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By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski | August 23, 2021

For Zach Sciacca, touring with Atmosphere and Cypress Hill is like a family reunion. 

“We’re all friends,” says Sciacca, a DJ known as Z-Trip. “We’ve been on tour four or five times. We’re all family. To be the first hip-hop tour out the gate with those squads, it’s like the best possible music scenario for me to be a part of. I think we’re all super excited to get back out on the road.”

The trio performed at the Mesa Amphitheater on August 15. Hailing from New River, Sciacca finds hometown shows fun. 

“It’s great to come back to Arizona any time,” he says. 

“There are people who still think of me playing at Nita’s Hideaway, the Green Room or Bobby McGee’s — all the weird places I’ve played over the years. Some people still know me as that. If you’ve followed my career, I’ve opened for the Rolling Stones, played Coachella four times and Lollapalooza three. I feel like it’s good for the people who have me in their memory, but it’s nice for people to see the growth and the fact that I’ve never stopped.”

Sciacca admits he does enjoy playing a small room when he’s in the Valley. 

“I enjoy playing for friends of mine and connecting those dots,” he says. “Playing a small little something is always fun. It’s nice to be able to do a big event as well. To play with Linkin Park and LL Cool J is cool, but it’s nice to be able to come back and balance it out with a small club in Scottsdale. I love that versatility.”

For the last year, however, his gigs “dissolved and postponed” due to the pandemic. It was the first time Sciacca took a break for more than two weeks during his 30-year career. 

“Maybe a month, max,” he retreated. “When I broke my collarbone, I was out for about a month. To be home for that long on the front end of this was really a complete mind scramble for me. I needed a little time to process it. 

“In doing that, I felt I really needed to do something musically. It’s like having a train stop on a dime. All the cars are backing up. It just keeps hitting. There was a moment where I needed to get out of that headspace. I started streaming on Twitch for fans and my own sanity. That turned into such a huge thing for me.”

Not only was there a pandemic, but social issues reigned — the George Floyd protests and Trump controversies. 

“With all this tension, people were having a hard time finding a way to release,” he says. “These streams became huge. I did my first show in Tampa in June. There were people who flew out to see me from North Carolina and Maine. 

“I didn’t set out to gain more fans or to up my visibility. I was looking for a place to get some music off my chest and have a feeling of normal. All these people received it really well.”

On the livestreams, he wasn’t locked into playing popular club tracks. He could dig into his musical bag of house, drum and bass, reggae and chill. 

“I was able to take people on this musical journey,” he says. “I revisited some of my old mixes.”

The “old mixes” hark back to his early days in the Valley, where his mother and sister still reside. 

The entertainer was born in New York but spent his teenage years in Arizona attending Barry Goldwater and Deer Valley high schools. He lived in New River before part of it became Anthem, and he moved around the Valley, residing in North Phoenix, Tempe, Scottsdale and Mesa. He is now based in San Diego.

His career has been fruitful. Besides releasing his own albums, Z-Trip has remixed songs by Bob Marley, Daft Punk, Missy Elliott, Beastie Boys, Jackson 5 and Rush, as well as served as producer for tracks by LL Cool J, Beck and Meat Beat Manifesto.

He’s been dubbed the “pioneer of the mashup movement,” a moniker Z-Trip is iffy about. The mashup scene, as it were, goes back to Afrika Bambaataa and Grandmaster Flash, who chopped songs and put them through their filters.

“I’m happy to wear the badge, but I actually drew inspiration from the people who were dabbling in that stuff before me,” he says.

“I think I was the guy who made it palatable and got branded as the ‘pioneer.’ My whole thing is it’s about how hip-hop is in general. I’m a cog in a much bigger wheel or machine.

“If you really boil it down, mashing up is really mixing things. Isn’t that what DJs are supposed to be doing anyway? Mixing? If you say you’re a mashup DJ, it’s a bit of a redundancy. I think I identify with extreme remixing. That’s a better term for it.”

His last Phoenix gig was part of a Phoenix Suns halftime show. 

“Being a guy who started out DJing in bars to 100 people, to the coliseum Downtown and the Mesa Amphitheatre, it gives me the ability to play a big event and the small event. 

“If I come out there for Christmas or Thanksgiving, someone will inevitably find out I’m in town and want me to play their party. It’s nice to keep one foot deeply rooted in where it started and one foot spreading out to conquer new territory. It’s nice to have that stance — especially in Arizona.