What got you into this whole thing?
Way back around 2004, my parents got Sirius XM radio and I heard this house song that sounded completely different than anything I heard before and I just needed to hear more. So I started looking into the genre and finding more music in that style and started listening to a lot of Deadmau5. My mind was absolutely blown because I had found something that other people around me weren't listening to. The story behind how I got into DJing was a combination of finding Deadmau5's live sets on YouTube and the release of this game called DJ Hero that had Deadmau5 as a character in it. I got the game and it was just life changing to see how they transitioned from one song to the next instead of just listening to music on a playlist. Some time after that, I got a Numark NS-7 at the end of high school where I learned how to properly DJ and scratch. I watched a lot of YouTube tutorials on how to mix and just kept practicing and messing around with my electro house collection.
In seventh grade, my friend suggested that I got this software called Fruity Loops. I went home and download a new version of it. I was so excited to find a program that can make the type of music that I was listening to, so I spent a lot of time figuring out what's what and how to use the software. I made a bunch of house, techno, and trance.
When did you become "Zubah"?
Actually, all started really early on in college when someone came up to me and asked me what my name was. I told him that my name was Theo, Theo Zubah. Then he responded back, "Zubah? We're calling you that from now on!" So that's what everyone called me from then on out. At first, I thought it was weird, but it kept catching on and I grew to like it. When I started recording mixes, I decided to do it under Zubah because that's how people know me, it's literally my name, so I may as well DJ by that name. â
What were you studying in college?
I studied audio production for video. They also taught us music theory, but I didn't pay that much attention. I remember that I really skated by with a high C or low B in that class. For the music I make now, I just do it all by ear. Where the classes came in handy was with sound design. I really excelled in creating and adding sound effects for movies. What was great about my college experience was that mostly all of my classes complimented and worked along with my passion for music. I was never bored in class because everything being taught was part of what I wanted to do.
How did you go from house to dubstep?
When Skrillex was on the rise and he released "Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites," literally every DJ would play that song and I kept hearing more and more dubstep out at shows. When it first starting popping up, I honestly hated it but the people were loving it. So I took another look at the genre and thought that if I was going to be a good DJ, I would have to incorporate this stuff into my sets. I worked on transitioning from house to dubstep in the middle of my sets so that I could target both crowds.
When that song, "Raise Your Weapons" by DeadMau5 came out, I ended up using that fairly often because it had that transition from house to dubstep built right into the track. In my sets, I noticed that people were responding much better to the dubstep section of my sets, so I started playing more and more dubstep until eventually my entire set became just dubstep. Then the trap era came about so I worked to incorporate trap and hip hop into my dubstep sets. It's about keeping your finger on the pulse and the ability to adapt to the changing times.
How to manage a day job and life as a travelling DJ?
The Apple store that I work at works with me and know what I'm trying to do and sees my progress. They're way more understanding. Like when I had the gig in Canada I knew that I had to get the time off so I did everything that I could like swapping shifts with other people. Even for the first day of Imagine, I was scheduled for a long shift starting at noon but I manage to trade shifts to make mine shorter so that I could get to my set on time. It's amazing to have a job that understands what you're doing instead of treating you like a number.
What can you tell us about the time you quit music?
About two years ago, from January 2016 - July 2016, I quit music because my ex didn't like what I was doing. My last show was on New Year's Eve of 2016. The very next day, I deleted my Facebook and blocked everyone on my new one to make sure no one could find me. For seven months, I didn't produce or mix anything. Absolutely nothing. It was boring as fuck. It was just work and home, every day. I wasn't doing anything different from most people. A few months later, there was a bad breakup with that ex and my roommates started getting out of state opportunities which left me almost completely alone in the three bedroom apartment a lot of time. I moved to a one bedroom apartment and then I was really alone. I told myself that I've got to do something, so I decided to come back to music in July 2016.
What was it like to come back?
Some people remembered who I was but I planned on going to Iris every Saturday so that I could get back into the swing of things and back into the right circles. I literally set aside an "Iris Budget" to hold myself accountable on making this work. It eventually got to the point where I would always be on the guest list and that just blew my mind. One night, someone referred me to the new booking guy for Iris so that I could start getting behind the decks again.
My first show back was with Bass Family thanks to Josh Chavez putting me on the lineup. I opened that night for a handful of people but it was just nice to be on the lineup again. A few weeks later, I saw Scott Freeze at Iris and remembered that I used to be there all the time. He told me that he would put me on the Six Feathers stage at Imagine. I didn't hear from him until the lineup was announced and sure as hell, I was on it! I went absolutely crazy because my second show back was going to be at Imagine Festival 2016!
What has been your most memorable moment so far?
One of the milestones for me was playing in Canada and being in Montreal. The fact that I was playing in a different country two years after quitting and coming back just meant so much to me. The venue reached out to my agent because DJs up there were playing my music so they wanted to bring me out there to play it myself.
For a more specific moment and one that's a bit more personal, there was this time when I was at Chop Shop and playing this remix I made. If you've listened to any of my songs, you'll hear that there's always a watermark that spells out my name. So when the watermark came into the mix, literally everyone in the crowd was chanting along and spelling out my name while I was playing. It was simply unreal. There's actually a funny story behind the watermark. I had heard that robot voice on another track and I was wondering how the hell do you get that. Luckily, I knew the guy who made the song and so I asked him if he could at least send me where it says "riddim" but he said he could send me the whole program. So I sat down with it and was thinking about what I could do with it and I decided that I would make it spell out my name in the hopes that people to say it along with the track whenever it's played. I want people to say my name when they hear one of my tracks. And it worked, and it was incredible. I've been so very humbled by the support of my fans and rapid growth in the last year, I can't wait to see where the journey takes me next.
A huge thank you to Zubah for taking the time to answer our questions! Be sure to follow him on social media for all the latest music and show dates!
Chris W. Lao
DJ, Writer, and Student.
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