Aspen Times Weekly: All mashed up with DJ Z-Trip

DJ Z-Trip will play Belly Up Aspen on Saturday, Sept. 23.
Courtesy photo |

If You Go …

Who: DJ Z-Trip

Where: Belly Up Aspen

When: Saturday, Sept. 23, 9 p.m.

How much: $20

Tickets: Belly Up box office;

Fans may not have heard much new recorded music from DJ Z-Trip in the past few years, but he has been busy.

Along with his unrelenting solo tours and runs with LL Cool J, the DJ has been at work on what he calls “some top-secret projects” which are nearing completion. He’s sitting on some two-dozen new tracks, some of which he’s been playing at live shows this year.

Z-Trip has songs and samples that he’s been working on for as long as a decade, searching for the perfect combination of tracks. The beloved “godfather of the mash-up,” who will headline Belly Up Aspen on September 23, is more mad scientist than simple DJ.

Z-Trip perfected and popularized the mash-up form, pairing and splicing together different — often wildly different — songs to make original creations of his own.

The novel approach was born out of his hope to draw listeners out of their silos of taste and introduce them to new sounds.

“A lot of people don’t get into the science of it — they just look at what’s kitschy and the novelty of it all,” he told me in March before co-headlining Belly Up with the rapper T.I.

He searches for songs with compatible musical elements and pitches, though their genres may be worlds apart.

“It was about taking those two things that don’t really work together and finding the common thread,” he says.

One of his early breakthroughs, for example, was a mash-up of Tool’s “Sober” and Outkast’s “Bombs Over Baghdad” that improbably married dark metal with upbeat southern rap.

“If I’m someone who is into southern rap and doesn’t know about really interesting, creative rock music like Tool, how do I get that person into Tool?” he says he asked himself. “And vice versa, how do I get someone who is just into math rock to connect to an Outkast song?”

What he started out trying to do with the form — and what he still aims to do — is bridge the space between those poles and, hopefully, make something brand new out of the combination that lead audiences to fresh discoveries.

“I want to crack their heads open mid-set, and that’s the science behind it, trying to get people who might not even understand what it is that DJs are doing to understand and walk away with some sense of, ‘I want to follow this guy,’” he explains.

He’s been a regular at Belly Up since soon after the club opened 12 years ago, and often makes his way through Colorado where he has built a devoted ski town following.

“I love Colorado,” he says. “And I’m not just saying that because I’m in Colorado. If you know me, you know that I come up here a lot and I love playing these towns.”

He cherishes playing small rooms like Belly Up and in mountain towns like Vail and Crested Butte, he says. Though he’s a staple at massive festivals, popping in to play for a few hundred people in a packed club helps him stay on his toes creatively.

“It’s a little more custom, because you’re looking into people’s eyeballs and you’re able to communicate with them in a completely different way than when you’re looking at a sea of people,” he says. “But if you do too many intimate shows, you want that feeling of dropping a tune and having hundreds of thousands of people move with that.”