Clubs. Fashion. Music. The most glamorous triangle on the planet and there may be no one who understands where they all meet better than Zen Freeman, go-to DJ to the stars. Freeman has not stopped moving or working in the seventeen years since crossing the pond and landing in LA – performing at parties and events in Cannes, Sundance and for major celebrities around the globe, as well as collaborating with major artists and many of the top fashion houses in the world. His reputation as the source for music is well deserved and the Overhead Compartment was fortunate enough to catch up with Freeman in between gigs, to learn about the hot music scene and all the places it has taken him.
The Overhead Compartment with Zen Freeman begins now….
OC: You arrived in Los Angeles in 2001 and have not stopped, as the go-to DJ for high profile events. How has the scene changed in the last fifteen years?
ZF: In many ways it has changed a lot…although one thing, Hollywood has got this old school feel about their after-parties for the Oscars and Emmys and that has not changed much, but the nightclub scene where people go, where all the cameras are and the music has changed a lot.
OC: How do you read a crowd and know how to make it work?
ZF: Being comfortable in your own shoes. Knowing your hardware, software, being organized and then looking and connecting with your audience. Seeing how old they are and if you see someone tapping their foot and nodding their head, then you are doing the right thing.
OC: You are also a music supervisor for various high end corporations such as Prada, Soho House and Schrager Hotels. What is it like collaborating with those sort of artists?
ZF: It’s great. Every client beats to their own and will have very different needs, some are on-going and some are one offs. I get to work with such fascinating people like Karl Lagerfeld, which is a really interesting part of my job. I also get to dive deep into that whole fashion world; we could launch a brand that is trying to represent the 1950’s so I have to really go into that era and pull it all together.
OC: What is your earliest recollection of loving music?
ZF: Well…my name is Zen, I come from a real hippie family and I had access to the most amazing record collection. The Doors, The Who, Rolling Stones, Michael Jackson. I had good access to good vinyl at a very early age.
OC: Who are some of your favorite artists today?
ZF: I quite enjoy surfing the underground channels. I like to shop at obscure online record stores. While I tend to like the more underground, you have to give it to Calvin Harris and the Chainsmokers, those guys are knocking out good quality pop music.
OC: You travel all over working these high profile events, how different are audiences in other countries?
ZF: When I am playing high profile events….St. Barts or Cannes, weddings in Lake Como, Burning Man they can certainly vary as different as the location, but there are always half a dozen people that are the influencers and they tend to be the same people, same kind of vibe.
OC: What is your favorite city to visit?
ZF: Love them all, but depends. I’ve lived in LA now for 17 years so at the moment I am kind of missing Europe. I love the South of France, Paris, Spain. I miss London as well and taking my kids to the English countryside in the summer.
OC: What’s the strangest thing that ever happened to you at an event?
ZF: Well, nothing crazy or scary at a gig fortunately, but one time, I did get locked out of my room without any clothes. I had been on tour in Chicago, Miami and I had flown into Las Vegas to play a big club opening. I was super tired when I finally went to bed, and at some point I got up in the middle of the night and….walked out the front door. Luckily I saw a fire exit and walked down what felt about 30 flights of stairs and came to a door that I pushed and there was a security guard standing there. Oh did I mention there was a new garbage can with a bin liner, so I took out all the trash and made myself this sort of awkward diaper. So I said to the security guard…Hey I am the DJ that just played the club and I am completely locked out of my room, I’m in 1709, my ID is on the table in the room. If you could please get security to meet me with a key. So I ran back up the stairs and by the time I got up, there was someone waiting for me. He opened the door and I got my ID and he sort of made a funny grunting noise and left.
OC: What is the first thing you do when arriving in a hotel room?
ZF: I always have a bag packed, a weekend bag that has all my essentials. My toiletries, shoes, black jeans…my gig outfit. But I hang up my outfit for the gig that night and normally I find the gym, or the beach for a swim. I try to do something healthy.
OC: Complete the following sentence: I never leave home without:
ZF: My toothbrush and headphones.
Zen Freeman, please use care upon departure as items may have shifted in The Overhead Compartment during our journey. Thanks for choosing us for your travel tips! Have a wonderful day!
Photo Credit: Tyler Shields