If you looked over at the Zedd True Colour Tour poster earlier this fall and asked yourself, “who is Alex Metric?” fear not – you’re far from the only one! I recently sat down with the ultra-prolific British DJ and producer with over 50 tracks to his name on his SoundCloud account, which is surprisingly high, look up the number of some of your favourite DJs number if you don’t believe me. While his string of hits on OWSLA was certainly one of the main talking points, we went very in depth in covering his touring history with Zedd, his working relationship with Oliver, his musical style, live performances, the UK vesus North America, and more.
Alex! So this is actually your third time touring with Zedd (OWSLA Tour 2012 & Moment of Clarity Tour 2013). How has this one been different?
Show-wise I’d say this one has been the best, but hanging out with Oliver last tour on the tour bus (Moment of Clarity) was great fun. This time around we’ve done MSG, Staples Centre, massive stadium venues that you’d love to play and be able to cross off your list!
Would you say Zedd’s the only DJ right now who’s able to sell-out stadium tours city after city?
Yeah? I’d say there’s not many, you’ve got your Deadmau5 and people like that. Anton’s crowd is definitely interesting, especially now two years on with a lot more hits and even the Selena Gomez record, I wouldn’t say it’s not an EDM crowd, but it’s also not quite a pop crowd – it’s somewhere in the middle!
So you and Zedd come from different musical backgrounds, what’s the dynamic been like on the road?
Musically we are from completely different worlds so I don’t assume his fans have a clue who I am – but that’s why I’m on this tour! I can do a proper warmup set, I can start chill and get the vibes going and the crowd hyped up gradually. Not a lot of people still do that, and because we’re so different musically, it’s nice for Anton [Zedd] to know that I’ll be playing records completely different from his and I think we just complement each other well as I bring something different to his fanbase.
Seeing as you guys are very different musically, what should Zedd’s fans expect when they see the name Alex Metric up there?
For me, the opportunity to come over and play a bunch of records for a young crowd who have probably come into dance music from the pop music end of things and maybe haven’t heard things outside of the EDM genre is a real privilege. Hopefully half the crowd will go away thinking “wow, what was that?! That was something new I’ve never heard about”, and maybe even exploring other forms of dance music. Let’s be honest, not all the kids love it. I’m not the DJ to drop records they know every three minutes and I understand that.
By the end of this tour we’ll have done like 34 shows, if I turn on 500 kids a night to something new I’ve got a massive new fan-base and it’s been worthwhile doing it!
You don’t seem like the type of producer to classify your music in one style, can you talk a little about your styles and your musical evolution?
I definitely do a lot of styles, but there’s always a common thread around it, and I think I’ve been around long enough to live through various genres. I started off in breakbeat in the early 2000s, when the electro boom happened I got sucked up into that wave. I don’t even know what I am now! At the root it’s always house music, but nu-disco’s got a big influence on what I do and I’ve always done disco-esque records. To classify me as one genre I don’t know! I’ve always strived to stand out and do something a bit different, especially now. I try never to repeat myself and challenge myself to do something fresh for me.
How does that manifest itself in the studio or in your work?
I can jump from doing poppier records such as “Heart Weights a Ton” to stripped down underground records like “Drum Machine”, but I don’t feel that’s weird because I just like making music. I don’t like making one particular type of music, I like making music. I never know how something is gonna turn out till I get in the studio and see how I’m feeling the day of. It’s always going to come from that place rather than the contrived “I have to make 122bpm deep house records forever to bring in loads of DJ gigs”. That’s not creative to me, it has to come from a creative place.
Ammunition is about having that body of work that all complements each other, it’s not about saying “here’s one track and that’s what I’m all about”, but rather “here’s everything I’m into the moment.”
So Ammunition, Pt. 4 came out on OWSLA the other week, what’s the overarching goal behind the Ammunition EP series, and how does this one fit in?
The Ammunition series has always been about having a body of work, a collection of tracks that work together and complement each other. It was about 8-9 months of writing tracks, scrapping some, mixing some, finishing some, and having some in reserve. I basically had the EP together, but I felt I was missing that one track. The A-side on the Ammunition series is one that a lot of DJs will play cross genres. Take “Hope” for example, it’s a super strong single that was supposed to be an Ammunition EP, but eventually that became its own standalone EP instead. “Rave Weapon”, “Hope”, “Drum Machine”, these are all easily playable club weapons and that’s the main goal for the series. I had a lot of good tracks but I didn’t have the one that made me think “a lot of people are going to be playing this”, then “Drum Machine” happened and once I finished it I knew I was set with that simple, hooky track that complemented the rest of the EP.
Can you go into the creative process specifically for Ammunition, Pt. 4?
I felt like after doing a big vocal record like “Heart Weights a Ton”, I needed to go back and do a club EP which is how I’ve been working the past few years. I’ll jump from big songs, to club stuff and go back to doing songs again, I find the creative process quite reactionary based on the last thing I did. With Ammunition, Pt. 4 I just kept writing records and waiting to see when I knew I had something there. For the DJ vibe I’ve got “Drum Machine”, “Always There” for the emotional content, “Got Me Up” which is the fun record with The Knocks, the collaboration with Amtrac “Elev8” which is on a more techno vibe. Finally there’s “Creeper” which is the oldest of the bunch, I can’t recall when I actually finished that one, but I’ve had it for awhile. It’s one of my favourites, one of the subtle ones on the record but it really works. The first time I started playing it was Holy Ship earlier in the year and I had people coming out to me asking me what the hell that tune I was playing was so I knew that was a good record! My DJ sets can go from disco, house, to techno, so it’s good for me to have records that all fall within those genres for the EP.
You brought up an interesting point about finding a track that other DJs would play. When you’re making music, are you consciously thinking to yourself “is this something other DJs would play?”, or are you focused on what you think your fans want to hear?
My instinct is definitely not, “I want to make records for DJs” generally speaking. For the most part, I make records for me. Take “Always There”, that’s a real, emotional record that I had to get out for myself to make, but that’s not to say that once in awhile I don’t love that challenge of coming at it from a DJs perspective. It’s not just about thinking about what works in the club, I knew “Elev8”, “Creeper” would do well in a club, but rather “what is that one simple record that will really cross the board and hit a whole lot of DJs?” Take “Hope” for example, you had DJs like Dillon Francis, to Todd Edwards to Todd Terry playing it and you couldn’t get further across the musical spectrum. It’s the same for “Drum Machine”, Carl Craig said he loved the track, the Dirtybird guys have been playing it. Chris Lake and Don Diablo from the EDM side have been playing it. Whenever I do a pure club record, like “Rave Weapon” for example, I just love that challenge of making it simple as hell – but yeah, when I’m writing music I’m not focused on who’s playing it.
The killer of creativity is thinking about that expectation is thinking about who might play it and who might not, you just have to make a great record for yourself. That said, it is fun at times to give yourself that challenge of making that record. I set myself that challenge with “Drum Machine” and it worked really well.
Talk to me about Oliver, the Hope EP has come up quite a few times. What’s it like working with them?
The first time we met I had just listened to their remix of Housse De Racket – “Roman”, which I really liked. When I found out we had a mutual friend Mike B, a famous DJ in LA, I hit him up and pitched him about getting into the studio with them. So one afternoon we went into the studio together, we really hit it off and actually released a track that day “Motion Study” which ended up on Ammunition, Pt. 2! People really loved that track so we always wanted to work together again. After that we were both on the previous Zedd Moment of Clarity Tour through 2013 so we hung out even more and now they’re two of my best mates, I see them all the time when I’m in LA. After the tour we did “Hope”, we did “Galaxy” after Holy Ship which is actually named after one of the clubs on the boat! It’s super easy to work with Oliver, they’re insanely talented musicians and great guys and it’s easy working with people like that because creatively we can all come up with great stuff. I’d say the one thing I can maybe do faster than them is finishing records! I’m a finisher and that’s why we work well together, Vaughn will play some chords and then I’ll be like “done, let’s move on”, whereas the two of them might still get lost in and try to make it even better and sometimes you just need somebody to tell them that it works and to move on – that’s me! It’s really quick working with them, “Galaxy” was one day, “Hope” was one day.
Do you guys have anything up your sleeves for the future?
They’re working on their album right now and I think I’m going to sing on one of the records, they gave me one the tracks when I was in LA last time I was there. Right now I’m germinating an idea so I think I’ll wind up a featured vocalist on the album! We may also produce a track together, but I’m definitely looking forward to doing some vocals.
For a British producer, you tend to spend a lot of time stateside, do you feel a particular affinity with the North American scene?
Yeah! I mean it was never a contrived thing to do to this, but as I started releasing on OWSLA things started blowing up in the US for me and musically, it’s really exciting time to be in America. I find that with the EDM boom and all the people flooding into the scene, it’s starting to diversify. People are looking for something new and something different and so it’s such an exciting place to come and DJ. That’s where I fit in on OWSLA, and where I fit in musically. That’s not to say I don’t DJ in the Europe or elsewhere, but I do love coming here.
What would you say are the biggest differences in the music scene either here or in the United Kingdom.
Take a show like this, worlds apart from the regular places I play like XOYO in London which is one of my favourites. Compare that to a Zedd crowd it’s totally different, but the difference between XOYO in London to Kingdom in Austin, or Sound in LA, or Output in New York, clubs like that – I don’t think there’s that many differences anymore and I wouldn’t have just said that a few years ago. When I was first coming over I did find a difference in the crowds, you can chalk that up to me being on OWSLA, I was playing more EDM-y shows, that sort of vibe. Now I find that European and American audiences are very similar. My club sets don’t change from America to Europe, tracks may change but musically nothing does and I do very much the same thing everywhere I go. That said, if you put this crowd into an underground club like that it’d be very much a different vibe!
Would you say you would cater better to a festival crowd, or the club crowd? Do you have a preference playing either type of show?
When I first started out all I wanted to do was play festivals, I’ve had some of my best performances at festivals and I still love doing them. As I get older and wiser, maybe not wiser, but those low ceilings, dark rooms, long sets, I’m starting to enjoy those more. I love the ability to “go on a bit of a journey” and a three hour set is a beautiful thing for me, on this tour I’m only playing 45 minutes which is quite different. So yeah, I’d say I’m more of a club DJ, that’s not to say I can’t go smash a festival but I definitely enjoy those longer sets.
Final question, do you have any kind of ritual or anything you guys do before you play a live set?
Not really! Just drinks, listen to some music to pump myself up. Actually, even now as we’re into the final week of the tour I don’t even need much to psyche myself up anymore. I’m not going to be on the mic or jumping about, I’m just going up there to play records. As long as I know the music and can think about it that, I’m good!
Featured Image Source: Crazy Lights Photography