South Hills native DJ Zimmie returned from a hiatus in The City of Brotherly Love less than a year ago, yet he's already one of Pittsburgh's busiest and most sought-after DJs. From the down-to-earth atmosphere at the Pittsburgh Deli Co. to the Firehouse Lounge's young-professional vibe or the rowdy South Side bars, Zimmie's doin' his damn thing. Blending a love of music with a love for crowd-pleasing and party-rockin', he's quickly developed a reputation for his ability to blend classics with mainstream hits, giving party people ... and club owners ... just what they're looking for.
Though this may sound like the description of a veteran DJ, Zimmie has been serving musical favorites on a 12-inch platter for only about a year now. His musical beginnings were childhood experiences of the concerts and local shows his father took him to. "When I was 11 my father took me to see Alice in Chains and Van Halen," Zimmie says. "He also took me to see the King Crimson and John Paul Jones tour, the bluesman Buddy Guy, a lot of Primus shows and jazz shows too."
Known among his Chartiers Valley High School friends for being heavily into music, Zimmie became tour manager for a few of his buddies' bands, thus beginning his formal association with the music industry. After high school Zimmie worked and traveled a lot, most recently living off-and-on in New York City and Philadelphia. While these experiences helped his musical growth, he still felt he was just spinning his wheels.
Once he got a call from his good friend DJ Nugget (another of Pittsburgh's hottest DJs), Zimmie was convinced it was time to come home. However, his return was not accompanied by the kind of Zambelli fireworks and excitement you might expect for someone with so much momentum.
"When I first came back, Nugget and I were very motivated to throw events and get our names out there as much as possible. But you know how Pittsburgh can be," says Zimmie. "A lot of people are more concerned about a drink special or just getting laid than they are looking to support DJs that want to play good music. So, we'd be promoting to people and they would say they were gonna come out but then not show up. And the next time I'd see them they'd say they went to the same places they go every weekend and didn't even have a good time."
It was time to specialize. "After a while, throwing events got frustrating and costly, so Nugget and I switched directions and began to focus more on just being booked as DJs for events and clubs managed and promoted by people whose focus was just events and promotions."
Once Zimmie began focusing solely on DJing, things began to take off. He's now the resident DJ every Friday at Elixir Ultra Lounge, on East Carson Street; he'll also get to open for some of his idols on Aug. 19 at a huge event in Baltimore featuring DJ Jazzy Jeff and DJ Premier, along with Nugget. Recently, infamous party-rocker/promoter extraordinaire DJ Nate the Phat Barber asked Zimmie to make a cameo appearance at the return of the Sex in the Steel City dance-party series.
"It was quite a compliment when Nate asked me to spin," Zimmie says. "I love guys like him, Selecta, 7up, Bonics and of course Nugget, who's a fabulous party-rocker and the main guy who got me started in all this." But it's not just Pittsburgh DJs who've influenced his growth: "Nationally, I'm really into DJ Premier from Gangstar, DJ Shadow, Z-trip, and DJ Spinna."
Now that Zimmie's day job is his night job, he's getting paid for his passion from 9 p.m. until the bars close, so he spends his day working out, doing yoga, watching films and studying music. He's recently begun studying piano and music theory, developing his production and composition skills.
"I love the concept of sampling," Zimmie says. "I love to listen to the old records where samples come from and admire how they've been used to produce new songs. But I want to be able to understand the music I might want to sample and know where I can go with changes in a piece I'm developing."