Interview: Zomby

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Excerpts from our AIM interview with Zomby, Hyperdub’s elusive and spooky beatmaker. To read the full feature, download a PDF of XLR8R 124.

What are you doing right now?

Just about to skin up and drink a can of Coke.

What’s a typical day in Zombytown?

Hmm… lots of rolling joints and altering volumes on various sound sources. Erm, cooking chickens and making coffee. I don’t know really… LOL

Cooking chickens?

Yeh. Not en masse and live, but generally eating some chicken-based dish a la carte.

That you make yourself or that you microwave?

I’m not a microsinner. I cook like primitive man with fire and pride.

Sounds epic…

It’s totally epic.

Did you have it in mind for a while that you wanted to make Where Were You In ’92 or did it just start developing?

Well, I had the idea I’d always make a homage to early ’90s hardcore but I didn’t know when or how it would come about. For a while I’d been making things close to the style and then it literally came together over a weekend. It was really the first time I’d allowed myself to really just make what I wanted, bar no exceptions in style or production. My first record I made for myself I guess.

It’s pretty amazing what an old school sound you got.

I grew up on golden era hardcore so for me the vibe of the sound is easy to put back in. I adore the crusty breaks and samples LOL. I got hard into buying recs about 13-14 and then I wanted to make my own. I knew the Akai S2000 and Atari with Cubase was the clue but as a kid with no job it’s hard work so I bought some decks and DJed. Only last ear did I buy a sampler and Atari to get the crunch in the tunes. The hardware isn’t as important as the ear but if you’re a fine swordsman a sharp blade serves you well.

Old stuff is better. It’s just the vibe of this music. It’s solely for the youth. I’m thinking fuck, what happened to punk dance music? Drugs, raving all night, and crime. It’s a shame; right now the youth is sterile. The only form of rebellion is indie and they’re slack.

The thing about crime is I guess it doesn't give you a lot of time for other things…

It leads to violence and violence sucks. I found that out. Music’s more fun. Anyway so hardcore has the real spirit for me. It’s so pure.

You think youth are sterile even in the grime scene? That’s full of raving and crime, supposedly.

In a way. I think they self-market and don’t develop. It is full of raving and crime but in a marketing sense. It’s about marketing and not the music. I mean, you wouldn’t go into a Formula One race in a shit car. You’d spend all your time on the car. Why not make sure the tunes are solid? Lads are too busy getting ideas for videos. It’s stupid, but fair enuff is some ways. Everyone can do as they please, but for me it’s about classic dance music and following a lineage laid for good reason. Things are all for a reason. It’s made to last the test of time. I want my record to rise in value. I take time with my ideas; make sure they’re solid. I can execute a song fast but the idea might be three months in planning.

Do you feel like ragga jungle is destined to make a come back?

Yeah, of course. Artistry can’t be ignored. New eyes and ears see the work differently. Remarc is like Autechre to me. It all depends how u see things. Everything has an artistic element to it–if you can find it and expand on it it’s halfway to being something new. I make a lot of music u know… I make about 30 beats a week.

What happened to your “tropical house” tip you were on when you did “Get Out My Life Hater” and the Spank Rock remix?

The summer before last or so I got kinda into a style of house I wanted to develop but then got bored as usual and left it half done. Tropical house was to be what it was called–like fidget but with my own jackin’ and bass licks on it. I wanted to make it simpler and harder and more jackin’ but it ended up near juke so I gave up. It’s not really something that felt right at that time and I was slowly drifting towards 8-bit sounds too.

What I like about a lot of your stuff, in particular the album, is that it has a melancholy or spooky feel.

Yeh that’s my slant. I play those notes. A lot of dance music hasn’t any real passion. The real passion is in the emotion or anger at not being able to make the tune perfect. That’s what people feel–the effort or passion to make it feel right.

What do you find really scary?

No money. LOL. No skunk, the police, and zombies.

MP3: "The Lie"

Rave to the Grave
Zomby’s favorite old-skool tracks on YouTube.

Manix “Special Request”
This was my fave tune for years.

The Brothers Grimm “Exodus (The Lion Awakes)”
I’d like to see someone stand still when this shit drops. Skip to three minutes… You’ll see what I mean.

Potential Bad Boy “Bad Girl”
It’s a game playing these tunes and seeing how long it takes b4 u have to get up to shock out. That’s how I judge my tunes.

Noise Factory “Set Me Free Remix”
Do you know about Noise Factory? U do now.

D-Force “Original Bad Boy”
My theme tune.

Origination “Let It Shine”
This is an anthem in my flat. This is Photek’s first tune on wax. 1991. Amazing… Stonecold classic.

Sunshine Productions “Above the Clouds”