Breaking into the wider music space in 2009, Toronto-based duo Zed’s Dead are known for their blog-lighting mash-ups, expert remixes (not least their recent rework of The Prodigy’s Breathe, which was officially commissioned by XL Recordings) and a style of production that refuses to sit still. As a result, the pair are finding both an ever bigger audience in Europe and a renewed frenzy for their live sets amidst the US EDM craze. Data Transmission had a chat with them as they embarked on their European tour, which includes a very special night at Cable on December 14th.
You put a real emphasis on free releases. Is this the way you feel music and producers should go, or is it because of the nature of the stuff you play? - A lot of it is quite mash-up or bootleg in nature, so it will always be popular on the blogs...
There’s a couple of reasons. We do think that it’s how a producer, especially an EDM producer needs to operate in a way, they kind of need to keep rolling out new updated material, it’s the nature of the game nowadays. Also a lot of the material we put out may or may not have sampled material in it. Some of the stuff we did a while ago - a couple of the tracks we put a year ago for instance were productions we dug out from the past. It keeps the whole thing moving between our EPs and official releases.
You’re not signed to any one label. Because you don’t need the support now or because you’ve always preferred the freedom in general?
It’s a bit of both, there’s really no need to be committed to one label these days. I also think its a lot to do with the music we make, we try to do a lot of different stuff and we try not to put our eggs in one basket in terms of the sounds we do. The stuff we do with Dim Mak is pretty electro house orientated, the stuff we do for with Mad Decent fits with them, so we just ensure the tracks we put out are going to the houses that can properly support them.
When you put together a track, do you have a label in mind?
You gotta finish it first, before you think about where it goes. You have to make music. The commercial stuff shouldn’t enter the creative process.
How does the creative process work between your two?
We were producing by ourself before we joined up so we’re both very much our own producers. Normally one of us will make the majority of a track and they’ll send it to the other person for them to review and they’ll either think it’s good or they’ll tear it apart then we’ll both decide on something and we’ll come together and put our finishing touches on it. But, we produce separately, from our own homes, so that’s also how the production process works.
Has there ever been a big disagreement over a track then?
Oh absolutely! There’s a shitload of tracks that’ll never see the light of day because one or the other just didn’t like it. There’s hundreds and hundreds of beats just sitting on the hard drive.
Your sound is a real blur of genres, you've oddly become known for deliberately not fitting into one area. Was that always the plan or is that just how it kind of came about?
It’s a little bit of a game plan. I think in the beginning we were classed as dubstep artists because those were our most popular tracks, but that was just one point on our musical journey. Before that we were making electro house, and before that we were making drum & bass and it’s all just like, sort of a journey for us and it’s a case of trying to just make the music we like. Certain tracks become popular for different reasons. Production and reception of tracks: It’s not just one thing that happens in either case.
You recently remixed the Prodigy's Breathe. How did that come about?
They approached us I believe and we were, well we were fucking stoked! We knew it was a massive task, but we also knew we had to do it. We were pretty nervous. With remixing we sometimes have a game plan - for this one we knew we wanted it to be a banger, and we knew we didn’t want to make it dubstep as there was already an official dubstep version out. So we knew we wanted to make it different and we also knew we wanted to have one section as strictly the original sample and pay homage to that. Yeah, thinking of it, there was a pretty specific game place in plan for that one.
People have talks about music in general become much more blurred, what do you think is driving that?
I think it’s younger people particularly who are coming into EDM through dubstep and other entries and then being guided by different artists they like into different realms of the electronic spectrum. I they might start out for example listening to us and that puts them onto dubstep, which takes them onto other areas and so on.
People - I say people -the Press are raving about North America's EDM revolution. yet, Canada's had an arguably more immediately obvious electronic following for some time - you have a lot of bloggers, acts like yourselves and of course have Deadmau5. How do the two countries compare?
I think at the moment there’s not much to distinguish between the Canadian and US scenes. As far as the scene goes, It’s hard to say, I’m not in America much. What I always noticed about Toronto was there was a huge drum and bass scene, and a lot of the electronic following came from that, but I don’t know enough about the US to comment.
You're on tour in Europe. How does playing in Europe compare to your home crowds?
It is different. In certain places certain songs go off in different ways. Obviously right now a lot of our shows in Europe are a little smaller, I mean in Canada everything’s just gone super crazy. Saying that we’ve been constantly surprised by how the European gigs have gone so far. We really had no idea about what some of the places we were playing would be like. Poland, Romania, all these different places have been staggering in terms of the turn out!
What’s the plan for Zed’s Dead going forward?
December’s jammed full of touring. We’ve just done a string of US dates, now we’re doing Europe, then we’re off back to New York and Toronto. Following that we’re going to have some time off to really focus on the studio and get some more EPs going. We’ve got a remix for Marina & The Diamonds coming out which should be pretty cool.
What advice would you guys give to aspiring artists.
Two things. One is, don’t expect to be good right off the back. The one mistake a lot of young producers make is that, with so much at their fingertips nowadays they expect stuff to fit right away but, for me personally it took a long time to get things sounding good. Secondly, don’t be afraid to give away stuff for free: make the most of the online channels.
Zed’s Dead are currently touring in Europe. Follow them on Facebook.
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