Meet Zach Goldbaum, the Unlikely Host of Noisey on SBS VICELAND
From working in the gear room at VICE to clubbing with DJ Khaled. We spoke to Zach about partying in Miami, going in like a fan, and being a conduit.
In 2013, producer Andy Capper, writer Thomas Morton and crew visited Chicago to film the eight-part docuseries Chiraq. In 2014, they met the key players and locations that were shaping the Altantan music scene, and made the ten-part series Atlanta.
Some time between Atlanta's airing and mid-2015, Zach Goldbaum—the assistant to the equipment room manager at VICE's New York office—was approached by Capper to host a Noisey television series that would continue the legacy of Chiraq and Atlanta. Noisey, the TV show, became a 40-minute-long portal into the cities changing the music game: Bompton with Kendrick Lamar, Sao Paulo with Major Lazer, and London with Skepta.
With SBS VICELAND launching this week in Australia, we're preparing to follow Zach into cities around the world, to see the culture and communities that inform the music we love. We caught up with Zach to talk about the weirdest moments during filming, how the hell he ended up here, and what Khaled is really like.
Zach: Are you calling me from Italy?
Noisey Australia: No, I'm not. I wish I was.
It came in saying you were in Italy.
I'm not, I'm in Australia.
You can tell me if you're in Italy.
Maybe I can't.
Oh, okay yeah. Fair enough.
So I have to interview you about Noisey.
You say that like it's a task.
Yeah, I didn't word that well. I'm probably going to get fired now.
Begrudgingly interviewing me about Noisey, yes.
I'm unfortunately here, interviewing you…
No. I love the show. It's great. It's excellent. I just happen to have one of those voices that sounds consistently uninterested.
I trust you, and I very much appreciate that. What episodes have you seen?
I've seen Bomtpon, Miami, London, Chicago. I think I've seen most of them.
The guy I just spoke to before you had only seen Chicago. And I had sort of forgotten how heavy that episode was, so it was sort of a bummer of a conversation. It was a good conversation, but it was really dark.
Yeah, each episode really does have a super different tone.
Yeah, yeah. I think the city dictates the tone. Sometimes I watch them and think "these are different shows, and the only thing that connects them are the length of the show and… my dumb face."
Totally. Which is more or less what makes a documentary series.
Absolutely. I mean, the goal was to make eight individual films that can stand on their own.
How did the show come about? Was it just obvious after the success of the Chiraq and Atalanta documentaries?
Yeah, it's really Andy Capper—the Executive Producer—it's really his vision. And so he had done Chiraq and Atlanta and wanted to make a similar version of that, for VICELAND. And each city would be an individual film. And I think the series is different because we're not only doing hip hop, and so I think because it is a singular piece, it's less of a scene report. Chiraq and Atlanta were about an artist or two, and there wasn't as much of an arc. But I may be speaking too much for Capper and Thomas Morton but that's my take away.
And how did it come to be that you were going to be the host?
Very good question. I was working in the gear room at VICE. I was the assistant to the equipment manager. At least in the New York office, the gear room is the brain trust, because everybody goes through there to get their equipment before heading out for a shoot. So a lot of my job was shooting the shit with different people, and I happened to talk about music with Andy, and that was how it came to be. I had done some online pieces for VICE and I'm a writer and an editor, and I've done shoots. So I'd done all these things that gave me the skill set to do the job but it was very much being in the gear room and being able to meet everyone. I think there was this goal at the network to keep it true to VICE, and while there's a lot of great people who came from outside the company—Hayley (Gates, who hosts VICE's States of Undress) and Ellen Page (who hosts Gaycation with Ian Daniel), much bigger and better talents than me—there was also this feeling of making it home grown. Thomas (who hosted the Noisey documentaries Chiraq and Atlanta, and is the host of VICELAND's Balls Deep) was an intern at one point, and Krishna (host of Weediquette) was a writer. So the network is made up of a lot of VICE vets.
Yeah. I think it's much more enjoyable to watch somebody who isn't really a seasoned host do this stuff, going into communities and hearing people's stories. It's all very relatable.
Yeah, exactly. I mean, with Huang's World and Black Market, those guys are incredibly charismatic, and—I'm just going to shit on myself for a minute—I'm interviewing much more interesting people [than myself]. Huang and Michael are meant to be the focus of the show, I'm just a conduit. So I'm curious and a listener, that's my role on the show. We do our fair share of legwork before and after, and we do our work as journalists but I also try to come in with open eyes and ears, like any fan would.
It feels like video is coming back in a huge way. Do you think it's the best medium for telling stories?
Yeah I think it is. But I look at what the New York Times are doing with their editorial and I don't think that editorial and video are mutually exclusive. I also get lots of my news through listening, I listen to a lot of podcasts. I do get most of my news and information through video, though, for better or worse. I certainly don't always consume my best news and information through video.
Yeah, it's definitely the biggest way we learn things without our participation now. Facebook algorithms and all that.
Yeah, for better or worse. I got a TV for the first time in like, a decade, so I'm diving into television in a way that I haven't since I was a little kid on Saturday mornings with my parents out of the house. I'm fascinated by cable news and I got an Apple TV… and I'm hooked. But please watch TV and please watch the show is what I'm saying.
Haha, great plug. You got it. So what are some of the craziest things you've seen so far filming the show?
Oh man, I mean, you said you saw the Miami episode, so Stiches was one of the most… interesting people I've ever met. I don't even know if interesting is the right word. He is such a product of Miami and someone that could only come out of that world. He's like a fever dream of Tony Montana and like, Hellraiser. All mixed into one terrifying rapper. But we were out at his music video shoot at a rented house, and there's a pool in the back, and I basically was acting as a production assistant on this video, so I was filling powdered sugar and flour into these bags and in saran wrap to make it look like bricks of cocaine, and throwing them in the pool. And eventually we ended up getting kicked out of the rental house—well, the music video got kicked out; we were allowed to stay. Because they saw Stitches who has tattoos all over his face and a few of the models in the shoot who were also porn actresses, and then the bricks of cocaine in the pool. So that was one of our stranger days. It was a totally bizarre afternoon.
Wow. I hope to have that exact experience someday.
No, no, no. It should be avoided at all costs. I wouldn't say this about a lot of people we film with but this guy is a real… character.
Okay. Noted. And tell me about DJ Khaled because I love him and I need to know what he's like in person.
He's a walking motivational video. We met him on the cusp of his Snapchat fame, I think a month after we left was when he blew up because he got lost in the bay outside of his town on a jetski… at night, while Snapchatting the entire thing. Which was incredible. But we went out with him to a club in Miami and the entire time he was on his phone. He was in the midst of cultivating his Snapchat and internet fame then. But he's just super positive, like everything is a mantra. He talks about winning all the time. And then you start thinking "wait a minute! That's the way I should be looking at my life." Someone who is constantly winning or in the process of winning.
Yeah! But he's really sweet, too! Like his fiance was in the background during the whole thing. They've been together for a really long time and she was just watching him work out and giggling, it was very sweet. He's a very nice guy. The other thing about him is he has this 15-year-old sneaker connect.
Yeah, he was chaperoning this kid the night we were out with him and we were in his Rolls Royce, squeezed in the back with this 15-year-old kid. And I was like "who are you?" and he said "I get Khaled all of his sneakers." So Khaled has this room full of sneakers and and that's the guy that gets them for him. This 15-year-old who makes like, six figures getting sneakers for celebrities. So if that doesn't explain how weird Miami is, and the hustling spirit of that city, I don't know what will.
That is extremely funny. So who do you think is the next big thing in hip hop? Who do you think we're going to start seeing a lot more of?
I'm personally a big fan of this guy Goldlink, we haven't done anything with him, but he's from Washington DC like me so I want to promote a local artist. And then there's this other guy, A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie, whose name is just amazing and who I think is going to be one of the next big New York rappers.
Can you tell us anything about Season Two of Noisey?
Yeah! Well it's going to be more international. It's still going to have all the hallmarks of a Noisey episode but we're definitely expanding genres so there's some pop, afro pop, we're going a bit broader.
I truly can't wait to see it.
Oh, I'm getting a call on the other line. Oh no.
Haha okay, it's okay. I'm hanging up.
SBS VICELAND launches on Australian TV today, and the first episode of Noisey, "Bompton" where Zach and the crew visit Kendrick Lamar's hometown of Compton, premieres tonight at 10.15pm EST. To see the full SBS VICELAND schedule, head here.