A To Zed

31 January 2013 | 6:00 am | Cyclone Wehner

“I think the album format definitely still has relevance to us – and we’d definitely wanna do one. It’s just about timing, really, and making a big commitment.”

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Zeds Dead took their handle from a line Bruce Willis utters in Quentin Tarantino's '90s cult film Pulp Fiction. By coincidence, Dylan “DC” Mamid, half of the combo with Zack “Hooks” Rapp-Rovan, has just caught the so-called “director DJ's” critically acclaimed (if controversial) western Django Unchained at the cinema. “I'm a huge Tarantino fan,” Mamid raves. “I loved it – it's such a good movie.” Zeds Dead, who early in 2012 kicked off an 80-date North American tour subsuming Coachella, are taking off two months to buckle down in the studio. It has been, Mamid says, “nice” to be home in Toronto, “so we can do things like that – go see movies and whatnot.”

Zeds Dead initially hit Australia last January, playing smaller venues. “It was good – it was really good,” Mamid recalls. “We had a really good time. It was very, very go, go, go, so we didn't really get a chance to actually experience Australia too much outside of playing shows and being in hotels and stuff. But we had a day off in Sydney, we got to see Sydney, so that was cool.” The Canadians found they shared an affinity with their Commonwealth brethren. “I felt like everybody there was very friendly at least,” Mamid laughs, “and I definitely get that vibe in both Canada and Australia. We got on with everybody there really well.”

In March Zeds Dead will join Future Music Festival 2013 with “buddies” Kill The Noise (who's produced Korn) and Borgore (the Israeli bass man working with wannabe punk Miley Cyrus). Mamid hopes to bump into some heroes. “It'd be really cool to even just share the same stage as The Prodigy, because we've been big fans of theirs for a long time and just got a chance to do a remix [of Breathe] for them. So it'd be cool maybe if we got a chance to meet them.”

Mamid and Rapp-Rovan started out in the early 2000s cutting hip hop as Mass Productions (they occasionally rapped). They'd issue an album, Fresh Beetz, independently in 2007. Two years later, they reinvented themselves as an EDM outfit. Zeds Dead hosted a weekly event, Bassmentality, with The Killabits, helping to popularise dubstep in Toronto. They also offered free downloads, one the track Journey Of A Lifetime. The Brit Kissy Sell Out picked up the first official Zeds Dead single, Rude Boy, for his San City High in 2010 (a vocal version with MC Omar LinX followed). Next, Diplo embraced them, putting out Rumble In The Jungle on Mad Decent – it topped Beatport's Breakbeat Chart – while Steve Aoki's Dim Mak released Ruckus The Jam.

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Zeds Dead have disseminated countless remixes, many of them bootlegs (cue their strange reincarnation of Bon Iver's Woods). But, as with a rendering of Dragonette's Volcano, the Zeds Dead remix of The Prodigy's Breathe is 100 percent legit, being for the recent 15th anniversary repackage of The Fat Of The Land. “The Prodigy one was the most challenging 'cause we had a lot of pressure around it,” Mamid admits.

To date, Zeds Dead have, boots aside, privileged singles or EPs (including 2012's Adrenaline). In fact, they're airing a new EP, the instrumental Hot Sauce, on Mad Decent this week. Explains Mamid, “It's like a whole bunch of different styles – I'd say it's our most experimental EP we've done so far, it's got a lot of different kind of tracks on there. I think people will be surprised by some of the stuff on there, but it should go over pretty well – at least I hope so!”

Zeds Dead have been recording continuously, reaching out to potential collaborators. “We got a lotta music in the works.” The duo are open to crafting an album. “I think the album format definitely still has relevance to us – and we'd definitely wanna do one. It's just about timing, really, and making a big commitment.” The dilemma for Zeds Dead is that, because they enjoy going with the flow, their sound forever mutates – but, Mamid holds, an album would need to have “a cohesive sound”, albeit an eclectic one. “We feel like it's gotta be really special and it's gotta be sort of a statement and an all-encapsulating thing of all the different styles and genres that we do or sounds that we like... I think we will still do one, it's just we're not gonna rush it.”

Zeds Dead are identified with dubstep, but their music has splodges of hip hop, electro and rock. Mamid struggles to summarise 'their' genre in 2013. “It's hard to say – because it's changing so often. I mean, it's kind of funny – like, we obviously got big off dubstep originally, and that was what a lot of people pinned us as, but it was just one stop on the whole musical journey... I guess right now we're not doing as much of the same dubstep sound. We still have done a bit. We just released a pretty dubsteppy tune – a remix that we did of Marina And The Diamonds [Lies, a Diplo co-production]. But this next EP [Hot Sauce] is really, like I said, kinda all over the place. A lot of the stuff I don't even know how I would classify it.” And Mamid is discovering old influences of his own. “I've actually been getting back into hip hop a lot more and making some hip hop beats that are like what I used to make in hip hop, but with the skills we've gathered as electronic producers – so kind of future hip hop stuff.” Curiously, Zeds Dead move in the same circles as Drake, who counts among his crew the local illwave producers Noah “40” Shebib and T-Minus – producers Mamid admires. “I've been realising that there's some similarities in some of the sounds coming out of Toronto. Maybe it's part of that unknowing universal collective thing where everybody comes to the same point at the same time.”

Zeds Dead will be “rocking it” at FMF with their live/DJ composite show. (“It's really mostly just like a DJ set with extra stuff added on top,” Mamid says bashfully.) Zeds Dead are competitive. If Mamid hears an epic track by someone else, he's bursting to enter the studio. Zeds Dead aim to up the ante as DJs, too. “I feel [that industry competition] sometimes, but it's a good type of competition, it's a healthy type – and it's only with a few people, to be honest,” Mamid laughs. “It always inspires me to be better.”

Zeds Dead will be playing the following dates:

Saturday 2 March - Future Music Festival, Doomben Racecourse, Ascot QLD
Sunday 3 March - Future Music Festival, Arena Joondalup, Joondalup WA
Friday 8 March - The Good Life Festival, Flemington Racecourse, Melbourne VIC
Saturday 9 March - Future Music Festival, Royal Randwick Racecourse, Sydney NSW
Sunday 10 March - Future Music Festival, Flemington Racecourse, Melbourne VIC
Monday 11 March - Future Music Festival, Bonython Park, Adelaide SA