Four Color Zack is a Seattle-based DJ and producer revered for his incredible turntablism skills. Forced to adapt to a changing world due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he began streaming on Twitch in April. Since then, he’s amassed a following of over 13,000 loyal fans that tune in to his one-night-only DJ sets and hilarious jokes. I chatted with Four Color Zack about his move to live-streaming, and learned a little more about the hard work that goes into his twice-weekly Twitch streams.
Many of your fans might know you from your Twitch stream, but you’re a phenomenon in the music world first, having won Red Bull Thre3style World Championships, played across the world, and released music on Fool’s Gold Records. Can you tell us a little more about how you got started DJing, and how it led you to having the kookiest late night TV show meets club set on Twitch?
Sure! I got pushed into it cause I was making music with high school friends and we needed a turntable element, which no one wanted to be responsible for. I drew the short straw and had to dive in. Tale as old as time. That eventually shifted to house parties, to clubs, battles and then to an unintentional career. Once the outlet for those things hit a hard stop in 2020, it had to become something new I suppose.
You’ve got a background in graphic design and advertising, which shines through in your zany visuals. What was the original idea you had for your Twitch visuals?
When it all first started there was no plan. It was all so new to most DJs that we were still setting up our own fence posts. The aesthetic (or lack thereof) came from it being such a messy time in the industry… One giant work in progress. I was so swept up learning all the basics of streaming and video as it was developing so the design was just mindlessly falling in place around it.
When you decided to start streaming on Twitch, did you have a show format and schedule in mind? How did you develop your “show”?
I wrote up a few different formats, most of which got scrapped as I saw what was and wasn’t engaging to viewers. For example, there was gonna be a whole music production side of it and that never left the ground. You can plan all you want, but the format really starts shaping itself in practice.
What’s the process like for developing a new segment? Have any of your segments evolved over the course of the last 6 months?
Most of my segments, like all creative pieces I do, come from wildly stupid ideas. They only get good when someone is reckless enough to put the time in to bring it to life. My new-segment-one-liner-elevator-pitch to my friends is usually met with some thousand-yard stares.
Once they are up and running they evolve naturally. One of the first segments I was doing was called ‘Skynet’, which was an AI-meme-generator that had a super unpredictable success rate. When it would hit it was hilarious and when it would miss it was painful, which at times was hilarious itself. The script was pulling common words and phrases from the internet and jamming them into blank meme templates, so you never knew what it was going to be. The problem we ran into was as all the political right-wing internet warfare increased, we were seeing racism and hate speech content on the horizon which instantly ended the segment. But in an effort to adapt, ‘Skynet’ was ceremoniously killed off and ‘Skynet JR’ was born which focuses on jokes written by kids!
How long do you typically spend preparing for a show—finding new video clips, new music to play, editing clips for social media, and more?
It’s the entire week, and it’s never enough time… ever. It’s a constant scramble that gives me a great appreciation for a capable team.
Do you have any collaborators for your Twitch show? If so, how’d you connect with them, and what do you work on with them?
I work hand-in-claw with my buddy Bird Peterson on new segments and video pieces, so that helps a ton. He is a complete creative lunatic, but also inexplicably capable of executing, so we are able to accomplish a lot together.
Who are your dream guests for your stream, and why?
I think the fun comes from the variety of personalities, so my wish list is all over the place. We kicked off with a lot of DJ/producer legends like Jermaine Dupri and Lil Jon. We recently had gaming super-g Jericho… then last week I interviewed a live chicken… maybe that’s why Diplo said no, I can’t be sure. My wish list is all over the place, but gotta keep it tight cause success rate has been pretty good so far!
Walk us through some of your running jokes on the stream. Where did they originate?
Oh God, none of the jokes are predetermined, that’s for sure. They are all developed from spontaneous moments from stream. Somehow Microwave Wine aka Bruce Wine became a thing. Theres a rickrolling Toad that we cant seem to get rid of. Beans are constantly being talked about. Klomping is a descriptive term for a kind of dancing that then spawned Klompula.
I have a degree I swear, these are just the things we surround ourselves to escape reality I guess. I fully understand I sound like a crazy person.
After watching several of your Twitch DJ sets, it seems like you’re super comfortable in front of a camera—because of that energy, I’m able to suspend my disbelief and feel like I’m at a show. How do you keep your energy up while playing a Twitch show? Can you “read” the vibe of the chat in the same way you can read a crowd?
So the streaming thing is totally new to me, but I was shocked how, yeah, you actually can read the vibe of the chatroom a lot like a live show. Because of that we really were able to pull together an amazing community. My excitement about interacting with everyone in the chat is what keeps me streaming. If they weren’t there, I’m not sure I would be interested in doing it. It’s the same reason why the streams go so late sometimes. I NEVER would think, “oh yeah, I‘ll hop on and DJ and joke around on the internet for 5 or 6 hours, sure.” It’s everyone working together to keep each other entertained.
Is there any overlap between stand-up comedy and DJing? Had you done any stand-up prior to performing on Twitch?
I have zero stand up experience, but have always focused on injecting humor into my DJ sets. So to some extent it’s always been like this, it’s just now there are new ways of connecting the dots.
What do you think makes your Twitch community unique?
I think it’s the first place that calls itself a ‘community’, but is able to deliver on such a high level. It’s been that way for so long on the platform, but the isolating events of 2020 really helped drag the DJ world over to see it first hand.
COVID-19 has forced artists to become creative, as live events are no longer able to operate due to the risk of transmission. However, once concerts as we knew them are able to be a reality again, do you think that you will continue streaming on Twitch? How do you think artists will integrate IRL touring with Twitch streaming, if at all?
We’ll have to see how the world tries to shift back. I’d love to keep the streaming thing a priority and develop it beyond. I hope the community can keep growing cause it’s so much easier to link likeminded people together from around the world virtually as opposed to IRL one offs, but I also do miss real life parties so I understand it will probably be a multi-pronged industry moving forward. I’m not itching to race back into sketchy in-person events though, so no rush over here.
What is your ultimate vision for the show?
NETWORK TV, BABYYYYY LET ME BE ON T.G.I.F YALLLLLLLLL LET ME HOST FAMILY FEUD OR WHEEL OF FORTUNE!
Catch Four Color Zack streaming on Twitch every Thursday night at 8:30 pm PST/11:30 pm EST and Saturday night at 10 pm PST/1 am EST.