Trance DJ Simon Zaicz is pushing 70 and still a weapon on the festival circuit

today09/09/2023 66

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Trance DJ Simon Zaicz is pushing 70

and still a weapon on the festival circuit

DJ Simon Zaicz

Simon Zaicz has 13 grandkids, is going deaf in one ear and describes himself as technologically challenged.

But he’s still a master of getting festival dance floors heaving to the latest progressive trance and bass music tracks.

In a previous life, Zaicz helped manage bands like Split Enz and Australian Crawl.

Now, at 68, he’s one of Australia’s oldest trance DJs on the electronic-music festival circuit.

“I’m getting more gigs now than I did 15 years ago … I’m so excited I still get asked to play,” he said.

“To move a crowd of people is one of the most humbling experiences ever … I’d love to get away with that as long as I can.”

Photo of older man with glasses DJing.

Simon Zaicz DJs as Psymon for Weapon Records and OM River for Merkaba Music.(Supplied: Alex Singleton, Mushroom Valley Festival )

Working with Australian Crawl, Split Enz

A self-described “late-bloomer”, Zaicz started DJing in his 40s, but has worked in the music industry for almost five decades.

After growing up in the foothills of Victoria’s Dandenong Ranges, he got a job in his early 20s with renowned music manager Glenn Wheatley.

“I loved music. I listened to music all day, every day and it just seemed like a natural thing to do.”

He went on to tour-manage rock bands Australian Crawl and Split Enz, and managed new wave group Kids in the Kitchen.

Black and white photo of two men.

Zaicz with Australian Crawl lead singer James Reyne in the book Best Mates.(Supplied: Ponch Hawkes)

“I was so fortunate the artists I was involved with were very popular … It was a great lifestyle and in the 80s an exceptionally well-paid lifestyle,” he said.

“It was exciting – excessive at times but very exciting.”

But after delving into music promoting, Zaicz went bankrupt in the late 1980s.

“I always had a good ear for music but a couple of times I was a bit before my time and lost a lot of money and before I knew it the tax department and the bank moved in and the rest is history,” he said.

“I decided it was all too much, grabbed my kids and came up here [to far north Queensland].”

From rocker to raver

Zaicz was in his early 40s when his young adult sons took him to a party where he fell in love with trance music.

“A lot of the broken beat and tribal [music] didn’t make a lot of sense to me but the moment I heard some good 4/4 music I thought, ‘Wow, this is the new psychedelic music’.

“I grew up listening to jazz fusion and things in the 70s which I guess was the psychedelic music of its era, and it just made sense.”

A man with a DJing set-up leans forward and holds headphones.

Zaicz says he is a “late-bloomer” as a DJ.(Supplied: Simon Zaicz)

Zaicz started working with those he describes as the pioneers of the local outdoor electronic scene to promote their events.

“We were all on a mission. We were doing parties every week – illegal beach parties and bush parties and stuff – and then it just got so big like it did all over the country,” he said.

“We had a duty of care all of a sudden so we had to become legitimate and form companies and take out insurance.

“Everything started out as bush doofing … it’s become such a big industry now.”

Somewhere along the way he decided to try his hand at DJing.

“I started thinking, my collection of music is better than half the people I’m paying, maybe I should start playing,” he said.

“It took me a few years to look up to see if anyone liked what I was doing.”

‘I can’t believe I still get away with it’

Zaicz has DJed for close to two decades now and has played at major electronic events around the country such as Earth Frequency and Rainbow Serpent (now Spirit) festivals.

Known affectionately as Pa among many friends and fans, he DJs as Psymon for psychedelic/progressive trance label Weapon Records and plays downbeat bass music as OM River for Merkaba Music.

Photo of older man making peace sign standing behind DJ decks

Zaicz is also sometimes billed as Old Man River.(Supplied: Earth Frequency Festival)

Zaicz’s methods are somewhat unorthodox. He does not plan his sets ahead of time, mixes harmonically, rather than “beat-match”, and says he would benefit from taking some basic IT courses.

“I just got my head around 2000 Pioneers [DJ media player] and they put out a 3000,” he said.

“My daughter loads up my gig [USB] sticks for me because I’m hopeless. I still don’t know how to drop and drag all that well.”

“I can’t believe I still get away with it, to be quite honest.”

‘Godfather’ of doof

Earth Frequency Festival director Paul Abad said Zaicz had earnt “legend status” not only on stage but behind the scenes as a mentor to young musicians and promoters.

“I’d describe him humorously as godfather of the Cairns psychedelic doof scene,” he said.

“He’s an absolutely awesome DJ, [it’s] totally magic to watch him.

“[There’s] always a great vibe and [I’m] always impressed by his diversity … people just flock to see his sets.”

Photo from behind DJ looking out over people on festival dance floor.

Zaicz is a respected figure in Queensland’s outdoor electronic scene.(Instagram: @thogan_photography)

Weapon Records stablemate and No Qualms Records co-founder Rhyss Shandiman, who produces music as Legacy, described him as both “our respected elder” and “one of the homies”.

“Our music career started through working with Simon and his associates at the time … he was our teacher in a way because we learnt on stage,” he said.

“His ability to curate a story is pretty amazing, it’s like second to none.

“That’s why this far along in his journey he’s still getting booked and getting big sets on the bigger festivals.”

No plans to stop

When not playing to large crowds, Zaicz hides away on his remote bush block on the Atherton Tablelands.

He has some hearing loss in one ear after five decades being blasted by speakers but had no plans to slow down.

“I’m too scared that if I stop any of what I do I’ll just turn into an old man, and I’m still in denial about the age thing,” he said.

“And this makes me feel good — I love playing music, I love the fact that I can move people and keep them moving.”

Photo of two men standing behind DJ decks smiling at each other.

Zaicz says he’s inspired by his young peers such as Weapon Records founder Pete Hayes.(Supplied: Prism, Street Level Byron Bay)

Zaicz doesn’t take himself too seriously except for the 90 minutes he’s on stage and still gets anxious before sets.

“I tear my hair out – well I don’t have any hair – but stress my head out over what I’m going to start with,” he said.

“But once I put my headphones on and push play, stuff just starts making sense to me and I start thinking four or five tracks ahead.

“If I stop getting anxious, maybe that will be my cue to stop.”

Written by: Richard - DMT FM