He gives reason to why music matters, who matters and which artists are next. Zane Lowe owns the privilege of being the link between an artist’s insight, creativity, revelations, feelings, and the audience who their music was made for. LTPK writer Fiona Connor was determined to turn the tables on the New Zealand-born disc jockey to dig deep into why music matters to him, what’s behind his drive and enthusiasm for getting inside some of the greatest minds behind music while embracing popular artists and discovering new. Behind Lowe’s interest in their stories, their creativity and their history is a proud Kiwi who just wanted to be a part of the conversation.
Right from the beginning of Zane Lowe’s creative endeavours he’s showcased an understanding of music, deeper than most. Be it his early days in New Zealand at Max TV where he formed his knack for presenting, developing his understanding of production and lyrics with rap group Urban Disturbance or getting a taste of the big-time with the two albums he released as one third of the boundary-pushing Kiwi band Breaks Co-Op, Lowe was always one step ahead of the game. He told LTPK: “I was really lucky because I knew at a young age that music was going to drive my life and with the exception of my family and my closest friends, it’s really the only thing of interest to me.”
His transition to the UK in the late 90’s marked the beginning of fresh opportunities for Lowe, a new world which he could learn to understand and respond accordingly. Soon enough, he made his moves there, following stints at XTV and MTV, following what felt right, he was eventually led to his notable role at BBC as Radio 1 host. He had emerged from small-town New Zealand as a contender to be noticed on a much larger playing field.
For over a decade at BBC Lowe promoted, interviewed, plugged, played and highlighted a repertoire of the best. Broadcasting from London Lowe had hit the jackpot – doing what he loved while coming face-to-face with a myriad of talent who he could be inspired by, learn from and listen to: “I think every kid at a certain point is moved by music but then it just stuck with me and it never went away so I’ve always wanted to be in that room. I’ve always wanted to be making it or talking about it or sharing it so I’m just a music fan, that’s really all I am, just a fan of music and a fan of people who make it, that’s a broad frame-work. Whatever is inside of the frame on a daily basis, whether it’s producing a record, or writing a record or DJing a club, or being on the radio or being in front of the camera or running a radio station, as long as I’m around music then I’m entirely dedicated to that experience because it’s all I really know”.
From a widely successful career as the BBC go-to, in which he had established strong ties to the contributors of music from throughout the world, Lowe was pinched to get behind a new platform – Apple’s Beats 1 radio – a revolutionary space created to make a difference in how the world streams music. These days Zane Lowe is synonymous with interviewing the likes of Lady Gaga, Ed Sheeran, Chance the Rapper and other world-renowned music favourites, his voice behind the questions that provide us the insight and why.
He said: “You spend every day just in the middle of the situation, in the middle of the room having the conversation trying to do the best work you can but you don’t really allow yourself too much time to reflect because ultimately there’s always another conversation to have and there’s always another record to talk about or whatever your interest is, there’s always something of interest”.
Lowe has gained insight into some of the brightest minds of modern day music. When he reflects, he’s real, honest and connecting, highlighting his favourite moments as host of Apple’s Beats 1 radio: “I had a moment with Chance (the Rapper) last year when he really broke it down, the drive behind the independent nature of his philosophy, and that was a turning point for me, because up close, it wasn’t complicated, it was just like ‘I can reach my audience directly’.
“It was a huge revelation for me because all the tent poles that had been placed in between the artist and the fan, they just fell away and I suddenly realized that that is the modern age, it’s been happening through my whole life, I’ve been watching these things kind of have to prove themselves by adding value to that experience and Chance is the guy that made it all make sense.”
While simultaneously putting out a positive collective of outstanding conversations, work and coverage into the universe, Lowe has gained a network of artists who respect him as equally, he does them – he celebrates music and smart artists who utilize that passion to explore their own offerings. “I’m not on CNN like I’m not there to be the most objective, hard-hitting, question person, for me, my job is to be enthusiastic about music because that’s what I love. I’m not a critic, I’ve never been a critic, I’m a fan, so sometimes I am going to be a fan boy, I am going to be a nerd and lose my shit and that’s how it goes.”
There’s no hidden parts of Lowe, from his high-energy radio shows, to his candidness through our phone call, he knows so much, but he doesn’t showcase that. He’s passionate. Lowe does what he loves, he’s worked-hard, deserves it but doesn’t take it for granted: “The coolest thing about doing this job is you’re constantly learning, and you’re constantly being taught by people that you look towards for inspiration or music or creativity and some of them have lived a life and others are on the verge of living the life, but it’s all precious, every conversation is precious.
“You’re in that process of watching an artist unveil an idea or a career or they’re in the heat of this crazy moment where it’s all happening right now and you get a little inside window into what’s going on there, it’s a privilege to experience”.
Beats 1 gives Lowe the opportunity to communicate the passion he has for music, to a wide range of people, with no limits. He describes Apple Music as just a big clubhouse and the only entry is ‘Are you good, are you great?’ The platform is designed and built around meaningfully promoting and creating an environment in which music can exist by its own merits, musicians can paint pictures, tell stories and turn radio shows into concerts. “It’s made and build ideas, where artists play their own music and talk to each other.”