On October 31st, the Midwest witnessed one of the hottest dance music line-ups anywhere in the nation at Haunted Fest. Audien, Arty, A-Trak and Zeds Dead laid down the soundtrack to a perfectly spooky Halloween in the beautiful Columbus Convention Center. A huge space adorned with rainbow neon lights that covered the ceiling and 5 large LCD screens that made your entire field of view a non-stop party. There wasn’t a soul present, living or dead, that wasn’t enjoying the experience.
On top of curating an amazing line-up of top tier artists, Prime Social Group also allowed me all-access to their event and a chance to meet and speak with Audien, Arty and the ever-so-hot Zeds Dead. Dishing about their Halloween experiences and what life is like backstage, I got to see what life is like behind the music for some of the biggest producers in the game today.
At Haunted Fest Audien was in quite a hurry. Arriving shortly before his performance and leaving immediately afterwards to be able to make his 12:30am set time in Detroit, his requests were light in nature: a pack of Orbit gum, Gatorades, Aquafina waters and several cans of Red Bull to pair with his bottle of Grey Goose. Arty chose a rather healthy array of sliced fruits and protein bars to be washed down with Pellegrino water, Corona and Moet champagne. A-Trak enjoyed a vegetable plate, pitas with several kinds of hummus, multiple styles of turkey and beef jerky, dried nuts and berries, Cliff bars, a cooler full of Stella Artois, and an assortment of Naked fruit juices and sparkling waters. Headliners Zeds Dead also requested an assortment of fruit; mostly bananas and grapes to be drank with Simply Orange orange juice and Fiji water. Not afraid of carbs and trans fats, they also requested 2 bags of Lay’s Kettled Cooked mesquite BBQ chips, Rold Gold pretzels, Jack’s Links Beef Jerky, Cliff Bars and an assorted bag of mini candy bars–it was Halloween after all. Mindful of the toll touring can take on your body, a box of Emergenc-E also laid on the table next to a sketch pad and permanent marker. Artistry that goes well beyond the composition of music, Hooks is an accomplished street artist that has made his mark of beautiful graffiti around the world. Later on in my interview with the bass barons I got to see with my own eyes his talent for drawing and hear about his passion for the creation of street art. A cooler full of Yeungling next to a large bottle of Maker’s Mark told me they were far from having a gutter-palette when it came to adult beverages. Their refined taste shines through in their well-developed melodies and their taste for good bourbon.
Audien arrived first and was accompanied by a beautiful and friendly female companion. All smiles with upbeat conversation topics, they brought an excellent energy into the room that was very much like the energy he brought to the stage. His excitement-packed electro-house and driving progressive house jams woke up the Columbus crowd and prepared them for the best Halloween EDM show Ohio State’s campus has ever seen.
Have you ever requested anything funny or off the wall on your rider just to see if someone would do it?
“I haven’t done this myself but I did once see Felix Cartal get a slurpee delivered in a champagne bucket and remember thinking that was pretty baller.”
The fans rarely see you from the waist down… are you into fashion? What do you like to wear when you’re performing?
“I do enjoy clothes. I keep it comfortable because I’m moving or travelling often. The fact that men’s sweatpants are now having a moment works perfectly for me. For sneakers I dig Nikes and Y3s.”
It’s Halloween so let’s talk costumes. Did you ever go as something really funny or memorable as a kid?
“Before I did this professionally I was a fan. I was Armin for Halloween one year in high school. Dressed in all white as seen on his ASOT album covers. Since then he’s become a friend and amazing supporter of mine. Still surreal.”
What kind of DJ equipment are you using tonight?
“The usual suspects. CD-Js and a mixer from Pioneer. Nothing pre-planned other than my intro.”
What was the last song or artist you listened to for pleasure?
“Calvin Harris. Can’t go wrong.”
Up next was EDM phenomenon Arty who peppered in fan favorite sing-a-longs like his beautiful remix of Zedd‘s “Spectrum” to continue the heightening of the crowd’s involvement and excitement with the show. After his set he had some time before headlining the after party at Sway nightclub which he kindly used to sit down and talk with me. With the hope of having a few minutes to speak to the Russian producer, I stopped a random fan in the crowd wearing an Arty t-shirt earlier in the night to ask him if he had the chance to ask Arty one question, what would he choose to ask him? After a moment of contemplation, he told me he was really excited to finally acquire Holy Ship tickets this year. Would I ask Arty if he’s going to be on it and if not, would he want to perform on one in the future? “No, not this year” Arty replied. “I hope to one day. It’s very popular.”
Have you ever requested something funny on your rider for promoters to have for you? He quickly responds:
“I am not as funny as Dillon Francis. I do not have his sense of humor. The funniest thing I request is the vodka because it makes you really funny after a couple of shots.”
Delivering every answer with a smile, I can tell he’s having as much fun joking as I am listening.
Did you ever dress up for Halloween as a kid?
“No. I am from Russia and this holiday is not familiar to us. It’s really American but, it’s funny. I would like to do it once and wear something weird. I think that would be fun.”
With festival season drawing to a close, as you reflect back on your performances which one were you most happy with? Without hesitation he says:
“Oh definitely EDC Vegas. That was a really, really, really good show. Probably the best of my life. Everything about that was pretty perfect and I had a lot of fun.”
Have any fans ever done anything crazy to get your attention? His mood immediately picks up and you can see he is excited to share this story:
“Yeah! It was my 25th birthday on the 28th of September and my Russian fan came all the way from Russia with a video where my family and friends did a shout-out to me. A celebration video I was watching on my phone, on my birthday, far away from my family, far away from my friends and it was such an emotional moment.”
You could hear in his voice that recalling this moment was emotional for Arty and meant a great deal to him. He reiterated with passion
“They brought this video all the way from Russia to Vegas and that was emotional in all ways.”
What kind of DJ equipment are you using tonight?
“Just CDJs, a mixer, and good music.”
Do you get a lot of time to listen to music for pleasure?
“Yeah I’m actually trying to be a bit more wider than just electronic music. My most recent purchase in iTunes was The Foo Fighters Greatest Hits. Listening to different music brings different things to your mind and different ideas on what you’re going to do next in terms of production. It definitely makes sense for me to listen to all different kinds of music. I listen from The Foo Fighters to M83 to Skrillex and Diplo as Jack U. A pretty diverse iTunes playlist to keep yourself diverse.”
Coke or Pepsi?
“Coke. Mexican Coke.”
This then spurs a group conversation about how much better Mexican Coke tastes because they still use real sugar instead of the American way of using high fructose corn syrup. We all agreed, c’mon, America. Catch up.
Red Bull or Monster?
He points to the Red Bull can he’s currently drinking from and jokingly says
“Oh, this is such a hard question” with a smile.
Clearly his allegiance lies with Red Bull.
Xbox 1 or PS4?
“Oh PS4 all day! Like ALL day long. You could ask me ‘Anything or PS4?’ and I am going to say ‘PS4’, haha!”
iPhone or Android
He pulls his iPhone out of his pocket and proudly says
Maxim or GQ?
After a slight pause he explains he has to think on it because they are both good but, he is going to side with the one that is more informative. He goes with
Pool or beach?
“Pool. I like to be private.”
Zed’s dead, baby, Zed’s dead.
Donning a name that pays homage to the cult classic Tarantino film Pulp Fiction and super awesome spaceman helmets, two of the hottest producers in dance music entered the green room at this year’s Haunted Fest. The Toronto-born pair of Zeds Dead are the stuff legends are made of. Years of producing bass anthem after bass anthem as they found and perfected a mixture of heavy bass wobbles highlighted by picturesque feminine vocals have carved their way to the top of the game. Their latest EP Somewhere Else is a “no genre, just music” masterpiece. Eclectic in melodies and vocal types, it shows off their ability to tackle and blend any kind of music and absolutely nail it. They are better than they’ve ever been right now. I’ve been listening to their latest releases since they began teasing us with their new album 6 months ago on a daily basis. Tracks like their Broken Bells “Holding On For Life” remix and their amazing collaboration with Twin Shadow and D’Angelo Lacy “Lost You” are still staples in my every day listening. When Somewhere Else finally released I would listen to the EP 3 times a day every day because tracks like “Collapse”, “Hadouken” and “Where Are You Now” are not only beautiful but the bass rattles your ribcage, grabs your heart and shakes your soul and gives you no choice but to listen to them over and over again. As someone who has listened to a lot of music every day of their life most things don’t impress me… but Zed’s Dead impresses me. In a short while I’m going to be walking into their dressing room with hopes of asking them questions they don’t hate while hopefully drawing out their hilarious, quirky personalities to make for a good interview. No pressure.
Walking into the room wasn’t as nerve-wracking as my pre-interview anxiety was having me believe. Hooks was sitting with his MacBook in his lap putting the final touches on the set for that night and DC gave me a friendly greeting that put me at ease. “The answer is yes!” he says jokingly before I’ve even had a chance to sit down. These guys are so chill and laid back that their calm, funny demeanor permeates through out the room. I can immediately tell everyone is going to have a good time here.
I asked a random fan in the crowd upstairs if they could ask Zeds Dead any question what would it be? I relayed this to the duo as the initial ice breaker:
What is it like performing in front of a large crowd like Tomorrowworld?
DC: Awesome. Slightly nerve-wracking at times. Wonderful. Exciting.
Hooks: Or sometimes if they’re not into it… not gratifying, haha.
When you celebrated Halloween as kids did you ever dress up as anything really funny? Or did your parents ever put you in an embarrassing costume?
DC: My mom actually told me I used to be really picky about my costumes. If I was something with like, a gun, I’d be SUPER particular if the gun didn’t look just right. I remember one year I was Edward Scissorhands and I put a bunch of work into my costume and it turned out amazing.
Hooks: My mom used to sew my costumes. I was Spiderman one year, Captain Hook one year. That was one of the reasons I chose my name.
What was your favorite candy to get in your trick-or-treat bag when you were young?
DC: A full size chocolate bar. There was always that one house that would give you that.
Hooks: The worst one was Rockets. (Smarties)
DC: I liked Rockets!
Hooks: For me, I HATED Rockets.
DC: The worst for me was an apple or fruit.
Hooks: I never got fruit. They were always afraid of fruit. People were like “Don’t accept fruit there might be razor blades in it.” Full chocolate bars were like a legend for me growing up. I didn’t know full chocolate bars existed.
What is your guys’ favorite Halloween song?
DC: Monster Mash is pretty awesome.
Hooks I’ve seen on your Instagram that you’re big into doing graffiti. What does street art mean to you?
Hooks: I could talk a lot about this. Graffiti is kind of like the last rebellious form of art because it’s illegal in nature. All the other subcultures, they’re all legit and corporatized and that’s the only one that’s still against the grain. And it’s the biggest art movement in the world in a way.
[Follow Hooks on Instagram here]
Then I put Hooks on the spot and asked him if he would be kind enough to show off his graffiti writing skills by sketching my name. I was so happy he was down for the challenge. I brought blank paper, a pen, a pencil and a couple highlighters. He got right to it as we all continued the few questions I could squeeze in before they had to get to the stage.
With festival season drawing to an end, which one did you guys have the best time at?
DC: Oh wow. There were so many. The Mad Decent Block Parties were awesome. We did I don’t even know how many of those.. like 15? Electric Forest was definitely a high light. Also Tomorrowworld.
What kind of DJ equipment are you guys using tonight?
DC replies candidly, “My hands.” The best response I’ve ever received to that question.
Would you rather become blind… or never hear another song again?
DC: Uh… I dunno. But I did hear a really funny one of these questions the other day and it was “Would you rather have dicks for fingers or fingers for dicks?”
After a moment of discussion, Hooks comes to the conclusion that having sex with multiple women with one hand may not be all that bad.
Would you rather open up a show for Paris Hilton… or make a mixtape with DJ Pauly D?
DC giggles and answers “Open for Paris Hilton and just troll the crowd. Play all sorts of weird shit. Watch the people just stare at us.”
Would you rather go home with the hot chick from The Wolf of Wall Street… or spend the night at the bar talking to Michael Jordan?
DC: The hott chick from The Wolf of Wall Street.
Hooks looks up from his sketch to interject how he would actually pick Michael Jordan.
Their tour manager kindly reminds us that there is only time for one more question. They are due on stage in just minutes.
What kind of coffee are you guys enjoying on your entertaining Coffee Break videos?
Hooks: These days I drink black but, I kind of have a thing for cappuccinos. Kind of like an old Italian man.
DC: The more into coffee I’ve gotten the less cream and sugar I put into it, but, sometimes you get bad coffee and you have to cover it up with cream and sugar.
At this point the whole room felt the pressure to get these guys moving towards the stage. Their tour manager’s kind but concerned look was all I needed to tell Hooks that it was okay to stop sketching even though he wasn’t finished–that I understood and I appreciated his time. Unwavered, he never looked up from his work. Like he didn’t even hear me. Like there was no way he wasn’t going to finish what he started. It was in these next several steadfast moments I could feel his dedication to art and to finishing a project. He really was in a world of his own determined to finish this for me. As a superfan, this absolutely melted my heart. He kept his nervous partner and team waiting and in the mere 3 minutes he had he whipped up an amazing sketch of my name that I can’t wait to get in a proper frame. I am an avid collector of event and festival posters but, nothing comes close to what Hooks was kind enough to draw for me that Halloween night. Just another thing to add to the already very long list of what makes Zeds Dead the coolest dudes in the music game.