By Court Overgaauw
When Michael Del Zotto was drafted 20th overall by the New York Rangers in 2008 he probably wasn’t looking ahead to the years he’d spend as a member of the Vancouver Canucks. Maybe he should have been. Michael’s hometown of Stouffville, ON has produced three NHL players in the last three decades, Brad May, Raffi Torres, and Del Zotto. All of them were drafted in the first round, all of them drafted by New York-based teams, and eventually, all of them found their way to Vancouver. BeatRoute caught up with Del Zotto by phone recently to discuss his thoughts on this weird fact (he agreed, it’s weird) and to chat about a number of other things, including his moonlighting gig as a House DJ and the importance of community service.
How much of a role does music play in your day to day life?
Music can change someone’s mood so quickly. Going through a tough time here, haven’t played the last couple games here in Vancouver, it’s a tough time when it is your job. You try to realize that it is just hockey, and it’s just a small piece of the world. There’s so many bigger issues than not playing a game or two, and you toss on a song here or there, it can cheer you up or change your mood within a few seconds. I have music on the majority of the day, especially in the off season. I’m very much a homebody so when I get back from a workout, I’m laying out by the pool at my house, I’ll have music on all day; cooking, you name it, music is playing.
Does that music change with your own mood, or do your tastes stay more constant?
I guess a bit of both, depending on the mood I’m in, but I won’t say it changes too much. For the most part, it’s some sort of House usually, when I’m back in Toronto. If I have people over or I’m entertaining, for the most part it’s a little more Deep House, just to get a better vibe going. I love Tropical House, just that summertime feel. I love that, and I have a bunch of great old school hip-hop mixed into Tropical House, which is actually my favorite genre. It’s great having singalongs with that feel-good music. I guess it’s dependant on your surroundings, who you’re with and where you are.
When did you start messing around with making your own mixes?
It was when I was in Philly, so I’d say five years ago now. I was one of the only single guys there and I was watching Netflix eight or nine hours a day. I got to the point where I thought I had to do something more productive with my time. I’ve always loved music; I play the alto sax as well, so I ended up buying a saxophone. I also had some buddies. I’m pretty good friends with Tiesto and a couple other really big DJs. So I got some equipment and, like anything now, you can go on YouTube and teach yourself, so I started that way. I was fortunate enough to go in the studio with Tiesto and some other guys in Toronto. Just learning and watching from them was pretty incredible for me. And like anything, the more you practice, the better you get at it. I started playing around with it, started making mixes for the locker room for the guys, just pump up music for before the game, and they seemed to enjoy it. From there it sort of took off, and I was getting recommendations from them as to what they liked and didn’t like. It became a huge hobby of mine. I think that’s the best part of music; no matter what you have going on, it has the ability to put a smile on someone’s face.
It can’t hurt that you’ve got world class Djs as teachers and mentors?
Oh for sure, they’ve been such great guys. I’ve been really close with Julian for a number of years. Tiesto I’ve become close with, he’s a huge hockey fan. I go way back with him, I’ve seen him in Vegas numerous times. I’ve been up on stage with him in Vegas, which was pretty cool. That was actually one of the cooler moments of my life, that was awesome.
What’s the response been from the guys on the team?
For the most part the guys like it. I more so just play my stuff before games, just more pump up stuff cause we have a lot of, ya know, western Canadian farm guys on our team who enjoy their country music, and I’m not a huge fan of that so I let them enjoy their country music on off days and practice days, but before games I take over with the pump up stuff. The young guys especially love it. It’s nice when you look around the room, you see the smile on their face, see them getting pretty jacked up, that’s when you know you’ve done your job.
If you could pick the Canucks theme song, what would it be and why?
If I could pick myself, let me pull it up, I have my laptop in front of me. It’s a remix of “Seven Nation Army.” every time I play it in the room the guys love it. Any of the old school stuff, remixed, seems to be the biggest hits in the locker room. Anyone who has a song, whether it’s 10 years old, 20 years old, it triggers some sort of memory, and usually a good one from their childhood. Any time you can have that, and remix it into something a little more upbeat, it triggers that memory and then immediately makes you pretty happy and excited.
If you could pick a theme song for the Calgary Flames what would it be?
Laughs. Give me a second, you’re stumping me with this one. I gotta find it, it’s on the tip of my tongue. Yeah, the song is called “I’m on Fire” by Vicetone. It’s one of my favourite beats.
So even though they’re a rival you’d pick a good song for them?
Well, I’d pick one that’s fitting for their name. I think whether they’re a huge rival or not, I’m all about growing the NHL and growing the game. You’d want them to have a song that’s going to help grow their brand, and grow the game there in Calgary. That’s the best thing for the game, best thing for the players, so I’ll let them have that one.
Classy answer Michael Del Zotto. What was the first album you bought with your own money?
I didn’t buy it with my own money, but the first album was Dr. Dre’s Chronic 2001. My cousin got it for me and my brother for Christmas. Amazing album, but I was 11 at the time, my brother was 14. Probably not the best album for an 11-year-old to be listening to. Still, to this day some of my favourite songs, and my favourite hip-hop album to listen to.
What’s your favourite place to see live music in Vancouver?
In Vancouver here? To be honest, I haven’t seen any shows here in Vancouver.
Ok, so what’s your favourite place in the world to see a show?
Madison Square Garden. Swedish House Mafia, their final tour was awesome. Jay Z and Kanye at MSG as well was incredible. Some big House festivals in Toronto, like Veldt. There’s another one called Digital Dreams. I’ve been to Ibiza before, the music there is pretty incredible. If you’re into House music you have to go. It’s just music all day every day until crazy hours of the morning.
What’s your favourite restaurant in Vancouver?
Bluewater Cafe, 100 per cent. Every time my brother is in town or my parents are in town, that’s their favourite place. The sushi here is just so good, there’s so many different places. I went to an amazing place with a couple guys on the team called Sushi Maumi. It’s just a little hole in the wall, I believe it seats ten people. It’s a set menu, very exotic, different fish. I thought it was a really neat experience, not really knowing ahead of time what you’d be eating and trying something new.
If you weren’t playing hockey professionally, what do you think you would be doing?
Good question. What do I think I’d be doing? Or what would I like to be doing?
Either. Both. What do you hope you’d be doing?
To be honest, I have a lot of options for when I’m done playing and lots that definitely interest me. Hockey has given me everything I’ve known and everything I’ve loved, but as you get older you realize there’s so much more to life than hockey. For me here, especially in Vancouver, I go to the Ronald McDonald house and Children’s Hospital probably once a week, and I’ve gotten to know so many of the families. Understanding what real issues are, and what tough scenarios people are dealing with as opposed to what we might deal with in hockey. I want to continue to experience that when I’m done. There’s so many things I’d like to experience. I love cooking, I love deejaying, I love meeting new people, and giving back to the community. There’s so many things that I’m not sure which would be my favourite, or which would be first. Note: MDZ has been active in the community pretty much everywhere he’s played.
Looking ahead towards 2019, what is your new years resolution?
Keep growing as a person. Nothing specific, just growing and becoming a better person every single day.
If you’re interested in hiring Michael Del Zotto as a DJ, you can reach out to him on Twitter or Instagram @MDZofficial.