Zack and I are friends on Facebook, but I have no idea why it took me so long to interview him. I am a big fan of his sound, and he has been getting a ton of exposure lately. The other day I saw him mention he was playing Electric Zoo again this year, and knew it was time we sat down for an interview. I have covered Electric Zoo twice now, and while I won’t be in New York City this year, it is always exciting to meet a DJ that is a part of this event. I am not sure how often he gets out of the Big Apple, but with remixes like Leaving Dancefloor and Togo he should be playing all the major festivals. Zack is not only a great DJ, but he is also a nice guy. He has been very humble with all of his success, and it has been fun watching him grow over the last couple of years on Facebook and Twitter. Oh, and check out Zack Roth Vs. Gianluca Motta the Tekkadon Vs. Not Alone mashup. You’re welcome! I dare you to listen to this guy and not dance. He’s good. He has a big future ahead of him, and I am excited to see what’s next for this DJ. It is my pleasure to introduce you to Zack Roth.
Your name is Zack Roth. Is it DJ Zack Roth or do you just use your name on stage?
Zack Roth is my actual name. When I first started DJing, I tried thinking of different names to DJ under, and they all seemed sort of corny. So I just played it safe and went with my real name.
You are from New York and are currently living in New Jersey. Is there more opportunity for a DJ in the Big Apple?
I was born in New York, but have lived in Jersey most of my life. And absolutely, there are many more opportunities for DJs here than almost anywhere else I would say. The amount of events being thrown in this city on a daily basis is sort of staggering really. The more events being thrown, equals more DJs needed to play those events.
I covered Electric Zoo last year. It was insane. Looks like you will be appearing at Electric Zoo this fall. What does that festival mean to you? Do you know what stage you will be on yet?
Well, this will be my 3rd year playing the festival, and to say that I am excited to play again would be a huge understatement. Made Event has done such an amazing job with this event. The first year, it was just an amazing accomplishment on their part… to bring such a massive, all EDM, festival to NYC was so cool. The second year it was like, “OK, it looks this festival is going to be around for awhile.” And then last year was just, “Holy crap. This is massive!” So yeah, this year I am the most amped to play. Not to mention, I am playing in Above & Beyond’s “Group Therapy” tent on Friday, which for me, is just an honor. Above & Beyond, and the whole Anjunabeats and Anjunadeep sound is what I love.
According to DJ Mag, David Guetta is the best DJ in the world. I disagree. In your opinion, who is the best DJ out there today?
Well, there is actually a misconception about the DJ Mag poll. DJ Mag doesn’t crown the “best DJ of the year.” They simply run a popularity contest for DJs. The DJ who gets the most votes is the winner. But every year, without fail, people seem to get all bent out of shape about who the winner is. Last year in particular, people were rabid over the fact that Guetta was the winner. It doesn’t mean Guetta is the best DJ though. It simply means he has the most fans, and in reality he does, and its not even close really. Not that this is the end-all of a DJ’s popularity, but Guetta has 33,000,000 likes on Facebook, while Armin, the #2 DJ, has about 5 million. So there is a huge difference between Guetta and the rest of the field, popularity-wise. But that certainly doesn’t mean he is the world’s best.
But to answer your second question about who my personal favorite DJ is, that’s tough, and my answer changes all the time. When it comes to trance, I really like Markus Schulz as a DJ. I also still love a lot of the old school progressive names like Herman Cattaneo and Digweed. Another one is Danny Tenaglia. He will always be way up there on my all-time favorites list as well.
Tell me a little bit more about your DI.fm radio show.
Well, I just started up a new show on Digitally Imported that is going to be turned into a podcast as well. When you listen to the show, you’ll really get a feel for what I am playing at my live sets these days. The name of the show is “Sub Mission” and that’s also the name of a brand-new night I started up here in NYC at a really small and underground spot called The National Underground. My goal is for the radio show and club night to work off each other. So, when I eventually start having guest mixers on the radio show, I will look to feature DJs and producers who have been involved with the party. Some of the acts that I’ve had play the party so far include guys like Matt Lange, Eco, Breakfast (Casey Keyworth), and Shawn Mitiska (Cerf & Mitiska).
When you are writing a set list, how do you pick which songs to spin?
Well, I don’t write set lists out before a show per say. I like to give myself a little more freedom to feel out the crowd in any given situation. Of course there is a lot of planning that goes into playing out. Each gig is unique, and what may work at one spot, may not at another. But basically, my main goal is to find great music that will make the crowd I am playing for dance all night.
I use the Bose QC15 headphones. Of course, I’m not a DJ. What headphones do you have?
I’ve had so many different pairs of headphones over the years. I have used Sony, Pioneer, and Technic. Right now I use the Sennheiser HD 25, and absolutely love them. I actually bought a pair for my wife for Christmas a couple years back, and almost immediately stole them from her. I kind of feel bad, but then again I don’t. They are such amazing headphones. When these eventually go, I’ll just get another pair of them. I love them.
When you remix a song, do you need to get permission from the original artist?
All of the tracks I have remixed so far come as a result of the labels (or sometimes the actual producer) asking me to remix the original track for them. You could always remix a track you like for fun, but of course it would be a bootleg version, and not official.
You have opened for some pretty big names including Above & Beyond, Armin van Buuren, and Ferry Corsten. When you open for a DJ like that, do you get to meet the DJ beforehand?
Sometimes, but not always. Guys like Armin, Above & Beyond and Ferry Corsten, for example, are so busy with their touring… planning sets, working on new material, traveling, doing press stuff, etc., that it’s tough to meet them all beforehand. But really there isn’t too much need to meet them beforehand in terms of being able to do what I need to do. I know what my job is when I open… to warm the crowd up for headliner. I spend a lot of time researching what the headliners are playing, so I have a good idea of where I need to leave off musically for them to have the most impact.
I love Pacha NYC. Have you ever played there?
Absolutely. I have been playing Pacha pretty regularly for the past 4 or 5 years maybe. Pacha is one of the last true “big rooms” left in NYC, and they are still going strong… definitely one of my favorite NYC clubs to play.
Tell me about your relationship with Anjuna.
Well, I have a track that got released on Anjunadeep last year. Beyond that, I’ve played a few shows with some of their core artists, including Above & Beyond. As I mentioned earlier, I’ll be playing in Above & beyond’s “Group Therapy” tent at Electric Zoo this year. I can’t wait.
I listen to electronic dance music all the time. I like trance, house, techno… what is your favorite genre of dance music?
As a DJ I play a bit of everything. I play a lot of progressive house, trance, techno and even some electro during my peak time sets. During my early sets I usually start off with chilled out ambient music, then get into some deep house and tech house before eventually picking things up. I occasionally throw in some breaks as well.
To pick a favorite though would be really hard, especially considering how blurred the lines are between genres these days. I find that the best tracks these days are the ones that successfully blend the best attributes of different genres.
It seems like every DJ has a podcast. Gareth Emery has one. Ferry Corsten has one. Armin van Buuren and Above & Beyond have one. Do you have one? Do you listen to any of their podcasts on a regular basis?
Well, like I mentioned earlier, I just started up my own new show called Sub Mission, which will be turned into a podcast in the next month.
About other DJ’s shows, I never really used to listen to them to be honest. I have been listening to them a bit more this year though, since getting a new car that came with SiriusXM. Electric Area airs some great shows from some of the bigger DJs. Some of my favorites are Markus Schulz’s Global DJ Broadcast, Carl Cox’s Global, and Digweed’s Transitions.
Do you ever get nervous on stage?
Honestly, not really anymore. It’s another day at the office now. I’ve been DJing for almost a decade now, so I have seen most of it. I mostly just get excited and pumped now when I perform.
What is the biggest crowd you have ever played for?
That’s a tough one. I think maybe the biggest crowd I have played for was a few years ago at Roseland Ballroom, alongside Above & Beyond and Fedde Le Grand on Halloween night. I think the capacity is about 3,500 people, and it was filled to the brim with people dressed in very creepy costumes. That was an awesome night.
Tell me about your show at Governors Island.
I actually just got back from playing with Dash Berlin and Tritonal last weekend. It was an amazing show. One of my best yet really. I got to play a 3-hour set to kick things off which was awesome for me. The crowd was super into it, and it’s tough to beat basically DJing on a beach that overlooks downtown NYC. The show last weekend was put on by Made Event as part of a summer concert series on the island that they are doing. They always do an amazing job with these big time productions… the lighting and visuals, sound, are all top notch.
You are a DJ. You are also a producer. You are also a remixer. Can you be one without the other? Do you prefer one to the other?
Its tough to be really successful in this business if you only focus on one aspect. Most “big time” DJs are also producers, and vice versa. If you’re a successful producer and you hit a certain level, there is eventually going to be demand for you to play live.
I started off as a DJ myself, and it wasn’t long before I eventually got into production.
Speaking of productions and remixes, what do you have coming up?
I just signed a brand new original production to Enhanced Music‘s new progressive house sub label, Colorize, which I am thrilled about about. I’m guessing that one will be coming out in the next few months.
On the remix front, I am just about finished with a pretty banging remix that I did for Lost Language, remixing Paul Van Dyk Vs. Tilt Rendezvous. The original is one of my all-time favorite trance tracks, so can’t wait to finally finish it up.
Have you ever made a mistake on stage?
Oh, god yes. All the time! The key is to react quickly and play it off like you meant to do it.
I love the cover for “Tekkadon”. Who designs all of your album artwork?
Actually, the cover art for most releases is done by the labels that sign the track. Sometimes the labels ask for input on the design from the producer, but not always. I named the track Tekkadon after my favorite Japanese sushi meal. So the designer used a picture of the Tokyo skyline on the cover to sort of tie in to the Japanese theme.
What’s next for Zack Roth?
Well, I plan on finishing out summer in strong fashion. I have some awesome gigs coming up that I am thrilled about. I have my next Sub Mission party on the 14th where I’ll be playing alongside Shawn Mitiska (of Cerf & Mitiska). At the end of the month I am playing at Sullivan Room alongside one of my personal favorite artists, Guy J. That is going to be an amazing night, which I absolutely can’t wait for.
And then of course I will be capping off my summer with Electric Zoo in September.
Zack, I know you are a busy guy. I appreciate you taking the time to do this. In all of the interviews I do, I always give the artist the last word. Go.
No problem. Thank you for having me. See you all on the dance floor soon.