Artistic Airmen: Financial technician by day, music producer by night

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Katrina Heikkinen
  • 341st Missile Wing Public Affairs
Editor's note: This is part four of a series highlighting Airmen who work as artists in their off-duty time.

Ludwig van Beethoven once said, "Music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy. Music is the electrical soil in which the spirit lives, thinks and invents."

Music is a universal language - it can speak when words cannot. For some people, it is a way to express themselves, a way to relax and a motivator. But for others, listening isn't enough; they have to create it. For Airman 1st Class Zackery Wade, 341st Comptroller Squadron financial technician, music runs deep in his Memphis, Tenn., veins.

Wade was still in his mother's womb when he was first exposed to music as she put headphones on her belly. After 12 years of attending local shows in Tennessee he was inspired to get on stage.

"I've been in a band since I was 16 years old, and I've played the guitar since I was 14 years old," Wade said. "When I was 19, I was really into rap, and I wanted to make my own beats. So a friend of mine gave me a production type of system. I was hooked and started making my own music all the time."

Wade, who comes from a musical family, attributes his mother as the inspiration to make music.

"I love creating music all because of my mother," Wade said. "My mom has a music degree and is a musician who plays the piano so I've been listening to music my whole life. Whenever I get off work I study my Career Development Courses and I take college classes, but I always find at least three hours to get on my computer and make music every day. It's almost an addiction because I love making it so much."

Although Wade has spent years performing for a crowd, it wasn't until he joined the Air Force and came to Malmstrom Air Force Base that he had the opportunity to play his original music and start disc jockeying.

"I wanted to get my original music out more - that's why I started DJing," Wade said. "I only started a year and a half ago and I'm still learning every day. I love entertaining a crowd but I really love the production part because it's not just mixing - it's making whatever is in my brain and putting it into the computer."

Wade says he doesn't have a specific genre of music he creates or plays, but includes electronic dance music into it and always aims to please a crowd. For style of music, he draws inspiration from Skrillex, an electronic musician and the band, the Killers, an American rock band, and Dillon Francis, an electronic music producer.

"I usually start out with just a drum beat, then I add the cymbals and then I'll get a lead going," Wade said. "The songs I make are anywhere from two to five minutes, but the time to make the songs can take anywhere from two hours to two months. I just like to wait until I think it's perfect. If it takes two hours, that's awesome, as long as I'm happy with it. It's a creative process."

Wade has played at many events, including at the 2013 Operation Holiday Cheer party, various Airman's Council events and at off base locations including Machinery Row in Great Falls, Mont., and in Mississippi and Tennessee.

"DJing can be easy - you can get really creative with it but the main thing that sets you apart is producing," he said. "A lot of people want to be DJs but you really need to put the time and effort into producing as well."

With nearly three years in the service, Wade hopes to continue pursuing his passion whilst serving as an active-duty Airman.

"My dad just retired as a senior master sergeant and my mom was a technical sergeant in the Guard," Wade said. "I never thought I would have joined the Air Force, but they definitely inspired me to. I might stay in the Air Force, but if a career in producing and DJing ever took off, that would be a dream job. Working in finance, I'm grateful my hours allow me to also pursue my music."

Wade says he is grateful to live in Great Falls because of the many opportunities to perform for a crowd.

"I don't care where I play or if I get paid, I just like when people are entertained," Wade said. "When I DJ, I play popular music and that can be a struggle because it's not always music I like. But when I play my original music and the crowd is enjoying it, that's the best feeling in the world. I just love making music. It's calming and relaxing - it's a gateway into a completely different world."

Wade can be heard producing music in the Malmstrom Dormitory Complex and at events both on and off base. His next performance is at Machinery Row on Jan. 25.

Information from this article was taken from the following websites: