Zach Hose knows he could still be in federal prison right now. But instead, on most afternoons, the youthful 41-year-old takes the train from his home in Long Beach to Elon Musk’s SpaceX in Hawthorne, where he works through the night building rockets that will send satellites, supplies and science experiments into orbit.
Then, after a grueling 12-hour shift, he returns to the makeshift studio at his apartment and lays down after-hours tracks like the ones on last November’s Chrome Steel Tiger, a gritty modern funk album filled with psychedelic boogie beats, industrial churn and Hose’s trademark, whisper-thin falsetto.
He’s called his music “minimal-wave punk.” But between the lowrider anthems on 2014’s Money Green Viper and the tales of jail, strippers and endless paper that lace Electron Don, a recently released collection of early tracks, Hose makes electronic music feel like the new gangster rap.
“I wanted to do this weird art shit, but how do I get people who listen to 2Pac to listen to some weird beat-scene shit?” says Hose, who is known professionally as Zackey Force Funk. “I gotta talk about guns and cocaine and all the stuff that was going down on 29th Street in southeast Tucson.”
Hose started down the path to Zackey Force Funk way before he ever built a rocket, before he apprenticed as an airplane mechanic while fighting felony conspiracy and drug possession charges 14 years ago — even before he started playing music, which didn’t happen until he was 33.
The mixed-race kid was raised on old-school funk by his Mexican mother in a diverse, rugged pocket of Tucson, Arizona. During summers, he and his brother would visit their white father in the stark contrast of New England. At home the rest of the year, Hose shoplifted, drank and tagged, becoming a drug dealer and earning a rap sheet at a young age.
In and out of prison since he was 17, Hose didn’t clean up until he was facing 15-to-life after police raided his house and found a kilo of cocaine. His mother hired a well-known criminal attorney, who won him a reduced sentence, which included a few years of in-house detention.
“To me, I got off,” Hose says. “Everything changed after that.”
With drug dealing behind him, Hose poured his energy into his budding aviation career, learning the trade and saving money for his kids’ college funds. To keep himself sane, he started making music, using his years of DJing experience and a gamer’s headset microphone to make his own spliced-up experiments (“I can’t play an instrument and I can’t make beats,” he admits).
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Two years ago, Hose moved to L.A. to take a job at Gulfstream, building personal jets for celebrities. Now a structural specialist in SpaceX’s vertical barrel integration department, most of Zackey Force Funk’s waking hours are spent as part of the team that builds the shells for spacecraft like the Falcon 9, which in December became the first rocket ever to land back on Earth after successfully deploying its cargo into space.
When Hose watched the live feed of the historic landing at work, he cried. “I’m an ex-felon who went to prison and never went to college,” he says. The Falcon 9 “was the first rocket I built from start to finish. It’s a big deal to me.”