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He’s the big­gest name in mu­sic you may have never heard of. Kiwi-born Zane Lowe tells Chris Schulz about his ca­reer as Ap­ple Mu­sic’s star DJ.

El­ton John likes to prank call Zane Lowe. “He calls me once every month or two,” says Lowe. “He gen­er­ally calls me dur­ing my ra­dio show when I’m live on air, and he’ll go, ‘Hello dar­ling, are you do­ing a show?’ And I’ll go, ‘Yes.’ And he’ll go, ‘Good. How’s the show go­ing?’ I’ll go, ‘It’s go­ing great’.” He’ll go, ‘Have you heard this?’ I’ll go, ‘Yeah, I love it.’ He’ll go, ‘You’re an id­iot. It’s ter­ri­ble’.”

Be­ing called an id­iot by El­ton John would be a death blow for some. For Lowe, a Kiwi DJ at the top of Amer­ica’s mu­sic in­dus­try, it’s just an­other day at the of­fice. That of­fice, by the way, is in a state-of-the-art stu­dio in Cul­ver City, Los An­ge­les, where Lowe spear­heads Ap­ple Mu­sic’s star-stud­ded ra­dio ser­vice, Beats 1. Lowe’s daily show is Beats 1’s linch­pin, and he’s the boss. His PR team re­quests that he be called “Cre­ative Di­rec­tor and DJ be­hind Ap­ple Mu­sic’s Beats 1 ra­dio”. He’s the big­gest name in mu­sic you may have never heard of. Kiwi-born Zane Lowe tells

Chris Schulz about his ca­reer as Ap­ple Mu­sic’s star DJ.

But Lowe’s not in his of­fice to­day. He’s in Syd­ney, four flights up in the Ho­tel Pal­isade, with a mas­sive team of Beats 1 staff where they’ve set up a mini stu­dio to record a weeks-worth of shows to co­in­cide with the Aria Awards.

Yes­ter­day, Lowe, 44, in­ter­viewed Amy Shark and Lorde, stayed out past mid­night cel­e­brat­ing at the Arias, then was up at dawn and on air by 10am, broad­cast­ing his show to more than 100 coun­tries. When I ar­rive, half­way through his show, Lowe, wear­ing blue track pants, a skinny-fit black T-shirt and Vans, re­quests a cof­fee. He doesn’t seem to need it.

He’s known for his jacked-up puppy lev­els of en­ergy, and to­day’s no dif­fer­ent; he be­comes ridicu­lously ex­cited about new mu­sic, which is mostly what his Beats 1 show plays, of­ten singing over his favourite songs. “Dance with my dogs in the night time!” he yells over his cur­rent favourite, Mi­gos’ Stir Fry. He’ll Face­time artists on a whim, talk off-the-cuff about al­most every artist, live mix and reg­u­larly re­peat catch­phrases like: “Beats 1! World­wide! Al­ways on!”

If he re­ally likes a song, he’ll stop it af­ter a minute, hype it up some more, then play it three times in a row, some­thing the pro­duc­ers hate him do­ing be­cause it loses them lis­ten­ers.

His fre­netic style has been fine-tuned since his days on Max TV, be­fore he left New Zealand for the UK to host XFM and MTV. He would go on to host the BBC’s pop­u­lar Ra­dio 1 show in Lon­don for 12 years.

In 2015, Lowe was head­hunted by Ap­ple to launch its mu­sic stream­ing ser­vice. He, his wife Kara Wal­ters and their two boys, Jack­son and Lu­cius, took the plunge and moved to Los An­ge­les. The role is all-con­sum­ing and he feels like he’s only just start­ing. “We’re not there by any stretch of the imag­i­na­tion,” he says. “We’ve got a lot of work to do.”

Lowe’s not on his own at Beats 1. He’s friends with Ap­ple boss Tim Cook, com­fort­ably takes calls from Phar­rell and Dr Dre, and has meet­ings with mu­si­cian Trent Reznor and pro­ducer Jimmy Iovine. He’s also built up a starstud­ded ros­ter of DJs and artists who pro­duce weekly ra­dio in­stal­ments for him. Drake has OVO Sound Ra­dio. Frank Ocean has blonded RA­DIO. Phar­rell has OTHER­tone. Dr Dre, Charli XCX, Lars Ul­rich, DJ Khaled, Run The Jewels, Fu­ture and Jaden Smith also con­trib­ute.

Can you guess who else has one? Yes, El­ton John, whose show Rocket Hour is “one of my favourite ra­dio shows of all time, pe­riod, one of my favourite ex­pe­ri­ences, pe­riod”, says Lowe in his hy­per­bolic way. El­ton likes to mix things up, play­ing a hard­core UK gui­tar band one minute, an ob­scure Brook­lyn hip-hop act the next. The 70-year-old’s ul­tra-dry sense of hu­mour brings ev­ery­thing to­gether.

When El­ton calls Lowe, he’s of­ten check­ing that he’s got an exclusive on a new sin­gle. So when he la­bels Lowe an id­iot, the joke’s on him. Lowe is El­ton’s boss. But Lowe doesn’t see it that way. “Be­ing able to call him a friend blows my f***ing mind,” he says. “He just re­ally, in a very fun way, prods me that when it comes to mu­sic, I’ve got a lot to learn.”

WHEN BECK Hansen re­leased Colours last year, he wanted to talk to some­one he could trust. The 90s alt-rock leg­end had spent years per­fect­ing his 13th al­bum, with some songs re­quir­ing hun­dreds of takes to get right. His pre­vi­ous al­bum, Morn­ing Phase, had won sev­eral Gram­mys. He had a story to tell.

Beck ran into Lowe reg­u­larly at in­dus­try events and par­ties dur­ing this time, and he kept has­sling him about how long the al­bum was tak­ing. “I felt bad. Every time I asked you, you’d wince,” Lowe told the singer on air re­cently.

When Colours was fi­nally fin­ished, Beck went straight to Lowe for the tell-all. It’s an at­ti­tude shared by many big names. Since mov­ing to Ap­ple Mu­sic, Lowe’s recorded im­mer­sive ex­clu­sives with Jay-Z, Eminem,

Tay­lor Swift, Mi­ley Cyrus and Justin Tim­ber­lake across in­ter­views that some­times last an hour.

Af­ter Lorde wrapped up her Aus­tralasian Melo­drama tour last year, she was about to go on hol­i­day. But she agreed to one more in­ter­view with Lowe. In his tem­po­rary Syd­ney stu­dio, he got her to re­veal things many were won­der­ing: Why did she only play Auck­land’s Pow­er­sta­tion when she could have played an arena? What made her choose that bizarre in­ter­pre­tive dance rou­tine at the MTV Awards? She also tells him her five-year plan: “I want to en­tirely do a record, ev­ery­thing. Write it com­pletely my­self, pro­duce it my­self.”

When asked why ev­ery­one wants to talk to Lowe, Beck of­fers a sim­ple an­swer. “He’s a mu­si­cian’s mu­si­cian. There’s a depth of love that he has for mu­si­cians, a dis­tinc­tive en­thu­si­asm for the mu­sic and what’s hap­pen­ing. He’s very in­ter­ested in what mu­si­cians are do­ing — and the process.”

Lowe’s in­ter­views are friendly. They get per­sonal. Of­ten, it feels as if you’re eaves­drop­ping on a catch-up be­tween long-lost friends.

“It’s partly where I’m from,” says Lowe. “Be­ing from New Zealand, it’s a very matey en­vi­ron­ment, there’s a friend­li­ness that’s just in my DNA.” He doesn’t have pre-planned ques­tions. “I’ve never gone into the process with a hard-hit­ting game plan ... I want to go in and get to the core of it. I want to get to the gold.”

Beck re­mem­bers first meeting Lowe in Lon­don around 2000, and was struck by how dif­fer­ent he was to other in­ter­view­ers.

“I re­mem­ber when he was younger, he was al­ways up for fool­ing around, break­ing down the jour­nal­is­tic fourth wall, go­ing into an­other space and let­ting some weird­ness hap­pen,” Beck says.

But those high-pro­file in­ter­views don’t al­ways go to plan. In 2016, Lowe flew to Ja­pan to in­ter­view Frank Ocean. The R&B singer had just re­leased Blonde, his first al­bum in four years. The re­views were over­whelm­ingly pos­i­tive, the hype im­mense. But Ocean had re­fused all in­ter­views. Lowe had in­ter­viewed Ocean be­fore, so asked him again. The reclu­sive star, now based in Ja­pan, sent him a text: “Yeah, do it, get on a plane.”

Lowe boasted about the in­ter­view on so­cial me­dia, and spoke re­peat­edly about it on air. He ad­mit­ted to Lon­don’s Evening Stan­dard that he didn’t have a con­firmed time, or lo­ca­tion, for the in­ter­view. But he flew to Ja­pan based on Ocean’s text. Then things went quiet. The in­ter­view didn’t hap­pen. Or, if it did, Lowe’s never aired it. And he never ex­plained what hap­pened.

To­day, Lowe says the in­ci­dent taught him a big les­son. He chooses his words carefully when dis­cussing it. “Frank is an in­cred­i­bly de­lib­er­ate in­di­vid­ual. I am, like many other peo­ple, an ob­ses­sive fan about his mu­sic, his art and his de­liv­ery,” he says.

“I’ve learned now that Frank is bet­ter left speak­ing for Frank. Even at my age I learned that les­son, and it was re­ally valu­able, and I’m re­ally glad I learned it, as painful as it was at the time: Don’t speak for the artist. Don’t jump the gun. Re­spect the process from start to fin­ish, not

He’s a mu­si­cian’s mu­si­cian. There’s a depth of love he has ... a dis­tinc­tive en­thu­si­asm for the mu­sic and what’s hap­pen­ing. Beck Hansen

Clock­wise: Zane Lowe with Lorde; the weeknd; and Ed Sheeran.

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