"It's getting weirder!" - a Zane Lowe interview

We chat to Ibiza & Mallorca Rocks' Musical Director

Photographer:Andrew Future

Chris Eustace - 20 March 2012

Zane Lowe might have been missing from the airwaves for a couple of weeks, having headed Down Under to play the Future Music Festival tour, but as he phones in from Adelaide, his enthusiasm is still instantly familiar – “You’ve got everyone from The Wombats to Jessie J, Professor Green, Swedish House Mafia, myself, Skrillex, Knife Party, James Murphy, a really eclectic line-up, a great tour!” he exclaims.

His relentless DJ sets are a fixture at festivals the world over now, so will he be looking to bring that spirit along to the islands this summer? “It’s not too removed from that. The crazy thing about Ibiza Rocks is, the more you try to focus it down, the broader it gets, and the more versatile and strange it gets. Which is what you want, you don’t want to be predictable.”

Well, Zane has more control over that in Ibiza and Mallorca than most. Having played the first Ibiza Rocks in 2005, he’s now the Musical Director for both festivals, a role he’s at pains to make clear isn’t as dictatorial as it appears: “Titles in the 21st century! It’s far more relaxed than that. We all talk, we like to keep it as fun an approach as possible. If we’re excited about who we’re booking, we figure that might translate a little bit. It’s easier to put together your dream line-up at something like Ibiza Rocks because music at the moment is so insanely diverse.

If Ibiza Rocks was launched in response to indie rock’s last great surge in the mid-2000’s, Zane Lowe is determined that it now embraces the current anything-goes musical climate, and it seems to make life easier when booking acts too: “You can put Skrillex, say, on a bill, and you could put Enter Shikari on that same bill, or you could put Jake Bugg or Ed Sheeran on with Tinie Tempah. It seems that a tipping point happened in terms of the way people find music thanks to the internet or whatever. Nothing’s really genre-specific anymore.

So does that mean he doesn’t miss musical tribalism even a little bit? “When I was growing up, you’d pick an act, and you’d get the record, and buy a poster and you’d get the t-shirt, and it’d be how you met people – ‘YOU like that band?! I like that band!’ People are still wearing their interests and tastes very much on their chests or their headphones, but it’s far more diverse. I love being able to go to festivals like Ibiza Rocks and know, from Bloc Party to Ed Sheeran, it’s across the board.

Ah yes, Bloc Party. With a handful of European festival dates confirmed as they return from hiatus, but still no UK ones, their booking is the most intriguing one of the acts Ibiza and Mallorca Rocks have announced, and Zane himself will be DJing at their shows there: “That was a moment, when Shane [Murray, promoter] gave me the confirmed list of people we’d got, and just said: ‘Oh, I’ve put you with Bloc Party.’ I’m really interested to see what the summer holds for them, and I’m really excited that they’ll be at the hotel. The time is right for a band like Bloc Party to come back, because they’ve never made the same record twice, they’ve always been very unique in that sense.”

“I had a chat with Kele about this earlier in the year [when Zane and his team took over the Radio 1 Breakfast Show for a week] and I said: ‘You couldn’t have scripted this better.’ He was like: ‘Mate, I wish I could say this was all premeditated, but it’s pure chance.’ At the time [of their hiatus], a lot of their contemporaries came out with difficult records that didn’t quite connect. You have to have a really strong, resilient stubbornness and confidence to be able to reach a certain level of popularity and then, for whatever reason, walk away from it. Now they’re coming back at a time when there’s all to play for again.”

Indeed, if anything there’s pressure on the band to kick-start a scene similar to the one they helped spark seven years ago. As the go-to guy for new bands, Zane is very calm in the face of the recent slew of articles asking if rock is dead: “I had that question last time around!” he laughs.

“We’re fascinated by the way things shift and move, and why people are buying certain records. It doesn’t mean great rock records aren’t being made, bands aren’t forming, or kids aren’t being influenced. I’ve been playing Slayer’s ‘Raining Blood’ and Deftones’ ‘My Own Summer (Shove It)’ on this tour at the end of my set, They love their dubstep and D’n’B, but the crowds have been going absolutely batshit crazy!”

It’s not a case of rock being dead,” he reasons, “It might not be what’s considered current and contemporary on a sales level right now, but these things always go in cycles, and while we’re talking, some band are in a garage writing the song that will change everything again. Every time someone says it’s over, along comes Nirvana or The Strokes or Arctic Monkeys or Guns N’ Roses or something that shakes it up. Every time. Mark my words!”

Zane Lowe’s day job means he’s in a privileged position when it comes to spotting the next one of those bands, but as more music fan than mere ‘tastemaker’, he wants to be bowled over along with the rest of us: “That’s the thing I really like about what I do – the surprise. No-one saw Skrillex coming eighteen months ago, now he’s as much part of the fabric of electronic music as anybody has been in the last ten years.  If someone came up to me and said: ‘Do you want to know the trends that are going to break next?’ I think I’d say no! It’s like a journey – no-one really wants to arrive too soon, because then the fun part’s over. If you ask anyone who’s been successful in the last few years which bit’s been the most exciting, they’ll tell you the start.”

Perhaps that’s why he’s so keen for Ibiza and Mallorca Rocks to keep evolving – and reflecting on how it’s changed, he obviously feels the festivals are on course: “The crowds are getting bigger and the opinions are getting stronger, but the line-up’s getting weirder!” he laughs. Sounds good to us.

Ibiza Rocks tickets and Mallorca Rocks tickets are available now.

Short breaks with stays in the Rocks hotel and tickets to the live shows inclusive start from 104 euros (approximately £89) per person.

Click here to buy Ibiza Rocks tickets and hotel packages.

Click here to buy Mallorca Rocks tickets and hotel packages.


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