he's that guy that doesn't like to be taken out of context. And I think you can apply that to any interview situation. You know like, the context of the conversation and how it pans out on radio or TV, in print, online, that's really the document. That's it really, that's why we do it. It's for that experience of extracting that information out of people, you know?
Yeah exactly. Well me and Tim were sort of joking around earlier and saying we should ask you "What would YOU ask you?" you know, in this situation.
Me? Oh my goodddd that's a matrix, I'll have a nervous breakdown if you ask me that. Wow.
Yeah it's a bit of a warp! Bad question? Haha
Terrible! Oh no now I'm seriously zoning in to a bad place!
Don't do it! Don't go to that bad place! Haha
Yeah I mean we really didn't want to just sit here and quiz you we just wanted to have a bit of a chat.
Yeah, oh man your site is crazy I went and checked it out once I saw it on the media schedule and I mean, you guys are really going in deep into music, I mean there was a lot of stuff that I'd never heard or checked out, I mean it was really fascinating for me. Obviously you guys are really deep, deep collectors and hunters of new music.
Aw, thanks so much! Yeah, I mean we have this fascination with finding those interesting or obscure bands that, you know they may not be colossally successful, but…
But they move you guys and you like them
Yeah exactly. There's something about it that really makes a mark on us so we just kind of... document that.
It's the same philosophy I think if you like music and you want to be involved in helping to spread the word or play it for people or be a conduit or however you want to put it… whether or not you're playing like the Foo Fighters, which I'm really happy to do, or whether you're playing something that might be considered really obscure and really new and really underground, I think it's what you believe in, you know.
Like I had a conversation with another DJ who was a huge influence on me, and I thought was just way too cool to ever acknowledge what I did, and he sort of put that in perspective for me he was like "we're not dissimilar you and I" you know. We come at it from different places but we're not dissimilar. Because if your heart's in the right place it doesn't matter where your taste lies, I mean that's why I like Peter Robinson so much because he loves his pop music but his heart is in it in the same way mine is in to rap or any other thing, you know what I mean?
Yeah, that's the thing - it's more about your passion and what you're in to, rather than well… as soon as you start going away from that, as soon as you start doing something for the wrong reasons it sort of loses everything.
You know. You know when you kinda, when you're selling yourself short. I mean it doesn't mean that sometimes you don't do it or that you don't get to have to compromise or, you just gotta try and get through life and live in it as much as possible, choose your battles you know.
At this point I started forgetting the questions I had intended to ask (note to self - in future, when you are going to interview someone who's job is pretty much to do interviews, maybe don't get drunk beforehand) so we decided as we were at a festival, on New Years Eve, we should probably go and enjoy ourselves.
Lowe headed back off to the artist area, hopefully to have a drink with his mum (who he had brought on tour with him) and bring in the New Year! I on the other hand, high-fived some of the R&A media team, proceeded to go grab some more drinks with my own media crew (I'm sure I didn't need them by this stage) and join the crowd at the main stage to count down to 2014.