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This Minister Turned DJ Thinks the Dancefloor Can Save Us All

We head to South Carolina to meet DJ J.A.Z, and find out what oddball italo-disco and the Church might have in common.

by Rachel Kraus
Apr 28 2017, 4:33pm

When people go out at night to dance, what are they looking for? For Reverend John "J.A.Z" Zahl, he believes Friday night revelers are searching for the same thing as Sunday morning Church-goers: they're trying to "hopefully get in touch with something bigger than just themselves, and leave their worries behind."

In THUMP Profiles, we get to meet the fascinating South Carolina Episcopalian minister, who leads a community from a Church pulpit by day, and from behind the turntables at night, where he plays a eclectic variety of gospel house, Christian italo-disco, and rare synth music. Through his deep crate of records and lengthy sets, J.A.Z uses music to trace the connection between the teachings of the lord and the release many search for on the dancefloor. 

"When people are really together listening to music and dancing," posited Zahl, "actually what often goes on is very transcendent and very spiritual."

While down in J.A.Z's hometown of Charleston where he leads a sermon each and every week, we gets a firsthand look at his own musical, religious, and personal journey, as well as the underlying philosophy at his popular 'OFF/BEAT' party, which he co-DJs with his friend Tay "Party Dad" McNab. Then up in New York City, we're treated to a sneak peak at the yearly "Episco-Disco" party that's held by J.A.Z in the crypt of a centuries-old church in conjunction with a forward-thinking religious conference.

"I'm going to be playing the weirdest Christian music that's ever been made," said Zahl, pumping up the audience in the Church pews before his show. "If you're wondering what escitelogical synth pop from 1983 in Sweden sounds like, this is your chance." Check it out below.