Zedd made his True Colors Tour stop in Chicago last Thursday (October 29th) at UIC Pavilion with support from Alex Metric, Dillon Francis and special guest Martin Garrix. WhySoChi had the opportunity to talk to London’s own Alex Metric after his opening set. We talked about his musical beginnings, how the US and UK scenes compare, his transition to Skrillex’s label OWSLA + more. Full interview can be found below.
WSC: Let’s start from the beginning. Where did your love for music originally come from? How did that inspire you to make music?
Alex: “Ummm… I mean I started off as an indie kid liking bands and singing in bands that was my entry to it. So you know growing up in the Brit-Pop era in the 90’s it was like: Oasis, Blur, Primal Scream, The Verve, bands like that. So I kind of come from it from a song background more than a dance background. But then you know I discovered dance music in clubs and all that sort of stuff and I ended up on this dance music journey.”
WSC: When did you decide that you really wanted to DJ and produce?
Alex: “Ummm I’m trying to think if there was a defining moment. I mean, I always wanted to make…, be a producer more than a DJ. The whole DJing thing almost happened almost by accident from me making records and producing. I knew I wanted to make dance music… actually I could rewind to a point where I was like 15 years old, and I’ve been listening to what’s the record? One of the last tracks on the Beatles the white album “Carry That Way” (which is one of my favorite songs). I remember talking to a friend and saying like I just felt like it could have this extra sound in it, something could happen here, and we were talking about it. I sort of made this realization that, that’s like producing a record that it’s like taking someone’s record/song and adding things to it. So from a very young age I knew I wanted to produce for bands to produce for artists. It’s probably my earliest memory, besides like singing and writing songs I knew I wanted to do something on a production basis. Then falling in love with dance music and certain pivotal records that made me really, really feel like it was something I wanted to do. Then once I started to release records people wanted me to start DJing and I started travelling the world DJing. That sort of came after I started releasing records.
WSC: So I know that the first album that you truly liked was Fat Boy Slim, is that right?
Alex: “That’s the first dance music album I ever bought and definitely my first entry to dance music, beyond like stuff I heard in the charts as a kid like some of other rave stuff in the 90s and things like that. You know there were certain electronic songs I was aware of and I liked but it was more cheesy stuff. Whereas Fatboy Slim, I missed my bus home from school, I was maybe 16 years old maybe 15 I can’t remember; in those days we had record stores where you had listening posts where you’d go in listen to the CDs that available that week. So I was like “fuck it” hell I’ve got an hour to kill what am I going to do? Fatboy Slim, oh I’ve heard of him, I read about him in the NME. So I put on the headphones and I pushed play and I was just like “Woah! What the f**k is this? I’ve never heard anything like it”. Because the big beat stuff, which is the scene he came through at that time was like it was guitars and it was song pools and rock drums and shit but it was electronic music. So for me it made perfect sense it’s like: OK, I can identify with it because it’s got indie and rock aesthetic to it but then its electronic music, and that like fusion meeting of the two, was a really mind bending thing to me at that age. After that I was sold. I was ready for it.”
WSC: A lot of your recent music is classified as progressive house/nu-disco/electro house. Would you agree with that? What did you start off playing/ how has your taste progressed?
Alex: “I mean I jump around so much in styles. Yea I do some stuff as disco-y, I do some stuff that’s house-y, I don’t know I’ve jumped around so much over the years but consistently like you look at my new EP there’s 5 very different records on there. It’s just me I’m an ecliptic I have ecliptic taste, I DJ eclectic sets and I produce eclectic records so you know its been like some times that I’ve been labeled genres. I’ve been parts of a scene and somehow I’ve always managed lie… I’ve started in break beat years ago… and when the electronic thing happened I got swept up in that. Around the time I was making records with Steve Angello it was that big room house sound and now it’s more disco and house. I’ve managed to float around and do my own thing. I’ve never been so deeply set into one scene that I’ve ever been dragged down with it or dragged into it too much so I’m just me. There are elements of everything in my sound, I just make records that excite me and inspire me to want to want to play them and to make more records you know. That’s my inspiration so people could label it whatever they want. If it helps people sell it in a store, put it on a blog or describe it to their friends cool call me whatever. But I definitely don’t sit down and think “I’m going to make a progressive house records today” I just sit down and make a record and something comes out. I look at my peers who were around when I started break beat. Somehow by not rooting myself in one particular thing, I have managed to have a fan base that likes me because they believe in me as a bigger picture. I hope so anyway.”
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WSC: How did it feel to join OWSLA in 2013?
Alex: “Great. They have been amazing. They have been really supportive of me. They are positive bunch of people. They allow me my freedom and put in their input when I need it. When I don’t need it, they don’t get involved. It has been a positive thing to be a part of and something that is very far-reaching around the world as well. Sunny is an ambassador for dance music, and an ambassador of OWSLA. He reaches more than I would on my own and the fact that I’m part of his label brings a lot of attention to me. This summer I was in Vietnam and I had an amazing show there. In the front row there were kids with OWSLA t-shirts on. It is amazing to see that and it was an affirming moment. I was like “Yes, it’s the right decision being on a label like OWSLA because I’m in Vietnam and these 20 year old kids are asking for my records”. Who would have thought that would happen? They know who I was and what I do.”
WSC: My favorite track is “Always There”. Which track do you consider your favorite or one you are most proud of?
Alex: “F***ing hell, that’s tough. In terms of remixes, I would say my Lisztomania remix for Phoenix and my remix of Bad Habits by Foals. Those are my favorite remixes out there, that stand the test of time. In terms of original tracks, that’s tricky. I am very proud of “Safe With You” with Jacques Lu Cont since he is one of my heroes and I always wanted to work with him. That means a lot to me having worked with him. But currently, “Always There” is a record I am really proud of and I am really into. With remixes it’s different, but with original stuff it changes and fluctuates a lot. I wish I could give you a definitive answer on this one.”
WSC: Since crossing the pond, what similarities or differences do you see between the UK crowd and the US crowd?
Alex: “Increasingly very little difference. Go back to like 4 years ago when I started touring here a lot… It was quite different. My sets would be a bit more tailored in one way or another if I was in Europe or America. Now if I do a solo club tour, my sets going to be the same if I play at XY in London or Social Club in Paris or wherever. You have this big influx of kids through the EDM thing and then they have all suddenly started liking other stuff out there. They have become more educated and open-minded. House music is big with Disclosure and Gordon City and boys like that coming through, Duke Dumont as well obviously. The kids have become less focused on the drops and the builds. That’s why I come over here a bunch of times. It is a good time to be in America. There is a blank slate with this whole new generation of kids that are interested in hearing new stuff and hearing music – hearing something different.”
WSC: Whenever we meet internationally renowned DJs and producers we ask for one piece of advice for aspiring musicians/DJs. What would your advice be?
Alex: “Don’t follow trends. Don’t try to be the next “whoever”. Do your thing and make music that pleases you. If you make records that please you and fill a gap in your brain for something that is missing from your influences and what you hear out there, then it is going to fill that gap for other people. Don’t try to chase trying to be like someone else. Make records that make you really pleased on an emotional level and fill that yearning to create music, and there will be an audience for that. The worst thing you can do is try to copy someone and chase tails of whoever the next big thing is. You are just imitating people and you are just not being you. Ultimately you need to be you because that’s what’s going to stand the test of time.”
WSC: We know you just release your ammunition EP Part 4 earlier this month. What can we expect in terms of new music going forward?
Alex: “Yes. I think the next record that’s going to come out is going to be myself and Aeroplane playing. We have put something together called MetroPlane. You see what we did there? We have a two-track release, which I am not sure when it’s going to be out or what is going to happen with it yet. We are just mixing it this week. But um, I think the next records you are going to hear from me are going to be he MetroPlane material and on the remix front, another remix for Foals. I will be back in America for a tour in December. I have a month to finish some stuff and then I am back.”