We had the pleasure of catching up with DJ Zach Burns, resident DJ at Gymbox Bank and Westfield London. "Members often come and say hello, is great to have the recognition" he says.
Hi Zak! You have a lot of residencies at the moment, and also DJ at Gymbox Bank and Westfield London. Do you have a favourite?
Over the years I've played a number of venues across London including Heaven, Fire, Pacha, and Ministry Of Sound. I think my current favourite would have to be Popcorn at Heaven on a Monday night. To many peoples surprise, it's always packed but offers a diverse range of music, so there's something for everyone, There's always a mixed crowd with people from different countries partying under the same roof. I've been DJing at Gymbox Bank for over two years. I've also acquired a spot at Westfield London, which is fun but will be moving from Bank to Victoria once it opens. I'll miss Bank, but excited to see the new gym at Victoria, it's a great feeling being part of the Gymbox DJ team.
Do you tailor your sets for each residency in advance, or do you turn up and go with the vibe?
My sound is house, but as you know there are so many sub genres within it, I tend to stick to the circuit/ vocal and progressive sounds, as well as the deep/tech and techno sounds depending where i play. I've developed playlists for each residency i play overtime, and just update with new music that fits the general sound policy and energy i want to create. On the night I'll go with the vibe, but confident that my track selection will compliment the vibe and take it up a notch.
Aside from DJing, you are also a photographer, tell us about that
Before I got into DJing professionally, i was very much into my photography, and did quite a few shoots mostly around portraiture and fashion. As the DJing took over, the photography took a back seat as there was always so much planning that went into it. I was later asked if i'd like to get involved for Gymbox and do the portrait shots for the new VPTs and Studio Instructors, so happily accepted. It keeps me in with my photography passion and is fun meeting new people. My new interest recently is club photography and have been trying to learn that when i can. I like to try capture moments of the dance floor when it's really buzzing, but also the atmosphere with the lights and smoke.
Have you always DJed or have you had alternate career paths?
I've been DJing now for six years this summer, my planned goals and ambitions are moving towards music production, so really trying to knuckle down and get my head around that, It seems so simple with the rate at which music comes out these days but is such a complex art. Alongside photography I'm also am a qualified PT. I think my paths are more within the creative fields.
Tell us about the best gigs you’ve had to date
I always try to have a positive outlook on the gigs i play, I'm in control of the music so really need to engage the crowd and feed of their energy. The best ones are always when you're still playing past closing time, because the energy is so high and people are not ready to leave - leaves you with the best buzz.
For you, what makes a DJ set a great one?
Being able to engage with your crowd and know what they like and want. Being humble and not arrogant to think the crowd only wants to hear what you want them to hear, having a good knowledge of music and taking a keen interest in listening and searching for new sounds. Good technical skills in beat matching, and also knowing what key your music is in for smooth mixing and transitions. It's important to take an interest in the art of mixing and trying to better yourself by learning new skills to keep your set and sound fresh. Many different opinions on what makes a DJ set great, I personally think it comes down to losing any ego and working for the crowd.
How does DJing in a gym differ to the clubs you play at?
Big differences, but it's expected with one being a club and the other a gym. DJing at the gym is providing a musical experience to motivate those who are listening and help make the workout that bit more enjoyable where the club is there to keep people dancing. I do however enjoy playing at the gym as it's great practice sessions. I get to test out new music I've come across and get to know the tracks structures, how best to mix them, and then translate this later into my sets at whichever club I'm at.
Do you vibe off watching people work out? Can you visibly see a change happening when you start playing?
I notice more of a reaction to what i play at Westfield London because i think it's all on one level and I'm more visible to those around, You'll see people nodding or shy dancing between sets which is cool, at least i know then to keep the music on that vibe. Members at Westfield London will occasionally come up and say they like what they hear too, so that's always a nice recognition.
Some people think DJIng is easy, is it?
I think because 'everyone' is a DJ nowadays, it's considered to be such an easy thing to learn and that there's not much too it but thats what separates the good ones from the bad. Firstly you need to have a good knowledge of your music, the structure of the track and know your cue points, When to start the next track for mixing. Then there's the skill of beat matching, which is in itself a simple skill which many people seem to focus arguments around that sync on digital hardware/ software will sort for you. This is not always true as it can also go very wrong hitting sync. There's the harmonic/key aspects of tracks, ideally you want to mix songs that are harmonically compatible for a smooth transition rather than two which are complete opposites of the graph. Then in terms of prep, you need to have a rough idea what kind of crowd you're playing for. Each venue/event will have a music policy, so you need to pick your tracks around that. I aim that each set i play is a journey and not just 2/3 hours of random music mixed together. For Gymbox, however, it's a little different. Musically, you're trying to motivate people so the energy needs to be on an upbeat tempo, I try to play house music that has an urban edge, is fun and funky, has lyrics or samples that are recognisable to keep people engaged, Overall fun, accessible music that keeps you running or pumping!.
What’s the most amusing/ridiculous request you’ve been asked for?
One bloke really wanted Irish music – as vague as that was. He refused to leave the side of the booth until I played some. I didn't have any, so he got bored of waiting and went to the bar.
What’s your Top 5?
1: Matthew Dekay - Fantango (Original Mix)
2: Technasia - I Am Somebody (Original Mix)
3: Chus & Ceballos - That Feeling (DF Formation Takes Over)
4: Coca & Villa - La Noche (Oscar L Remix)
5: Dick Ray - Love Stimulation (Original Mix)
You’ve uploaded a Gymbox DJ mix for us, tell is about it?
The mix for me incorporates Gymbox's urban feel with a selection of tracks sampling vocals and known sounds from hip hop and R&B, starting off with a funky and upbeat summer style. Then it goes into nu disco house groove progressing to a more thumping kick/ deep-bass tech house sound. I've also thrown in some reggae vocals to keep up the urban edge and then finishing off with my signature tribal tech sound. Hope you enjoy!
Photos By: Picsbygaz