We had a chat with DJ, producer and owner of Destroy All Monsters; Zuckermann, about his latest album ‘Solenopsis’, reimagining the electronic music landscape & more. Check out what he had to say below.
Hi Ralph, thanks for chatting with us again, for those unfamiliar with your work, how would you describe your sound?
Hi Feeder, thanks for having me again!
My sound is a bit built on the observation that electronic music and rave culture has become another form of elevator music. Instead of calming/coercing the minds of unsuspicious ‘consumers’ into a shopping mode, it is made so as to kicking/coercing suspicious party goers into a formatted form of escapism that is void of magic, curiosity and also musicality.
So, the limited quest was that of a ‘club sound regained’ and the wider one that of an electronic music that is explorative, rather interesting, has the right to fail, the capability to children, and offers magical surprise once in a while.
Hence, ‘evolving’ might be the word to describe my sound best. In a double sense, that is.
On the one hand I try to evolve what we call ‘club sound’ into something that will not only “move your body” but also positively irritate our intellect while we are on the dancefloor (see above). Consequently I work with influences from a much broader range of music than ‘just’ electronic music, like contemporary classical, experimental jazz, baroque composition techniques, etc. without it being obvious necessarily. What interests me here is to not only push the envelope and see what happens with a Techno track when I construct it using all of these references and techniques rather than ‘just’ jam with the machines, but also how to re-unify semi- or, non-electronic music with the industrial-age spirit of circuit created sounds.
On the other hand, my sound is evolving in genres. Whereas my first album “Serendipity’ (2014) was built on deconstructing House music with children’s field recordings, vague electronic jazz influences, and my then 2 old daughter’s improvisations on a midi device, ‘Solenopsis’ is rather a reflection on Breakbeats and Minimal (an unlikely combination), whereas my 3rd album, that I am working on as we speak, deals with ‘Techno Techno’ and how to make it interesting again by using the most basic and pure electronic sounds possible – and then compose with them.
You’re set to release your new album ‘Solenopsis’ on your own label Destroy All Monsters. What can you tell us about the album?
The basic idea was to go achieve what I described in the above paragraph, i.e., a new, rather interesting way of approaching, producing and listening to electronic music, by warping time and going backwards (!) to that point (roughly early Warp) where everything seemed possible and ‘genres‘ were not yet clearly defined in electronic music. Then use that as a starting point, and explore where electronic music could have arrived at also.
In my case: 5 to the floor, dry Dub, again the (not so) unexpected use of composition techniques from baroque music (repetitive basslines, musical forms), adaptive aleatoric complexity, silence, improvisational sprees inspired by Miles Davis’ Fusion/Experimental Jazz of the early 70ies (rarely mentioned as an influence on electronic music but I personally think it was), or finally, some contemplative boredom. More generally, a deconstruction and a disruption of said ‘functionality’ as we know it (now).
All this is less about a ‘nostalgia‘ of course but more about that “it is not important where you take things from, but where you take them to“ (Godard).
Where does the title come from?
If I want to rephrase the above into a rationale of the title, it is about exploring white spots on the electronic music landscape that hopefully are interesting, crazy, or weird, in a way which gets under your skin – or crawls on your skin (Solenopsis is a rather unpleasant type of ant, also known as ‘fire ants’).
We’ve heard the premieres of ‘Disco Irae’ & ‘Take Five’ from the album and are loving them, are these tracks typical of the rest of the record or can we expect something different?
Yes and no, see last paragraph, the approach will be the same, the methods will differ with each track, the different methods will deliver different experiences, and the different experiences will change the perceived results accordingly.
Overall, the sound of the album has a consistency to it though that you can only enjoy when you hear it from beginning to end I’m afraid.
What’s your personal favourite track from the record? (If you had to pick!)
Certainly “Tirez sur le pianist”, if for the fun fact that I recorded the piano solo on a 2 octave Akai toy in one go and only edited the obviously missing left hand chords to it later. But also for its deliberately numb beat (part 1 and 3) which pokes fun at minimalism, its surprising richness of aleatoric interest stemming from a synth with a random function (no human interaction here, is that early musical AI?), or the distortion on the electric piano which reminds me of Miles Davis’ ‘Bitches Brew’.
What’s unique about your label Destroy All Monsters?
The label is built on the idea to destroy the modern day techno star idolatry and to come back to a more balanced appreciation of a wider range of artists, styles and musical expressions instead of just accepting a wildly liberal capitalist paradigm without thinking. Which is of course expressed in the music we release. After running it for 2 years I’d now say some of our releases suck, but that’s totally alright as they made total sense when we put them out. Overall, it’s an experimental approach to Techno, musically, and socially.
You’ve said the release is heavily influenced by 90’s era Warp material, what artists or releases from this time have had the biggest effect on you and your music?
Certainly some of the early bleep Techno, like: Sweet Exorcist – Testone, Mr. Fingers – Can you feel it, Forgemasters – Track with No Name, LFO – LFO. But also Boards of Canada: Music has the right to children.
From that same period also some of the US artists: Jeff Mills with his Axis releases, Daniel Bell’s Acid spree, or Anthony ‘Shake’ Shakir‘s strike of genius “Frictionalism’.
Not to forget the Germans (and the Nordics)! Basic Channel, Philus, DJ Hell, and full circle back to Britain: I looooved Jungle and actually started Djing Drum ‘n Bass later, occasionally mixing it with oldskool Hip Hop and … Techno.
What were you doing around that time with your life?
Ending my classical piano studies, exploring the Berlin bunker and bank vault clubs and ‘Tekkno(zid)’ raves while thinking to myself: this sound is so brutal, it’s not here to stay…
How did you go about recording the album? How long did it take from start to completion?
Strictly DAW only, no hardware, no third party plug-ins. I always use controllers though and improvise on the master keyboard (or, Akai toys))). I love hardware but hate the hype around it. Plus, mostly, the computer is way more versatile than any glorious synth could ever be.
That one went fast, based on some leftover sketches from album one, I completed it in 2015 within 2 months.
Do you find it more challenging to create a vast piece of work such as an album or do you prefer the process behind creating an album than that of an EP?
That so much depends on where you are as an artist, what the concept of the album or EP is, if you need to do research (musical, production wise, soul searching wise…), etc. Some EPs took me ages, the second album went so fast, my third one took 10 month…take your pick.
Do you have any plans for you or Destroy All Monsters for the rest of the year?
We have a lot of material in the pipeline, but thinking about destroying it.
Finally, in one sentence, why should people check out and buy ‘Solenopsis’?
If you’ve made it until here you probably will listen to it anyway, for everyone else: Solenopis – warping electronic music.
Zuckermann – Solenopsis is out now on Destroy All Monsters.
Buy it here.
Stream it here.
Keep up with Zuckermann on his Facebook.