Some have said there’s a method to their madness. Z-Trip would be one artist that exemplifies this idea. For the creation of his latest release, “Shifting Gears,” he says “there was a lot of planning but at a certain point there was no planning.” Z-Trip’s plan to both plan and not plan was put into effect in every aspect of the album with the hopes of reaching his goal “to sound relevant but not sound regurgitated.”
First up in Z-Trip’s quest to be both relevant and sonically different was to immediately make people rethink everything they knew about him. “I was trying my hardest to stay away from what most people would have expected from me, which is rock,” he explains “it’s a big part of my background, who I am, but more than anything I could rattle off fifty Hip-Hop groups that are people that nobody would know and it’s because of my roots in Hip-Hop I felt I need to go back there.” So while a lot of his fan base may be expecting rock, Z-Trip notes he’d much rather “give them something that they don’t know that they wanted.”
With his plan to only plan so much in tact, “Shifting Gears” turned into a melting pot of production techniques. “There wasn’t a certain method that was used throughout the whole album, it was sort of whatever works works.” One day a sample would be needed, the next day something might be recorded live and that very liquid idea of planning was also put into effect when dealing with the many artists on the album.
“Shifting Gears” features such notable artists as Chuck D, Murs, Supernatural, Aceyalone, Mystic and even Chester Bennington of Linkin Park. Z-Trip’s way of dealing with such a diverse cast made life easy on everyone. He explains “I didn’t really give anybody a guideline, everything came together real organic and in my opinion not too much was compromised. I felt I couldn’t necessarily censor anybody nor would I want to, the reason I’m working with them is because I like their energy and the style that they bring.”
Getting the cast of artists together wasn’t as difficult as one might think. Z-Trip notes “most of the MC’s on the record are like that, people I’ve bumped into along my travels and were always like “hey let’s do something” so a lot of those people are people I was finally able to reach out to. Chester was somebody that I had met opening up for them and met them when they just started to make noise, but the interesting thing is he and I are both from Arizona. The only person I really reached out to who I hadn’t met was Chuck D. I just felt like I really needed him on that particular track (“Shock and Awe”) and I just sort of hunted him down and he said he was a fan and was into it.”
Along with finding the artists he wanted to work with, another one of Z-Trip’s goals was to create “music from what I felt were from my origins and things that would have sparked me.” Z-Trip’s origins span nearly the entire country, though. Originally from Queens, NY, Z-Trip’s parents got divorced when he was just seven so he spent the majority of his youth traveling between New York and Arizona. He says of his trips from a place where Hip-Hop was king to a state where very few people knew about it, “eventually I got the taste of it in New York and moved it to Arizona and built it there.” “I was buying records you could only get in New York, independent records that were being pressed up that was making the scene what it was, then coming home to Arizona.”
That idea of creating an album that would have sparked him ended up creating a virtual history of Hip-Hop all on one album. Z-Trip explains “it starts off on some early Hip-Hop tracks and graduates towards some dark current shit, it’s sort of a timeline to a degree.”
When Z-Trip is searching for something to listen to, however, it’s not always Hip-Hop he’s looking for. He explains “I’m always looking something specific in an album depending on what kind of mood I’m looking to capture in my own day. If I don’t have it in my collection it’s like an itch I can’t reach until I get that record or that song. I’m always looking for good quality stuff, stuff that sounds good, stuff that was recorded well, stuff where you can tell a lot of time an energy put into it.” Of course, he’s still a DJ at heart, so “if it’s got a drum break on top of all that it’s that much cooler in my opinion.”
His words of advice to the buying public are to simply listen to their friends. “Pay more attention with what your friend will try to break you off with than what the record companies are trying to shove down your throat,” he implores “as a DJ I can tell you wholeheartedly 80% of the music being shoved down throats is just not music that I would buy or be excited about.” That leaves a hearty 20% for everyone to seek out.
“Shifting Gears” is an album Z-Trip’s excited about, his hope now is that his vision translates into excitement among others.