Currently, I am listening to “Done With Love” by Zedd as I write this article. Why is that? Well, I had the wonderful opportunity to have an email exchange with EDM phenomenon, Zedd, also known as Anton Zaslavski, a badass electronic and classical music prodigy!
He recently performed nearby at the Mullins Center in Amherst, MA on Wednesday, October 7th.
In our discussion we touched upon such areas of interest as his new album, True Colors (that released in May of 2015), his experience in the EDM world and growing up, and his influences, collaborations, and possible future projects. Oh! And most importantly, his favorite color! It was an overall engaging conversation with a strong force of energy behind each response. It was a pleasure to connect with him, and I hope to have an interview again some day with him in the near future for his potential and foreseen projects… and hopefully next time in person!
Here is the interview exchange!
Neelu Mohaghegh (NM): We’ll start with this— I have heard that you were classically trained on piano (so was I) and your parents are both musicians, what was that like for you growing up? When did the switch in genre happen for you and was it as an act of rebellion or were your parents supportive of it and it was more of just an experimental approach for you?
Zedd (Z): When both of your parents make music you just kind of grow into making music automatically. My parents taught me to play the piano when I was 4. I hated taking piano lessons but loved making / writing my own music. I played classical music, Jazz, Fusion until I was about 12 years old. Then I started playing drums in a rock band with my brother. We transitioned into hardcore / metal over the years until I started making electronic music. I’ve always loved learning about new genres and trying out new things. Technically I’m still “new” to electronic music, considering I have made / played every other genre far longer than electronic music.
NM: Who were/are some of your musical inspirations?
Z: I grew up listening to Deep Purple, Rainbow, Queen, King Crimson, Silverchair, Radiohead and that kind of stuff… far away from what I do today but still I’d consider those bands my main inspiration.
NM: Once you made the big leagues, what was the EDM concert atmosphere like, and even more specifically, what was it like performing at Ultra?!
Z: At first performing at big festivals was very exciting. I suddenly got to play in front of ten thousands of people who appreciated my stuff. At this point I prefer playing my own concerts because I still get those thousands of people but they are all my own fans and know every word to every song. But most importantly, I get to bring in my own production and live show which to me is one of the best shows in electronic music- period. It’s impossible for me to deliver that exact same experience at a festival.
NM: How does it feel to stand among other young EDM artists like Martin Garrix, Nicky Romero, Alesso, Dillon Francis, Kygo, Madeon, Skrillex, and Disclosure?
Z: I love the friendship in this scene. Madeon has been my support act for the first half of my True Colors Tour and now Dillon Francis is doing the second half. It’s amazing being on tour with friends and people who are inspiring to you. I haven’t really experience that kind of friendship / support back when I was making rock music.
NM: Who was the best person you have collaborated with thus far?
Z: I don’t think there is a “best person” I’ve collaborated with; I’ve loved working with everyone. I absolutely love working with Rock Mafia. I wrote True Colors, Beautiful Now, Transmission and a few more with them. They are family and we’re musically on the same page which makes working [with them a] pure joy.
NM: Who would you want to collaborate with next?
Z: I’d love to work with Adele, The Weeknd, Sam Smith, Ed Sheeran, Radiohead, Silverchair … so many incredible artists out there who inspire me.
NM: What it’s like working with Jon Bellion?
Z: It was amazing. I originally wanted Jon to sing another song on my record but he said he could nail “Beautiful Now” so I he recorded a little demo and indeed nailed it. I had him fly in to re-record a few things here and there and I’m super super happy he did this song. I love him on it.
NM: I also met X Ambassadors at Billboards this summer and we have had Logic on our Verge Tour in the past, they’re both featured in your song “Transmission,” what made you think of their sounds/vocals for the song?
Z: Logic and I actually connected through Twitter and I told him that I love his stuff. He asked me for a track so I sent him “Transmission” and left to get some dinner. When I got back he had already written and recorded his rap to it and I was blown away. As for X Ambassadors – I knew I needed an incredible singer to sing the melody in “Transmission” so I actually had about 5 different singers give it a shot and wanted to pick the very best. Sam absolutely killed it and so I obviously kept him on the record.
NM: I love the fact that you first approached each song with the piano, then the EDM sound. How do you think this helped you find your musical sound?
Z: It just helps to put the focus on what it’s about: The melody, the chords and the lyrics. I find it much easier to write music on instruments because if you then love it – you know people will still love the song when in 20 years the sound is potentially outdated. The Beatles don’t sound current anymore in terms of sound design / mix – but their music will forever be timeless and genius and I think that’s because their melodies, chord progressions, song structures and lyrics are incredible. That’s why I write music on instruments.
NM: Would you ever consider doing a more tropical house take on your music as well? Like Kygo?
Z: I would say never.
NM: Are you working on a new song right now or are you taking a break?
Z: I don’t really ever take breaks. I’ve written a couple song ideas since I’ve released True Colors and I’ll always keep writing new music.
NM: What is your favorite song that you have written so far?
Z: I’m not sure if I can pick one. I think 1 song I’m very very proud of is “Spectrum“. I’m very proud to have written a chord progression that I can say: I have never ever heard in any other song in the world.
NM: I know that each song on your album, True Colors, is supposed to signify a color, what gave you the idea to follow that theme?
Z: Half way through writing my album I realized how different all the songs sounded from each other. I thought it would be a cool concept for my album for every song to continue sounding entirely different. So I kind of forced myself to find ways to make the songs sound different and feel different.
NM: I am a huge fan of the “Beautiful Now” music video, which color was that song supposed to represent? How was it filming the video and seeing the song come to life?
Z: Thank you very much. For the video of “Beautiful Now” I actually had to act for the first time ever. I’ve always appeared in my music videos but there’s never been a real role I had to play. It was a new territory for me but I was very excited to try it out. I’d definitely still consider me a terrible actor but you gotta start somewhere haha. The song to me is very energetic and explosive, to me I gave the song the color “magenta” which feels very youthful, extreme and energetic to me.
(Here it is if you have not seen it yet!):
NM: All this talk about colors, which is your favorite color, really?
Z: My favorite color is teal.
NM: Now, I am currently working with a friend to produce a song, he made the track, and I am doing the vocals and we are both very excited, would you have any suggestions or advice when it comes to developing a sound?
Z: Try to be unique. Try to be YOU. It’s always great to gain inspiration from others you love but don’t try to copy them. Try for them to copy you. That’s how you get your own sound.
NM: When you are composing, how do you know what voice you are looking for? You seem to always pick the perfect vocals for your tracks.
Z: Sometimes I immediately know what kind of vocal it is supposed to be (male or female / breathy or sharp voice) and sometimes it’s a matter of trying many many singers out until you find the perfect puzzle piece. I never settle for less than amazing when it comes to vocalists.
NM: Of course, how is the True Colors Tour going?!? What has the experience been so far? Favorite city?
Z: The True Colors Tour has been incredible. Reading the feedback from fans it seems like this is one of the best shows anyone has ever seen. I’m extremely proud of it and I can honestly say I believe it’s the most spectacular show in electronic music right now.
NM: Should we expect any new projects in the immediate future?
Z: Nothing I could say as of now. But as you probably know, I’m always working on things.
NM: Where is a venue you wish to perform at?
Z: Well, if you had asked this just a week ago I would have said “Madison Square Garden” but I finally got to play there and it was an incredible and emotional feeling. I’m very proud of everyone involved and how much we have achieved and such little time.
NM: What is the most ridiculous thing you have done on stage and what is the one most ridiculous thing you wish you could do on stage?
Z: To be honest I’m pretty focused on stage so I never really have time to do ridiculous things. But once, a few years ago, I actually said “What’s up LA” while I was playing in New York and that was pretty much the worst case scenario of what one can say on the mic in New York. I felt terrible but I think my fans forgave me. When you play 300 shows a year, at some point you’re gonna fuck up.
NM: You said in a previous interview once that True Colors was meant to be an “once-in-a-lifetime musical adventure.” You wanted it to be a multisensory experience where “people [will] feel transported to another place for two hours, and for each song  feel like it’s taking you into another world.” I think that is incredible and really takes music to another level of relatedness between sound and the person him/herself. You are also mentioned you listened to artists from outside of the electronic music world domain to get your inspiration for your album—which artists were those specifically?
Z: Well, the same artists I used to listen to when I was younger; Queen, King Crimson, Silverchair, Genesis … all those types of artist have inspired my album big time.
So, there it is, the Russian-German electronic music producer in writing and while on his tour. I can not wait for what is to come in his work as the EDM realm grows larger and more popular and as he begins to expand his musical interactions!
Follow him on his social network accounts now!