Zedd Talks "Spectrum", Making Music, Movies, Heavy Metal, and More
Tue, 31 Jul 2012 08:18:44
Zedd's "Spectrum" featuring Matthew Koma is one of the catchiest tracks to come out of the modern EDM movement.
The artist and producer blends shimmering keys and synths with a dubstep haze, building a danceable dreamscape that's utterly irresistible. Koma's voice echoes powerfully over Zedd's production, making for a dance floor anthem that's bound to resound internationally for a long time to come.
In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino, Zedd talks "Spectrum", how he composes music, some favorite movies, metal bands, and more.
What's the story behind "Spectrum"?
I'd been playing the piano a little bit, and I came up with that chord progression. I didn't know what type of song it would be in the end, but I knew the chord progression I wanted. I wasn't sure if it would be a really hard club song or end up being a song for another artist. I started producing the track, and it became what it is now. I feel like it sums up my album the best so far. It has vocals. It has instrumental parts. It has everything. I decided "Spectrum" should be the first single since it shows what the album will be about so well.
Do many songs start on the piano?
I'm not really good at producing on the road although I have to do it. Whenever I'm in the studio or somewhere I have a keyboard or an instrument to play, songs will start there most of the time. Generally, most songs start with chords. I always begin with a melodic part, breakdown, or buildup. I barely start with a recognizable drop or whatever you want to call those parts.
Was the chemistry between you and Matthew Koma instantaneous?
I'd known Matt for a little while because we'd worked together a few times. He was on tour with LMFAO, and he emailed me late at night. He said he'd just gotten back from the tour and we should work together again. It was around the time "Spectrum" had taken shape, and I was ready to put vocals on it. I told him to come to the studio because he's from L.A. too. I played him all of the instrumentals I'd produced over the past months. He liked "Spectrum" the most. He was singing along, and I heard parts of the melody which I liked. I forced him to stay a few hours even though he was tired as shit [Laughs]. We didn't have lyrics just yet though. It's hard to get lyrics for a song like that because there are only a few lines. If they're cheesy, they can ruin the whole song. It took us a few weeks to find the final lyrics. We had the melody down though, which is obviously the most important part. Matt is a really talented guy, and he's super easy to work with. He knows what I want to have. It's hard to start working with new people because it takes a while for them to get to know you really well. They have to know my personality and things about me to understand what I want to reach with my music. He definitely does.
Is there an overarching vibe to the album?
If I had to sum it up with one word, I'd choose "music" because I don't care if the songs are hard or soft, if they have vocals or they don't, or if they're three minutes or ten minutes. I don't care about anything but making good music. I love electronic music, but I come from different genres. I've been into classical music, rock, metal, and jazz. A lot of my inspiration and knowledge is actually outside of electronic music. They're a lot of amazing songs and great productions in electronic music, but I don't see musical songs as I would in other genres. The most important part for me was to make music you could listen to in the car and at home or play out at shows and everybody would like it even if they aren't into electronic music. Lately, I've been discovering that a lot of my friends who don't listen to electronic music still like those songs. That's what I want to try to do. I want to get everyone to have an open ear for electronic music even if they don't like it.
Your music has more of a traditional song structure.
The reason why is I ask myself, "What would be the value of the song if I wrote it down on a piece of paper?" If you really make a chart, how much of the actual music is still left if you do that? Electronic Dance Music is probably the one genre with playing one note and a kick. It still works, and it's great. However, I often think, "What is left musically?" In twenty years, as we get better technology, will the music of today have a value or not? I want to make timeless music. At the end of the day, good music is good music regardless of genre.
What are some of your favorite metal bands?
I used to listen to Meshuggah a lot. They're really complicated mathcore or whatever you want to call it. I love Silverchair. They're more rock. I love Radiohead. I want through all of these phases of indie and hardcore metal. I can appreciate anything as long as it's really good. Meshuggah has been a really big inspiration. To understand their music, you have to think about it a lot and really listen to it. I love to think about music and not simply listen to it. They were one of my biggest influences for sure.
Korn seamlessly mixed electronic music and metal. You could definitely do something along those lines.
Absolutely! There have been some metal bands who have asked me to help out sonically. I think metal and dubstep are really similar in a way. In the first place, it's not necessarily about the melody and the music but the energy, which translates the best live. If you go to a dubstep show, the energy is so overwhelming that you don't need the big melodies and harmonies. I think it's a good step for dubstep to go into a more band-oriented direction. I think what Korn did is a clever move. It makes sense to crossover.
How do you approach remixes?
I take the cell of the song—the heart—and I turn it into something new. I turn it into me and make it my own song basically. I see remixes I've produced as my own songs even though the vocal or whatever was in another song. Today, I'd prefer to write everything and record it myself so it's the way I want it to be.
What are some of your favorite movies?
I absolutely love movies. I used to watch a lot of movies. Since I started touring a lot, I don't have as much time to do that. I've always been more into movies that are a little deeper and not so obvious. I love movies like Memento, Pi, Dancer in the Dark, and The Wrestler. They have a meaning. You think about them, and a week later you love them. That's part of my inspiration. When I was a little kid, I'd play video games the whole day. That's what I spent my time doing . Maybe that influenced me a little.
If you album were a movie what would it be?
That's a tough question! It's really colorful. It has meaning. I've thought a lot about every single thing I put in there. It'd probably be somewhere between a Hollywood movie for the effects and a deep underground movie for the musical element. I've never been asked that before [Laughs].
Have you heard Zedd yet?