Monday, 27 April 2015

Interview: Zardonic

Master of bass!

“I am extremely pleased with the response [to 'For Justice'] and I also like this new sound I've found. It lets me try electro things, breakbeat things, then back to drum and bass, then ambient, then pure metal, it's like a compendium of all the music that I've done and liked through my entire life.”

Venezuelan native Federico Agreda, AKA Zardonic, has been tearing up the rule book with his innovative blend of Drum & Bass, Metal and EDM for over ten years now. The masked DJ/Producer has enjoyed plying his craft all over the world and has remixed some of the biggest names in music. His latest release, the single 'For Justice' has been enjoying rave reviews from fans and critics alike, and he's looking to hit the road this spring with a European tour before going around the world with DJ Starscream on the Full Metal Jungle Tour.
We caught up with Zardonic to talk about the challenges of the past decade, his influences, opinions on the state of Drum & Bass and Metal, and try to prize a few details out of him about his next full-length album.

Intravenous Magazine: You first started out as Gorepriest, what was the concept behind that and how did that evolve into Zardonic?

Zardonic: Basically the idea behind Gorepriest was to create metal inspired music using only synthesizers. Somehow, I think Zardonic is exactly the same, the difference is the earlier was leaning more towards Ambient Black Metal a la Mortiis or Burzum, while Zardonic is an EDM act. The metal influence has always been there, one way or the other, no matter how mellow a track of mine can get. There's just something there that sounds like rock.

IVM: What are the main musical influences that inspired Zardonic?

Trent Reznor, Marilyn Manson, Rob Zombie, Rammstein, Atari Teenage Riot and Counterstrike. I'm a big fan of the industrial sound done right.

IVM: Zardonic as an entity is over ten years old now. Looking back what have been the biggest challenges and achievements of the past decade?

The biggest challenge was to turn a DJ act that produced and mixed heavy metal music with EDM and make it profitable enough to cover my dues. In Venezuela. So yeah, go figure. It's not easy. Specially when every single promoter is so close-minded and wouldn't even let anything in that wasn't house, and most of the Drum & Bass guys would only do Liquid Funk parties or Jump Up stuff. I have nothing against that, but if there's something that pisses me off is the lack of variety. It leaves a lot of producers out, and then that only breeds more elitism, a la "heavy music only". Fuck that shit man. I always believed that music was music and everyone needed to hear it. The people, not only the heavy metal fans, not only the EDM fans, not only the DNB fans. Just people. Me, you, your brother, your mom and your great grandmom. The only reason the general crowd only listens to radio music is because, well, they haven't had the chance to hear anything else. And that's when you jump in and show them something. While others out there would rather stay "true to the roots", I'm about making whatever I like and having EVERYONE listen to it. Even those who are not "true" enough. And that, was a big challenge. But it's precisely what made me big. Half my fans don't even know what Drum & Bass is, and I rejoice in that, because it means the project will fit anywhere.

IVM: What are your thoughts on the state of the current Drum & Bass and Metal scenes as both a fan and an artist?

With the exception of a very few artists, I hardly like anything that has been released post 2005. I'm a 90s boy. In my head, 'Antichrist Superstar' by Marilyn Manson is still hot, Deicide and Morbid Angel are still top selling artists charting on the Billboard Top 50, Devin Townsend still plays in Strapping Young Lad and Sonny More still sings in an emo band. Everything is either too much cheese, or too minimalistic, or too much noise. There was this perfect balance you would hear in tracks like, say, 'Morning Light' by Concord Dawn. That shit was heavy, energetic and very musical. Metal bands had their own vocalists with their own characteristic vocals and guitar playing styles. Now every band out there sounds like Suicide Silence or Bring Me The Horizon. What happened to the Chuck Schuldiners, the Glen Bentons, the Pat O'Briens, the Rob Barretts, the Phil Anselmos, you know? There's a huge lack of variety and everyone is desperate to jump in a bandwagon of a sound that's hot at the moment and will pass, the same as Nu Metal did, and only the pioneers and those true to themselves and willing to evolve on their own (like Deftones, for example), will prevail. Same goes with DJs, so my advice to all producers out there, stop trying to sound like Skrillex's 2010 album because he's moved on. And you should too, because you can't do it like him. And even if you do, you suck for being a copycat.

IVM: What kind of audience do you typically attract and has it evolved as your sound has?

Fans are always the fans. I get people from all different scenes. Most of them are very loyal and supportive, and I feel blessed by that. There's obviously the occasional guy who is there and has no idea who is playing, and I'm perfectly fine and happy with that. He should get in to and call all of his friends. If I get to play my music to everyone at least once in my life, I'm content with that. It's a blessing to be able to show my music to the world and I'm thankful for it.

IVM: Your most recent release was the single 'For Justice', how has that been received so far?

That was SURPRISINGLY well received! It's my most played track on Soundcloud and I thought I was gonna get flamed because it's not a Drum & Bass tune hahahah. But that was to prove exactly my points: I'm not really a dark Drum & Bass artist anymore. I am extremely pleased with the response and I also like this new sound I've found. It lets me try electro things, breakbeat things, then back to drum and bass, then ambient, then pure metal, it's like a compendium of all the music that I've done and liked through my entire life.

I also released recently a remix for Nightrage's 'Stare Into Infinity', great guys, great musicians, and they're on Despotz Records which are the same guys that released The Unguided. I have nothing but love and respect for those guys, they're amazing people and always connect me with kickass bands to work with. Nightrage is a good example of a band that I consider original and has its own sound, it doesn't try too hard to be like anyone else, and that's what we need more of.

IVM: Your last full length release was 'Far Beyond The Bass (The Vulgar Remixes)' in 2013, which was the remix companion of the previous year's 'Vulgar Display Of Bass' album. Are there plans for another full-length album and if so, what details can you give us?

There are plans indeed and to be honest it's finished. Most people who have seen me performing live since December last year have probably heard a bit of it in my new sets. The thing about the new album is that as much as I'm extremely excited to throw it out there, there are steps you must follow in order to make things right. I even revealed a name for it that was 'The Heroes Have Failed', and now that won't be the album title any more. I'm changing it, and I don't want to reveal the new title yet. But all I can say is it will be a double CD album including one intro, nine original tracks, potentially two-three bonus tracks, five instrumental mixes, and I already have remixes by Rusty K, Evol Intent, The Outside Agency, Darksiderz, Dub Elements and more to come. So yeah. It will be a monster of a release. It is also the most raw, primitive and honest release I've ever written in terms of music, writing and production. It is the first album I've ever done that is 100% me and I did vocals and lyrics for all of the tracks. Every single track has to do with my situation at the time moving out of my home country Venezuela due to the political crisis going on there. It makes me sick. So this album is kinda the angry words of a disappointed hero.
Oh, yeah, and together with it, the new mask will be finally unveiled.

IVM: You've previously released several albums worth of material for free. What were your reasons for doing this and is it something that you'll do in the future?
Zardonic: I will always have something to give away for free as a way to thank my most loyal followers. Usually those who like my Facebook page, but I've raised the bar a bit and only send them to the members of my mailing list, not because I wanted to, but because Facebook's recent guidelines are terrible and you can't reach the people you used to. So I wasted all my time and money gathering tens of thousands of likes only to have to pay them to reach my fanbase again. Fuck that. I'd rather send out a mail campaign with the tracks and I make sure EVERYBODY gets them.
IVM: What are your studio and live set ups like and how do you typically approach creating a new track?

Zardonic: I have two Adam A5X + Sub8 combo. Helps immensely to truly know what goes on in the low end while still keeping a bit of the low mids so my music sounds like metal on hi-fi speakers and like bass music in a big rig. Bass Metal! I also have my trusty Mininova synth by Novation, Beyerdynamic DT 880 Pro headphones and my screen is a 39" LG Smart TV (God Bless America), and of course my Xbox Controller. Always need a break every now and then. 

My live setup is a pair of Pioneer CDJ-2000NXS and anything equal to or above the DJM-800. Precise, fast loading, no hassle. 

When I create a new track, I usually throw many different main "riff" ideas in a project, I let my mind go wild and write whatever, even if I don't like it, then I check back for those riffs that really get me going, and I make entire tracks out of them. I call them "Inspiration Loops". Creating a new sample pack is also something that helped me a lot because I'm inspired by my own sounds and then a brand new track happens. Most of the time, to get a really good track going, it needs to make me feel powerful. Very powerful. If I don't feel I have the universe in my hands when I write a track, then the track is not good enough.
IVM: What do you look for in a track to make a truly great remix?

Something I can bang my head to. And I'm not saying anything that I can't bang my head to is bad. I listen to a lot of music that I could never remix. A ton of Black Metal bands are not exactly "banging" music, because you're not meant to bang your head to Dodheimsgard. However, stuff like Machine Head, Rob Zombie, Rammstein, Pantera. That's the kinda stuff that I'd go for.

IVM: Has anyone ever done a remix of one of your tracks that has just made you say "wow", and if so why?

Many times actually. All the people who do remixes for me are people I know and trust to be great producers. Counterstrike's remix of 'For Justice' was one of the most mind-blowing tracks I've ever heard by them. Black Sun Empire's work on 'Hypnotized' was also beautiful. Hecq's rendition of 'Sideshow Symphony' was also amazing. That's one of the most talented artists I've ever had the pleasure to work with. He is extremely underrated and absolutely deserves more attention. Also Determinators' remix of 'Restless Slumber' was my personal favourite of all the remixes I got, even though I don't really like Dubstep, but that shit was pure evil. The Gör Flsh remix of the same track also made me lose my head. It's funny because most of the time, my favourite tracks are the tracks that sell less.

IVM: Have you always been a solo artist and would you ever collaborating as part of a band?

I've had bands in the past. Honestly I like the commodities of being a solo artist, but I do think Zardonic needs to expand. I can't write tracks all the time and then jump on tours and then back and then take care of the merch, and then do mixdowns, and then blah blah, you know? So I think I'm gonna have a couple guys in the future join me for production work. Train them in my style and get them to write ideas for the project, then as soon as I get back, I sit down and finish everything.

IVM: You've travelled the world as Zardonic, where has been your favourite place so far and where would you like to go next?
Zardonic: Every single place I've visited leaves me yearning for more of it. It's always a beautiful experience. Guatemala, Argentina, Colombia, Portugal, Spain, Czech Republic, Russia. Oh my beloved Russian brothers. You're always in my heart!

IVM: You'll be touring with DJ Starscream, AKA Sid '#0' Wilson of Slipknot fame. How did that come about and what can fans expect?

His agent hit up my agent about wanting to have him tour with me, and my agency made it happen. First scheduled show is happening in Rome the 16th of June if I'm not wrong, as a Slipknot after-party as that's our best bet, so my European tour is paired with Slipknot's Europe tour and wherever we can make the after-parties happen, we will. I'm sure fans can expect him to go apeshit on the turntables as he's an insane turntablist, as for me, I think a heavier than usual set is in order.

IVM: Can we expect to see you in the UK any time soon?

Zardonic: Oh yeah! there's something in the works for next year already. And let me tell you, it will be MASSIVE.

IVM: Where did the idea for the now iconic mask come from and how do you feel that has benefited the image of Zardonic?

Well, image does not only benefit any artist. It is everything. The music is irrelevant to the market. It is only relevant to music lovers. And I'm not saying you should get away with creating shit music because you have a gimmick. It's your responsibility to create the best music you can. But if you want to be a professional, the only thing that matters is image. Even Susan Boyle. The humbleness behind her, the authenticity, she's an old woman who had a beautiful voice and surprised all these stupid kids with a marvellous show. And THAT is a gimmick. Everybody will remember her for that, and are more likely to buy music by her BECAUSE of that. Whether they'll be satisfied with what they bought or not, that's up to them. But the money is in and your work here is done. She still does what she wants to do and that's all that matters to stay happy. So yeah, go ahead and do whatever the hell you want and don't let anyone tell you that certain music is more commercial than other music because Metallica, Marilyn Manson and Rammstein have had no limits. And while they're not Anaal Nathrakh heavy, they sure are heavier than Justin Bieber. The thing Justin Bieber has in common with all of those... is gimmick. The quality of their music, that's up to their fans to decide.

IVM: Finally, is there anything else that you would like to add?

Zardonic: Gotta go pee. BRB :*

Zardonic's latest single 'For Justice' is available through Entertainment One and can be bought at all good digital retailers. For more information on Zardonic including tour dates and forthcoming releases, please visit his official website.

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