A working DJ playing all manner of house music, Zabier always brings the party. His countless gigs around New South Wales have led to a residency at Pier One on Sydney Harbour, and now he is coming into his own as a producer. Zabier is playing at the Sydney Opera House for New Year’s Eve and I asked him what the new year will bring.
Q. Zabier, as a DJ you’ve had a varied career and worked hard playing at weddings and pubs, as well as some really diverse gigs such as fashion shows, charity events and even television. Those experiences culminated in a one year residency at Pier One, until June this year. That must have been amazing. Can you tell us about some of your early gigs and how you got to where you are now?
A. My first ever gig was at my previous career as an outdoor instructor working with a Sydney school. The students had a school dance and one of the other trainees volunteered to DJ so the senior staff wouldn’t end up hiring some old bloke from Nowra, but he came straight to me and asked for my help since my taste in music was a lot more suited to a big crowd of teenagers. That was my first taste and from there I found my way into joining a small family business working weddings and come summertime, Christmas parties. That lead me to joining a more professional business but still working 90% weddings except with a lot more birthdays, corporate and even fashion shows and TV.
After a few years with them the constant weddings burnt me out and sapped my soul creatively hahaha so I ended up walking away from that and essentially had to start anew in 2015. Luckily I’ve met some wonderful people in Sydney (shout outs to Ronald Maran, Kate Woolley and Alexy Francis) who opened doors for me to work directly with the company that manages Sydney Aquarium, Wildlife Park & Madame Tussauds, as well as taking up an unofficial residency of sorts at Pier One Sydney Harbour. I’ve found playing out on the wharf for hotel patrons, walk-ins, diners and passerbys to be very rewarding as I constantly have all kinds of people, young, old, international writers, backpackers all coming up just to personally let me know they enjoyed my sets.
Q. On New Year’s Eve you’re playing at the Sydney Opera House, at the Opera Kitchen from 6:00pm to 9:00pm. It’s not your first time playing there, but even so you must be quite excited. How are you preparing for the night?
A. It will be my first time playing at the Opera Kitchen but my fourth or fifth time playing at a spot that is part of the Sydney Opera House. I’m really looking forward to it! It’ll be very special having the opportunity to kick off the night for what tends to be the biggest party of the year at such an internationally recognised, scenic location.
I keep all my music fairly well organised using iTunes and Serato so I’m always ready to go for practically any kind of gig. I’ll be keeping it fairly relaxed to start with but will slowly warm things up for the next DJ to close out the night. I tend to throw down a lot of quality remixes of well known songs, new and old. The biggest house tracks from the 90’s and early 2000’s are very popular at the moment and it’s easy to understand why.
Q. A number of your productions have been featured on Underground Sound in the past, and in the last two years you’ve had tracks released on Fracture Recordings – a new, underground house label in the UK. How did you get signed with them?
A. From memory I came across the head of the label, Boski, on SoundCloud and quickly realised this was the same producer responsible for a re-edit that I loved dropping into my sets on the regular. I must have looked into his profile and either messaged him straight up or found that he was running the label and seeking submissions. He got back to me soon enough, saying my demo was the only one he’d liked thus far and that’d he’d like to work with me. From there I quickly become a big supporter of Boski and the label’s efforts for the past two years, give or take, especially as I felt like the Australian representative of sorts. Anyone reading this would do well to check out the label as a lot of the artists that have released with Fracture Recordings are going from strength to strength.
Q. What is your musical background, do you remember what drew you to it? I know that you’ve studied and obtained a Certificate in Electronic Music Production from the SAE Institute. Do you have any plans to continue formal study of music?
A. My musical background is essentially non-existent, at least in a formal sense. My mum, bless her cotton socks, has no obvious interest in music beyond enjoying a timeless song, but my dad has accumulated a serious vinyl, cassette, CD and now digital music collection in his time which has been fundamental in my earliest exposure to music. No one in my family has ever played any instruments but I can still recall from a very, very young age listening to Dad playing everything from Van Morrison and R.E.M to Red Hot Chili Peppers and Pet Shop Boys during our regular road trips to visit relatives in Sydney, Wagga Wagga, Goulburn etc. Being exposed to such an eclectic range of music and loving all the incredible sounds, motifs and themes across the genres explains so much of my musical taste. As I grew older I felt compelled to know how exactly these sounds were created and what I would do with them if I had access to the production process.
In regards to studying music any further I don’t currently have any plans to formally do so, but I’ve always been one to keep my options open. I’ve always been one to practice autodidacticism though and one of my SAE teachers was a strong supporter of this approach.
Q. Earlier this year you released a record called We Are One, in a duo known as Base Dimension, with Øpus-D. I’ve also heard your excellent bootleg of the gorgeous Innerbloom, by Aussie group RÜFÜS. Who are some of your favourite, established Australian artists? If you could write music with or remix anyone who would you choose?
A. This is a tough question. As you would have hopefully figured from my previous response, I am fascinated by the entire spectrum of sound and audio. I’ve come to better appreciate a well produced or simply brilliant piece of music. If I have to fire off some names I’m going to go with Antony & Cleopatra (semi-tick haha), Motez, Cassian, Anna Lunoe, Touch Sensitive, Hook N Sling, Elizabeth Rose, What So Not etc. There are so many incredible Australian artists and producers I could list pages of names!
Q. You’ve told me that you know a lot of younger DJs in the scene and like to do your best to support them, and you feature a lot of music from young Australian producers in your sets. What do you think they can learn from you and your career thus far?
A. The positives of working private DJ bookings, who they should look at networking with (and who to avoid) within Sydney, the intricacies of not having a “day job” and working as a full-time, professional, DJ. I prefer to meet and get to know the individual so I can offer personalised advice but if I had any general advice to give it would be that all that inspirational crap about ignoring the haters and pursuing your dream really is true. It’s been said time and again for a reason; if you really do knuckle down and pour yourself into your work you will reap the rewards, eventually. It is so easy to get sucked into the pitfall of social media hype, portraying everyone else as kicking goals just when you feel like you’ve fallen in a rut, but the world truly does work in mysterious ways and there are people who keep an eye on the essential abilities of tenacity, dedication and self-improvement.
Q. Mate you certainly have a varied taste in electronic music, and with your Eclectic mix series you have done a great job of showcasing that. The first episode was featured in the inaugural issue of DJ Mag NSW, and there have been 20 episodes since 2012. When will we have the pleasure of hearing episode 21?
A. Thank you, it’s really satisfying to hear that as the idea came from an internet radio show I was supposed to be contributing to but the radio boss was not a fan of my concept. Goes to show that the adage of sticking to your guns truly does ring true. I’ve been a tad busy (or lazy depending on how you want to look at it) in the past few months with getting the latest episodes uploaded and available publicly. I’d like to think once things quieten down for me in the new year I’ll get it all sorted and post the “missing” episodes online, so keep an ear and an eye out.
Q. You’ve done radio shows for HouseFreqs, Rave Cave Radio and Rhythm Nights, and I understand you’re working on an exclusive mix for Teish Productions. On October 21st you helped set a world record for the longest B2B DJ mix with Stoney Roads. What does next year’s schedule look like?
A. I’ve actually been contacted by an overseas artist talent agency who informed me they been watching my improvements, and after careful consideration would like to offer their services in closely managing my opportunities for international bookings. I’m also looking to organise a massive party in my hometown of Wollongong for Melbourne based electropop artist Oliver Sol as he tours the country in support of his upcoming single. That’s all the more exciting as I’ve worked with Oliver Sol previously, remixing his debut single After Dark and in the final stages of a collaboration. Beyond those things I’ll likely keep grinding away with my bread and butter local gigs and get back into the rest of my production once the silly season subsides.
Q. In February 2014 the New South Wales government imposed a 1:30am lockout on inner city venues in Sydney. It’s been a big issue for many people that has garnered international scrutiny, and no doubt it directly affects you and your livelihood. How can people who are concerned about this situation get involved and do something to help?
A. Contact the NSW government and politely let them know you do not agree with what they are doing. Look up Keep Sydney Open and you’ll find a massive movement of people prepared to stand against the blatant corruption once again occurring in our state government. There are a number of other groups such as #MikeDrop and Save Our Nightlife but KSO is easily the biggest force leading the fight.
Q. Thank you so much for talking to Underground Sound and providing our next exclusive DJ set, Underground Sound 003. It’s a real beauty. What was your inspiration when putting this mix together?
A. It’s been an absolute pleasure John, thank you for giving me the opportunity to contribute. My inspiration for this mix was simple, to share a select cut of my newest tunes in typical eclectic fashion. Some might find the blend between genres is not their cup of tea but I’m hoping listeners give the whole set a go and discover some stuff they might not otherwise come across. I see the mix as a condensed version of how I DJ most gigs since I typically play for 3-5 hours. As always, I welcome all feedback and make every effort to respond to everyone.
You can catch Zabier playing at the Opera Kitchen at the Sydney Opera House on New Year’s Eve, from 6:00pm to 9:00pm.
Here’s the latest episode of Underground Sound, courtesy of the man himself. There is something for everyone here. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this set a number of times now and know I will again in the future. Thanks Zabier!
01. Falcons & Juelz – Gyal Dem Move [Self-released]
02. Rainbow Chan – Last (Dro Carey Remix) [Silo Arts]
03. Zabier – Shooter (2Shoes1Beat Remix) [Fracture Recordings]
04. Kadey James – For So Long (Extended Mix) [Fracture Recordings]
05. Horowitz – The Drip (Unknown Associates Remix) [Unknown Records]
06. Keith Fortune – Release Me (Peekay Remix) [Vicious Black]
07. Motez – The Vibe feat. Scrufizzer (Endor Remix) [Sweat It Out!]
08. Dom Dolla & Go Freek – Define (Cassian Remix) [Sweat It Out!]
09. Riddim Commission – More Fire feat. Stush [Night Bass Records]
10. Format:B – Chunky [Caballero Recordings]
11. Roland Tings – Hedonist (Alba Remix) [Soothsayer]
12. Lancelot – Lorikeets [Toy Tonics]
13. Black Box – Everybody Everybody (Greco Refix) [Self-released]
14. Antony & Cleopatra – Love Is A Lonely Dancer (Low Steppa Remix) [Universal]