When you think electronic music, you might think of thin, sweaty people dancing the night away in sparse clothing, but some of the most innovative DJs and producers are plus-size folks. Take 28-year-old Zachary Eser, creator of the body-positive record label Chub Rub Records, for example.
Better known as Zacheser, the D.C.-based DJ has been performing music since he was in elementary school and began creating his own not long after. We talk to Eser about running into discrimination within the music industry and his aim to change it one infectious beat at a time.
CHUBSTR: How did you get involved in music? Zacheser: I’ve always been a musical person. My parents got me to do something in the orchestra in grade school, just like a lot of other kids in the 90s. I played the violin for several years before eventually transitioning to other instruments like guitar and piano.
When I got to college, there were a few shows I went to which introduced me to the greater wealth of electronic music; the most formative being LCD Soundsystem in 2010. LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy is one of my biggest heroes. I started throwing my own parties and got obsessed with the art of crate digging – I wanted to have music that no one else had.
When I graduated, I started trying to get into my local scene which led to blogging about music and playing gigs at local showcases. Music production eventually became a natural extension of that.
CHUBSTR: How would you describe your music? Zacheser: I have a ton of influences, but I would say the majority of my sound is inspired by techno, house, and synth-heavy, emotional rollercoasters. Recently, I try to find what I’ve been calling “the chunk”: the element that brings a beefy, adrenaline-infused feeling while maintaining a positive, carefree attitude. Right now I’m working on my first full-length album as well, so that’s been educating a lot of my impulses as I’ve been focusing on making something that’s cohesive while also staying true to my inner weirdo.
But really, my brain is a bag of cats high on catnip most days, so who knows what I’ll be making tomorrow.
Like, dance music came from the underground and counter-culture of the 70s and 80s. That means it’s inherently queer, multi-cultural, and from a place of outsider realness.
CHUBSTR: Do you ever run into fatphobia in the music industry? Zacheser: I’ve been fortunate. I have had very few firsthand experiences of fatphobia, but I recognize that perhaps my privilege as a white, cis male probably plays a role in why. That said, fat people in dance music see the ripples of an industry commodifying and marketing a thing every day. Like, dance music came from the underground and counter-culture of the 70s and 80s. That means it’s inherently queer, multi-cultural, and from a place of outsider realness.
When EDM blew up in a big way in 2010 / 2011, the music industry had to package that so white, suburban kids with cash flow would buy into it. That means a lot of the diversity, as per most big business models, got lost. Case in point: if you look at the majority of the after movies on YouTube of some of these huge dance events – especially in North America – the majority of the attendees in the videos fit a specific mold in body type, race, etc. That lack of visibility of fat bodies is disheartening. Because we want to see people who look like us, you know? Add that to the vast majority of top-tier DJ talent being conventionally “fit,” probably from a pressure within the industry to maintain a certain image, and you start to see some of the issues.
A great, recent example would be Scott Diaz, a world-class DJ and celebrated house producer, who was told earlier this year that he was no longer allowed to play an event because the promoter said his body-type didn’t match the vibe of the party.
It’s really shitty, but it’s something that is important to me. It’s a conversation I think we need to continue to have within the industry along with respecting the legacy of dance music and promoting more diversity amongst artists, DJs, and attendees.
CHUBSTR: Has creating music and being in the middle of the music and dance scene helped you embrace your body in any way? Zacheser: Absolutely. Knowing that my fat-bodied existence within this industry is in some ways political, it feels good having the knowledge someone out there could possibly see me do my thing and feel validated. Like they can embrace their body as they see me try to embrace mine. Visibility, like I said, is a huge piece of the puzzle.
My label, Chub Rub, is also inherently body positive by design, so that’s been helping reinforce my relationship with my body for the last year as well. I’m a fat guy bringing our mascot, a cheeseburger pinata, to a lot of my gigs. If that’s not a major fuck you to everyone who’s ever given me trouble for being what I am over the years, I don’t know what is.
All this said, a huge part of the dance music community is the queer community. Coming up in the scene, my friends within the queer community definitely helped me embrace my relationship with my body more as well as my own queerness.
CHUBSTR: How would you describe your style? Zacheser: Many years ago, I would have said “Hipster Don Draper.” But as I’ve grown, I recognize my style has become more refined. I like a lot of minimal pieces, simple graphic design.
In the last couple of years, I’ve been getting more into streetwear, casual looks, and aesthetics. With the merch we’ve been putting out for Chub Rub, it’s definitely been inspired by classic streetwear silhouettes and brands like Supreme, Obey, and Ralph Lauren.
CHUBSTR: How does your work influence your fashion choices? Zacheser: I wear a lot of black… because, techno. Kidding aside, the dance music community and being an artist has made me focus on curating outfits. Being in the public eye, it’s important to have some semblance of composition because you’re constantly going out, networking, getting on Instagram, etc.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m still super eclectic with some of my wardrobe choices, but it’s a matter of knowing what’s appropriate for what occasion. In college, I may not have cared as much.
CHUBSTR: If you could collaborate with any brands or designers, who would they be? Which other body-positive people would you like to collaborate with? Zacheser: I’ve collaborated with Chubby Cartwheels in the past. I love Shawna and everything she designs. I would love to design a shoe… looking at you, Adidas and Vans! I would love to collaborate with Kith to make a size inclusive line of joggers and minimal pieces.
As far as artists, I want to work with, the list is quite a long one. But Beth Ditto and Meghan Tonjes would be insane. Both of them have given me so much confidence over the years to own my shit.
Trial and error, honey. Don’t be afraid to get messy, to experiment, and to try new things.
CHUBSTR: Do you think music helps people become more body-positive? Zacheser: I preach about vibe a lot. If you have a positive environment with music that makes you lose yourself, it becomes an out-of-body experience. You own yourself in those moments because you tap into some carnal sense of being; you’re more focused on the moment than the physical body you are inhabiting. And in that sense, you sometimes start strutting your stuff.
It’s a well-known side effect that comes with sacrificing yourself to the groove. It also helps when you’re an artist because at some point you say to yourself, “Fuck it. I’m gonna be what I wanna be and that’s fine.” That mindset does a lot to instill confidence.
CHUBSTR: What would you tell another plus-size guy who was struggling with body-image and finding their identity and style? Zacheser: Trial and error, honey. Don’t be afraid to get messy, to experiment, and to try new things. I’m 28 years old and I feel like I’m just now hitting my stride. If there’s someone whose look you like, go to a place like Nordstrom or Topshop or whatever and see if they can at least help point you in a solid direction. I started a blog years ago in college during the height of Tumblr popularity called Chubby Guy Swag. Go there. Look at pictures of plus-size men showing off their looks. Get inspired and validated. Read Chubstr! You’re already here reading this interview. You might as well dig around a bit.