Friday, September 19, 2008

Unsung: abZ

I wanted to focus on a few great producers whose tunes I am nuts about, but who just don't seem to get any recognition. Unsung will be a regular profile series spotlighting names you may not know right now, but you definitely will soon. It's a big world, and lots of great music is being made that doesn't always get heard.

The thing about abZ, is that you probably HAVE heard his tunes and didn't know it. His tunes have been dropped all over internet radio and in live sets, but thus far, no one has taken the plunge and put his tunes out. That's about to change, as abZ has taken it upon himself to go the DIY (do it yourself) route and make it happen on his own dime. His influences are obviously solidly in the drum and bass realm, but his tunes don't hedge on the "harder than thou, mash you in the face" factor, rather a complex interplay between staggered, sometimes off-time beats, melody and bass movement (check out DKWSS Revisited on his Myspace to get an earload of one of my personal favorites). His remix of Cringer's "Gate B5" has become a Midwest staple, with its subhuman basslines and beat cutups keeping you guessing.

Being based in Pittsburgh, PA doesn't always assure attention in the musical world, but thanks to the power of the internets, and the worldwide reach of dubstep and bass music, abZ has made quite a name for himself amongst those who know. For those who don't, here's a little peek into the man himself.

Tell us something we don't know about you.
I have a good one for you, I have never flown in a plane. I'm not afraid of heights or anything like that. I even have a couple pilots in my family.

What did you do before dubstep? How did you find dubstep and what was the evolution of beginning to produce it?
I produced and dj'd drum&bass for about 10 years. I just kept seeing people type about dubstep on the forums. It sounded interesting so I found some mixes to listen to. I wasn't sure if I liked it or not at first. It was good enough that I kept listening to it. I ended up having a Joe Nice show stuck in the deck of the car for months on repeat. I started tracking down a few records that I was really feeling off of those mixes. I have a few weekly dj gigs playing dnb, I would just throw those records on at the beginning of my sets. I played a party where I was asked to play half dnb and dubstep. I ended up playing dubstep the whole night because everyone was really into it. I thought they might get upset if I started playing something else. I haven't played much dnb since. I didn't want to write dubstep right away. I wanted to absorb the sound for a while but I couldn't help myself and so it began.

You live in Pittsburgh, PA, which is not the hotbed of the dubstep sound. How do you think this affects your development as a producer?
Is it an asset? A frustration?

It is kind of in no man's land as far as dubstep goes but it's great to dj here. I was the first one to play full sets of dubstep in the area so I am responsible for quite a few addictions to dubstep that some people have developed recently. Every time I go out, even when I am not playing, people thank me for playing it here and ask me when I am playing again. People are genuinely interested in the music. It makes me feel like I am doing something important. LOL. I get lesser and smaller gigs here than I would if I was in a big city maybe, so it affects my performances for sure. I'm not sure how it would affect my production. I think I would be writing the same stuff no matter where I lived. Maybe I'd have learned about dubstep sooner.

What inspires you to write? Life, art, other music?
I guess it's just the creative process itself. That's just me. I always have to be doing something creative. Building something from nothing. I just have to get it out of me.

What is your favorite tune you have done to date and why?

That is a good question. I usually hate my tunes after I finish them so it's tough to answer. I guess the one I am working on now! Because it's fresh.

You have a label forthcoming. School us.

Yeah, Savory Audio. I have been kicking around the idea for a while. I have just been doing research and things of that nature. The base artists to start with are Jason Burns, Fiziks and myself. They are the only ones within a 2 hour drive of Pittsburgh that make dubstep and they do it rather well in my opinion. None of us has had an official commercial release yet. So we will all be debuting on Savory. I won't limit it to just us though; it is my intention to put out material from quite a variety of producers for whom I admire their works. It will also most likely be folks that don't get a ton of love from labels. It is going to be digital only and everything will be professionally mastered. Hopefully the first two songs will be available by October.

Any other interesting projects in the works? Remixes, upcoming releases?

Always. I don't like to talk about releases at least until they have been scheduled for release. I have had discussions with several different labels about various tunes, that is about all I can say. I'm not working on any remixes right now but those things tend to happen very quickly. I may have something finished by the time this is published. I have started working with a vocalist for something different. We have one song almost finished.

If you could work with any other producer, who would it be and why?

If I could also go back in time I would like to sit in on some of the legendary rock recording sessions of the early 70's. Wasn't the Dark Side of the Moon self produced? Maybe I'd write some tunes with Roger Waters or maybe I'd just sit there and watch him. Whoever I am working with, I am trying to steal as many tricks as I can. Hopefully I can return the favor.

And for fun, if you could do a tune to be played at a Pittsburgh Penguins hockey game, what would it sound like?
It would be really corny. Some low ended polka with vox from Donnie Iris. Basically just like the famous "Here We Go Steelers". I am actually planning on doing a Penguins tribute tune. It would probably go better with a Sid Crosby highlight video than at the Igloo. I have collected a few samples like the horn down at the igloo and some goals called by Mike Lange. GET IN THE FAST LANE GRANDMA, THE BINGO GAME IS READY TO ROLL!!!!

Let's go Pens!

(I TOTALLY knew a question about hockey would get a good answer. - Shiva)

For more info and to hear abZ tunes, check out