London based DJ and producer Nat Self aka ZDS (Zombie Disco Squad) is a man that is barely into his 30s, and yet his musical CV reads something more like a house music elder statesman. He was a resident at Panorama Bar, Berlin when it wasn’t even a slight twinkle in any techno tourists eyes, and he collaborated with UK soul legend, Omar on his debut album “Brains” which was release on Made To Play. ZDS has also found himself on the lineup of many festivals around the globe including LA’s HARD Summer, and Kazantip festival, Ukraine.
Over the past 12 months ZDS has released music on labels such as Defected, Play It Down, Natura Viva, Hive Audio, and This And That. His most recent release alongside production partner Sacha Robotti was the “Shaky EP” which is a Tech House delight.
2015 has been another strong year for ZDS, and I caught up with him in late early June to talk about his work, and what he has planned for the remainder of 2015.
Hi Nat, and thanks for taking the time to chat to us today. What have you been up to with your day so far?
Hi, I’m really good. I’m in berlin, just had a lovely lunch, and I’m about to get on the plane back to London.
Lets take a few minutes to delve into your musical past. How did you first become interested in house music?
I was a big drum and bass boy as a teenager and early adult. Around 20 I heard some of the music by people like Derrick Carter and MFF (music for freaks) and was hooked. Coming from drum and bass it was so nice to have a frinedly atmosphere in the club. That was also London’s golden time for clubbing.
Who have been some of your biggest musical influences over the years?
There have been so many! A few people have always remained my favourites… In no particular order, Green Velet, Paul Johnson, Claude Vonstroke, Jesse Rose, Derrick Carter, Luke Solomon, Jamie Principle, DJ Funk, DJ Deeon, and Gantman.
You used to be a resident at Panorama Bar, Berlin. How did the opportunity come about, and what are some of your most cherished memories of those times?
I was on a label called Made to Play (which is now sleeping) and they had a night there and I was resident. It was an amazing experience! I think my favorite time was playing with Claude VonStroke and Justin Martin. It was sometime ago and they both played amazing sets of San Francisco house.
The last twelve months have been very memorable for you with a string of appearances at various venues around the globe, and a number of strong release on labels like Hive Audio, This And That, and Toy Tonics. What have been some of your highlights over the last year?
I was really happy to be having records on some new labels especially since they are my friends who have them. I really believe it’s important to work with friends, it keeps things fun.
When you are creating an original track or remix do you follow a particular work flow or do you use a more fluid approach to your work?
It changes from song to song. My method at the moment is too make a song pretty much live on my Native Instruments Maschine and my Ableton Push. I then take the song into Cubase and edit it. I find it a really fun way to make music, it reduces the amount I’m staring at a screen without the headaches that come with analog.
Is there anything you find particularly difficult when you are in your studio?
I normally have periods of procrastination and hair pulling (metaphorical, look at a photo of me haha). Then after a while I have moments of clarity and inspiration and make a EP in a day.
Your most recent release was with Sacha Robotti. How did the collaboration come about, and can we expect more from the both of you in the near future?
I love Sacha, he is a really good mate and I have been a fan of his music for years. I had a couple of tracks I wasn’t getting anywhere with so I sent it too him to see if he fancied having a go at them. He turned them into monsters and I did some arrangement and mixed the suckers. We have been talking about doing a ghetto house project maybe!
Whilst talking about release what can we expect from ZDS in 2015 in terms of releases?
I have some new music coming on This and That and Material Series later this year and have also just finished a collab with Doorly.
You once sampled a burp and used it in one of your tracks. Can you tell us a little about this and why you decided to use it?
Ha. I don’t even remember doing that. My sampler is hungry for all things!
We understand that you are a man that does not underestimate the importance of quality mastering. What are your thoughts on the process, and what advice would you give to young producers out there that are looking to release their music?
I think it’s important that your music sounds technically really good. It takes a long time to learn how to mix songs well. I would recommend making songs as simple as possible, it makes them easier to mixdown (and there is also rarely need for too much going on.) If your technically not that great, there is no shame in paying someone to mix it. With mastering, the label should pay for this. It’s important to send a mixdown with enough space for the mastering engineer to be able to do their work (-6 db is good). Make sure to check the masters carefully on a few speakers before approving them.
You have a couple of big events coming up in June. One in Barcelona along with Davide Squillace and Philip Bader, and one in London alongside Louie Fresco and Cozzy D. Can you tell us a little about the gigs, and any special treats you have planned for your sets?
I can’t wait for both! I never prepare my sets and just play what I think will work and what I like on the night. I’m particularly looking forward to the ‘This and That’ showcase, I love sonar and it will be great to hang with the guys.
What has been your favourite gig of 2015 so far?
So many fun ones. Womb has been on my list of places to play for years and it was an honor to do it with Shinichi Osawa
A question we all know our readers are desperate to know the answer to… How was Martha the rabbit after your trip to play at Womb, Tokyo? Also how was the gig?
The show was great! Martha had some of my friends look after her and they spoilt her, so she was very happy.
Tokyo is an amazing place with some incredible, and very different culinary experiences. Did you get much chance to try much of local cuisine whilst there, and if so what were some of your favourite dishes?
I love the food in Japan! I went to an amazing amazing restaurant. In Japan they have a type of chef that trains for seven years (annoyingly I can’t remember what these chefs are called). These chefs generally then work in intensely expensive restaurants that are booked years in advance. The restaurant that I went to was run by a guy who did this training and then left, opened a place and also became a punk.
In today’s world of social media many artists are expected to be in reach of fans on a constant basis with updates about gigs and releases. How do you find managing your social media accounts as well continuing your work as a DJ and producer?
I like the fact I can chat to people who like my music. It’s really nice that I can help people with advice or they can tell me directly what they think of my music. I really don’t like the Facebook platform however, I would leave it if I could!
I believe the mix you put together for us is a B2B set with Sacha Robotti. Can you tell us a little about the mix, and the process you went through when creating it with Sacha?
Sacha and I couldn’t be in the same place at the same time so we worked out the track list together and mixed different sections of the mix.
Finally, is there anything you would like to tell us about that we may not have mentioned?
Please say hi on Twitter (@Zombiedisco). I’m normally quite good at answering producer questions on there too. Thanks!
01. Catz ‘N Dogz- Parallel Problems – Pets
02. Harvard Bass – That’s Me – Saved
03. ZDS – Ze freak – Cd-R
04. Sacha Robotti & ZDS – Shaky – Toy Tonics
05. Upercent – Spaceman (OK) – Snatch!
06. Claude Von Stroke & Jesse_Rose – Bare Mountain – A-sided
07. Green Velvet & Carl Craig – How -Relief Records
08. Sacha Robotti & ZDS – Howly – Toy Tonics
09. Chiapet – TickTock (Robosonic Warehouse Mix) – Yoshitoshi
10. Claude VonStroke – Make A Cake – Dirtybird
11. Thabo Getsome – Sound – (Sacha Robotti Remix) – ClapYourHands
12. Dachshund – Ganja – Clapper
13. Sound Design – Devils Dance – Hard Times