ZUU Music, UK based music producer puts an extra twist on glitch hop music by combining it with live instruments while recording and performing to provide listeners a one of a kind vibe. His debut EP called Subculture is out this April on The Glitch Shop!
Tell us a little bit about how the ZUU Music project got started and how many of you are there in the ZUU Music project?
- ZUU Music got started out of my passion for live music & recording instruments in the studio. I had become extremely motivated by the lengths at which Derek Vincent Smith went to record his Colour Map of the Sun album. He took session musicians from all over America to come into a studio and create improvised breaks which he then sampled from to create the sounds you hear on the record. He painstakingly tracked to tape and used vintage analogue gear throughout the whole recording process to keep everything sounding authentic and human. I feel this has been completely lost in modern music, but especially in the electronic music scene.
I am lucky enough to be living the dream in the sense that I make my living from the music industry (more on that later) so as a result most of the people I associate with are extremely talented musicians. I was desperate to capture their playing and to experiment to see if I could make electronic music with 100% real instruments. Tracking real drums, sax, keys, bass, guitar, flute and a few other bits and remix the sounds I had captured in the studio into something resembling electronic music. I started ZUU Music as a personal challenge to myself but also as something fun for me and my friends to experiment with. Its been an absolute pleasure getting to spend all day with the people I adore making mad music we can all vibe on!
What inspired you to start producing glitch hop music?
- If thats what people are calling the music which I make then thats cool! I don’t even know what it is. It sounds super cliched but I just make whatever is on the inside and this is the sound which is bursting to get out. I worked with a lot of musicians on this project but they had no idea what the end result was actually going to sound like. They played a fundamental role in crafting the sound of the EP but at the end of the day I wanted something which was down-tempo and groovy so I made them stick within certain guidelines in terms of tempo and sound. It wasn’t hard to get my ideas across to the people I was working with as I already knew the kinds of players they were and there was a reason why I selected each person for the project.
What motivated this combination of live and electronic music? Are you more rooted to a live background or were striving to take a different approach to digital production?
- As a live sound engineer by profession, my passion is working with live instruments. On the other hand I massively enjoy artists such as Machine Drum, Baths, Aphex Twin, Clams Casino, Koan Sound & a whole plethora of electronic producers. I can never compete with the skills some of the people out there have in terms of being able to program stuff in a computer, but what I felt I could bring to the table was my love of live instruments and that human approach. I also feel that I am more free as a producer to create mad sounds knowing about mic techniques, the sounds of different rooms, vintage analogue equipment and other recording concepts. For example I’ll often run my synths through guitar amps or pitch an electric guitar with an octave pedal as the basis for a synth rather than delve immediately into a VST. Its much more fun to make things from scratch in my opinion and there is so much room for experimentation when you have a bunch of musicians in a studio.
How many people does your live band consist of, and what sort of equipment do you use when playing?
- The live band essentially is three people. The two drummers which I took into the studio have followed me into the live domain. We’ve been tirelessly breaking down each track and figuring out how we can deliver it live in a way which isn’t deceptive in terms of running huge amounts of backing track. Jake and Kieran have been very supportive of me making the set as dynamic as possible and have suggested ways in which their playing can support the electronic aspect of the live performance. Its all very cohesive and is sounding huge!! I recently invested in Ableton Push, a chaos pad 3 & a pioneer djm 900 nexus mixer. I’m running out of an 8 out-put usb sound card which feeds both my drummers stereo in-ear mixes on the first four outputs. Then with the remaining four outputs I have my electronic drums running into one channel of the pioneer and my synths & track running into another channel. The output of the mixer then runs into the khaos pad and finally to FoH. Inside my laptop everything is split up again into stems and samples. I’m playing a lot of one shot sample using Push more like an MPC sometimes rather than some big loop machine. Every day not spent rehearsing is now spent programming push for the live set and practicing my parts. I’ve become a bit obsessive.
With your studio sessions, typically how do you go about managing your time and set up?
- I ran two ZUU studio sessions to track the live aspect of the EP. The first was a huge undertaking! I put two drum kits in the live room facing each other. On one side was a full kit played by my good friend Kieran who is an incredible Gospel / r’n’b inspired drummer. On the other side I put Jake who was on kick, snare, hats & stack. He was mic’d up using a 421 pointing down between the kick and the snare. Its an old 50′s technique and a forgotten way of mic’ing a kit but I wanted to try the new skills I had been picking up over the years and it sounded great! I then put two room mics up in the two remaining corners of the room also facing inwards. This created a mad stereo image having two kits and two room mics all bleeding into each other. On top of that I put my man Stef on a beautiful Elysian piano in the live room with them and they all tracked together improvising the jams. I had a guitar player set up his amp in the entrance hallway & I was playing bass in the control room. Managing a session like that with so many mics, musicians & equipment all running at the same time truly is a challange. I got one of my friends Julian to come down and help engineer and stay on top of everything which meant I could play on the E.P. Without him I think I would have bitten off more than I could chew. Its defiantly a good place to be, right on the very edge of your ability as a producer when going into a new project as it pushes you to stay focussed. We spent three days on the first session smashing out as much music as possible. We got 10 tracks done in that time. Pretty incredible considering no one walked in there having any material pre-written. It was all improvised.
I went back a few months later and ran a slightly smaller session to do brass, flute, percussion, more keys & vocals. It was some of the best days of my life so far working with these people! Big love and a shout out to them!
How do you feel the project is developing are there any exciting plans for the future of ZUU Music?
- Its still really early days yet, but from the E.P. sampler which I put up on my sound cloud I’ve had a really awesome response! People were commenting saying that they were surprised as to how low my ‘follows’ & ‘likes’ are on my social media as I guess they assumed I would be a bigger artist than I am. At the end of the day I really don’t care about all that though. All I want to do is keep putting out music and play as many live shows as possible. What we have created is really unique in terms of our approach to performing electronic music live. In terms of looking to the future, I really want to work with brass again. I also had an idea to go round all of the buskers in London and record each one playing in the same key and bpm and then cut all the samples I recorded in the streets into a song. Would love to give that a try. There are some really talented people out there!
In your short time of becoming integrated with the glitch hop scene, you’ve managed to snatch up a nomination for best newcomer for the UK Glitch Hop awards! I bet that feels pretty great no?
- It was really unexpected for me to be nominated considering my debut release isn’t even out yet. I’ve had a lot of encouraging support from the scene already. Especially from The Glitch Shop which I am putting my EP out via. Also Bill Brookes Aka William Breakspear has been super supportive and thats why I booked him as the headline DJ for my launch show. I listened to his radio show around the time I was considering starting this project so it ties in really nicely for me. I’m not even thinking about winning the actual award. I’m just looking forward to going down to the awards evening and meeting all the producers who I think are sick and telling them how much I vibe on their tracks.
What is your “dream collaboration”? What artist or artists would you love to work with (any genres, dead or alive)? Why them?
- This is a hard one for me to be honest because I feel I’ve already done my dream collaboration! I know that sounds like bullshit because I’m a completely unknown producer, but getting to work with Jake, Kieran & Stef as the core of the material has been a dream come true for me. They are my best friends but also insanely talented and super down to earth. I hadn’t got an opportunity to jam with these guys before so this was a great excuse to hide away for three days and record some mad music. I want to make a shout out to Tomoya (Sax), Rania (Flute / Vox), Fed (Vox), Matt (Guitar) & Julian (assistant engineering) they all popped by during different stages of the recording to add their parts and its much appreciated!
(Note: I did drop Kursa the stems to my single incase he wanted to collab at some point but I’ve not heard from him. If anyone could give him a nudge in my direction (or vica versa) I would love to spend a day with that dude and smash out some crazy production! He’s got an open invite to my studio if he’s ever interested! I feel our two sounds could work well together but I understand he’s in big demand at the moment.)
Do you remember the very first track you ever made? Do you still have it? What was it like?
- Yeah I do, Its a track called Click Clickz & its on my sound cloud! Its the first ZUU Music track I ever made before I even had a name. Check it out, I’m still really proud of that track as all of the heavy bass sounds are done using my voice & a live bass guitar. It sounds like synths but its all audio.
What country would you like to go to play gigs, a country you’ve never been to before? Why there?
- I’ve always wanted to play in Japan. I think if I ever got a chance to play that far from home I really will consider that I have accomplished my life goal as a producer / musician. Live shows are the most fulfilling thing for me personally and I wither away when I’m not playing out to people. Its a release and a fundamental part of my happiness as a person. I can’t ever really afford to go on holiday as all of my money goes into making music and buying equipment. Japan seems like a really interesting place and I love cultures which are different to my own (hence the title of my debut). I thrive off meeting new people and gaining new perspectives. The Japanese have a strong sense of honour and I really dig that.
Where can we expect you to be playing this year?
- 24th APRIL at The Silver Bullet! Its the launch of my EP and we are playing it live with two drummers and myself. There are some amazing support acts booked too! A huge brass band called Brass Knuckles is playing. They play hiphop & drum n bass on their instruments so looking forward to jamming out in the crowd to them! There will be William Breakspear Dj’ing too along with Raptus from the label so a big line-up all round. It really isn’t a gig. Its a party. Come down and jam with us!
As a side note I want to say a massive thank you to Glitch Hop Community for giving me the chance to give this interview. I’m very unknown at the moment so the support is always appreciated. Come hit me up on my social media, or even better, in person at my show on the 24th in London. Peace!