Zeds Dead: F*ck a Label

DC and Hooks were formerly Mass Productions, a heavily sample-based hip hop production duo, before becoming the genre-amorphous Zeds Dead. In their current incarnation, the DJ-producer duo is all about turning up the BPM and destroying your eardrums with bass, regardless of the style of music. Despite that, they are somehow associated more with dubstep, an inaccurate assertion of their collective output. Set to perform on The Prodigy’s Warrior’s Dance Arena stage at Future Music Festival Asia 2013, JUICE grilled Hooks on his filmic aspiration, their penchant for giving out music for free, dislike of labels, and what EDM really is to them.

We just saw the video for ‘Demons’, sh!t’s pretty wild, dude. How did the collaboration with the choreographer for Black Swan, out of people, come about?
It’s actually part of Noisey, which is Vice’s thing where they would get people you wouldn’t expect to direct a music video for someone. So we had this dark song and we were thinking of people who could be interesting for that. Black Swan’s Benjamin Millepied was chosen to direct and it just seemed that this guy was killing it, in the end it came out great. It probably wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for Vice.

Speaking of unlikely collaborators, who would you personally want to direct a video for Zeds Dead?
Heh, I dunno. Maybe Chris Cunningham… Tim & Eric, Eric Wareheim! (Laughs) That’d be funny and weird. Hell, I’d like to direct a video myself to be honest, I used to make movies but I don’t have the time these days.

That’s a pretty interesting trivia. What sort movies did you use to make?
Funny stuff in high school… sketch comedy shows. I suppose if I were in a later generation I’d have been uploading ‘em onto YouTube, but I didn’t have that at the time.

Imagine if you did, we might have gotten Hooks & DC Awesome Show instead of Tim & Eric… anyway, while we are on the subject of YouTube, you guys belong in this generation of artistes who releases their stuff for free. How do you manage to make a living?
We tour pretty heavily. Basically we are able to tour because of the success of our songs online. So we give ‘em out for free a lot of the times – it’s a good thing, getting our music to the people is the most important part. You want it to be accessible so that [fans] can find and discover them on their own, and not be held back by “Ugh, I don’t want to pay 99 cents” or whatever. Sometimes we do sell though, it really depends, we have a nice balance of giving stuff for free and selling ‘em.

You guys had physical releases before…
Yeah, we had stuff on CDs before, but not vinyl yet… actually no, that’s a lie (laughs). The remix we did for The Prodigy came out on vinyl!

While we are on the subject, are tangible media really obsolete? DJs can just use USBs now…
People get their music off the internet, it doesn’t need a physical form anymore. I think having a vinyl record is nice, with its artwork and all, but I don’t think it’s really necessary anymore in this day and age.

Your latest EP Hot Sauce is all over the place musically, is there a conscious decision to move away from the dubstep association?
We don’t want to be associated with just one genre, we’ve been making lots of different types of music. It’s really just whatever we feel when we get to the studio. Anything I feel, I’d try to express it in whatever type of music I want to make – could be d’n’b, could be electro, could be trip hop. People wouldn’t know we are making a certain kind of song while doing another song because we’re just kinda holding on their release for later. Some of the projects I’m working on right now is very different from what you’d expect. Regardless of what a genre is, the most important thing is an artiste needs to have a style.

Style, eh? How would you describe yours then?
Hard to describe. It’s definitely got to do with the circumstances we grew up in and the music we were exposed to have led to this output we have now. We’ve been soaking ‘em like a sponge and when you bring ‘em out, you get Zeds Dead. Our childhood music was old rock, blues, and then the ‘90s stuff; hip hop, underground hip hop was a huge influence – they all just mesh into our style. I can’t describe it, I know what led to who we are now.

Is that where the future of EDM is heading to? Different styles and genres just mesh into one thing…
Electronic music… so many different things encompass it. It’s kinda a ridiculous term at some point because it just means something made without a guitar. But there are many differences in it, it’s almost unfair to classify it under the same thing. Like when I think of EDM, it makes me think of David Guetta, it doesn’t make me think of the underground stuff.

You don’t identify with the term…
Nah, because I think a lot of the stuff we make aren’t even dance music. They are for listening. There’s that D [from EDM] in our music, yeah, we make some stuff for the dancefloor, but I wouldn’t say Zeds Dead is an EDM group. The classification is for the critics [to decide]. We just make music and then people discuss what it is. I personally don’t think that term describes a lot of acts well. Kinda a stupid term too, it’s literally as simple as it gets. Oh, it’s electronic! Oh, people dance! Oh, it’s music! And really though, how much music do people dance to? Every music? Even rock’n’roll, but people don’t call it dance music. It just seems like a very uncreative title.

It is pretty stupid, admittedly. In fact, we think we are going to stop using the term… You guys were a hip hop duo prior to this, how did the transition to what Zeds Dead is now happen?
It had a lot to do with our music taste expanding, becoming more open minded to things, and taking production very seriously – wanting to get better, wanting to get more things in our arsenal. It’s not about being good at one style, like sample-based hip hop. Being a producer, you gotta have a lot of things in your arsenal to make beats. If you wanna be a real artiste, it requires a lot of learning. There was a transition period when we were way out of our elements, but we were determined because we liked the challenge.

Do you see yourself going back to doing hip hop?
Yeah, we make hip hop beats all the time! I’d consider some of the stuff we put out just straight up hip hop, like the Victor mixtape, the stuff on The Living Dead we collaborated with, even the tracks ‘Trouble’ and ‘Demons’ from Hot Sauce I’d consider hip hop. They are just a subgenre of some sort. People just want to say everything is dubstep, I find. Oh, it’s got electronic sound to it, it’s dubstep. But those tracks are more hip hop to me than they are dubstep.

Fair enough. You’d be playing at The Prodigy’s Warrior’s Dance Arena at Future Music Festival Asia ’13. What can we expect from that?
Just a rowdy party!

(Laughs) Okay. How did the hook up with The Prodigy come about?
I don’t even know. I think their management asked us to remix something of theirs that was new and they also asked us if we wanted to remix something from The Fat of the Land. Which is crazy, I used to listen to that as a kid. So we got the chance to do it and apparently Liam Howlett liked it, so that was pretty amazing to get thumbs up from someone like that.

Last question, Zeds Dead had played at both smaller venues and big festivals equally. Which do you prefer?
It’s tough. I like rocking a big crowd, but I like the more intimate shows too. Sometimes the smaller shows are better because there is something so grimy about it. I like ‘em both equally, really.

Zeds Dead is set to play at Future Music Festival Asia ’13 on The Prodigy’s Warrior’s Dance Arena alongside Feed Me, Kill the Noise, and the legends themselves. More on the festival at www.futuremusicfestival.asia.

Check out Zeds Dead at www.facebook.com/whoszed, soundcloud.com/zedsdead, and @whoszed on Twitter.