You could call him Federico Augusto Ágreda Álvarez. What probably comes out of your mouth when you speak about Federico, though, is Zardonic. Venezuela’s masked musical vigilante has been influencing the electronic world for ten years now and the signs of an end are nowhere to be found; an album is on the way, but what is presently offerable is the celebratory mix of Zardonic’s decennial anniversary. The mix comes as a premiere, along with a peek behind the mask in an interview I had with the twenty-nine year old.
Within the ten years of Zardonic, a lot has been accomplished by Federico. Taking the #1 spot on multiple Beatport charts, leading multiple projects, pushing releases through outlets like OWSLA and Dieselboy‘s Human Imprint, as well as doing official remixes for Nine Inch Nails, Beyoncé and The Berzerker are feats that were checked off during the ten year time period. He’s traveled from country to country, reaching places all across the world with his curious nature and bass-boosted beats to the point of uniting forty-five countries for the creation of the music video for “Revolution.”
Outlook is key for anybody who is going to make it in anything. Zardonic expresses many characteristics a flourishing human being needs to possess to affect the world in a positive way. Whether with his music or down to Earth attitude – just ask Zombie boy and the Mexican Vampire Woman – he continues to be genuine and rupture any confines that may be visible to others. His musical prowess knows no bounds; just go through his whopping discography and that fact will be plain to see.
Zardonic opened up in the interview I had with him to reveal details into his past, his feelings on the present and his views on social/individual matters. To my surprise sigils, Venezuelan politics, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were mentioned in this comprehensive interview with a man who’s out to change the world, not for himself, but for everyone. Music has given him the chance to do that with plenty of success already being had. Let us honor and celebrate a remarkably charming character whose music has touched an innumerable amount of lives by delving into the 99 minute mix. Show some love to Zardonic on his socials after lending your eyes to the interview and let Federico’s words inspire you to evolve yourself and your mind.
Full Tracklist Below Interview
Your EDM Interview:
1. Let’s first talk about all these aliases: Gorepriest, Intimus Universum, Blackholepit, Triangular Ascension, Sol Nocturno and finally Zardonic. Why’d you choose each name, and what was the reasoning for moving on, and settling with Zardonic?
Z: All of them were projects I had, most of them are inactive except for Triangular Ascension. They were aliases for different styles and I wanted each name to represent each genre I was working with, Blackholepit (Industrial Doom Metal), Gorepriest (Ambient Black Metal), Intimus Universum (Noise Ambient), Sol Nocturno (Digital Black/Death Metal) and Triangular Ascension remains my Dark Ambient act. I just love the places it can take me. Now, the reason why I settled with Zardonic was because out of the whole lot, that was the one who started giving me money and I always dreamed to live off music. So I decided to focus on that. I had to give up my dream of being a Black Metal Superstar in Venezuela (laughs), but Zardonic allowed me to be a solo musician and a solo performer. I think that’s the part I like the most about it.
2. How did Federico get himself into music in the first place?
Z: I guess it was something I was into since I was born pretty much. Had a keyboard since I was like 3 years old. I loved music. Especially Classical Music: Vivaldi, Mahler, Beethoven, Dvorak. I heard all of them at home, my father had a very exquisite taste in music. That and also some Nu Jazz. He loved Earl Klugh, Larry Carlton, George Benson. It’s music I love to this day. It was my brother who ruined everything by playing me Pantera’s “The Great Southern Trendkill” (laughs); that was the time when all hell broke loose. I was thirteen, and three years later I started making music on my own, until I started with Zardonic at 18. It all happened because of a girlfriend that showed me the best side of electronic music, and having a metal background took me to mix both things. And voilá, le Zardonique!
3. What is it about Drum & Bass (and Metal) that keeps the market ceiling low for most acts?
Z: The closemindedness of people. And by “people” I don’t mean labels, promoters, agents or any of the sort. I mean producers and artists themselves who wish to stay underground and not market their sound beyond the scene. They lack ambition, if you ask me. But if you remember artists like Pendulum or Noisia (on the Drum & Bass side), Metallica or Pantera (on the Metal side) I’m sure you know the market ceiling wasn’t exactly low for them. I’m telling you, there’s no such thing about “low ceiling” for Zardonic either. This project knows no limits and it’s going up to the top. Hell, Dubstep was pretty much the music genre that Drum & Bass scenesters would laugh about everytime because it wasn’t proper for dancefloors, or because it would never be popular. Take someone with the drive that Sonny Moore has, and you got Skrillex. And Dubstep owned everyone. The more ambition you have, the greater it can be. No matter what genre you work with.
4. How do you feel about where electronic music has come as a whole?
Z: I love it, makes everything the more interesting. I was getting pretty tired of playing strictly Drum & Bass sets anyways and always wanted to play a bit of Electro, Glitch Hop, Breakbeat in my own style without having to use an alias. And that’s exactly what I’m going to do now. I’m working on an album that will outdo everything I’ve done in the past, strictly Metal/EDM hybrid tracks, balanced to please both the listener audience and the dancefloor audience. It strays away from the repetitiveness of most EDM, but doesn’t overdo the whole thing either. I think people will be very pleased with it.
5. Who are some of your favorite/most influential musical acts?
Z: A lot come to my mind, but off the top of my head Devin Townsend, Aphex Twin, Counterstrike, Chemical Brothers, The Prodigy, Ministry, Fear Factory, Sepultura, and I could keep going but it’s gonna take too much space.
6. How has being from Venezuela shaped your music/creativity?
Z: In many ways. There is one thing in common with most metal musicians: they grow up in a shithole. I don’t [mean] to talk bad about my own country; I love it and it has great things. But when you’re surrounded by a bunch of burglars who will point a gun to your head over a mobile phone; well, that just shows the kind of miserable rats that we have to deal with. That’s the joys of capitalism for you; the obsession for possession. I don’t even think it’s something people can stop anymore. It’s one of the most corrupt countries in the world and that obviously doesn’t help to fight the crime. Our president Hugo Chavez (R.I.P.), was the only one who ever tried to fight for social equity and this included fighting corruption, of course, but he was surrounded by many, many rats. People who are in power to this day. Nevertheless, socialist values are deeply sewn in us and that is the legacy of Chavez. Learning to live with few things, moving forward no matter if we don’t have the prettiest house, or the latest model car. We set our mind onto something and we just get it. It is really sad that there are still people who believe their lives will be better by taking the possessions of others. I don’t understand this mindset. I wonder what will be of his legacy in the future; it’s yet to be seen.
If you want to see what has been going on in Venezuela, I would recommend you all to watch “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.” It’s on Youtube.
7. It’s your 10 year anniversary. You’re celebrating with a memorial mix; can you tell us about it?
Z: This mix contains only Zardonic material. Solo tunes, collaborations, remixes and a couple edits of my favorite tunes. It also has a tribute to Dieselboy’s “Dungeonmaster’s Guide”, specifically in the moment I’m mixing Basic Operations’ “White”, Technical Itch’s “The Hand” and Raiden’s “Infection (E-Sassin VIP)”. These three tunes were mixed the same way in the mentioned mix, which was the mix that got me into Drum & Bass. So this is me paying homage to the greatest Drum & Bass DJ that North America has ever had. In all honesty, I could still place that mix on my top 10 albums of all time next to “Spiritual Black Dimensions” by Dimmu Borgir, “Dusk… And Her Embrace” by Cradle Of Filth, “Formulas Fatal To The Flesh” by Morbid Angel, “Black Seeds Of Vengeance” by Nile, you name it. That’s why I loved Hard Drum & Bass so much in the first place. It was like the original Metal EDM hybrid. Had way more guts and attitude than most other dance music genres.
And this is something you hardly hear nowadays. If commercial music used to be bad, it’s getting worse. Everyone’s desperately wanting to be a copycat of (insert top-of-the-pops DJ here). I don’t. I listen to everything you can think of, hell, I’m guilty of being a dark DNB DJ who loves what High Contrast did. You can hear that guy can do music that still sounds like music, you can almost smell it and it’s still fresh in a great way, not like a plastic wrapped package of shit. I’m not going to name and shame, but I know a lot of people reading this will understand what I’m talking about.
One of the things I always have in my mind when I’m working as an EDM DJ or Producer, is Metal. Be it because of the way I compose, because of the specific, overly euphoric vibe I’m always looking for, or even because of the ethics commonly found in the metal scene.
This mix is one of those things. It’s a journey that will make you go throughout the best of the history of all Zardonic releases, and even some unreleased remixes, edits or bootlegs, the same way you find an album of a band full of their own compositions plus the occasional tribute to the classic bands.
Among these tributes you’ll hear, for example, you’ll find my remix of “Bitemark” by Black Sun Empire, for example. That track to me is like “Angel Of Death” by Slayer to a metalhead. Or also why you’ll hear those tunes I mentioned as they were mixed in Dieselboy’s mix.
So here you go, hopefully this mix still displays and portrays what I feel in my heart, and I hope you all enjoy it the same way I enjoyed crafting it as carefully as possible, mixed the old school way.
8. What’s been the most important thing that has helped you to get where you are at now?
Z: Perseverance, discipline, breaking the rules and not giving a shit about anyone who thought I would never make it. I’m filled with sardonic joy everytime they have to swallow their words.
9. Where were some of your most memorable performances?
Z: Russia always tops the game, but I can tell you I’ve felt amazing energy (and packed clubs) in places like Colombia, Guatemala, Venezuela, Portugal, Spain, France, Romania; there’s always something good happening out there if you knock the right doors. But yeah, Pirate Station Revolution in Moscow is so far the best gig I’ve ever played there. Nearly 10,000 fans going insane to my music. I just couldn’t believe my eyes!
10. What software/equipment do you use to create your songs? Has that changed over the years?
Z: FL Studio, and no that hasn’t changed. Especially not now that I’m endorsed by Image-Line. It is the most professional sequencer I’ve ever worked with. Tried all of them: Reason, Cubase, Ableton Live, Renoise. None gave me such a fast workflow as FL Studio does. And it’s no wonder it’s used by the industry’s top acts: deadmau5, Martin Garrix, Spor/Feed Me, you name it. It’s also cheap as fuck in comparison with other sequencers, considering the capabilities it has.
I mostly use free VST plugins and FL native plugins, with the exception of plugins by G-Sonique, another brand that recently endorsed me. They make some really interesting stuff and a couple of their tools have become key pieces of my mastering.
11. Do you like producing/performing more?
Z: I don’t think I can compare any of them. It’s more like they go hand-by-hand. Production leads me to finish a track that I want to play out there, and performing takes me back to the studio as I want to play something new the next time. I love traveling and meeting new people, playing all the shows I’ve played has been a beautiful experience. But it also gets pretty tiring and boring when you’ve played the same set for over a year. That’s when you need to go back to the studio. And after that, back to the stage. And so on. They’re both necessary and both enjoyable if you love what you do.
12. Can we hear the story about how you and Zombie Boy almost got into a fight?
Z: It’s nothing relevant to be honest. Just some miscommunication problems we had and eventually we got over it. We learned a lot from each other and the guy has my respect. I still have the Ninja Turtle he bought me as a present. We’re both HUGE TMNT fans!
13. Any other interesting stories from over the years?
Z: Either too long, too personal or I forgot. I know, I’m no fun sorry 😀
14. Top ten drum & bass acts, in no particular order.
Z: Noisia, Dieselboy, Counterstrike, Black Sun Empire, State Of Mind, Receptor, Davip, Cooh, Fragz & C-Netik, The Prototypes.
15. Country with the best food?
16. I understand you have some tattoos. Can you tell us about them?
Z: I have four sigils I designed on my own for prosperity, patience, awareness and observation. Also “V.I.T.R.I.O.L” in honor of my father who passed away last year. And the last one is my favorite, “Revolution” in Russian. A homage to my Russian fans. Russia has the best Drum & Bass festivals in the planet, period. Nothing can be compared to Pirate Station. Nothing.
17. What about the mask, how did that come into play?
Z: It’s based off my own face and I had it as a logo in the beginning. For the first 8 years I didn’t use any masks but always had the idea to put the logo on my face (as that would make sense) to make people remember the brand. When I finally did it, everything changed massively. By looking at myself in the mirror I realized this was a character stronger than I could imagine. The whole power of the universe was contained within that mask. And it keeps flowing unstoppably.
18. 10 years have occurred for Zardonic. What can we expect in the future?
Z: Let’s wait for the album to come out, and everything else will happen on its own. I cannot predict the future, but my aim is global domination. I can only do so much to achieve such a megalomaniac goal, but hey! It’s worked just fine for me so far.
19. Any last words?
Z: Stay true, and believe in yourselves. We hold dormant powers that must be unbound. The possibilities are endless!