I don’t remember meeting Zeni, but when I think back to my early 20s and going to parties, Zeni is in many of those memories. We’re around the same age (I’m 30) and started DJing around the same time (again, I don’t remember exactly when). In spite of its large population, NYC had a very small dance music scene and everyone seemed to know each other, and we got along quite well as we were both a couple of cynics.
Zeni is what you would call a “head.” He’s got a deep knowledge and appreciation for music, especially house and techno. I used to go visit him when he worked at the old DUMBO (and later Williamsburg) location of Halcyon Records. Although we often played very different music—at the time I played noisy techno and he was on the house tip—Zeni could effortlessly pull a stack of records for me to play even though they were definitely not his style. That's the mark of a true head, and it's reflected in his DJing.
His mix for Grey Matter perfectly exhibits what I would consider the NYC dance sound: tough bass, swung percussion, lush vocals, and a constant groove. I interviewed Zeni via email prior to get a closer look.
KT: Hey tell me a little about yourself. Where are you from, where are you living now, what got you into DJing, and which Oscar G & Ralph Falcon project/alias is your favorite?
Z: I’m first generation Albanian in NY. I was born in Brooklyn and moved to Staten Island at a young age. I live in Brooklyn now.
I really got involved with productions before DJing. I was a club kid growing up, always found myself analyzing tracks and wanting to reinterpret them. What really sparked the DJ in me is a party my friends and I used to throw called “Keep It Moving” in the LES. At first I was just helping with the curation but eventually found myself selecting music and falling in love with the craft.
My favorite Oscar G & Ralph Falcon project would have to be be Murk - "Never Let You Go" on Nervous Records.
How’d you go about making this mix? Do you have a special tactic for a studio mix compared to a live DJ set?
My thought process is all over the place when it comes to a studio mix I’m not even gonna lie.
When it comes to a live DJ set I lose myself in the energy of the crowd. We’re all going through our own battles and I feel this energy when I play and work off it. It comes so natural when there’s people dancing, you can’t compare it.
For this studio mix I wanted to embody how much I love this city and how music has helped me hold on to my true values during these dark times. I wanted it to be uplifting and make you feel something. But at the end of the day I feel like the listener will always interpret the music based on their own energy. My job is to try and shift their energy in a positive direction with my story and I hope I did that with this set.
What’s been the biggest hurdle for you during the quarantine?
Man this is a heavy one, these times have just been rough for everyone. But I think my biggest hurdle is the lack of connection. The electronic dance community has had a big impact on my life and it’s always got me through tough times, so not having it around during the toughest of times is hard.
But it’s been a blessing and has forced me to make positive changes in my life that will forever shape me in the future.
What’s your process for discovering new music? Have you found it difficult at times, and if so, why?
My main outlet when it comes to discovering music will always be digging for records at shops. I’ve always loved sharing music even before DJing or working in a record shop. So discovering new music is a daily thing for me. I’ll never be fully satisfied with my collection Hahaa!
What’s your favorite club/venue in NYC? (Past or present or both, maybe give a reason for what makes it special.)
Hands down, Output will always have a special place in my heart. Specifically the Panther Room. The sound system, the energy, the staff was like family. This room was a gift to New York and it’s sad that it’s still not around.
Shawn Schwartz and the staff there gave me an opportunity to really express myself and find myself musically. I don’t think I would be the DJ or person I am today without that room.
Have you been working on original music recently? Can we expect something to drop?
You can expect a release on Good Company Records this year along with some other projects I’m working on myself.
Give a shout out to your crew.
Wanna shoutout Good Company Records and DUMBTRAX!
Any final words of wisdoms from Zeni? Do you have any advice for people that want to grow calves like yours?
Do I got wisdom yet? I don’t know... Maybe I would say don’t give up. As cheesy at that sounds, persistence is one of the most powerful tools you can have.
Yea my calves are big hahaaa. Honestly I grew up skating my whole life so I think that had a big part to do with it? I was also chunky when I was younger...... Honestly I would like to know how I got these things, if you got an answer let me know...