At the weekend, BBC Radio 1 DJ Zane Lowe announced that he will be leaving the station. For the past 12 years, the 41-year-old New Zealander has been regarded as Radio 1’s new music ambassador and has been resident of the 7-9pm Monday-Thursday slot. If for nothing else, he is known nationwide in the UK for his adrenaline-fuelled enthusiasm and downright passion for music. He’s loved by most for his ability to immerse listeners in nearly any form of music, for the way he conducts interviews and for that little bit of extra excitement he puts into his shows (okay, a hell of a lot more excitement than your run of the mill radio disc jockey).
In the Summer of 2003, a 20 something year old New Zealand voice came tearing onto Radio 1. A voice teeming with ardour and zeal that would define Rock radio in the Mainstream for over a decade. Prior to which, that voice belonged to London-based XFM (until BBC spotted his talent and poached him). The XFM job was his first radio job and a position position came only a few years after Lowe arrived on the shores of the UK. It followed a position that he’d nailed himself on MTV, which was initially a temporary gig. Almost 15 years on from those early days, Zane Lowe is now an internationally renowned DJ, having performed at some of the world’s biggest festival. There’s Coachella, Glastonbury and Creamfields to name a few. This is, of course, a product of the aptitude he showcased on Radio 1 to millions of listeners.
Over the years on Radio 1, Zane’s show has been home to a whole host of widely loved features. His Hottest Record In The World is always something to get excited about and as he won’t hesitate to tell you over and over again, is always “HUGE!”. His Masterpieces feature consisted of a full spin of a classic record. During his show, he would play an album from the likes of Nirvana, The Prodigy, Jay-Z and Metallica in its entirety. The first half of the show would include an in depth look at the artist and their history and a collection of interviews, before the run through. Another enormously important and popular feature of recent years was the ‘Zane Meets’ series. This was a series of hour-long interviews with hugely influential musical talents like Rick Rubin, Eminem, Kanye West and Chris Martin. The conversational yet extremely cutting and concise nature of his interviewing style was an art. He would provoke responses that would produce content that was unheard of beforehand, along with a catalogue of quotes in the now infamous Kanye West interview. This is all on top of the hundreds of exclusive interviews, song premieres and festival announcements that took place during his 2 hour slots over the years.
The 41-year-old is typically acclaimed for the calibre of his radio show, notable in the awards he received for Gold Radio Academy Award for Best Music Broadcaster in 2010, 2011 and 2014, alongside his list of awards from smaller establishments. I say typically, because the critics aren’t all kind to Zane Lowe. He’s too often been slated for the same enthusiasm that also wins his awards. His positivity toward 95% of the records he plays on his shows (because, strangely enough, he picks them to be played on his show…) is another one of the comments thats questions his radio expertise. There were in fact so many complaints in 2013 about his delaying of the Reading & Leeds Festival announcements (made at 7.30pm, just 30 minutes following the start of his show) that he was pressured to bring the announcements forward so that they were almost immediate. In the world of the media, though, this sort of thing is to be expected, of course.
On top of his prolific work as a DJ over the past decade and a half, Zane has more than just dabbled in the production side of things. He’s produced albums and written lyrics for a number of artists, not to mention working alongside Sam Smith for his recently Grammy nominated album Lonely Hour. Towards the latter end of 2014, he also embarked on a special project to ‘rescore’ the soundtrack to cult film Drive. He curated a new version of the soundtrack to the Ryan Gosling lead film, which starred the likes of Bastille, Bring Me The Horizon and The 1975. This had a special screening on BBC 3 in the UK in October.
So, what’s next for Zane? That’s the question everybody is asking; but, the answer isn’t completely clear. What is clear, is that he’s swapping his London lifestyle for a life in LA as he’s been appointed with a position at Apple. It presumably has something to do with their quite recently announced streaming service. In an interview with The Guardian, Zane said that he’s looking to extend his outreach from a national platform, to a global platform. He insists that is nothing to do with ego, but instead an attempt to continue encouraging the music community and human experience attached with it.
Whilst being asked about leaving Radio 1, he said (apparently looking faintly tearful)
“It’s not easy being faced with the prospect of leaving somewhere as amazing as the BBC. It’s about the best place I’ve ever worked in my life. And it’s got the most inspiring people, who do things for all the right reasons – because they love it, they feel proud to do it there, they feel honoured at the privilege of being able to do it for the people, and they take that responsibility very seriously. And you don’t leave. You just don’t.”
Upon being asked about what his last record on his last show would be, he responded with his head in his hands
“I’ve not even thought about it. Oh God, that just made my stomach churn. You know, I guess the thing is, I’m really not a big goodbye guy.”
Zane Lowe’s last show will be on the evening of the 5th of March. His successor is a fitting replacement, yet one that may provide a bit of a different tone. The wonderful Annie Mac, a former broadcast assistant on Zane’s show will replace him from the 9th of March. She currently hosts the Sunday night 10pm-1am slot: Music Hot Water Bottle. Annie Mac is renowned for DJ slots fuelled mainly by Electronic Dance music and says that she is “excited and humbled” to be taking over Zane’s place.
Its certain that Zane Lowe will be sorely missed by 95% of the UK for his absence on Radio 1. For the other 5%, who cares, because nobody can please everyone. Hopefully, though, his position with Apple will make for bigger and better things. Cheers for the past 12 years.
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