Emmy-nominated music supervisor Zach Cowie has spent his entire adult life working with music— beginning at record labels (such as Touch & Go, Sub Pop, Drag City, Rhino/Warner Bros, and Light In The Attic for whom zach occasionally still produces reissues for), moving on to tour management (with Joanna Newsom, Devendra Banhart, Vetiver, Vashti Bunyan, Pantha Du Prince), and later becoming a touring DJ (for Animal Collective, Fleet Foxes).
Zach's work grew into roles as a music supervisor and consultant for film (Celeste & Jesse Forever, The Little Hours, State Like Sleep, Tigertail, Isn’t It Romantic?, Emma., Judas And The Black Messiah), television (Master of None, Forever, On Becoming A God In Central Florida, Little America), and fashion (Rodarte).
Interspersed with all of the above, he has continued to DJ internationally (since 2001), often with DJ partner Elijah Wood under the moniker "Wooden Wisdom."
Above all though, Zach
is a record collector and an obsessed cyclist. He has taken his Ritte Phantom
everywhere from Griffith Park, in his home of Los Angeles, to Massachusetts for events like D2R2
. On a warm afternoon in June, I rode with Zach here in LA - afterwards he invited me up to his loft for a listening session.
-What got you into cycling? What’s kept you in cycling?
Bikes have always been in my life— literal seeds were planted by my father who was a crazy cyclist/runner/Iron Man/etc…he’s out of the picture but was around just long enough
to get me started.
I seem to go through phases— I rode heavily in Jr High & High School with my friends Mike, Morgan and Travis (all of whom are now in the bike industry)…then had a fixed/single speed phase in my early 20’s while growing up in Chicago— but the most significant phases were road heavy after moving to the Westside of LA when I was 30, and then again during the pandemic.
I’ve never ridden more than I have since lockdown started— I can’t imagine life these days without it. Once I realized this thing was real and was going to take a while, I jumped on my bike and haven’t looked back. It was also around this time that the whole alt scene had jumped on my radar via riders like Lachlan Morton, Colin Strickland, Lael Wilcox, etc.
I’ve always had a knack for distance/endurance and these folks quickly became my biggest inspirations. This is wishful thinking but I’m hitting about 250-300 miles on a typical week in hopes of riding in some of the bigger events by this time next season…we’ll see…
-Current go to afternoon ride? Bucket list ride?
GO TO - I’m a creature of habit and tend to do the same rides during the week while opening the weekends up for more adventurous stuff.
Living in DTLA puts me in relative proximity to Griffith Park. I have a 30ish mile loop with a decent amount of climbing that I tend to do M-F. Cycling to me is part meditation and keeping this routine allows me to space out in a very particular way, while still keeping my fitness dialed.
(To throw a wrench in the fitness part, I stop at Just What I Kneaded after most rides- ha! I'm a vegan but I say this with no “vegan” qualifier- they are the best bakery in LA!)
BUCKETS - I just got back from some riding up in Denver & Boulder. There were some bucket list climbs on that trip, without a doubt. But the biggest thing I have on my mind lately is bikepacking in Japan once the world opens up enough to do so...
-How do you pick a record to listen to?
It’s unclear to me whether my mood dictates the record pull or the record pull dictates my mood!
I typically start each morning by flipping on the stereo, boiling water for coffee, and wandering around my listening room until something jumps out at me…I put that record on and take things from there...
-What was the first system that made you care about sound?
Joel Bernstein’s at his home in Oakland.
I’m lucky enough to have met Joel (a legendary music photographer and archivist) thru my good friends Andy and Alyssa in the bay area. This was right around turning 30 which is also when I stopped drinking (pretty sure this detail is important to the story).
I’ve been collecting records since I was 15 (I’m 40 now) but as a longtime DJ, I never took the PLAYING of said records beyond my Technics 1200’s/DJ mixer/whatever speakers I found at thrift stores.
Joel, however, has a PROPER hi-fi.
Like any good system owner- he stuck his guest (me) in the sweet spot and asked what I’d like to hear- my answer was “Expecting To Fly” by Buffalo Springfield to which he replied “good answer”.
He played the tune and I had tears falling out of my eyes within the first few moments.
I mention the "no drinking" thing because I had just come off of a decade plus of dulling most emotions— this newfound openness combined with the perfect presentation of a song I loved lead to a revelatory moment…and I’ve been chasing more ever since...
-Who’s on your Mt. Rushmore of bands/artists ?
Tough question. This answer changes like the weather but off the top of my head, here are 10 records that I’d be a very different dude without:
Luciano Cilio - Dell’Universo Assente
Joni Mitchell - Blue
Talk Talk - Spirit Of Eden
Brian Eno - Ambient 1: Music For Airports
John Coltrane - Selflessness
Stereolab - Emperor Tomato Ketchup
Nuno Canavaro - Plux Quba
Vashti Bunyan - Just Another Diamond Day
J Dilla - Donuts
Kate Bush - Hounds Of Love
-Tell me about your relationship with the grateful dead.
Ha! Born and raised is how I’d describe that one!
Hard to trace the origin story- pretty sure it was around 4th grade via my friend Eric’s older brother. It was love at first listen and they’ve been my favorite band ever since, so much so that I rarely even mention them…it’s just in my DNA!
Beyond the music itself, I’ve adapted versions of their ethos into the way I handle my dealings in the music business (and beyond).
I’m actually writing all of this from a Chicago hotel room right down the street from where my little sister and I saw the “Fare Thee Well” shows at Soldier Field back in 2015.
I don’t know about any of you but over the last handful of years my perception of time has been thoroughly fucked-with. Things either seem like they happened ten years ago or ten seconds ago- nothing in between!
BUT I know exactly when those shows happened...
-What’s a release that’s on your radar?
I’m a bit spoiled with my music supervision job and get sent most things just
early enough to drive some of my friends nuts— the best thing I’ve heard in ages (or, well…since their last album!) is the upcoming LOW album called HEY WHAT that’ll be out on Sub Pop Sept 10th. (full disclosure- I used to work at Sub Pop but my love of this record goes WAY beyond loyalty!)
-Advice for your younger self?
It only gets easier...
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