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DJ duo Ziff & Griff talk dirty raves, Charter, and nightlife

Ziff & Griff.jpeg
Student opener duo Ziff & Griff.
Courtesy of Griffin Maxwell Brooks

This year’s Lawnparties Student Opener, Ziff & Griff, is a duo of two DJs: Adam Ziff 23 and Griffin Brooks 23. Ziff is a Computer Science major who, in addition to DJing, is a singer-songwriter, Orange Key tour guide, and former Ultimate Frisbee team president who is also involved in Kesher, a Jewish community on campus. Brooks is a Mechanical Engineering major and former Princeton springboard diver as well as a social media content creator deeply involved in New York city nightlife. 

I had the privilege of sitting down with these multi-talented human beings in the sacred place where they met: the Charter officer common room, where Ziff served as House Manager and Brooks served as Social Chair last year.


This interview has been edited for clarity and concision.

The Daily Princetonian: Where did DJing start in all of your long lists of artistic endeavors? What kinds of gigs have you been doing since?

Ziff: I got started with DJing when I asked a family friend to teach me in my senior year of high school. The first ever party that I played was Nate Perlmeter ’22’s birthday party in my dorm during freshman year. My first paid gig was at Colonial — I still have the poster hanging in my room. Then I actually DJed the last Charter Friday before the pandemic.

During the pandemic, I made a lot of mixes. That was how I grew as a DJ: these 30-minute SoundCloud mixes, inspired by sets from Tomorrowland. That's how I was exposed to dance music, and from there I developed my style. Then, I came back to Charter, became an officer, and did a ton of gigs here. This year, Griffin and I started living together and started mixing.

Griff: I'd only been DJing for five to six months since I had my first gig, but I started learning a little before that. When I say I work in nightlife, I mean that I host events in the city — mostly queer nightlife events. When I was living on my own for the first time and doing Princeton online, those spaces were the first place where I found community. Because of that, I gained not only a large musical repertoire but also a passion for music. I had always thought about DJing, and then one day I said, “Ziff, let's make this happen.” 

My first gig was here at Charter. It was the second now-biannual event that we call Studio 54. I pulled three straight all-nighters covering a carousel, horse, and disco tiles and then DJed for two hours in an assless wedding dress. Now, I have a residency at a Sunday party at a pizza parlor/nightclub in Little Italy. 


DP: How was the transition from listening to music in nightclubs to actually DJing in the booth?

Griff: Ziff was the guy who taught me. Also, I got some valuable advice from Ty Sunderland, a very popular DJ in the city. He looked at me one day and said, “If you want to be a DJ, you should do it, because it's less about being a good DJ and more about having good music taste.” I’ve found that most of what you have to know to do is how to execute a good transition with some creative freedom and add in something that is unique to you. But yeah, I basically bullied Ziff into teaching me the basics.

Ziff: I've taught a lot of people to DJ — I literally have a playlist in my library called “DJ School.” The first two songs on it are “Montero” and “Only,” and I just crossfade between them to prove that nothing else matters if the next song is good. And sure, you can add a lot to the artistry by doing all of these fancy effects, but the reason Griffin is such a good DJ, and they were able to pick it up so quickly, is because they have such strong musical opinions. They know what they like and can build an incredible library of good music very quickly. And to become a great DJ, all you need is that and just a little bit of knowledge of how the board works.

DP: Why did you decide to form a duo?

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Griff: Ziff had been the tentative resident DJ at Charter, and I was the Social Chair, so I threw all the events. We’d hire Ziff, and Ziff would say, “Here's the setlist,” and I would tell him, “You're not playing that.” 

Ziff: It was very symbiotic. And Griffin has deeper musical knowledge in some areas than I do. My exposure to dance music came from head banging in my bedroom to Tomorrowland sets. Whereas Griffin—

Griff:  I was showing up to a dirty rave in an old train yard in the middle of Queens in a webbed body suit, and nothing else. You spend a lot of time in those spaces, and you start to understand not only what songs people like but what people enjoy sonically. You find what gets a crowd moving. Our relationship works well in that Ziff has technical knowledge and I have cultural knowledge. 

Ziff: That gets into our goal with this Lawnparties set, which is, we're not just going to show up and play Kesha for half an hour. We want to play some songs that are somewhat recognizable, but we want to try to expand this campus’ musical palette a little bit and play music that you might not know but we know you can dance to. You will enjoy it, and it has the elements you're looking for. 

DP: Who are your musical inspirations?

Griff: My musical journey started with pop music, which is how it goes for a lot of people. Kim Petras was one of the first artists in the queer scene I loved. Lady Gaga was also a big inspiration for me, whether it be the music or the fashion. When I started going out more, there were a lot of DJs that I got to know personally that became inspirations for me and then by extension,  I took inspiration from more prolific DJs in the music production world. We tap into Sophie and Honey Dijon in the set: I find their music to be genre-bending and trailblazing. 

Ziff: I come at it from a much different background. My two favorite DJs are Martin Garrix, who's obviously one of the biggest DJs in the world, and Griz, who's more bass-y. The way that they approach their respective genres is very fun. I’ve drawn inspiration from the way that they will take a sound or a genre, and then push it to its limits. They’ll execute within boundaries effectively, and then subvert expectations. 

DP: How has being Princeton students helped or hindered you, in DJing and in music in general?

Ziff: I mean… It's hard. I don't think that's a secret to anyone. I have loved my Princeton experience. But it’s brutal to have four or five classes, plus your independent work as an upperclassman, plus eating club social events, plus your twelve other extracurriculars. But in the varying stages of my Princeton experience, sometimes it scales up or down each semester, and I've been able to make the time for DJing. It's been hard in the same way that it’s hard for anyone trying to make time for any extracurricular artistic endeavor on this campus.

Griff: I was only here for two-thirds of my actual education because of the pandemic. I think that now that I'm at the end of it, there are things that I'm grateful for. But it was certainly an experience attending this school. I had a hard time finding community here in a lot of ways, but my saving grace has been Charter. I didn't have a physical space of people that I could rely on until I became a part of this club. It's bittersweet, certainly. And as much as I complain about it, I am thankful for having had the opportunity to attend Princeton. But it didn't come without a struggle.

DP: After you leave Princeton, are you planning to continue DJing? What are your future plans?

Ziff: I am hoping to move to New York after traveling Europe for three months. Then I want to work somewhere in the tech world and grow my involvement in the New York music scene in some way. Whether that's through DJing or the other music stuff that I do, we'll see.

Griff: I'm going in blind. I like DJing, so I'm gonna continue doing it. And by virtue of having a social media following, the corporate gigs help me pay the bills, which is nice. I think DJing, nightlife, and social media are all in the same career path for me, and engineering is the other thing that I do on the side, which is hilarious, because it's what I'm here for. I'm very excited to get my degree and hang it on my wall and have it look pretty, since I might not ever use it. 

DP: Once Ziff comes back from Europe, do you guys think you'll be DJing together as a duo?

Ziff: It depends on where I end up. What’s nice is that we have an amazing working relationship as DJs, and it's very easy for us to quickly put stuff together and collaborate. I can see the duo thing happening, if the stars align going forward.

You can follow Ziff @dj.ziff on Instagram and Griff @griffinmaxwellbrooks on Instagram and TikTok. Their Lawnparties set will be uploaded to SoundCloud at DJ Ziff.

Claire Shin is a Head Editor for The Prospect at the 'Prince.' She can be reached at, on Instagram at @claireshin86, or on TikTok also at @claireshin86.