Singer/songwriter Zoe Belucci has achieved a lot in her mere 25 years. PR for legendary London club The End, professional modelling, DJ, music producer and now A&R for her own label – Chromoza Recordings. Her story is one that nags at the heart strings and shows that sometimes the streets of London ARE paved with gold!. Hailing from the sleepy town of Barnstaple in North Devon, Zoe moved to London in 2007 and having already cut her teeth in the music business as the singer in a local acoustic group – Shade Valley, made a beeline for the club scene in the Big Smoke. Years later after much success, she met Justin Ballard, a DJ and producer working at Fabric. The rest they say is history…
Hi Zoe, lovely to meet you, thanks for agreeing to be interviewed. We at This is Progressive really like how you’ve progressed your career and we are excited about the label. You got some pretty great artists on your roster already, so how did the idea of label come about?
“Great to meet you too Simon, thank you for having me! Funnily enough, I was in the kitchen cooking a roast one lazy December sunday, Justin was working in the studio and he shouted out ‘Babe, shall we start a record label?’ and I shifted the potatoes about in the dish a bit , and said ‘Yeah alright then!’ So what started out purely as a random hazy idea has actually become one of our greatest passions to date.”
You’ve chosen to be a digital label, but would you ever release physical CDs or vinyl in the future, if the demand was there?
“Digital is so convenient, for a start up label. There are no overheads for physical product manufacture or distribution, so it seemed like a sensible business decision to make at this stage, but we have absolutely not ruled out the idea of releasing vinyl once we are more established. We have plans to launch a sister label Chromoza Playa in 2015, concentrating on the more chilled, lounge vibes (which is what I produce) and that will be accompanied by a series of CD’s which we are aiming to get stocked in luxury hotels and bars internationally, but thats all a way off yet!”
You and Justin work together on the label, how do you balance your personal and professional lives?
“We tend to work 10-11 hour days, most days and throughout the weekend. We both also have day jobs alongside the label, production and remix work so the lines do get blurred, its hard to switch off because we love what we do but luckily we do tend to agree on most things; so it’s not a problem. We are good at recognising when the other needs to step back and relax for an evening, which is hard to see yourself when you get so lost in a project, and that helps”
Was having your backgrounds in music helpful in the beginning with the label? How hard has it been not to just sign your mates?
“Ha! We do a lot of extensive research, mainly online, some face to face networking being out on the scene, but some of our best gems have come from producers completely unknown to us in places like Serbia and Germany that we find on Soundcloud, but if one of our mates came to us with a great track that we honestly feel would do well we would happily invest in it, Guy Williams of Paradise 45 is a good friend (Baby C’Mon EP- 30/05) and we loved the tracks, so we signed them.
You recently came back from IMS in Ibiza. Do you find these networking events useful in pushing your brand, or does having so much PR white noise drown you out?
“IMS was such a fantastic experience, we went for the learning opportunities really, to be able to listen to legends such as Nile Rogers on their take in the industry in quite an up close and personal environment. As a new label it was hugely important to educate ourselves as much as we can about the market, and we have to make sure that thirst for knowledge and improvement will never change. We also found the networking aspect incredibly valuable, we met our new distributor, Believe Digital out there and being on board with them is a massive help to our international exposure. It was also just good to get our faces out there, talk to people, be seen in the IMS handbook etc. Justin has so many contacts from DJing in Ibiza in the 90’s it was also good for him to catch up with some of them and say “this is what we’re doing now” you know?
Tell us a little bit about your up coming releases. A personal favourite of mine is the excellent Mass Digital- Stay Forever. What process do you go through in selecting tracks for release?
“Thats wicked to know you like Stay Forever! Mass Digital is a very talented producer and we are happy to have him join the Chromoza Family. As we are both DJ’s we only sign tracks that we would play and buy ourselves. You have to put a lot of trust in your taste, it’s like gambling with music, its addictive. We love the hunt of trying to find the next big thing (for want of a much better term!)” We have another EP from Thorsten Last- Forget About Morality which is real nu disco, glossy gorgeousness, plus a deeper, techier EP from Italian duo Artwoork ‘Public Research’ alongside another Mass Digital number which takes us up to around mid November and then we’ll start planning that Top 40 Christmas No. 1 haha!”
So if someone wanted to send you a demo, how do they go about it?
“We accept demos through our inbox firstname.lastname@example.org, or we have a group on soundcloud for unsigned demos and submissions. We are also looking for vocalists to be part of our roster for ad hoc feature work”
Had any particularly bad demos you can tell us about?
“We get sent quite a lot of music by producers who clearly haven’t bothered to read our genre specifications, for example hard trance or dnb! But we always try to reply to all demos that fall within our genre, you can tell the guys and girls who are just so, so in love with what they are doing and are just craving feedback so I do like to respond, even if their music isn’t quite going in our specific direction, but could have the potential to at some stage, I always say keep in touch!
Can you tell us anything about the secret parties you have planned? I hear the label launch party was amazing with D.Ramirez in May.
The launch party was wicked, we had over 200 DJ’s producers, bloggers/press in attendance, Stranger (You Feel This EP 16/05) came down to play from Manchester and Thorsten Last (Restless 23/05 and Forget About Morality EP 10/13) came over from Germany, Paradise 45 also spun, D Ramirez smashed it as headliner and I did a cheeky little live PA, it was fab! Still in the planning/concept stages in regards to the new events, more info will follow soon.
We at This is Progressive are actively promoting ‘Set for Peace’ this month. We see Chromazoa is also involved. What do you have planned?
“We’ve donated a track that Justin and I produced together to LNADJ for them to release as part of their campaign. We’ve always loved what they do and supported the charity. I worked the door for several parties in their aid over the last few years, they always have great initiatives and ideas.”
So, lets move on to Zoe the DJ. Tell us about your life in North Devon and how you became a DJ.
“It was after being on tour in London with my acoustic jazz duo Shade Valley (2002-2006) that I fell in love with house music and the clubbing scene. I thrived off the insane contrast of the hectic nightlife of soho and vauxhall compared to my sleepy home town. It was in 2007 (under the guise of a student at Kingston University) that I made the jump. Spent my student loan on second hand Geminis, developed a pretty filthy vinyl habit. I recall one week living off angel delight sachets in order to buy a new record, an MN2S LP which I treasure. Got to work, started to collect a few little gigs here and there (Light Bar, Notting Hill Arts Club, Lovetec) However once I had found myself forced to get a City office job with the student loan run out, and rent to pay, the two lifestyles didn’t mix too well, so I came away from music and followed a different path. I’ve been concentrating on production, but I do have a mix series out on at the moment called Guilty Pleasures, mainly soul, Balearic, lounge and disco with a few sprinkles of old school hip hop and RnB!”
Who were your influences and idols musically?
“Vocal wise, I’m really into jazz, like Stacey Kent and Melody Gardot, i love anything that sounds like it might be from the 60’s! Production wise, I love Nightmares on Wax, Jose Padilla, I also grew up listening to a lot of Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin so there is that influence there that shows itself occasionally in my productions. On the house/future disco scene I’m really digging Marco Darko at the moment, Inner Rebels, Moon Boots and of course our very own artists! We have a fantastic remix outfit on board, Midnight Arcade who have such a polished sound.”
Being a female DJ has its own unique challenges, how have you succeed in what is still considered a male dominated career?
“This is funny because when I was at IMS I saw a panel on Women Empowering Music and the general consensus was that being a woman in music is harder than it is for guys. I have never seen being a woman as limiting in this industry, if anything, it’s helped me! Its always nice to surprise people who may have judged you previously You work as hard as you can, retain your passion and never give up no matter what gender you are. If you are meant to succeed you will succeed. I do get called Sir or Mr Belucci sometimes by people we contact whose first language may not be English, they just assume me to be a bloke, but I just think its cute! I’m an equalist, more than a feminist.”
What tips would you give to other female DJs looking to make their big break?
“A very wise man (Justin) once said to me “you are no less capable of doing ANYTHING than anyone else”. If you’re prepared to work as hard as you can hard and love what you do, good things will happen.”
Now your producing your own tracks, whats your home studio like?
“Our favourite place to be! I have my side and Justin has his side, occasionally we swap! Its full of fun toys, we have a cool little vocal set up as well and Justin’s guitars are hanging on the wall. Its also Chromoza HQ”
Any plans to release your tracks on the label?
“My stuff is a little too chilled to be released on the main Chromoza label, I have two tracks coming out on Italian label Bacci Bros soon, Barcelona and Wonderful South, and they are also featured on their Nuova compilation. I will be definitely making some music to go out on the Chromoza Playa division later on. Justin will be releasing an EP later on in the year and has been getting involved in some the remix work, but our main focus is helping other artists getting into industry, the discovery process and the relationship building with our artists has just been incredibly enjoyable and fascinating.”
Thanks Zoe, its been a pleasure to meet you. We wish you the best of luck for the label.