DJ Zenas is a multi-talented individual who excels in many fields. He not only performs at numerous venues all over the country and the world, but he also creates, composes, and performs all of his own music.
Zenas is a native of Denver, Colorado. After collaborating on numerous projects with renowned R&B producer Jon-John Robinson, whose clients include TLC, Jon B, and others, he recently relocated to Dallas, Texas to further his musical career. In addition to continuing to create his own music since relocating to Texas, Zenas has also contributed to The Black Sands Soundtrack, an animated comic series. These albums will showcase his many other skills and change the subject from his DJing to who he is as an artist.
In his most recent song, “LOLO,” DJ Zenas teams up with Nigerian musician Chockie Gabbana to create the ultimate vibe. How did this partnership come to be? Naturally, Instagram. It is amazing how everything came together for these two, going from a simple DM to a hit that changed their careers. This summer’s BBQs, car rides, and dance floors are all set to the same song. You can bet that “LOLO” will unite people and make everyone smile thanks to its upbeat beat and contagious melodies. Check out the track & the exclusive interview below:
1. Can you tell us a bit about where you come from and how you got started?
DJ ZENAS: I was born and raised in Denver, CO, which is sort of a melting pot for different cultures and genres of music. This heavily influenced my direction in music overall. I’ve always had an affinity for it and went through different phases throughout my life. From dancing to deejaying, and everything between, I’ve tried a lot and I’ve done a lot, starting around the age of 15 years old until now.
2. Did you have any formal training or are you self-taught?
DJ ZENAS: I have no formal training whatsoever and am completely self-taught.
3. Who were your first and strongest musical influences and why the name ‘DJ ZENAS’?
DJ ZENAS: My earliest musical influences that come to mind are artists such as Michael Jackson, Prince, and The Notorious B.I.G. However, later influences who’s sounds have helped me shape my own are artists such as Drake, T-Pain, and Kanye West.
As I’m sure most artists can relate, I’ve gone through a few different name changes throughout my music career, most of which were awful and a few that stuck around for a while. However, a great friend of mine and I decided that our own names are unique enough to use and figured what better names to use than the ones we were born with. I just happened to slap “DJ” in front of it for obvious reasons.
5. For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you? How would you describe your own development as an artist and music maker, and the transition towards your own style, which is known as Pop?
DJ ZENAS: I’ve always believed that if you want to be the best you have to study the best. More often than not, someone has probably done what you have musically before. However, taking notes from those you admire, making subtle tweaks and fine tuning your sound to what best suits you and your personality is how you can get creative/unique. During the creation process, I try not to listen to other music because I want to create something as organic as possible, but if I am struggling to come up with anything better believe I am putting on some of my faves to gain inspiration.
My development as an artist is something that is still ongoing, and always will be. I am constantly searching for ways to improve myself in all facets of music and life overall. If I had to choose, I would say I am producer-oriented so that’s typically where most of my focus goes into when making music. Although, I’ve always had the desire to be my own artist, so practicing melodies and rapping/singing are tools that I’ve developed as well. My style is a blend of Hip-Hop/Rap, R&B, Pop, EDM, and more, so depending on what mood I’m in is what I’ll typically create. You can hear this is the range of songs I’ve released to date and the releases yet to come.
6. What’s your view on the role and function of music as political, cultural, spiritual, and/or social vehicles – and do you try and affront any of these themes in your work, or are you purely interested in music as an expression of technical artistry, personal narrative and entertainment?
DJ ZENAS: I would consider myself an enlightened person in most of the categories named, and believe in maintaining my authenticity regardless of when or where you may find me. That being said, I personally believe in sharing my views is important because I want listeners to discover who I am through my art.
Yes, I believe there is a time and place for everything. However, I can’t stop being me or feeling how I feel so why would I not let that shine through in what I create? Plus I believe it is crucial to walk the walk and to use your platform to bring forth the change you wish to see in this ever-evolving and often chaotic world.
7. Do you feel that your music is giving you back just as much fulfilment as the amount of work you are putting into it, or are you expecting something more, or different in the future?
DJ ZENAS: That is a great question. My relationship with music has evolved drastically over the years. Yes, the end result has remained the same. Who doesn’t want to be successful for what they love to do? However, I used to have unrealistic expectations for my music. I believed that I had to be famous and that all my problems would be solved immediately. Art is tricky though.
I’ve learned to be more patient with my journey and myself. Trusting the process is difficult to do but I’m learning more and more every day. I’ve improved drastically over the years and I experience an unfathomable amount of joy when doing what I love. At the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about.
Now if you can find a way to make a living off what you love to do and not have to support your lifestyle any other way, then that’s the ultimate dream. Financial freedom is key. I’m working on getting there slowly but surely, but that is literally the only thing I expect more of from music in the future.
8. Could you describe your creative processes? How do usually start, and go about shaping ideas into a completed song? Do you usually start with a tune, a beat, or a narrative in your head? And do you collaborate with others in this process?
DJ ZENAS: It depends on what inspires me, which can literally be anything. Sometimes I’ll hear another song or lyric and come up with a random concept for a song but, as I mentioned before, I am producer-oriented so I typically start the creative process by making a beat. This can be as simple as a melody I record on the mic (or in my voice memos if I’m on the go) or as elaborate as a fully structured instrumental, which honestly doesn’t take me long to make either. Then I’ll brainstorm lyrical flows and cadences and write lyrics to those melodies.
I typically only collaborate with others for engineering but if I am in a studio session or have a song I know I could hear another artist on, we’ll create together. I do believe a collaborative effort always yields the best results.
10. On the contrary, what would you consider a successful, proud or significant point in your life or music career so far?
DJ ZENAS: I wouldn’t say there’s a particular significant point in my life or music career thus far, but I am proud of the growth I have experienced over the years. Sometimes I have to take a step back and realize how far I’ve come as a musician. I have experienced a lot of cool things, such as touring Europe, playing various venues across the country/globe, producing tracks for The Black Sands soundtrack (a comic turned anime), meeting plenty of celebrities/musicians, creating quality music of my own, and more.
When I fully put it into perspective, the leaps of faith I’ve taken, the failures I’ve endured, the people that I’ve met along the way, it’s all worth it. It’s gotten me to the point I am now, and I’m only scratching the surface of my potential. That is exciting and motivating enough to keep me going.
Photo credits: athena.ef