Zeds Dead, Kayzo Interview Each Other Ahead of Deadbeats Showcase at BOO! San Francisco

Zeds Dead
Chad Kamenshine

Zeds Dead

You're fans of the artists, but at the end of the day, artists are fans, too. When your favorite artists come together to collaborate, they can geek at the chance to sit down with some of their fave producers. When artists get big enough to sign other artists to their own label, being a fan plays a huge role in deciding what artists to sign and what music to promote. Same goes for crafting lineups for festival stages and showcase events, like Zeds Dead's upcoming Deadbeats party in San Francisco Halloween weekend.

It's part of Insomniac's two-day BOO! Event. Friday, Oct. 27, packs Dillon Francis, What So Not, A-Trak and more into the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium. Saturday is all Deadbeats territory, with a spooky bass lineup stacked with Deadbeats artists and homies, including Kayzo and Borgore. The duo is a fan of Kayzo's work, as is Kayzo a fan of Zeds Dead. Billboard Dance thought it would be fun to have the friends interview each other ahead of the concert, and it turns out there was a lot to be learned from this exchange. Tickets are on sale for BOO!, so grab those today, and read on below.

Kayzo: Where do you find musical inspiration for writing these days? How has that inspiration and exploration for new ideas changed from the years of touring/writing? 

ZD: We get inspired by so many different things, there's no real formula. Over the years, I don't think it's changed very much. We just experiment and then try to figure out where to take the ideas. The idea kind of inspires the song, if that makes sense. We used to be very insular, but now we collaborate with other artists a lot more, so that's a bit of a change, but that's mostly because we didn't used to have much access to other artists when we started.Kayzo:  You guys have been able to curate a large list of songs that all fall into different "genres" but still fit to that Zeds Dead sound. Do you guys find that inspiration to diversify outside of dance music? For myself, I find a ton of inspiration from listening to pop-punk and rock bands from when I was a teenager. I'm interested to know what you guys listen to. 

ZD: Well we've always thought of ourselves as a kind of hip-hop / electronic crossbreed or something. So we still do pull a lot of inspiration from hip-hop. We get inspired from classical music sometimes, especially for melodies. We still listen to a lot of the rock stuff we liked growing up -- stuff like Smashing Pumpkins, Third Eye Blind, Nirvana. We’re not sure if it directly inspires our music, at least not consciously.

Kayzo: Aside from stepping into different musical lanes, what is something you guys have taken over the years that you feel has been important for staying fresh? I know how insane a touring schedule can be, and I know you guys have seen it times-100, but I'm curious to know what keeps you going with the forward-thinking mentality that I see from you both.

ZD: We're really driven by the same desire to make music that we like above all else, as we have done since we first started. It's not really a conscious effort to keep up with the trends or anything like that. Now that we get to headline festivals and be looked at in a certain way, it's even more important that we deliver quality and show people we deserve to be where we are; maybe that's part of the motivation. Really though, we just want to make as good a contribution to this music thing as we can. That's the main driving force.

ZD: How did you get into producing? Do you play any instruments that might have had an influence on your work?

Kayzo: I started listening to electronic music when I was 14 years old. From like three years old to 19, I played hockey and moved around the country for it. When I was living in Salt Lake City for a team, I was playing with guys from Finland and Sweden, and we would be in the locker room listening to music. Whenever they had a chance to control the music they would put on electronic music and that was my first real introduction. From then, I was hooked and started to dive a bit deeper into the different realms of the music.

I found my first hint of bass music from the UKF compilations which had guys like Flux Pavilion on it. From there on out, electronic music was my outlet and motivation for all things related to hockey, and my life in general. Fast forward to 2011, I found a production school online called Icon Collective and decided that I wanted to give it a shot. I came home for Thanksgiving Break from college, sat my parents down with a Powerpoint and handouts about Icon and presented the idea. They agreed to support me with Icon while I was there, so I dropped out of my only semester of college in the fall and drove from Houston, TX, to L.A. to attend Icon. That was my first contact with real production. I was fortunate to attend with guys like Jauz, NGHTMRE, Slander, and more. It was pretty awesome to all organically come up together in production. As far as instruments, I can play keys from a producer's point of view, chords, etc, but I really want to learn how to play guitar.

ZD: What were you listening to 10 years ago, and how do you feel the sounds and styles have changed since then?

Kayzo: Aside from electronic music. I listened to a ton of rock, punk rock, pop-punk (whatever you wanna call it). As for electronic though, with the increase in technology we have been able to tap into so many new sounds and styles that have only helped bridge gaps between all avenues of music. It's really cool to hear bass music in particular grow from like a little tree with a few branches to this massive one with branches that extend to more branches with styles of all kinds coming from it.

ZD: What do you feel was your big break and do you have any tips for younger producers trying to make a name for themselves?

Kayzo: I think the way this KAYZO project has progressed over the past couple years has been more of a brick-by-brick process. I have been trying to lay down a solid foundation since day 1 with my fans. Regardless if it's music, shows, art, merch, or just taking the time out of my day to respond to someone or stay and take 100 photos, I wanted everyone to know I was a real accessible human being. I never wanted to be perceived as someone out of reach from anyone else. It's been a super organic process over the years, but I'm so glad things came slow and that everything was genuine.

That being said, there have been moments, or mile markers where I felt like things hit new levels. The first one was actually back in 2012. As I was about to complete my nine month program at Icon, I came across a contest called the Discovery Project that Insomniac had put on for producers to have a chance to play one of their festivals. It was October. Escape From Wonderland was coming up, and that was what the contest was for. All I had to do was submit an original piece of music and a 30-minute mix. Keep in mind, I was only around nine months into learning how to produce music all together, so for me this was pretty much just in my head a learning experience and some real world practice.

I submitted and ended up winning the contest, and they even used my song in the recap video. I was about a week from graduating, so reality was setting in that the real world was upon me musically, and I had to find a way to make this whole thing work. I strongly believe that winning that contest and getting to play my first show ever at such a major festival really gave me the confidence that I had what it took to make it. That small victory at such an infant stage of my musical career, I think, really helped guide me down the path that has led me to where I am today.