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"I'm 10% nostalgic and 90% happy with now" - Zinc is a man who doesn't shy away from change

House | Monday 17th April 2017 | Arren

We speak with Zinc about the ways the music industry has changed, his attitude to music piracy and his ventures into house.

Zinc is a legend, if you don't know him than go and research him now! He's responsible for a tonne of jungle classics, he shocked junglists when he started churning out garage before he coined a fresh genre, Crack House.

Nowadays he's been busy rinsing our bass heavy housey goodness with the likes of Rinse, Armada Deep & his own Bingo Bass. He's a rightful legend in British electronic music, and has been instrumental in the development of many home-grown music scenes.

Between his hectic touring schedule and heavy studio time, the iconic producer and DJ found some time to talk with us and share what's going down in the world of Zinc.

What been happening with you recently?
Recently I've been in the studio loads and been DJing. What I have been doing for the last 20 years, and I really enjoy it.

What's got you motivated right now and how do you stay motivated?
There's not really a thing that I do, I just don't need any motivation to do what I do.

When I started making music it was a hobby that I got paid for. It was such a cool thing to do. I don't wake up and think oh I don't wanna do that today. If I don't fancy it one day I don't have to do it. I'm really lucky I don't need motivating. I've found that I have followed the music that I am personally energised by which has kept it fresh for me.

We listened to your recent Essential Mix and it was a banger! Did you have fun making that?
It's an honour to be asked to do it really. I did one a few years ago and they asked me to do another. Things have changed and the ways we listen to and find music has changed - but it's still a standout event.

When you say the way we listen to music has changed, what do you mean exactly by that?
When I became obsessed with music, I had to listen to pirate radio. It was patchy when they were on, but when they were I could hear this music that I couldn't hear anywhere else. But, I could only hear what they chose to play. If they said what the track was I would know but if they didn't, I didn't. If I wanted to buy these records I'd go to a record shop, sometimes they'd have it - other times they wouldn't. Tape packs came around, and you could listen to the music when you wanted.

Then the internet came and now we're able to listen to what we want, when we want. You hear a song and wonder what that is, you Shazam it. If you think you're interested in bass house - you Google it and within a day you can be an expert. The on-demand thing, I love it. The way we can choose what we want to listen to, rather than it being picked by someone else. I'm really glad to see it change from what it was.

You've been in the game for so long, is there anything from the early days that you miss?
I use to play dubplates. I'd go to Music House which is where all the DJs used to go. I would have a digital tape with my new songs on and would meet other DJs that would have their songs. I would get a dubplate cut off by them and they'd cut one of mine. I would be there all day, most people were pissed that they had to be there all day - but it meant we saw each other very regularly. Was a good sense of community.

I liked the fact you couldn't immediately have everything you wanted. There was a record I wanted and it just didn't come out. I had to wait a year to get it. While I think a year is a bit excessive, there is some sort of value in having to wait for something to make you appreciate it more. I wouldn't turn the clock back, but I try to be considerate to what it is that we lose when we change. So I'm 10% nostalgic and 90% happy with now.

Anything you don't miss?
I don't miss turntables, they use to jump so much. Some weren't maintained very well so they would jump or the speed would be wrong. I don't miss that at all.

As someone who grew up in East London, how was it and would you live anywhere else?
I grew up in a really mixed culture and I'm glad I did cos it's meant that throughout my life I've been completely open minded to different cultures and races. It doesn't register on my radar if people are from different cultures. That's one cool thing about growing up in East London.

I was really lucky cos of Pirate radio. It was the only way you could listen to the music outside of the nightclubs. I was too young to go nightclubs when I first got into it, so I was really lucky that I lived in London where there was pirate radios, as it completely changed my music taste and interests.

So I'm guessing you wouldn't go anywhere else than London?
The only thing I don't like about London is the weather. In the summer I like London, but I really don't like it in the winter.

Where are you favourite places to party in London.
I like the XOYO group, I like Fabric. I use to love Plastic People, it's a shame there isn't something like that. I liked when they did warehouse parties in London. I like places that aren't so structured.

I really like the Deviation parties. I think as a clubbing brand they would be my favourite. If I'm not working and there's a Deviation night on, I'd go to it.

Was there a party that changed your life?
Desire changed my life for sure. It was the first place I got a residency as a DJ. I used to do the adverts for radio, I'd make like 10 copies with the MCs so they could hand them to the pirate stations. I would choose what songs would be in the background and mix it live as the MC was doing it.

One time I took one of these adverts to the guy who ran it. He gave me flyers to hand out. He'd made hundreds of thousands of these flyers and he put us on them! They were a really big deal, they were a way for people to get to know your name. For me it was such a big deal.

What producers do you admire right now?
I'm just working on an EP and it's all collabs with my favourite producers. It includes My Nu Leng, Chris Lorenze, Jack Beats, MJ Cole, Holy Goof & Shift K3y.

I like what Lorenzo's doing, I really like Fake Blood - but he hasn't made anything for ages, I wish he would make some more music cos I really rate him as a producer. I like Taiki Nulight, I like Roska and that camp.

You have the Trust Me I Was There mixtapes & parties, why did you start those?
I was recording all my old vinyl in and I said to my friend that I'm gonna give it all away. My friend said legally I can't actually do that!

When I realised that it's not my music to give away, I decided to do a series of mixes where I basically put nearly all my record collection into mixes. The mixing is simple, my old records mixed one into the other. I was surprised that it connected with people the way it did. Its really fun to do and cool that so many people are interested in it!

What's your attitude to music piracy?
My attitude towards my music is give it away to everybody! Making people pay for tunes is such a old, long gone attitude. I regularly say on my Facebook and Twitter that if anyone has got any of my music on their hard drive to share it. For me that feels like a completely natural and normal way to feel about the music I make. Its a pleasure to share stuff and I'm lucky that people are interested in what I'm doing.

You're still smashing it on RinseFM, what's cool about them?
They're really committed to new underground music. They don't comprise what they play to fit in with anything, they just play what they think is the best underground music that exists.

As a brand, there's not many others that stand out like Rinse. I like the whole feel it of really and it's really nice to be part of it. It sounds like a pirate except its not a pirate. I love that no comprise attitude towards music.

Your last single was on Armada Deep, how did you start working with them?
Through my manager, I've known him for years and years. He started working with Low Steppa. Now he's a very hard-working guy, but I could see that my friend was doing a good job too.

So I asked him if he could handle a remix of mine. He took care of it so well that it felt like a natural thing to work with him more. He's worked with them before and asked if I was interested in doing a couple of bits

I release stuff myself and have done so for years. Armada are a bigger, more commercial outfit - and it's nice to have a big label doing some of my stuff. A lot of bigger labels, they're like you've gotta sign to us - we have to okay everything, you can't do remixes, we have to own everything. It's really restricting and can do more harm than good. With Armada, they're really supportive and open minded.

What would you do to change the world?
If I could click my fingers and do one thing, it would be absolute equality. There would be no wars cos people wouldn't hate someone because they're from somewhere different.

When there's things like International Women's day, you're reminded that women have been marginalised for several 100 years and I think its disgusting! Its outrageous that the world has developed in a way that some people feel that they are superior to others.

What do you reckon you'd be doing if you weren't in the music scene?
Well I had a job I did for 8 years before I became a professional DJ. I'd be a middle manager in a shit office. That's the truth, not a joke that's the absolute truth cos that's where I was going.

Should drugs be legalised?
I don't take drugs, I don't drink, don't really drink coffee. I really enjoy not having any influences in my system. If I have coffee sometimes I notice it in my system. I didn't drink till I was 30. When I was young there was very little or no alcohol. A lot of people grow up and have drink in there house and they think its normal. I was lucky I didn't grow up in a house with drink.

I think as a nation we drink too much and it's not very good. That said I think drugs should be legalised, I read a book called Chasing the Scream, it was a fascinating book about the war on drugs, and discusses different approaches to addiction, it made me think that they should legalise drugs.

Zinc
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