Coming from Bristol, a city that has been perpetually on the cutting edge of dance music for some time now, it is perhaps unsurprising how radically different newcomer Ziro‘s work sounds from the rest of the competition. Sure, the likes of fellow Bristolians Peverelist, Kowton and Shackleton can be held up as reference points, but Ziro has a manic fervor to his music that truly sets him apart. His drums stomp about with a nigh on feral intensity, that makes his tracks prime dancefloor weapons suitable for deployment either in a cavernous European techno club or in the sweaty confines of a nightspot in his hometown. Following on from last month’s Pulse EP on Damu’s Fulcrum imprint, we roped him in to mix Hyp 142 as well as chat to us briefly about his music, influences and plans for the rest of the year.
Thanks for chatting to us. What are you up to today?
Today I’m being hungover, working on a couple of beats and cooking up a storm (in that order).
Previous releases have placed a strong focus on percussion, and your new ‘Pulse EP’ for Fulcrum is no exception. Are drums the starting point of a track for you? How do you go about getting such unique sounding rhythms?
99% of the time it’s drums first, yeah. I like to base tracks around some sort of prominent percussion groove (especially the broken stuff) so it’s a necessity really. I used to finish the drums for the track before moving on to anything else but I kept ending up with no headroom or frequency space, so more recently I’ve been trying to leave them a little less busy and seeing how other elements can either replace or reinforce what’s already there. Been getting some pretty interesting sounds out of layering percussion with stuff like field recordings or messed-up vocals.
In terms of building rhythms, a lot of the time I’ve got an idea for something before I start laying a beat down. I’ve noticed that a lot of the ideas I’ve had for various off kilter grooves tend to come from taking conventional swing to extremes – not to get too technical and it obviously depends on what you’re using to build tracks but even the most extreme swing settings on Logic (for example) don’t actually push the hits back as far as say a triplet timing would. Getting back to the question though, you can get some interesting grooves if you’re willing to experiment with placing hits off the sequencer grid or by using different time signatures within the same bar. Just build it from the kicks up!
You’ve spoken of how you made a creative breakthrough when you stopped quantising your drum sounds in the conventional way. Do you think overly uniform drum sounds were holding back a lot of contemporary electronic music?
It’s definitely been a new avenue to experiment with for me. It took a while to realise that the some of the grooves and effects I was hearing and wanted to make weren’t exclusively the result of calculated production techniques, but the ability to leave imperfection alone for the sake of it, even if it doesn’t seem constructive at first. I think how far you’d want to take that idea has quite a bit to do with the sound you’re trying to achieve in any given track though. It’s the same with the actual drum sounds – the samples you use are dependent on what you’re trying to do. If i’m trying to make some atmospheric gritty beats it makes sense to use lo-fi and distorted drums and samples instead of textbook compressed and equalised ones. I’m also quite keen on having elements which are percussive and melodic at once, and less common drums like bongos and metal hits work much better for that sort of thing because they tend to have more tonal content than say a snare or rim shot.
The line of producers coming out of Bristol seems to be virtually endless. How much has the city’s musical heritage impacted your sound do you feel?
In terms of actual sound design and production, it’s pretty hard to tell. I’ve met some incredible producers since moving here so I’m sure that would have had some influence on my music, although most of the techier stuff I’ve been listening to over the last couple of years has been out of Europe really. That said it’s definitely responsible for pushing a lot of new music on to my radar constantly, and there’s nothing like talking to other producers if you’re after some new stuff to listen to. The club nights and bookings seem to be getting more and more varied as well which is wicked.
Describe the contents of your record bag for a typical DJ set?
I’ve usually got a fair mix of stuff in the bag – lots of broken and 4/4 techno, a few groovy, darker house bits to kick things off if I’m on earlier in the night and lots of weird stuff I try to find room for towards the end of a set. I tend to have about a half and half split of solid dancefloor and experimental, left-of-centre bits to drop if it looks like they’re gonna work. I normally have 3 or 4 of my own unfinished or work-in-progress tracks in case I’ve got an opportunity to test the mixdown or crowd reaction.
What have you got planned for the rest of this year?
I’m working on a couple of remixes at the moment which are turning out to be a lot of fun, so that and then plenty of new music! I’d like to try and get to Dimensions again actually, that was sick last year!
I bought some new hardware back at the start of the summer and I’ve been messing around with that a lot actually, just making noises and learning what does what. I had a bit of a break from really trying to come out of production sessions with a finished product or even a sketch, more just testing out new ideas and workflow.
Touching on the mix then. What was the process behind its construction? Did you have an idea in mind when you started it?
It’s a bit of a mixed bag in terms of artists and genres really. I’ve found a few tracks over the last couple of years that embody what I’m into in electronic music pretty well – some of them are going to work in a club, and others aren’t and so I wanted to use the opportunity to play a few of the less dancefloor bits as well.
It starts with some pretty relaxed jazzy house stuff, then some more atmospheric techno and some newer bassy stuff I’m feeling. There’s some banging 4/4 and broken techno, and a few experimental bits at the end. I’ve also thrown in a remix iIve been working on..
Words: Christian Murphy
Photography: Ellie Kynaston