Dr Zygote has been plying his trade for well over a decade – producing Hip-Hop, running his own label (Boot) and recently forming half of Eglo signings Strange U. Ahead of his forthcoming release on Black Acre, we caught up with the man himself to talk tape, being a ‘Hip-Hop refugee’ and getting over perfectionism…
Hello. First thing I wanted to ask is why the name? According to the dictionary a Zygote isa biological term for a cell resulting from the joining of two gametes. A kind of yolk – two gametes meet to make a zygote. Is there a deep meaning to the moniker?
Greetings. Not at all. I was in a strange place at the time. I thought it sounded wacky. The name stuck.
I know you played all the instruments on the forthcoming Black Acre release, including the drums. What aspect of that did you find most challenging?
Getting over my perfectionism and accepting that Im not going to be as good as people that play instruments all day. The keyboards were the most difficult. Drum and bass is the backbone, that kind of comes more naturally to me. With keys I’m just messing around and experimenting really. Id like to have some sort of formal training but ive been saying that for years. Maybe Ill get round to it sometime.
Theres a dub influence as well as the more upfront soundtrack sound – are you using spring reverbs? And also, did you use the desk as an instrument in that classic dub fashion?
I love spring reverbs. Mine is too noisy so the ones on the album are plug ins, running live on a seperate computer hooked up on an effects loop through the desk. The tape echos are real, mostly just using the desk and a tape machine. Its fun messing about on the desk. I got lost in it for long periods of time.
What does your studio setup consist of these days, are you a futuristic i-pad botherer/ a neo-luddite anaolgue fetishist or somewhere between the two?
Im not too fussy, or upfront with the latest stuff. I use Logic, mostly Logic effects plug ins. I dont really use soft synths. Myself and Jazz T co-own a couple of analog synths which I mess with. I sample. I dont use a sampling drum machine. Im not a purist by any means. Im an advocate of the phrase you cant polish a turd. I do like my stuff to at least have been analogue at one point in the process, even if its just out of the sound card and straight back in. I’ve mixed some stuff all digital before and it can sound a bit brittle. Tape can add a nice high end sheen and level out the sound across a few tracks.
How did the hook up with Black Acre come about for this release and is this a one off or is the plan to release more on the label as time goes by?
We did a Strange U gig to support Aspects and that is where I met Ian. I liked his enthusiasm and sent him the album. We come from a similar place (his words: hip hop refugee) so he understood what I was trying to do with the sound of the record. The plan is definitely to do more on Black Acre, as well as on Zoot (a sister label to Boot).
As well as producing your own music you also run the Boot label – can you tell us about that? I know its been running for longer than a decade – have the changes that have effected the record industry had a big impact on how youve run the label over the years?
Myself and Jazz T started the label really as a vehicle to release our own beats, and that is still essentially what it is, although weve put out a few things we like by other people. We are reluctant label bosses. Wed rather be in the studio. We’ve seen vinyl drop off, CDs rise and fall as Digital gained popularity, and then vinyl come back a bit. There is much scheduled for the next couple of years, we are stepping things up.
The Strange U stuff on Eglo is straight up weirdo business (in the best possible sense) –theres a real thread of psychedelia in hip hop – the stuff coming out of the LA Beat scene for eg. Is this an avenue youre set to explore further do you think, can we expect more mad psychedelic stuff in the future?
I guess both of us are into the offbeat and the strange and have done our fair share of mind travelling and that comes through in the music. Whether our newer stuff is more psychedelic is hard to say. I guess its more electronic, more experimental. A little further away from hip hop. But its still hip hop. We are cementing our sound. Were eager for people to hear it!
Aside from music, whats your biggest interest/obsession?
I like taking pictures, messing around with video a little here and there.
If you could pull together a supergroup of musicians from throughout time and space, who would you choose and why?
It would mostly be musicans from the 60s for the sound, and not all from different spaces either. A 60s ska stripped down horn section: Don Drummond on trombone, Baba Brooks on trumpet. I’d get Max Roach to do some hybrid ska/jazz drumming. I’d have Jet Harris play the bass, twangy like. I would instruct Joe Meek to produce them, suggesting he put lots of spring reverb on the bass and do some odd echos on the horns, generally making it sound heavy. It would not sound that far from melancholy instrumental ska-jazz of the mid 60s, but it would have a British twist with the production.
Finally, Wil, the editor of R$N likes to ask people if theyre a kick drum, a hi-hat or a snare – I think he believes it offers some psychometric insight. Im a maraca. What are you?
Definitely a snare. A really dead sounding wooden snare, with lots of lower mid frequencies in it. It’s got an integral muffler, and lots of blu tac stuck on it. It doesnt ring.