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Music Interview

Zane Lowe talks Radio 1, 'X Factor' and how he un-cooled Quentin Tarantino

By
Zane Lowe

© Rex Features / Andrew MacColl



When it comes to cutting-edge music, Zane Lowe is at the forefront.

The DJ, who can usually be found spinning the latest bands and artists on his Radio 1 show Mondays to Thursdays, is playing universities across the nation as part of his 'Electrified Tour' connected by Nokia Lumia.

Digital Spy caught up with Zane to talk Radio 1, his thoughts on The X Factor and the time he un-cooled Quentin Tarantino.

Do you see touring universities as a way of connecting with the younger generation?
"It's hugely important for DJs, rappers, bands and singers that you go and play these shows. This is a time in people's lives when music is a priority. Apart from my family and friends, music is my number one priority. As people get older, priorities change. Most people at universities like music and have a favourite band. I like to play music for these people because their enthusiasm for it is incredible."

Nick Grimshaw took over from Chris Moyles on Radio 1 last week. How do you think he's been doing?
"He's killing it, man. He's doing a great job. Nick's a real natural broadcaster which is what you need in the morning. Smart money would be on me saying that, right? But I'm not gonna lie to you. I think Nick has done incredible taking over that job with the pressure he's under, given Chris Moyles has broken countless records in that position; some records which will never get beaten. Up to Nick taking over, Moyles is the best who ever did it. And Nick has a chance to be his own man and create his own legacy in that role. The first few days are terrifying in any new job, let alone the biggest gig in music radio."

Obviously having a member from One Direction calling up every morning must help Nick's confidence.
"That's the thing, though. It's great that Nick is mates with the artists that the audience really like. He can reach out and get Harry Styles or Rita Ora on the phone because he knows them, and that's what the audience want: to feel that DJs are the most respected conduit between them and their favourite artist."

Nick Grimshaw's First Day on Radio 1 Breakfast Show

© BBC



What do you make of the charts at the moment?
"It's the same as it's always been. Songs that are most effective between three and four minutes work to a structure that are a memorable listen. If you want something deeper, then traditionally you look to an EP or album where an artist takes more time to say what they need. There are exceptions: Foo Fighters, The Vaccines, Eminem, Jay-Z can all write great pop songs; these are all credible artists with deep back catalogues. Otherwise, the structure is more likened to pop music.

"I've got no problem with pop music at all; I've got a problem with stuff that to me doesn't feel authentic, like somebody's just gone into a computer programme and ripped off every sound Swedish House Mafia have got. But that's not my fight. I'm not striving for better pop music. I'm in the new music world, and our world is rocking! We don't worry, 'Oh my God, the charts!' We're too busy going, 'Have you heard that new King Krule record?!'"

There was a time when indie and more credible artists had a real grip on the charts, though. Can you see this happening again any time soon?
"Of course it will come back! Everything goes in cycles. Songs are improving already; the likes of Splashh, King Krule, Swim Deep are making great tunes. Don't worry too much about that. None of us on the show go, 'We just gotta hang on for indie to come back!' When indie music stopped charting, we were still playing those same bands. It's just that we weren't having to share them with daytime radio shows!"

What are your favourite albums of 2012?
"I love The Invisible, that record is incredible. Lianne La Havas is one; she's way more edgy and cool than people realise at the moment. She's as individual as Laura Marling and Adele. The Rick Ross record, I'm a fan of. The We Are The Ocean record is incredibly strong for a UK rock band and should by rights help levitate the scene a little. It's been a good year."

Zane Lowe

© PA Images



What's your take on reality talent shows like The X Factor? Would you ever play an X Factor contestant on your radio show?
"It's a difficult question to answer because we really force ourselves to judge things on the merit of the song, and put whatever preconceptions we have to one side, but then who's to say they won't be overwhelming if it ever arose? Those shows have their place and if they didn't, they wouldn't exist. I've watched them and have always admitted to it and gone on Twitter and commented on them. But I can honestly say I've not watched it once this year; all things exhaust themselves and I don't feel that it's exciting as it has been. I made a conscious decision that if I'm sitting around watching those programmes, why aren't I making music?"

Your radio show is centred on new music, but are there any new bands you're tipping in particular? I know you've been digging Palma Violets.
"Yeah, the indie thing's cool. LULS are doing exciting things. I can't wait for the Kendrick Lamar album; I'm a huge fan of his. He's gonna be massive. A.Dot is an artist signed to a DIY label; she's an amazing female rapper. I'm super-excited about the UK rap scene right now."

Regarding illegal downloading, do you think the music industry has realised it won't be able to beat file-sharing?
"I think the penny dropped a while ago, actually. I don't think you can let somebody come in and devalue music to that extent and then turn around and add value to it; that would be a huge magic act. It depends on how the industry decides to adapt. The smart money is on streaming, so we'll wait and see what the vibe is. It allows the psychological feeling of listening to music without having to pay for it, and at the same time it allows artists to be paid.

"I'm not gonna stomp up and down and wish for the old days, but I do stand with my friends who are in bands and release records and say musicians should be paid. There needs to be that recollection that you should reward musicians for the music they make. Just like vinyl has survived, the great record stores, labels and artists will not just die. They just have to adapt."



You've interviewed pretty much every band that ever mattered, but my favourite was with moviemaker Quentin Tarantino when he admitted to you he liked "Maroon Boy 5".
"Maroon Boy 5! You should have been in the room and seen the guys behind the camera. It was like something out of The West Wing when the press secretary has a clanger and everyone just dropped their mouth, like 'What did he just say?! Did he just a) Give a shout-out to Maroon 5, and b) Get it wrong?' How does the coolest man we've ever interviewed do that?

"There was also a time when Steve from Hot Hot Heat sat down on the original brown couch [on MTV's Gonzo] which was literally just brought in from the street; it was proper manky. Steve came in and looked immaculate: skinny jeans, amazing high-heel boots, leather jacket and his hair all permed. He swivelled on his foot and fell backwards on the couch, and there was a little rip in the cushion. It burst the couch and all this super neon-bright yellow dust went flying into the air and covered him. The dude went from being this pristine rock star to someone who'd just been attacked with a dust gun!"

Why did you choose to team with Nokia for your tour of universities?
"It's a music service. They're committed to music and also new music; that's a big thing for them and we have a similar attitude to its support. When you're looking for people to pay to see you, you make sure you deliver a good show and make it sound good and feel right, and not just show up and blast it out on a picnic table with a black drape on it. You want people to have something to look at as well as listen to."

Do you want to see Zane Lowe perform on his 'Electrified Tour' connected by Nokia Lumia? Please visit Nokia's UK Facebook page for more information: facebook.com/nokiauk

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