Zane Lowe Interview
One of the foremost voices on the on the current music scene, Zane Lowe has been helping promote new artists and pushing British music forward with his Radio One show which goes out Monday to Thursday 7-9pm and every weekday on Gonzo on MTV2 at 9pm.
Hey, how’s the new season of Gonzo working out?
It’s going really well; it’s good to be back after the break.
Why did you take the break?
We needed the break to restore the creative juices. We wanted to make changes to the format and schedule and to basically just stop and gather ourselves. And of course we wanted to save some money because we wanted to be able to do the tour again this year and do another big show like we did with last year’s 5th Birthday Party. We’ve now got our own self-functioning studio which takes some of the financial pressure off because it doesn’t cost anything.
We want to put Gonzo out on air everyday so the break was necessary to be able to make that happen, but we’re really glad to be back because we did miss it.
So what’s the purpose of the tour? What does MTV2 hope to get out of it?
Firstly it’s a good excuse for us to get out of the office and meet the viewers and it is good for the channel. We have five different bills of bands and it looks good for them to have the MTV2 logo by their name. We use established bands like the 80’s Matchbox B-Line Disaster and Soulwax to get the crowds in and hope that they’ll like and become fans of the newer bands lower on the bill.
We found that with last years bands so many of them have gone on to be pretty huge now, Franz Ferdinand, Snow Patrol, Yourcodenameis:milo, and The Razorlight for example.
Yeah they were on the main stages of festivals this summer
Exactly and we hope that that will happen with some of the acts this year too.
Of the new acts on the line-up this year who would you recommend?
I would say Willy Mason has got a great future, he sings about the human condition, almost Bob Dylanesque and The Go! Team have got a great album and could fill the gap left by the Avalanches.
How do you tend to find interviewing bands?
With interviews you’ve gotta accept that you’ve got a short amount of time with the band. In my twenties I spent too much time worrying about every aspect of the interview, how I’d come across, how the band would be, if the questions were ok etc,now I can just enjoy it for what it is.
Interviews can be awkward though, I tend to find British bands or bands in the UK don’t like to be interviewed, it’s not really in their nature to self-promote whereas American bands tend to be a lot more easy-going.
Who would be your dream interviewee?
I had that last night actually; I got four minutes with Snoop Dogg so my dream interview was achieved. I got to stand up say who I was and ask a few questions. He was exactly how you see right down to the “yo schizzle my nizzle” and all that stuff. It totally blows you away getting to meet the people you idolise.
I’m really looking forward to interviewing U2 later in the year too. War was my first album and I’ve interviewed them all individually but never together as a band. Rick Rubin would be incredible to interview too. As a producer he is true pedigree especially in terms of artists like the Beastie Boys and Jay-Z.
A lot of people have been commenting about the changing format of MTV to basically a programming channel as opposed to showing music videos, what do you think of that and can you see MTV2 going down that path?
The channels are needed to play music and to promote new videos, MTV UK couldn’t justify its format if other channels changed to follow suit so I don’t think many of the others will go to that format. MTV2 only really shows relevant programmes to the channel’s style such as Viva La Bam but of late we’ve been trying to show a lot more music orientated programming, like Live Night Saturday and Headbangers Ball.
We’re devoted to showing new bands that wouldn’t necessarily get play on the mainstream MTV channel, bands such as The Subways and Nine Black Alps. I’m trying to carry that on with my radio show too and it’s exciting for me that there is space for new UK rappers and artists such as Rayno. I know that the music scene is developing really well because at the end of a week’s programming with Radio One we still have bands left over that we couldn’t fit in. After the musical black hole of the nineties with the dominance of manufactured pop it’s great that the scene has grown so much and it’s now really tangible and exciting.
What do you think was the catalyst for that?
I would have to give a quite controversial answer for that one and say Nu-metal. Without it the music world wouldn’t be like this, it wouldn’t be acceptable to play rock and roll on the radio without bands such as Limp Bizkit, Linkin Park and Papa Roach.
Yeah I know that was what got me into music properly a few years ago
Exactly and whilst a lot of people are going to go “as-if!” to this answer I know that when I played Nookie on XFM back when it came out it sounded so explosive compared to the “safe” music it was surrounded by. There’s nothing wrong with Stereophonics and Travis but Nu-metal had an edge that had been missing since the hair metal days of the eighties.
So yeah I would say it was a key vital moment in nineties music, at that time I became the “King of Nu-metal” something I tried to get rid of but you can’t underestimate the importance of the style in bringing rock back to the airwaves.
And finally, it’s been in the news a lot lately because of Americans getting arrested, what do you think of music downloading?
That is the million dollar question, I think that the regulation of it has been smart and Steve Jobs seems to know what he’s doing. The singles chart is now more a form of advertisement, albums are the substance so by kick starting the idea of making singles available for downloading it’ll hopefully push people to go out and buy the albums.
There are two sides to the whole issue though, and this way things are slowly shaping up for fair representation especially for smaller bands who won’t get money from illegal downloading, but these new schemes are ensuring some money does reach them for their music.
What do you think of the Metallica debate?
I think it was poorly handled by Lars (Ulrich, drummer and founder of the band). He was shooting on his own fans. It was a misguided approach, one which, when I’ve spoken to him about it, he’s said he regrets. What he was saying though so many people were thinking but not many people were willing to say. Few people know that Dr Dre gave a sound bite on the issue but it wasn’t well publicised. The basic thing that comes from this is that you just don’t take your fans to court!