There’s a glimmer of the golden age of trance shining through in the heart-healing music of Z3npi. The Denver DJ and producer boasts a career in music tracing back to the genre’s heyday. But at this point in his journey, he refuses to let the past define him.
Emerging from the shadows of 2020 with a celebrated DJ set at world-famous hacking convention Defcon, Z3npi has formed an authentic connection with the youngest generation of trance fans. Songs like “Awakening” and “Rise” have proven himself a capable producer as well. After catching the attention of key tastemakers in trance, his music has landed on labels like MaRLo’s Reaching Altitude.
The Z3npi (real name Chris Schmidt) story begins far away from the world of electronic music. Really, though, the seeds of his dynamic sound couldn’t have been sewn anywhere else.
Chris was born in Houston, Texas and moved to Denver with his family as an infant. His father gave him a guitar and amp from the ‘70s, and he began playing with speed metal bands in high school.
In the late ‘90s golden age of trance, however, an uplifting, new sound began to draw his ear. Not one to let his musical identity prevent him exploring new avenues, he followed this muse to see where it led.
At first, Chris experimented in the realm of live PA. With little more than an i386 computer and an Alesis sampler/sequencer, he tried his hand at performing live music with no plans to record any of it. Even in the absence of a stage name, he was afforded the opportunities to showcase his project at local raves.
The turn of the millennium saw Chris meet in the arguable midway point between his biggest influences: goth industrial. Donning the name dj:devoid, he cut his teeth playing records with a residency at Denver’s now-defunct Club Onyx. He continued to spin industrial and metal music for a decade. During this time, however, he also joined a band that began gaining significant momentum.
Undun, as they were called, sounded like “Disturbed before Disturbed was Disturbed,” according to Chris. They had been in talks with Elektra Records, but despite everything moving in an encouraging direction their record deal failed to materialize. Dispirited, the band broke up.
Chris went on a long hiatus from music that finally ended seven years later. It wasn’t until the unique circumstances of the pandemic made it possible that he dove back into electronic music.
Having rarely missed an installment of Las Vegas hacker convention Defcon, Chris and a local collective called SkyTalks organized a live stream in lieu of the event. In the process he got hooked on Twitch streaming and rekindled his love of trance. A flood of new song ideas inspired him to download FL Studio – and just like that, Z3npi was born.
Z3npi quickly plugged back into the trance community through a Discord chat called The Anjuna Hopefuls along with a lot of encouragement by San Francisco artist Triode. By the time Defcon returned in August 2021, he had raised his profile enough to headline the Blu Pool at Bally’s Las Vegas during one evening of the event.
2021 saw Z3npi hit the ground running with a series of original recordings. The aptly titled “Awakening” introduced his energetic signature sound, its stuttered vocals ushering in uplifting lead synths that seemed to crystallize his newfound direction.
His sound continued to level up at a rapid pace as evidenced by “Rise,” which he released the following spring. With its angelic vocal expertly framed by rolling kick drums, wistful melodies, and a cinematic arrangement, the track stood as testament that the name Z3npi would remain a permanent fixture of the trance landscape.
Momentum carried into 2022 as Z3npi debuted on MaRLo’s Reaching Altitude record label with his Triode collaboration, “Firefly” featuring fellow Denver artist Chloe Dore Crisp sonics collide with an unforgettable vocal in the high-energy single, cementing his upward trajectory as a trance artist to watch.
Z3npi draws upon his extensive history as a hard rock instrumentalist to write songs with a warmth uncommon to modern-day dance music. Each haunting yet euphoric melody tells a story. Listen closely enough and you can almost see the journey leading up to his exciting rebirth. He invites his fans to come along wherever his path may lead, trusting in music’s power to bring people of all walks together as one.
With each new milestone, the Z3npi story continues to unfold into the next great trance epic of our time. Follow along on his journey to see what the future may hold.