July 23, 2014

In The Studio With Zedd: Going for Clarity

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Like much of L.A., Anton Zaslavski gets a lot of his work done from behind a computer, while blissfully sipping a soy iced chai latte from Starbucks. But these days, things are moving a little faster for the Russian-born/German-bred producer (aka Zedd). From remixing Skrillex to traveling with him across the country in a tour bus, from remixing Lady Gaga to opening for her throughout Asia, Zedd’s career is suddenly on a steep trajectory.

And it didn’t hurt that Gaga offered a tweet to her 30 million followers supporting her Universal Music label mate this past summer, vaulting Zedd’s “Spectrum” EP up the charts and sweetly setting up the release of Clarity, his dazzling follow-up full-length.

Frequently mentioned alongside a list of fellow young producers associated with Skrillex’s OWSLA label (including Porter Robinson and Nick Thayer), the 23-year-old Zedd has also raised his profile by joining lineups of major festivals, like New York’s Electric Zoo and Las Vegas’ Electric Daisy Carnival. But with roots deeply in rock music and tastes that include radio-pop, Zedd stands out from many of his MacBook-loving colleagues.

“I don’t want to say that you need to be a musician or play instruments in order to make a great electronic song,” says the classically trained pianist and former metal drummer, “but you will never make something musically extraordinary if you don’t—it’s just completely impossible.”

His experience playing instruments has caused him to focus on live performance, differentiating strongly between musical content and sound. “My approach has never been, and never will be, to have the best-sounding song,” he asserts. “It will be to have the most emotional melody, the most interesting chord progression. If you break my music down and write it down on a piece of paper, that’s where I wanna win.”

Producing on Cubase, using UAD-2 and a few Wave plug-ins, Zedd is most at home making music from the “Zedd1 Studio,” nestled inside LA’s Interscope Records building. It’s a work environment, he says, that has the best sound quality he’s ever experienced. When such suitable arrangements aren’t possible, Zedd creates a home studio using just a laptop and some USB speakers.

“Since I’m always on tour, I can’t really have too much hardware and I think nowadays you absolutely don’t need it at all,” he explains. Not a fan of producing on the go, the constant traveler has been forced to adapt and admits to performing “edits, changes, and tweaks,” in hotels.

For live situations, Zedd’s musical background and diversity have helped him appeal to any crowd. On his recent Gaga tour, Zedd crafted his sets to be “easier and more accessible” for her fan base. The track list included edits and mash-ups of Zedd originals with pop tracks the crowd was likely familiar with, something that came naturally to this self-proclaimed “radio kinda guy.”

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