Described by Feed Me as someone who is “great at pushing the show beyond DJing… [and] definitely an active mind… very inspiring to listen to,” Chicago-based artist Zeros recently released his debut album Space Noir off of Feed Me’s Sotto Voce label. I got in touch with Zeros to learn more about the inspiration for his album (which you can get here), how he gets his unique sound, and what’s next for him.
Congratulations on your debut album Space Noir! What inspired you to create an album based on film noir? (I’m going to guess you’re a film buff!)
Thanks! The idea sort of started with the intro track (for the album) I made. I did that randomly a little over a year ago and I had originally named it something like “FADE IN: EXT – Crane In Over City” which was sort of what I imagined the script of some futuristic noir drama opening with. There wasn’t much to it at the time but it sort of developed more as the music came along and I started planning and working on the art. It’s been a great theme though. There’s tons to reference and pull from and I think it sort of entertains a tone that really isn’t traditional to the electronic music scene. You guessed right though! I am a huge fan of film. It’s sort of become a hobby for me that is a nice escape. I can’t watch films without having IMDB open on my phone or laptop.
Did you incorporate any samples from actual films into the tracks?
I think only one actually and it’s so subtle I don’t think you’d even notice. It’s in “Red Panda” if you want to try and find it. Generally speaking though, I rarely sample things. Not for any political reasons or to say that I won’t in the future, I just really didn’t get around to it this release.
Your album has a very unique sound, with elements ranging from cinematic to futuristic, and even some jazz with the piano riffs that gives a kind of vintage vibe. What kind of musical and/or artistic influences made its way into the album?
I’m really glad that one of the words that’s been thrown around about it is “unique.” The “Zeros” project at its essence was meant to culminate all of my experience with music and solidify it into something, well, “unique” but polished and approachable from both a live setting and listening setting. I wanted it to sound different but feel familiar. I’m sure most of the influence seeped into my subconscious and came out into the music organically rather than something I can directly point out. I borrowed a lot from funk, jazz, house, techno, electro, idm, etc.
What kind of story did you want to tell with your tracks? Or are the tracks meant to showcase a collection of sounds rather than to take the listener on a journey?
The story was meant to be largely visceral. I wanted to bring people through a range of emotions and sounds while maintaining some cohesion. I wanted to make the soundscape as diverse as possible rather than doing 10 “Red Pandas.” I only hope that my listenership will gain trust in my ability to introduce them to things they might not be traditionally exposed to.
Which track (or tracks) off of Space Noir would be your favorite?
It’s really hard to name a favorite. I told another blog that “Adaptation” was my favorite in a similar response. For this one though, let’s say “Moving Keys.” I’m planning on doing some sort of VIP that I have mostly worked out in the future.
It’s a constant challenge for artists to come up with a new sound or style for themselves that hasn’t already been done before. How do you come up with a sound that’s unlike what’s already out there?
I think distancing myself from the type of music that I’m writing at any given moment helps a lot. I’ll go through phases of listening to a style or genre and then shut it all down for a while and let it all sort of fade away and what I find actually stays with me is the sensibility of what I heard. I think then you’re able to identify and recreate the feeling of something you heard versus the sound of it. I think another practical approach is to identify what you don’t want your music to be. That’s been a huge guideline for this project.
You seem to be on an amazing journey career-wise — being signed onto Feed Me’s Sotto Voce label, touring with him on his Psychedelic Journey tour, and now releasing your debut album. How did you and Feed Me meet, and how has that career journey been for you so far?
I’ve known Feed Me for quite a while. I supported him early on in his music career as a fan and we slowly became friends over the years. I started working with his old label doing DnB a couple of years back and he picked up ‘Zeros’ for Sotto Voce when I told him about the project last year. The “Zeros” thing is really just now coming to life. The past year of writing and planning was really fun and stressful at the same time. The Teeth tour I supported on was a great way to sort of see it come to life. That was really amazing for me.
Now that your album is out, what is next for you? Potentially a collaboration with Feed Me?
I’ve just landed a pretty big remix but I’m not sure if I’m allowed to talk about the details yet but look out on my Twitter/Facebook for that! I’ve got another collab with Haywyre that I’ve been sitting on for ages that is also top priority. I’ve got quite a bit of new and old tunes to go over since getting back from tour. I think the idea is to do another album at this point. A collaboration with Feed Me was talked about on tour at some point so I think that sums it up perfectly, “potentially”.