We hosted a Q&A aboard Shipsomnia and let fans ask Mat Zo whatever their hearts desired. Some asked about him about his inspirations, some asked for advice and others wanted to know about how hard he’d like to slap Porter Robinson. Read the full Q&A session below.
MMA: Mixmag Asia
MZ: Mat Zo
MMA:Are you having a good time on the ship?
MZ:So far so good.
MMA:What have you been doing aboard Shipsomnia?
MZ:Sleeping. I tried to stay up for last night but…I went to sleep.
MMA:How many times have you been to Asia so far?
MZ:Five or six times I think.
S:Where did the inspiration come from for Caller ID?
MZ:I think with that one I was playing around with that calling me, calling me sample, and had that looped and just jammed some stuff over that and it turned into a whole song.
S:Did you have any blowback after one of your Twitter rants about ghost producers?
MZ:No, actually. Not at all.
MMA:So you’re actually really active on social media and you speak very candidly about everyone and everything. Do you think that has helped or hindered your career?
MZ:It’s probably hindered it a lot more than it’s helped but I don’t really think about that when I do it. It’s just something I do when I’m bored on an airplane or in an airport.
MMA:Do you think everybody in the industry should speak up and reveal more industry secrets so that it’s a little bit more transparent?
MZ:No I don’t think it’s anyone’s responsibility, it’s just my choice and I don’t think it’s for everyone.
S:What do you think about Deadmau5 and his trolling?
MZ:I don’t really have an opinion on that.
S:What’s your favorite festival?
MZ:It’s hard to say because they change every year. Like one year a festival will be really good and they next year it’s not. They all kind of blend into one to be honest, after a while.
S:What about Global Gathering, I heard you played a really good set there?
MZ:Oh yeah, in Korea. Yeah that was fun. I got to play a drum ‘n’ bass set.
S:As a producer, do you use more analogue gear or digital?
MZ:Complete digital. I have analogue gear but I never use it, I just play around with it. I try to get all the sound I get from processing with digital plugins and stuff.
S:We’re really big fans of you and we’ve always wanted to ask you one question. If you could slap one DJ in the face, how hard would you slap Porter Robinson?
MZ:Porter Robinson doesn’t deserve a slap, he needs a big hug.
S:Alright then who and why?
MZ:I don’t think I’d slap anyone to be honest. I’ve said enough shit about people.
S:What’s going to be the hot new genre?
MZ:Hopefully UK Garage. It hasn’t really blown up yet anywhere besides London so fingers crossed.
S:What’s your favorite food on the ship?
MZ:Watermelon, for sure.
S:What are you drinking?
MZ:Any music related questions?
S:Who’s your favorite DJ?
MZ:My favorite DJ? That’s a tough one because I haven’t seen that many DJs recently. I don’t have one.
MMA:What about your top five? Or people that have impressed you when you’ve seen or heard them play?
MZ:Well, people that have inspired me. The first DJ I ever saw was DJ Marky, who is playing on this cruise, so that’s pretty cool. A lot of drum ‘n’ bass DJs have been really inspiring to me.
S:Are you going to drop any exclusive tracks tonight?
MZ:Yeah, I think so.
S:As a producer, what were the struggles you went through before you released your first record and how long did it take?
MZ:It took me about four years to get signed and even then it was signed to a tiny little label. I’m still struggling. It’s just a lot of staying up all-night and working.
S:What advice would you give to producers who are trying to break out?
MZ:Just worry about your craft and perfecting it and everything else will follow.
MMA:Do you think that in an industry that’s very much fueled by singles and streaming, do you think its still worth it to put in four years to make an album?
MZ:Yeah absolutely, it’s important mainly because it might have an impact on someone in the future. I think the industry is way too focused on the now and people don’t think about making music that might affect someone in ten years or twenty years and I think an album is the best way to do that.
S:Are there any music genres you haven’t yet experimented with that you’d like to ?
MZ:I’ve tried a lot of stuff but I’ve even made rock tunes, I’ve even tried making jazz. At this point, I’ll probably try gamelan music.
S:What sort of preparation do you usually do before a set?
MZ:Well, I’ll go through my whole library and remind myself about all the stuff that I have. If it’s a big festival I’ll usually prepare a set list but most of the time I just wing it. I do a lot of edits as well to try and make tracks fit into my set better.
S:How large is your library?
MZ:The one on my USB right now is about 40gigs.
S:Do you have a vinyl collection?
MZ:Yeah, I do but it’s not dance music. It’s a lot of old records that I sample.
S:Do you go by any other aliases?
MZ:Not anymore. I used to have a drum ‘n’ bass alias. It’s called MRSA but stopped using that.
MMA:How about the music industry in Asia. You’ve played here many times, so how do you think it compares to the scenes in Europe and North America where its more developed?
MZ:There are certain pockets in Asia that are more developed than others, Singapore being one obviously cause it has Zouk and the places that are less developed, they have to do more bottle service kind of things to get people through the door, which is fair enough. It’s just like what you’d expect from any other place where dance music is developing. There is going to be a mix of different people and it’s great to see new faces getting excited about dance music.
MMA:You say the scene here is still developing but it’s very much focused on international DJs coming and playing in Asia, why do you think there are so few Asia artists that are making it into the top lists and whatnot?
MZ:I think it has to do with it being more new here than it is in Europe or America. There has been a really developed dance music culture in Europe and America so it’s hard to compete with that.
MMA:Do you have any really memorable WTF moments from your time in Asia? It’s like something always seems to go wrong out here. Has anything happened like that you?
MZ:So I played in Macau this one time and it was a weird club, there wasn’t a dance floor. It was just tables and some really drunk rich guy came into the booth while I was playing and started messing with the equipment and everything. He even had bouncers with him and they were letting him do that. So I had to actually push him out myself, which was interesting. That was definitely memorable.
MMA:Are there any cities or club in Asia that really struck a chord with you and you look forward to going back to?
MZ:Singapore definitely. Zouk is one of my favorite clubs to play in the world. Kuala Lumpur also, the Zouk there is great. Tokyo. There are a lot of places in Asia I really enjoy.
S:What’s your solution to jet lag?
MZ:I get into the time zone of the country I’m going to before I get there. So I’ll stay up for however long and try to get into the swing of things.
MMA:What’s on the pipeline for the next album?
MZ:I actually start promoting the next album in seven days. It’s going to be out really soon, probably in the beginning of February. And it’s a mix of stuff, just like my first album.
S:Are you ever going to start your own record label?
MZ:I have my own record label. It’s called Mat Zoo.
MMA:What inspired you to start one, how did that come about?
MZ:Well I finished my deal with Astralwerks and I wanted a place to put out all my own music without fear of style and control and everything like that. I just wanted freedom basically and it looks like next year I’ll start to put out other artists as well. It’s going to be a fun project.
S:How is the new album going to be different from your past albums? What are you most excited about, like something that kept you up at night that you thought was a banger?
MZ:Well the next album is going to be more song based, the production is better but the vibe is kind of similar. It’s got a similar range of music.
S:It’s not going to be anything that’s like the new Mat Zo, same vibes or have you been experimenting with any other realms?
MZ:I’m experimenting new realms for sure. Like the first track on the album is just this weird sort of classical music score but I’m not sure if anyone is going to understand it. There is a lot of weird stuff on there.
S:Do you get your inspiration from when you’re playing live sets and think that you need a song like this to go in and that would be perfect? Or where do you get you inspiration and know what tracks you’re going to write for the album?
MZ:I don’t know what I’m going to do before I sit down. I just play around really. Usually I’ll have one or two ideas for the tracks and they will sort of spark other ideas and it sort of builds off that organically.
S:How do you go about naming your songs?
MZ:I have a list of song names on my phone but I never use them because they are shit.
S:For your label, are you focusing on any one particular genre?
MZ:I’m trying not to think about genres so much, I’m trying to just think about whether the music will still be relevant in ten years time. Is it music for the now or is it music for all generations.
S:What’s your musical background?
MZ:My mom is a violinist so she raised me with a classical background and I learned the guitar when I was like eight and played in bands and stuff. I was in an indie rock band, a jazz band, and a metal band at one point. So yeah, I was in a lot of bands before I started doing electronic music.
S:What’s the weirdest thing that’s ever happened to you like at a festival?
MZ:I’ve got a really bad memory…
S:We want to hear the fucked up shit.
MZ:It’s not usually stuff that happens to me it’s usually stuff that I do that’s fucked up.
MMA:So what’s it been?
MZ:So on my last album tour, I was really pissed off for some reason and I just played the most angry drum ‘n’ bass set I’ve ever played to a bunch of people that were expecting really happy candy raver kind of music and the promoter was so pissed off. Yeah, that was fun though.
S:How much do you spend on marketing and Facebook?
MZ:I don’t have any part of my Facebook page. No, I hate that kind of stuff.
S:How about Twitter?
MZ:My Twitter is all me, too much stuff there. I understand the need for marketing bur I just have no interest in it. It’s something that for me, distracts me from making music and when I go to make music and I’m thinking about marketing, it’s impossible.
MMA:So for new and upcoming DJs and producers, how important do you think it is for them to be learning how to market themselves or promoting themselves in order to get noticed? Is it absolutely necessary or can it still be done without?
MZ:It can definitely still be done without. It is important to some extent but the most important thing obviously is perfecting your craft and if you don’t have that then the marketing is worthless. Maybe you’ll make it for a year or two but if you’re not good at what you do, you’re not going to last.
S:How do you get over a creative block?
MZ:I mean, a creative block is always going to inevitable. You’re not going to be creative all the time so you just have to ride it out. But you also have to actively look for inspiration as well in the form of listening to music that you wouldn’t normally listen to or go out into the world and experience something that you don’t normally experience.
S:Is there anyone you would like to go back-to-back with?
MZ:Well I’m going to go back-to-back with Amtrac and Treasure Fingers later. I’d love to go back-to-back with, actually no never mind. I was going to say Noisey but I can’t go back-to-back with them because I play all their stuff.
S:How do you decide how many tracks go on an album?
MZ:It depends on how long those songs are and how long the album feels. When you listen to an album, sometimes it can be like and hour and half long but it will feel really short because you get really into it. It’s all about how it feels to you. I’ll listen back to the hour and if it feels too long, I’ll try and cut it down. And vice versa.
S:Will you play some trance tonight?
MZ:Heh. Just for you. Cheers
S:Some people think that Serato is not real DJing because of the synch button. What do you think?
MZ:I’ve actually never used Serato so I don’t know. I think it’s really lazy to use the synch button, I don’t know if I could call it not real DJing. DJing is just playing music for people to make them feel something or move, I don’t think there should be a lot of…it doesn’t matter as long as you’re good at it and you’re doing something new and exciting. If you use the synch button, I couldn’t give two shits.
S:Why did you stop using your drum ‘n’ bass alias?
MZ:Because it’s also the name of a really terrible skin disease. And I was going to get booked for a show and the promoter said he couldn’t book me because he had a relative with MRSA and I knew I had to change it.
S:Have you ever considered picking up another alias or are you just going to stick with Mat Zo?
MZ:I’ve considered doing secret projects under other aliases that I won’t even take credit for – and I still might do that.
S:What’s the new alias going to be?
MZ:Well if I told you I would have to kill you.
S:If you were to throw your own festival, who are the first DJs you would ask to play?
MZ:I would probably just invite all my friends to play. Kill The Noise, Noisey, all my friends over here.
S:Coke or Pepsi?
MZ:Coke in the UK and Pepsi in the US. For some reason they’re different.