Zane Lowe has, over the last decade, gained a reputation as one of the best known broadcasters in the business. With his distinctive (if opinion-splitting voice) boundless enthusiasm, and easy going nature with guests, he has carved out a niche as the man bands come and see when they touch down in the UK.
Not a man to stay still for even a second, 2013 see's him venturing out into producing, touring as a DJ and working alongside Relentless Energy Drink on various live and media projects (including appearing in their latest ad alongside, musicians, Professor Green and Pure Love).
I spoke to him about the changes he's seen in the music industry over the last 10 years, his ideal interviewee and what the future holds for him.
DC: You've been broadcasting in the UK for about a decade now and you've seen a lot of changes, what would you say have been the biggest changes in the UK music scene?
ZL: Oh my gosh, where do we start. The only things that's really remained true is that great music get's made, there's an audience that love it and there's people who love and want to share it. Pretty much everything else has been altered in some way, shape or form, the way it's distributed, the way it's listened to, right through to the sound quality and the access people have to it. I mean most people went to record labels back in the day because they had no clue how to get a record out. Now most people who like music know how to upload an MP3, make a site on social media and get it out there. It's happened so quickly, and I can sit here now and say, with a little bit of hindsight, it's been fascinating and really exciting, and really scary to watch what you thought was rock solid industry just changing so much. But music still gets made and there's still an audience to hear it, which is all that matters.
DC: Back in 2006 you were one of the first broadcasters to play Crazy by Gnarls Barkley; the first track to get to No. 1 on digital downloads. How have bands had to change their tactics to get noticed, I mean how did that particular track get your attention?
ZL: Well that song came to my attention via the station. Someone working there said "hey man, I heard this last night on Lammo (sic). As a one-off we should definitely play this tonight". We all thought it was the sickest record ever, we played it and them BOOM, it just blew up immediately and we knew it was going to be huge. From that point forward it was a radio record to us and we soon started to realise that they were putting the release date back and back and back and we were thinking this could be dangerous because it'll exhaust people interest in the record and by the time its released people will be over it. Then as soon as it got to Number One off downloads before the physical release, we all realised everything had changed, because it was no longer about traditional release schedules, they just chose to put it out as a download and it hit No. 1, and stayed there for weeks and weeks. That was the tipping point when you realised everyone had adapted to new ways of consuming music.
DC: With that in mind, given that you're a big tastemaker, where are you hearing new music?
ZL: The same old places, friends, colleagues, the industry, and then of course you're online and searching out things, you have your trusted sources, people on twitter send me links. Really it's the same as it's always been, and you have your system, you put that in place and you can change that as and when.
DC: In the grand scheme of things do you think piracy and the internet has actually been a positive for young bands as it's evened out the playing field?
ZL: I don't think anything where music is taken and given away for free or anything like that can be seen as an overall benefit. It's something that people have had to adapt to, it happened for a reason. Everyone's got their own theory as to why, but for whatever reasons it occurred, and occurs, because people found a way to do it and felt justified in their own minds to do it. That's why they decided to take music for free, and whether you're an artist or you're involved in trying to promote or sell, or share music then you had to adapt. You couldn't sit there and batten the doors and say ' it isn't happening' because it is so what are the new ways to make a living and get by. Some artists figured it and some didn't
DC: given that there is now a vacuum in terms of how artists are making money, what role do you feel brands have played in stepping in to that void?
ZL: That's a good question. People used to say that there's was a stigma attached to bands who work with brands or advertising, and I think that was true in some cases, but back then there was an industry in place to nurture the creative process and make sure money was distributed, there was some sort of structure. That doesn't really exist anymore and it's not easy these days to be an artist, it's not like it used to be. So you take the opportunities and the avenues you're presented with and the best you can do is choose the ones you feel comfortable with.
Some of my favourite things in recent memory have been seeing artists that shouldn't really have reached the audience they did but have done through an amazingly placed film segment, or something in a TV show and it's just blown my mind. From my point of view, all I'm looking to do is work with the things that feel most comfortable to me, and I knew that talking to Ross, the director of the Relentless advert and the Relentless team, as well as to Pure Love and Pro Green that we were all in it for the right reasons, and everyone was going to protect each other to make sure the advert was great. The experience we had was fun, the gigs were awesome, and it was all done for the right reasons, and if those things are covered then we're just going to be having fun, so what's not to like.
DC: What other projects are you going to be working on this year, aside from the advert?
ZL: I've got a busy festival season, DJing right across the board from Benicassim to Glastonbury, to Creamfields, I'm doing a show with Mark Ronson at Bestival, so got lots of exciting things happening. I'm doing Radio 1 obviously throughout the whole year, having a great time still doing that, it's still my primary creative focus. And then just getting into the studio and producing, writing, collaborating with artists, that's been the new development. It's been fast-moving, I've really enjoyed doing it, I've had the good fortune to share studio time with some really talented, and really creative people, some of which will hopefully come out, others have just been good experiences, that's why I'm doing it
DC: Speaking of the radio show, over the course of your career you've pretty much interviewed everyone over the years, is there anyone left that you'd really love to sit down with?
ZL: The people I really want to talk to are people who don't cross my desk in a new music context, like Prince, or Neil Young. I'd love to spend a couple of hours in the company of Neil Young, that guy's like the don. On a new music level pretty much everyone comes through, and there's load of people I'm looking forward to meeting, but for me if the heritage dudes like Young or Springsteen.
For Zane's 2013 tour dates check out http://www.zanelowe.com/
For more information go to www.relentlessenergy.com