Zepherin Saint - How I DJ
Zepherin Saint is a enigmatic London producer, DJ, talent scout and co-founder of Tribe Records. His latest production is out now Exclusively on Traxsource, and with being a well travelled DJ, he shares some insight on how he rolls when he hits the clubs with his personal preferences. This is how Zepherin Saint DJs.
Get the ‘Canima EP’ on Traxsource: HERE
Are you more of a DJ or Producer — or one in the same?
I started out Djing, learning to play instruments and using studio equipment around the same time and developed a love for both art forms over the years.
For me, they continue to inspire each other, as I will get ideas on how I want my sets to sound from making music and ideas to create from my sets. I am as comfortable behind the decks as I am in the studio and cannot see one without the other. For me, it’s a blessing, as I have never had to go out later on in my career and learn the other to support the other art form.
Describe what makes a good DJ in three or four words.
Selection, Risk taker, Open mind, Spontaneous.
Who or what inspired you to become a DJ?
I come from the sound system culture that was brought to the UK from the Caribbean in the 1950’s. The West Indian community in the UK continued this on, and we made it our own by setting up clubs in private houses, what we would call blues houses in the 70’s and 80’s.
Every weekend there would be a blues to attend in London in the mid-eighties, and that was where I would experience DJs mixing and creating effects with the EQ. This was on loud sound systems in intimate spaces, participating atmospheres of crowds responding to the brand new release dropped for the first time and the crew of members that made a sound system. Technician, Selector, MC, DJ’s and the box boys (labour).
It was my elder brothers Stan Zeff ( Tambor) and Wes Zepherin that introduced me to this culture as they had built their sound systems. I started off by working as a box boy for their sound system (loading up the gear on the van). I grew up in a bedroom filled with large bass bins, tweeter boxes, wires and records from the floor to ceiling. That could be jazz-funk, soul, fusion, Disco, 80’s, Boogie and reggae. I had access to all those sounds as a child and learnt how to switch on the gear when they were not around Lol. I would then spend my spare time making mix tapes on my brothers DJ Setup that consisted of two homemade Garrad decks and a Phonic mixer.
When did you know you wanted to DJ?
When I attended Notting Hill carnival in 1982, and I witnessed the crowds responding to Mastermind Soundsystem under a flyover. The DJ was mixing acapella’s and beats and doing spin backs with the same record. I knew then I wanted to be able to create that energy.
Who to you is/was “The DJs DJ”.
A DJ’s – DJ to me is an individual who is not afraid to play what they believe in. Regardless of the audience their intention is to win over the crowd to their style of playing and are prepared to take risks in doing so. In addition, they relish in breaking new music or re-discovering old music. I am sure there are many, but I can only talk about those that I have moved me personally. Three DJ’s who I have witnessed achieve this and continues to push those boundaries are Timmy Regisford, Joe Clausell and Gilles Peterson.
Describe your main and preferred DJ set-up.
Bozak Mixer, Bozak EQ6, 4 band Bozak Isolator, 4 Nexus CDJ’s, D&B monitor system.
Do you use a laptop? If so, what platform/program?
I have used my laptop to play in the past, but nowadays I prefer USB. However, Traktor was my go to program as the effects in this software are the best.
Why do you choose this way of playing?
When I used to use laptops, it was for the purpose of not having to burn so many CD’s each weekend and it allowed me to carry a lot more music to select from.
I like to have an element of surprise in my sets, and sometimes that action to reach for a particular song only comes to you as an idea while in mid-set. So the laptop enabled me to have a huge library on hand.
Any special, unique, crazy things on your rider?
I am not popular enough to demand such things :)
Beverage of choice while playing?
Glenfiddich single malt Scotch on the rocks.
Favourite country/club/city to play?
- Country – Touring North America
- Club – Katavothres in Kefelonia Greece.
- City - Naples with Neuhm
Do you Sync? What’s your view on this? Has it leveled the playing field for the better or worse?
No. Djing is not just about how well you mix two records. It helps but it’s not the most important element to get a floor jumping. Sound systems started with 1 turntable in the UK, and it was all about the choice of records and the order in which you selected them which connected the DJ with the crowd. The choice of music played, and its journey from start to end will always be paramount in a DJ’s set. As long as a sync setters understand this, then let them use technology. But I will say there is a great gratification to challenging yourself with a mix and it coming off and all DJs should seek that.
Favourite or “go-to” EFXs while playing?
Pioneer Rmx 1000 and a Bozak isolator.
Read the crowd or just pound it out?
Read the crowd all day long. It’s the art of Djing. Understanding where to take a crowd when they are at peak or how to get them to a peak is what makes playing a rewarding. For me, it’s also feeling a crowd as you have to connect with everyone’s energy on the dance floor. Focusing on different souls in the room becomes markers for me as to where the dance floor is at and where I need to go to raise the energy. I prefer to be set up in amongst the people rather than in an area where you can not communicate or touch. Pounding it out offers no thought process or feeling.
Big festivals or intimate clubs? Why?
Each arena has an advantage for me. The intimate setting tends to bring a different set out of me naturally and allows me to include different tempos and genres in my sets with ease. It also creates a party atmosphere that allows enables you to be more experimental or nostalgic depending on the room’s mood. However with festivals the feeling of having thousands of people behaving as if it’s an intimate room, singing, dancing, jumping together is magical.
Ever miss the CDs or Vinyl days?
Don’t miss CDs. No Need to miss Vinyl as I still purchase and play it.
How do you maintain your music library?
Any Tips for Aspiring Young DJs?
Keep an open mind to find out what sound and genre resonates with you. Don’t be a follower in music, stand for the music you love regardless of what others may think. Be spontaneous when playing and always challenge yourself to take a risk when playing be it a mix or song selection to push yourself and discover your own creativity.
Do you do any of the obligatory DJ poses?
I just move how I feel in that moment.
How do you combat the “Everyone is a DJ” mentality?
The world would be a better place if everyone took sometime out to DJ each week for themselves.
If someone wants to try their hand at DJ’ing, who am I to say they should not give it a go. Of course, there are those that want it for the fame and status but they will only be around as longs as its fashionable. You will get this type of personality in all areas of life that has potential fame attached to it. Everyone wants to be a footballer, model, actor, singer and so on. There is nothing we can do about that. What’s important is that new talent is discovered
The irony is that the ethos will allow the DJ art form to grow and reach parts of the world that will in turn create new talents.