Zen Freeman may be the hottest turntablist around. Just ask Victoria Secret Angels Alessandra Ambrosio, Behati Prinsloo, Adriana Lima and Lily Aldridge, who asked Freeman to play their private, star-studded after-party following last year’s fashion show where Tiësto and Leonardo DiCaprio were in attendance. In the world of fashion, he’s spun for every major brand from Chanel to Prada (and even had a stint as a Burberry model), all the while serving as Soho House’s musical director. We caught up with the busy Brit before his New Year’s Eve gig at Foxtail to chat about all he has going on and his new residency at Life.
How does a DJ become the face of Burberry?
Well, I don’t know if I’m one of the faces, but we have an ongoing thing. They’re doing a lot of styling for me when I play at award shows, and I do a lot of DJing for them. I did their Art of Trench campaign, and they asked me to host a screening and dinner party.
What’s your relationship like as a DJ to these brands?
I actually DJ for 50 different fashion brands and do a lot of music supervision for them as well. Every brand is a little different. For example, with Chanel they put me in touch with Karl Lagerfeld, because I had done a lot of music supervision for the North American leg of the Paris, Dallas collection. With that particular event I played music such as Buddy Holly and Joe Lee’s “The Good, the Bad and The Ugly,” and then got into party music afterward. With their Number 5 campaign, there were different rooms for different vibes. In the graffiti room, we pre-programmed French minimal disco and French covers in their smoky jazz club.
That’s sounds very different than playing for a Las Vegas crowd.
Well, it’s almost better to forget you are playing for one or the other, as the skill set you need for each are very different. Las Vegas has power and amplitude with the sound systems, and is dynamic with all the smoke, bells, whistles, cryo, half-naked girls serving drinks and drunk people from all over the place. If you think about the demographic that I had when walking into the Chanel gig, there were Karl Lagerfeld and Gisel [Bündchen] greeting every mover and shaker from New York to Paris. With Vegas, it’s actually way more fun to be jumping up and down. It’s another skill set. It’s another passion.
I love having a completely well-rounded schedule, because otherwise I’d get bored. I’m just a bit of a freak, where I want to dive deep and discover all types of music. The important thing is being able to differentiate those sounds. You don’t need anything in Vegas that you’d need at a Prada or Chanel event. You don’t need anything at a Chanel event that you’d need in Las Vegas.
In addition to your live shows, you seem to collaborate a lot. What was your most recent collab?
The last song I put out was a track called “Switch” [with dBerrie] on Calvin Harris’ label. Before that was “Dance Bitch” [with Tom Neville featuring Aaron Paul], which charted on iTunes in America. At the moment I’m working on a lot of instrumental, powerful, big-room stuff and pretty much making my album.
Speaking of “Dance Bitch,” I heard that you actually got Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul to record the lyric on his cellphone?
It’s a funny story. He called everyone at his wedding a bitch on the microphone. I was DJing, and as people would come out [on the floor], he literally said, “Dance bitch!” I was like, “Oh, my God. That would be so funny if we made that into a track.” He said sure, and I left him a voicemail a couple of days later. He was on his honeymoon. I said, “Hey. You have to record ‘Dance Bitch.’ Send it to me.” He’s my friend, but he’d just literally blown the fuck up as an actor, so a month later I was like, “Listen, we should do this. We should make a song before Breaking Bad ends.” He went, “Man, I emailed it [as an MP3] to you like four weeks ago.” I went back to my email, looked in the junk and it was in there. Then four weeks later—bang—“Dance Bitch” was out.