SpinnZinn is a multifaceted musician and a man who boasts a long relationship with the city of Miami. A host at the Bassment Sessions radio show WVUM 90.5FM for 6 years, he’ll be back again at Miami this year, as he returns to Ultra for a set alongside some serious global DJ heavyweights such as La Fleur, Marcel Dettmann and more, all of whom will play the PLAYdifferently stage.
Indeed, it’s his role at Allen&Heath, where he acts as the Global Product Specialist for the PLAYdifferently mixer for which SpinnZinn is best renowned. Working alongside Minus boss Richie Hawtin — who created the mixer with Andy Rigby-Jones — in the final stages of prototype testing, he also helped put the final touches and adjustments to the brand’s MODEL 1.
In advance of his gig at Ultra Miami on 29th March, we decided to put some questions to the man himself.
Hi man, it’s great to talk with you again. Music aside, what’s keeping you busy and excited at the moment?
Currently, I’m sitting at Rome Fiumicino International airport, returning home after a week touring Italy giving masterclasses and training sessions on MODEL 1 and the new Xone:96. I love being able to share my technical knowledge and experience with the new generation of DJs, showing them how to really take advantage of all the features on both mixers to allow them to be more creative. Anyone can put a playlist of tracks together in iTunes and hit play, DJ’s are those who find creative way to mix their records.
Ok, lets kick off properly by chatting a bit about where you grew up. Did you receive any formal musical education? And what was your first introduction to electronic music?
Music has always been a foundation in my family. My father was in the Philharmonic Choir of Fort Lauderdale, Florida when I was a child. I remember being dragged to those concerts in very uncomfortable clothing! I started out wanting piano lessons around 7 or 8 years old. After about year I decided I wanted to play the violin. In middle school I joined the concert band, learning how to play trumpet, cornet, and euphonium. A few years later in high school, I picked up guitar, jamming with friends at house parties. Although my instrument of choice often switched, I did grow up with a formal education in music!
I have a very vivid memory of my first introduction to electronic music. I must have been about 9 years old when I found myself sitting in the carpark waiting to pick up my brother and sister from a football game (they were both in marching band) scanning through the radio stations. A popular Miami radio station was broadcasting live from a club when to my surprise I heard a track sampling the voice of Morpheus from ’The Matrix’. His voice came through the speakers with this repetitive drum beat underneath it, and… I was so intrigued by this new sound!
Did it instantly make an impression on you? What was it that so appealed to you?
I was instantly hooked. It wasn’t so much the words, but actually the repetitive drums and polyrhythms that had me mesmerized. Electronic music has a unique quality that allows the DJ playing the records to have the ability to blend two records together to create a living sound. It was as if the tracks were talking to each other, conversing with one another. The fact that I could not tell where one tracked finished and another started left a lasting impression on me. I also loved not knowing what was coming next. Yes techno is repetitive in its nature, but there’s always something interesting going on around the kick drum. I think of the kick as a heartbeat. It is always there, but it’s what happens around the kick that’s truly interesting. I quickly became obsessed with the art of the mix, something which I think is very prevalent in my performance style today.
Was there one particular moment when you realized you wanted to dedicate your life to electronic music?
I knew from a very young age that I wanted to work with music. At the age of 13 I saved my allowance for 5 months in order to purchase my first pair of Gemini turntables and RadioShack mixer. My parents were dumfounded. Why would anyone in 2004 want to buy turntables in an age when CD’s had just revolutionized the music industry? But I was in love with the music and the technology behind the music. I’ve been pursuing my passion for electronic music and electronics ever since.
What do you find are the positive and negative aspects of a career in electronic music? For example, do scene politics grate at you at all or it is something you generally swerve altogether?
The biggest positive, and what really drives me to pursue this career, is the happiness and joy that a musician can bring to people. For me, DJing is a form of meditation. I always feel at peace, like I am at one with the whole universe. Nothing brings me more joy then being able to share that feeling with others. I see it as a very spiritual thing, there is a deeper level to all of it. I feel like a proper techno DJ set incorporates the energy of everyone involved, in a way that takes in and transfers the energy in a room back into the crowd.
Health can certainly be negatively affected by a career in the music industry if one isn’t careful: Traveling and time differences cause poor sleep quantity and quality, being constantly on the go, sometimes literally 3 flights and gigs on the same day, always eating out. These things can start to take a serious toll on both your mental and physical health. It is important to remember that we are only human, we need to rest and take care of ourselves.
You’re based in Berlin now. How’s it all going over there? Do you generally feel more creative in a city where creativity is so encouraged?
Moving to Berlin was certainly one of the best decisions I’ve made in my musical career, and it has certainly had an impact on my sound. I’ve always been drawn to the harder side of dance music. My draw to the sounds of fat kick drums and driving bass lines, is something that I have always felt alienated my sound from the preference of the people in Miami. Berlin is such a melting pot of cultures that you can find just about every musical style mixed together on dancefloors here. It’s been a real eye opening and mentally freeing change for sure!
It’s hard to chat without mentioning Allen&Heath and your association with those guys. Can you tell us a bit about how that all came about?
It all started in 2016 with an email from Richie Hawtin. He had a little project he was working on and asked if I’d be interested in assisting him. That little project turned out to be PLAYdifferently’s MODEL 1 mixer. At that point I’d had just a little experience with the mixer, having been the sound engineer on the 2015 CNTRL-EDU tour where Rich was secretly testing the first prototype.
Naturally, I was ecstatic to be involved in a project that combined my two biggest passions: electronic music and electronics engineering. I was offered the opportunity to become PD’s product specialist and logistics coordinator, which had me flying all over the US and EU showcasing MODEL 1 to clubs, artists, and eager club goers. After 2 successful years working solely with PLAYdifferently, Allen&Heath (who manufactures the MODEL 1) approached me asking if I’d be interested in joining the Xone team as well, also helping with product development. Honored to have had an input on the development of Xone’s latest flagship the Xone:96!
How do you manage to stay ahead of the game in a field of technology that evolves at such a rapid rate?
This is a tough question. I think the key is to constantly play a lot, not just at gigs but also at home in a calm environment. I’ve always noticed that I discover what I need from my setup while I’m playing. I’ll be in a mix and think to myself “I wish I could take that record’s sound and twist it like this or that”. When I’m back at home I’ll begin experimenting with new routings, mappings, or gear until I find a way to accomplish what I want. It’s very easy to get sucked into thinking you have to always play with the newest kit. But in the end it’s important that you take the time to learn your set up inside and out, learning all the capabilities and limitations, before going out and buy the newest toy for the sake of its newness. The DJ industry is always pumping out new equipment, but if you take a close look there are certain pieces of equipment that have stood the test of time, still being considered standards to this day. Think Technics 1200 or the Xone:92. These tools have been around for 15+ years because they do one thing, but do it well.
Could you give us an example of a DJ who really manipulates the PLAYdifferently mixer to its full capabilities? What sets them apart from the rest in this regard?
Obviously, Richie Hawtin would be one to use MODEL 1 to its fullest extent. I mean, he co-designed it (with Andy Rigby Jones) to give him the tools he wanted in a performance instrument. That being said I’m also a huge fan of Fabio Florido’s hypnotic and intricate sound. The way he uses the MODEL 1 allows for His mixing style to encapsulate everything that I enjoy in a DJ set: hypnotic and ever-evolving sounds, which layer multiple records together to create one long soundtrack. It allows the listener to get absorbed in flow of the sound. He’s one of the few DJs where I have trouble hearing where one record ends and another begins.
You’re sharing the stage at Ultra Miami alongside some real titans of the scene such as Dubfire and Marcel Dettmann. How does your approach to a massive gig like this change from your standard club gig?
This isn’t my first Ultra performance, I first performed Ultra in 2010. But this is the first time I’m performing on such a massive stage, both in terms of production and line up! I am honoured to have the opportunity to take what will most certainly be a massive state of the art sound system for a ride, as well as representing PLAYdifferently and everything it stands for. Ultra’s production has always been second to none, and this performance will be a great opportunity for people to fully experience the sound quality and sculpting capabilities of MODEL 1. I don’t want to give too much away… just make sure you bring your dancing shoes!
Can you give us an inkling into what expect from your set? Or have you thought that far ahead at this stage?
I’ve had this set on my mind from the moment I found out I was being added to the line-up. Not exactly sure yet what is going to happen, but rest assured it will be 100% SpinnZinn #QualityTechno.
Ultra aside, what more should we be looking forward to from SpinnZinn over the next while?
I am about to launch a new audio Podcast series called “SpinnZinn Presents.” First episode is set to premiere on the Xone Mixcloud page March 8th. It is a weekly podcast showcasing up and coming new artists that I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and working with, in addition to international headliners that inspire me. I started breaking out of the “bedroom DJ” role back in 2008-2013 when I had my weekly FM radio show “Bassment Sessions” in Miami. I was able to give new talent the opportunity to share their art. I feel that it’s important that fresh talent is given an opportunity to show their skills.
I’m also putting together a full length album of tracks I’ve made over the years but never released. Tracks dating back from 2013 till 2017. I’ve been digging through my old hard drives recently, sharing music with friends in Berlin who ask me why I haven’t released any of these tracks. I think the reason I came up with was that I felt a lot of the music on this album doesn’t really fall into what one expects a “club track” to be. My mindset has evolved some, and I no longer feel that to be a valid reason to not release something, and I am quite excited to share my music! Look for it to come out this year on my record label TYP3 RECORDS.
Lastly, if you could bring one record to your grave, what would it be?
Such an unfair question. All of them.
PLAYdifferently heads to Ultra Music Festival, Miami on March 30th to host the Reflektor stage on Resistance Island with an incredible line-up powered by MODEL 1, which includes SpinnZinn performing on the bill alongside Richie Hawtin, Dubfire, Nicole Moudaber, Paco Osuna, La Fleur, ANNA, Marcel Dettmann and more.