Four years ago we here in Kiev had unique possibility to listen your DJ set. I remember my girlfriend was upset you didn’t play any songs of a Mountain Of One. But I remember it was a great very diverse set: Donovan and cocaine disco mixed with acid house and Plastikman. You should have a very rich musical background! Tell about it
Yeah that was a fun gig! crazy party, I think it was one of LOW birthday events? – Lots of vodka and strobes – I’ve never really made a habit of playing my own music productions out – don’t know why, I find it difficult even doing playbacks for other people – So leave it for anybody else who enjoys it to play out.
I try and keep my sets as musically diverse as possible, as different styles of music can really capture different moments – as long as you have the balls and the music to follow those moments up, It kinda normally works out, and the crowd responds.
Most of the time they respond when they weird themselves out a bit by getting down to (as you mentioned) a “Donovan” record at 4AM. It’s that mixed hit of being surprised, and a new experience with a certain song that they probably have not heard on a dance floor before.
That’s the main enjoyment I get from DJing, shifting through musical styles I enjoy – if it’s a lousy crowd with a narrow mind then I find the whole process pointless and would rather not play. So I try and pick parties as wisely as possible, keeps me interested and makes me really try deliver something special when I do play.
Where are you based now? How did you get there? What are +/- living there?
I’m based in Indonesia, (Jakarta). Then Bali from next month. I moved here with my wife who is from these shores. I really just had my fill of London after 20 years, the romance was properly over and badly needed a change of atmosphere to centre myself again as it were. So we decided to give it a whirl. Jakarta is an intensely suffocating place with a terrible infrastructure. But has its charms, Raw, wild and 1000 miles an hour. But no place to settle for sure. We spend as much of our free time as possible in Bali, and I record a lot of material there also with some great local musicians, there’s some amazing traditional music from Bali, very heady, enigmatic and enchanting.
A close friend of ours calls Jakarta “Gotham City”, he’s not far wrong, but minus the Batman sadly. But it’s all part of the master plan – so living in a place like this patience has been key really. I am launching a very unique cider company “SUNRAY” in a couple of months with beautiful exotic flavour profiles, then will properly settle down in Bali for a few years, see where that takes us.
I can think from your photos you are good friends with Thom Bullock. Are you a part of hidden mescaline community Thom curated?
Yeah Tom’s a dear friend, we met 13-14 years ago I guess. I showcased his band A.R.E Weapons at one of my Electric Stew Events at the Great Eastern Hotel. A funny night where Brain the vocalist managed to trash a 20k chandelier within the first 5 minutes of the show by throwing his mic above his head.
We then met again the following year just after I moved to Berlin at a party we were both booked to play, and been close mates ever since. A unique guy with a unique talent – always pushing the boundaries and getting away with it! I’ve a lot of love and respect for him.
Yeah, I’ve had the Bullock Mescal experience, and have some very questionable photos from it, kinda reminiscent of a “teleport” accident. It’s a wicked brew, to be treated with respect! And he’s the no.1 man to spread the word for Mescal culture that’s for sure!
You always include some psychedelic elements in your music, why? What do you think about drugs?
I think the term “psychedelic” is such a loose one and so banded around these days it’s difficult to know what it means. I like to produce music that takes you somewhere unfamiliar and holds you there. Creates an atmosphere as it were. An emotion, trance inducing almost. That’s what I aim to do as that’s the feeling I get off on with the music I personally enjoy. But you know that can be any form of music, it doesn’t have to be “out there” to get “you there”!
That relating to drug use is another thing altogether. Drugs are a life style choice and I still think the music is paramount to the majority of music loving public. I don’t have to be under the influence to have any life changing experience from music. I’ve been to some heavenly places, been in tears and covered in goose bumps with a pair of headphones on and a cup of green tea on the go.
But… Also in my time have also had some mind blowing musical experiences with assistance from stimulants. But the two should never be really mentioned hand in hand as a matter of importance, it’s a bit lazy to be honest. As I know which one I could never live without.
What’s the story with Electric Stew?
Electric Stew was a club night and brand myself and an old friend Paul Potter set up. Paul was running things at the time in super club land through his executive role at Mixmag – the crazy mixmag golden years, big envelopes of cash, crazy fees, the big shift towards commerciality etc etc, the beginning of the end if you will. Paul had had enough of the B.S I think. So anyways, I was doing these small low key parties in central London called “Electric Stew” – Myself, The Psychonauts, Gramme (live) and some other weirdness, kinda cool – pretty poorly attended but the people there were all the “right people” in town. Paul came to one of the parties to see me – dragged me off for a few months (Potter style) both left our jobs, hatched some plans and Electric Stew “the brand” was born.< We launched it on a Sunday at (the now infamous celebrity hell hole) “China white”, wasn’t expecting much, we had about 1000 people turn up and turned away - it was magic. People really made an effort, really dressed up and showed out! We added live music, film, exhibition, fashion and literature to the mix with the hottest talents of the time and it just blew up very very quickly – We de-camped the events to a 5 star Conran hotel called “The Great Eastern Hotel”, it was just as Shoreditch was really starting to bubble, and it exploded. We were getting 2000 people at the parties, over 4 or 5 rooms, then most people hired hotel rooms for private afters – the place was a total fucking mad house to be honest, god knows how we got away with it. We toured it around the world, launched fashion labels, sound tracked catwalk shows, launched stores, toured and launched magazines and brands and did really well from it. We were lucky to showcase art, film and have the likes of play for us.. Chris Cunnigham, Vincent Gallo, Jarvis Cocker, Harvey, Jane Birkin, Tracy Emin, Will Self, Spike Jonze, Isolee, Doves, Cash Money, LFO, Ivan Smagghe, Beth Orton, Trevor Jackson, A.R.E Weapons, Gerry Rooney, Nathan Gregory Wilkins, Mark Moore, Gonzales, Giles Deacon, Liquid Liquid, Isolee, Optimo, Badly Drawn Boy, Andy Votel, Derrick Santini, Danny Wang, Maurice Fulton, Irvine Welsh, Simon Owens, Man Parrish, Soul Wax, Tomato Design, Andrew Weatherall and Gilles Peterson. That’s off the top of my head, the list goes on… And to be honest looking back at it, Its something I’m immensely proud of.
Then we just let it sort of die – we killed it before it killed us. But boy what fun!! I went off to concentrate more on my music and moved off to Berlin for a few years then AMO1 and Paul books, and tours major global talent and is doing very well for himself – and here we are.
Was it also a record label?
Yeah we had an “Electric Stew” label deal given to us through PIAS, it sort of came at the wrong time, the tail end of the good times, the after after after party! – We squeezed a couple singles and a great compilation out though which rounded the whole Electric Stew experience off nicely – a lovely colourful “full stop” to the madness.
I found amazing Ghost 12” there via Pasha Plastikk.
Yeah our first release was GHOST the 12” you mentioned – that was actually my first production job – weirdly enough Ghost was Zeben’s band who went on to be the vocalist and my co-writer in A Mountain Of One many moons later.
And we come close to A Mountain Of One project…
I moved to Berlin for a questionable dance project I was involved in – we got a major deal with a heavyweight german label and all upped sticks and moved there – peak time Berlin madness !! – anyways – to cut a long story short all went tits up, band split, album never saw the light of day – and to be honest I’m glad as it’s the only thing I’ve been involved in that makes me squirm – so I came home tail between my legs but a fire in my belly and a sound that I wanted to try and create and pulled in my old friends Leo and Zeben – and we just jumped straight into the studio and started demoing – within 4 months or so the first EP was written. It was magical how it just came together – I think we all had so many ideas that needed to come out and I had a big devil on my back that I needed to shake off from Berlin, it was a beautiful liberating experience – I loved every minute of those first sessions – proper magic in the air stuff, the magic stuff that makes it worth while.
How did you team up with Leo?
My first job in London in the mid 90s was as a label manager / lacky / someone to throw stuff at on a Monday / coffee maker / mail records at a major dance label (I’m not telling you the name) – one of our acts was “Chicane”, this was Leo’s band – so Leo was in our office all the time – we bonded over music / club culture / and our love of brogues at if I remember rightly – I left the label to start Electric Stew – he left Chicane – we hung out for years on and off – always shared the same taste in music and Leo has this lovely fascination and enthusiasm which was ace to be around.
So he was the perfect person that came to mind when I was scheming the AMO1 project in my head – so I just called him – I think it was from Croatia where I was DJing for a summer, then jumped on a flight home – Leo came met me from the airport and we literally went straight into his studio – full of beans and belly fire! As it should be.
You personal fave AMO song?
Freefall I think is perfect – it was missing something in the session so I was asking Zeb to try bring some funk sleaze to the track– (not easy to an ambient ballad btw), so he started chopping out this stabby heady clav riff over the top – post vocal and song – something just slotted perfectly. Well, I had to go and have a sit down in the garden – I knew this may be the happiest I could get so went and lapped it up on my own and get my breath – moments like that are worth all the sofa surfing poverty, false major label promises, stinky tour buses and general upset – I’d do it all again just for that moment! – I honestly would, no doubt.
Ride is something very special to me also – it captured this lush sense of freedom and innocence – summed up that time for me, and sound tracked a few others I think – Leo and I had a “moment” mid way through that coming together – happy accidents, majik, whatever you wanna call it – but when it hits – it really is the best feeling – bar none.
Why do you think your music is so emotional?
I’m not sure – I don’t think ZSOU is so much that sound. AMO1 definitely leans towards the melancholy – Thing is I get a euphoric feeling from the melancholy – I used to zone out after clubs to Nick Drake, Pentangle and John Martyn albums at an early age – those artists and that sound is hugely uplifting and spiritual (for me) – so maybe that channels itself someway through the music I work on. I guess you’re just trying to get out what turns you on and in some way it does through the creative process.
Tell about ZSOU project.
ZSOU is Merrick Adams and myself. Merrick and I met through a mutual friend, I was looking for a bass player for the 2nd AMO1 album tour and Merrick got recommended. We bonded straight away over music and wine. Did a couple of shows together etc.
Merrick has this incredible natural feel and flair on the bass and pretty much anything else he can get his hands on or bang/hit. Raw talent at its best!! Anyways. That really hit the spot for the AMO1 live set up. Then mid tour everything went tits up, Mezz left the tour, and then I decided to split the band for lots of reasons, everything felt tired, a bit sour and was all a bit of a mess, people were getting let down and I wanted out.
So Merrick and I jumped in the studio asap and started demoing some ZSOU ideas and generally having lots of fun. It felt right, was well needed and here we are. It’s a lot slower creative process than AMO1 but worth it, it feels more fresh and natural as a process and a finished product – well for me anyways – other people may disagree.
New ZSOU single has just been pressed and will be out in a few weeks I’m told. From there hopefully another single and a ZSOU “long” player at the end of the year, although not sure how “long” it will be. Possibly some film work we will be involved in with a talented old friend of mine called Pablo Clements / Psychonauts / Unkle / Toydrum etc. And also a compilation / mix album of the weird and wonderful that a new label has just asked me to potentially put together… Oh and hopefully get the Balinese feeling some exotic cider! 🙂 x
ZSOU “Admiral Byrd / Admiral Dub” will be released on “Island of the Gods” in May
Follow ZSOU on Soundcloud
Words by Sasha Tessio & Artem Super Ikra.
Cover drawing by Sasha Tessio.