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Last Night a DJ Saved My Life
by Christina Li on May 05, 2009
Making her name on the San Francisco scene since the 90s, itís hard to pinpoint what Qzen hasnít done for the music scene whether it be photography or even an electro punk band. With her DJ skills dabbling in everything from techno to dubstep, she has always managed to showcase her tunes and beats with fun yet a carefully thought out manner. Swinging by the SF Station office on a sunny afternoon, itís hard not to fall in love with this multi-faceted DJ.
SF Station (SFS): Tell us a little about how you go into DJing.
Qzen (Q): I started as a promoter, and did a drum ní bass club called Eklektic years ago in '97. I moved to Montreal for my study abroad and realized I wanted to be a DJ and not date the DJ! So I started buying records and DJing about ten years ago, and I played drum ní bass for about the first 3-4 years. Then I started playing 4-4 stuff and as soon as I started playing more 4-4 stuff it was like 'okay, now I could play anything.'
SFS: So what attracted you to drum ní bass initially?
Q: I started raving locally and I just wasnít into the San Francisco sound, which was very house-y and deep house-y. I wanted something more trance musical and synthy, and I found drum ní bass. And I went into a drum ní bass black hole, and thatís all I listened to from í97 to 2001. I still have a big love for it, even though I stopped DJing it for a while.
SFS: Then what do you play nowadays?
Q: More tech-house, that kind of stuff. After I started playing more 4-4 stuff I started this party called Moxie, which was anything between disco to electro house. We had a radio show on a pirate station, and did a bunch of underground stuff. It was kind of all over the place.
SFS: So do you go to a lot of underground stuff?
Q: Yeah I just left Apple. I was the dance electronic music editor. I was there for four years, but it was a lot of fucking work. I couldnít go out as much as I wanted to cause I had to commute to Cupertino. When I first started there I was still doing parties, and everyone was like you are insane. So I stopped throwing parties in 2007, and stopped the radio show in 2008. I kind of knew I was going to get restructured or my position was going to be eliminated, but it was totally a blessing in disguise.
SFS: I donít know if youíve read the news lately, but underground parties have been getting busted like crazy. Do you have any thoughts on that?
Q: Well, it happens. The system is set up for failure. Even if you jump through all their hoops, get all the permits, and everything you need to get, theyíre still gonna bust you for something. Might as well just do it illegally! Theyíve been doing a lot of crazy thingsÖand I just feel every time the economy goes down, it gets amazing. People just find ways to make it happen. I donít think anybody is gonna stop doing anything. With as many people as there are laid off, there are amazing intelligent people that donít have anything better to do right now. As much as I think the city is getting weird, I donít think itís the end of warehouse parties.
SFS: I heard you were in a band called The Invisibles. How was that?
Q: It was awesome. The only reason we stopped is because I got the job at iTunes. We were literally three months away from moving to New York, but I got the job and it was like ahhh! But Kimi has a band called Lilofee, and Alex is in New York.
SFS: You guys should get together again!
Q: Well Kimi is here now, but Alex is in New York. But Iím actually working with 40 Thieves. Weíre starting to put out a bunch of singles and remixes.
SFS: Thatís cool. Youíve worked with a lot of people, like vocals on a Claude VonStroke track. Who are some of your favorites?
Q: Itís all been so easy because theyíre all friends. Itís never like, what are we gonna do? Itís like we get a whole bunch of Cuban pastries and get high on sugar. The people that Iíve worked with are all very experienced so I can learn from them.
SFS: What do you like most about San Francisco in general?
Q: Iím born and raised here, but Iíve traveled a lot. Iíve never really lived elsewhere; there was a part of me over the last few years that wanted to move badly. But I feel like now if I continue to travel as a DJ, this as a home base is amazing. Thereís so much nature, and people are so creative, open, and intelligent. It blows my mind sometimes. My favorite thing is how accepting people are. Like Iíll go somewhere and sometimes people are like, ďWhy is that guy wearing heels,Ē but Iíll just be like, ďWho cares? Why do you care? What does that have to do with the price of milk?Ē
SFS: So true! What are some of your upcoming projects that youíre working on?
Q: So I got the 40 Thieves album coming up. And Iím gonna put together my own live PA with laptop set and vocals. I was known a little bit for vocals and that will be a little easier to tour with. And Iím also really, really happy to be focusing on being a DJ full-time. And really be able to dig again, and I have so much music coming at me now. Now I can go back and really dig through what Iíve missed. A bunch of collaborations coming up for sure!
Find Qzen at http://qzen.dj (now with http://blog.qzen.dj) and jam with her at http://www.myspace.com/qzendj
by Christina Li on May 05, 2009