ZHU reflects on whirlwind year, looks to the future [Q&A]
It’s been a prolific year for ZHU. 2020 has seen a slew of remixes and collaborations on the part of the pioneering producer, in addition to the September release of “Risky Business,” his first solo track since 2018. ZHU certainly hasn’t been skimping on the music front, and has also simultaneously dipped his toes into a variety of diverse and eclectic multi-disciplinary projects.
In May, ZHU announced that he would be partnering with Luminosity Gaming as a content creator in an alliance that would allow him to push the boundaries of dance music’s burgeoning relationship with the e-sports realm. Throughout the COVID-19 quarantine, ZHU has also been a regular livestreamer, broadcasting his sets to fans worldwide.
On October 8, ZHU will unsurprisingly continue his tireless, cross-industry efforts by putting his mark on the first-ever Tito’s Made to Order Festival, developed to benefit the World Central Kitchen, an organization working to provide meals for those in need during the pandemic.
In an interview with Dancing Astronaut, ZHU discusses his latest projects, the realities of performing via livestream, and how quarantine has pushed him to explore. Read the Q&A below.
You’ve been involved in a diverse range of projects lately, not only with new music releases but also with pioneering moves such as signing on to be a content creator with Luminosity Gaming. What made you decide to add the Tito’s Made to Order virtual music festival to your roster of projects?
ZHU: “Obviously, this year is much different than my normal past couple of years. But, every situation we have to connect with fans and to put dance music on a platform where people pay attention is, to me, a positive effort out of 2020. In this particular livestream, we brought on a chef, my friend Rick Lopez. I think we’re all very aware of the fact that keeping restaurants and businesses [afloat], as well as having the ability to provide sustainable food, is something that is quite important for us. For us to be able to do a piece of music and stream to support and shine some light onto that; I think it’s a great cause.”
As far as new music releases go, your release activity has been quite prolific during quarantine. Would you say this time has inspired creativity and pushed you to create more?
ZHU: “Creativity comes out of circumstantial things. Being able to take what 2020 presented and still find a way to convey your message and your art despite not having the traditional mediums is definitely challenging but also for me, rewarding. I want people to dance again. I think they will. It’s important that we continue to release music and release content and have that outlook towards the same feelings that all the fans felt in 2019 when they were able to connect. I don’t think we should lose touch with that just because of a year where the world is obviously trying to find itself.”
As far as premiering new songs, has it been difficult for you to gauge fan response without performing for a physical crowd?
ZHU: “It’s definitely been very different. Luckily, I’ve always been very visual with with my projects and this time has allowed me to make more long formatted films/music video type of content. I just allows me to exercise a different part of the creative mind and just push the boundaries. For [the Tito’s Made to Order Festival], we’re on a train in Montana. It’s just something that I would have never done had it been a different year.”
On a train in Montana? Tell me a little more about that.
ZHU: “If people have been watching some of the livestreams that I’ve been doing this year, I’ve really tried to bring people to a place where they’ve never been. For this particular one, we’re going to be doing a set on a train that goes through parts of Montana. It’s interesting because up to this point we fly across the country and we don’t see everything in the middle.
This time, I drove and I got to see different elements of America. It’s a pretty eye-opening experience to be able to be 30 miles away from a major city. You have a different world and those things shouldn’t be ignored. I think part of doing [the Tito’s Made to Order Festival in Montana] is that it’s allowed different people to see parts of the United States that they would have never imagined would even exist. Especially here in Montana; it’s a whole different world.”
Keeping in mind the changes you and the industry as a whole have made due to the pandemic, are there any lessons that you’ve learned or nuggets of wisdom from this time that you will take with you when things go back to normal?
ZHU: “I think with music and a lot of other art mediums, the strong, the passionate, and those who actually love and want to be in that world will last and survive. I think there will be a great influx of demand when everybody is back. There are people getting better at their craft through this time [while] other people are either not doing it or just [have decided] it’s not for them anymore. I think it’s a great opportunity to shift the tide. There’ll be new artists, and the artists who are still passionate about the art itself will continue—as they always have—to be around and relevant, and part of something that people find and cherish.”
Featured image: ZHU/Facebook