News Zen Death Squad

Zen Death Squad tell us what makes them tick.

Zen Death Squad are a three piece collective straddling the line between DJs and band who met in the colourful Brighton scene whilst attending the higher institutions of education. That’s right, all of them. Describing themselves as ‘Lazer Metal Crunk’ (the Metal is particularly important as you’ll discover when you read on), their remix of Trophy Wife was featured as a download on this very site. Keeping in this theme of being ONE STEP AHEAD OF THE GAME YO, DIY caught up with the guys to discover what makes them tick, what their plans are and why they hold such flagrant disregard for English spelling. [They didn’t wear the Triangle Heads though :(.]

Zen Death Squad, hello. What’s your current situation?
Halogen: Our current situation?

Your current situation.
Halogen: Single and looking? [All three burst out laughing at this.]

Well I’d heard you go for anything but y’know, I wanted to check what the official line is…
Screenager: Someone as emotionally repressed as Halogen would be perfect.
Z-Whip: I’m not sure this is the sort of thing that he meant!

Oh no, this is what our readers want to know. But yeah, what is your current situation?
Halogen: We’re on the brink of a lot of releases. Our EP is currently being mastered, if that’s what you mean.
Z-Whip: On Made In Glitch. It’s a really cool label, you should all listen to it and them more.

OK, so that’ll be coming out when?
Halogen: We don’t have a release date. We’ve given them the mixes so it depends on them now…
Screenager: Spring. Let’s just say Spring.

You call yourselves ‘Lazer Crunk’ on your MySpace/Soundcloud?
Halogen: ‘Lazer Crunk Metal’ I think you’ll find. The order is important Joe!

Well, Americanisation aside (a Z instead of an S? Not impressed guys), what do you think are the… defining characteristics of your work thus far?
Z-Whip: Just big, glitchy, futuristic, dancefloor hip-hop. It’s very difficult to define your work.
Halogen: The Z in laser is because of the West Coast, American influence that came from this whole…

Oh I see, so it’s a deliberate mistake?
Halogen: Well yeah… haha, deliberate MISTAKE! [Band crack up laughing.] The crunk is a fallacy I suppose because there’s not really any crunk elements. It all started from making a jumper for Z-Whip for his birthday with those words on it, just as a laugh, and then I wrote a tune with him that Screenager helped out on and the band was formed.

How different are your influences and musical tastes?
Halogen: Background wise, we’re all from different musical backgrounds but we all appreciate the same music.

In what sense?
Z-Whip: Screenager was initially an Oompa Loompa, in the original Willy Wonka films.
Halogen: Screenager was originally in a Ben Folds Five cover band.
Z-Whip: That just sounds like a lie, doesn’t it? But it’s true.
Halogen: I’ve grown up on Mike Oldfield… and Mike & The Mechanics.
Screenager: Exclusively artists called Mike.
Halogen: Haha, yeah! Z-Whip was originally a singer-songwriter. So Z-Whip wrote singer-songwriter folk records, Screenager originally wrote B-More tech dubstep… whilst simultaneously being in a Ben Folds Five tribute act, and I originally wrote twinkly, melancholic, disambiguation.
Z-Whip: We all fit into our roles pretty well. We all have different skills - does everyone agree with that? [The band nod in unison.] We never really had to define who did what, it was just… we all had our strengths with certain parts of the process.

You’re known for your remixes as much as your original material. The remixes I’ve heard have taken source material from vastly different backgrounds. How do you decide what to remix? Trophy Wife for instance are a very ‘new’ band…
Halogen: We actually know one of the guys from Trophy Wife so he actually requested that we do it. It was a good. It was good for us because we’d never ‘done’ a band before.
Z-Whip: We really wanted to see what we could do.

So it was an experiment in seeing what you could achieve?
Z-Whip: Well we just wanted to see what we could get away with, to see how evil we could make a tune that was accepted by a really quiet, melodic band.
Halogen: We thought that they’d HATE it but they ended up loving it. I think they were quite happy. Z Whip and I went to uni with one of the band, he ended up asking a few of us from our course to do some remixes. So the three remixes that have been released have all been from people they know personally. In terms of other tracks, like Superman, our friend YouKnowHugh played us it, which preceded all the glitch hop we’d ever heard so we decided to do a revamp of it.
Z-Whip: We’re working on a couple now, they aren’t finished. There’s a few more coming out but we don’t go actively searching for tracks to remix.

You’ve recently started playing ‘live’ rather than doing DJ sets. What challenges have you found? You’re not a band in the typical sense…
Halogen: Plugging ten fucking controllers into one laptop and trying to make them all work at once?
Z-Whip: Before we get to that, the challenge of even getting to the gig ourselves and with everything intact. Then we worry about plugging shit in.

So there’s not been any huge transition from DJing?
Halogen: It’s really adaptable, with the technology available it’s so advanced, you can literally do SO much stuff and the way we construct some tunes is…it translates quite easily live.

Do you always try to experiment and change things up? Is that to keep your interest in the material there or to keep the audiences interest in the material?
Halogen: Yeah, completely. I mean, there’s nothing interesting for us in sitting there watching our tunes play. Similarly, that doesn’t translate well to the audience.
Z-Whip: I used to DJ a lot and I would download however many hours of music a week and be bored of it by the next week. It really is a case of the music needs to evolve or die, otherwise your interest and everyone else’s… it’s the same thing really. I mean, you are fans of the music as well. You’re a pretty good judge of what everyone else is thinking merely by what you’re thinking.
Halogen: From our perspective, from the first time playing a gig to now we still have the same tunes but we’re the ones who have to listen to them every time so you HAVE to have something to alleviate any boredom or contempt. We try to make it a bit of a spectacle with all the….regalia, triangle heads and whatnot.
Z-Whip: Regalia sounds wrong.

What’s the inspiration behind the triangle heads? Do you come from an art background, for instance?
Halogen: It’s all done by El Chan. He’s the guy we use who makes all the visuals, branding and imagery etc. Whatever El Chan says, we do.
Z-Whip: It was meant to be a joke, something we did for a laugh but it caught on and people noticed us for it. A triangle on your head will get you noticed, little tip for the readers there.

In terms of venues to play, the explosion of bass music in the past few years: has it helped or hindered?
Screenager: We’ll play for whoever will book us at this stage!
Halogen: A lot of people don’t ‘get’ it right now. People are so confused when they hear our music, SO confused. To the point where…they stay to listen. But they don’t look like they actually understand whether they’re enjoying it or not.

On that point, what are your ambitions for Zen Death Squad? Your music has an accessibility that you wouldn’t expect from the genres you identify with – is there a level at which you think ‘We’ve achieved what we set out to do’?
Screenager: Wow. That’s quite a complex question.
Z-Whip: I didn’t have any expectation at all. It was a ‘make the music I want to make’. You’ve got to enjoy what you do – if you don’t, what’s the point?
Halogen: For me personally, I’d only ever made music for people into Glitch. People who wanted to K Hole, haha. Then about two years ago, Z Whip and I lived together and he said ‘I just want to make music that makes chicks dance.’ That was our initial intention, to make girls dance. And then claim them for ourselves, muahaha. [The other bandmembers shake their heads.] It’s true though! I think that we’ve achieved that. Other than that, tour the world and fucking sell records, that’s all we wanna do. If we were able to physically make a living and be sustainable as a band, from making music. I don’t care about fame or riches, I just don’t want to have to fucking work a shitty 9-5. To make music with the guys I hang out with would be AMAZING, that’d be it for me.

Original Stealth Mixtape by ZenDeathSquad

Tags: Neu

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