In Conversation: Zero Method Talks ‘Deep Fields’
Miklos Szalkay aka Zero Method has just dropped his debut LP, Deep Fields on Optiv’s on-point, techy label Red Light after a slew of well received EPs and DJ mixes. Verdict? It’s is a riotous blast of minimal, sci-fi inspired neuro funk that traverses a wide range of styles and sounds whilst staying true to its core themes and ideas – hard, funky, rolling drums and chest constricting bassline science.
We managed to bag an exclusive premiere of the ripping tune Analog to brighten even the dreariest of Tuesdays, check that ish out below!
We also managed to grab twenty minutes to have a chat about making the album, having a good relationship with a supportive label, dystopian fiction, mechanical engineering, telling stories with sound waves, drums tracks, basslines and micro sub-genres. Take a peek below!
What made you want to write an album having only previously released EPs? What do you want to achieve by putting out a long player?
I always wanted to make an album; the question was only, when? I think for an artist this is the best way to express themselves. Usually I made music influenced by the current circumstances, for example life situations, current mood or even if I heard some noises and got some ideas. If someone knows my music well, than they know I’m moving between different sub-genres of drum and bass. So I thought this is the time to show something from each different style, and from what I like in this genre.
Cool. How did you go about writing the tunes for an album? Does it differ from writing tunes for an EP in your mind?
Yeah, it was really hard and took almost 2 years to finish. It was like a mission that I had to accomplish. I have never made music by request, like ‘let’s make an EP for X’ or so. I always make tunes in the mood I’m in, collecting them, and if it fits a concept, we can fire them out. Otherwise let’s just make a single from it.
Did you have an overarching idea you wanted to portray that couldn’t be said in EP format? Or did you want to limit your sound palette and use similar sounds to make a cohesive statement?
I wanted to represent different kinds of D&B: everything I had done before, but coming from a different angle. I had a concept in my head but nothing like ‘I want to make a 10, 12 or 14 tunes album’.
I started to collect the clips and it turned out to be 11 tracks that enabled me to perfectly express what I have been into for the last 4 to 5 years.
Your sound design skills are second to none and it seems like there are lots of influences outside of D&B at play, is this so? Spot crime for example isn’t what I would call typical drum and bass fare, the drums are nuts!
Thanks! I’m producing only drum and bass but listening to almost every kind of electronic music: even daily radio on my way to work, or some dubstep, minimal and electro. I’m sure they have some influence on my music, but nothing intentionally.
I’m just using my ears and my mind to decide what could sound cool, and try and place them in contexts that I’ve imagined. Nowadays – I think – there are big overlaps between genres, people are using the same sounds to make all kinds of different stuff.
All the track names suggest a cyberpunk type future, in that they describe tech and, seemingly, paranoia, are you influenced by these themes or art from other mediums, dystopian fiction for example?
I love science fiction and scientific movies and books, maybe because I’m a mechatronic engineer. For me drum and bass is the ultimate cyberpunk future: creatures, technical monsters and futuristic machines or unlikely events all pop into my mind’s eye when im listening to it. I’m always trying to fit the vibe and content of my tunes to these specific themes.
The album seems quite visually influenced to me as well, do you take cues from movies in designing how the tracks will resonate due to audience expectation of the emotions that certain sound and visual combinations invoke?
Usually I start a tune: bass, drums, percussions – so the main essentials. After that I start to build some FX’s and elements that will drive a story. I always want to make a “movie” in a tune, because that guides me in what to do and also allows the audience to imagine a situation.
Cinematic stuff… The album is pretty atonal and dissonant by design, relying heavily on the percussive elements and bass lines to drive the tunes, is there a reason you chose to go down this route rather than a more melodious/harmonic one?
I was never heavily into melody, it’s just not me. For me drum and bass means exactly what it is: drums and bass. It’s all about the feeling of the bass driving you without any unnecessary pianos and such. That’s my style.
You have handpicked certain vocal samples that appear throughout the album, are they telling a story or did you choose them because they sound cool? I mean they are the only human noises that appear on an otherwise quite alien sounding record. Are they there for a reason? They really compliment the craziness of ‘Around Us’ for example, the intro of which fucks with my head a bit, it sounds to me like a mechanical spider spazzing out dancing.
I like to use FX’s and vocals from sci-fi movies, games or even from the Discovery Channel! There are lots of great voices (narrators) and themes, like space travel. So they are sort of driving the story of the tune: you can imagine yourself in a situation, you can see the creatures and monsters.
In ‘Around us’ the vocal talks about the dust mites. But you saying that means I have achieved what I wanted: you started to think about the tune, and you have a picture in front of your eyes about something, coming “only” from some waves!
For example the track Out of control the vocal says: “… they trigger a dramatic chain reaction to blast parasites away … Out of control”. When you hear this with the crunchy bass and warning signal FX’s, you can instantly imagine an event, and you are not just hearing the tune anymore, you are feeling it. That’s the type of thing I want to convey: the vibe of the tune.