At the tender age of 14, a blue-eyed Brit named Zen Freeman got his first set of turntables. At 15 he played his first club, and since has landed every gig from the Cannes Film Festival to becoming music supervisor at L.A.’s famous Soho House. A Hollywood resident for the past 10 years, Freeman has rubbed elbows with the best, including Paul Oakenfold, and to many, he has become the electro icon’s protégé. Thrice monthly, Freeman sweeps through Vegas, opening for the big dogs at Perfecto and guarding the decks during Ghostbar Sundays.
Many electronic DJs’ favorite spot to spin—yourself included—is Rain. Why is that?
It’s the real deal; people go for the music. It’s like you’re in Ibiza. For a DJ it’s a really nice room to work in: It’s got a really good sound system and it’s like the clubs in Europe when it all started. The design of the space is like one big massive room. The DJ can see every single part of the room, and every person in the room can see the DJ.
After opening for Paul Oakenfold just a few times at Perfecto, you were asked to be a resident. How has it been working with your idol?
Now that I’m signed to Perfecto Records, we tour, produce and constantly work in Vegas together and he’s kind of become my mentor. We’re just really good mates. He’s hysterical to work with; he’s so funny. He’s so hardworking, and you can see the sparks in his eyes about music. He knows everything in the business: how to score films, how to supervise, he’s a classically trained musician, he’s amazing in the studio—he’s got a gift.
You just released your first track, “Red, Yellow, Pink and Blue,” on Perfecto Records. After DJing for so many years, has switching gears to production been difficult?
It’s not like when you’re DJing a club and it’s instant gratification when you bang a record out and everyone dances. Producing is literally being a perfectionist and takes weeks and weeks to make a song, and then, after a couple days you listen again and say, “Ugh, I don’t like it!”
But you seem to have found your sound with your new track. How would you describe it?
It’s a bit more banging, but still house music with an indie-rock vocal. It’s like taking an Empire of the Sun song that’s been remixed by Laidback Luke.
Which artists have inspired your production?
Empire of the Sun and Temper Trap, a lot of the Aussie producers. There are some amazing artists that live in Sydney: Pnau, which is the two guys from Empire of the Sun; Sneaky Sound System—they’ve never broken in the States.
They worked with Tiësto on his Kaleidoscope album, similar to the many artists now creating a more danceable sound. Where do you see electronic music going?
There’s so much electronic influence on the production that’s affecting the urban artists that they’ve all gone to house music. You have Katy Perry working with Tiësto and Will.i.am with Wolfgang Gartner.
What do you think can be credited for this?
David Guetta. [Laughs] I think it was catching on anyway. Guetta is obviously a very important producer; he took a bunch of hip-hop songs and turned them into house music. It was a real collaboration of four or five mainstream artists and producers that all kind of went for that sound and it worked.
Before the rise in the mainstream, Perfecto was the only event booking international DJs.
Three years ago, all the clubs were literally just playing hip-hop and mash-ups. Look at Vegas now, the lineup at Marquee and XS. With the venues and the sound capabilities for small music festivals and the über-clubs, I think Vegas is going to become a forefront of electronic music.