Exclusive Interview: Mat Zo Talks New EP, Drum And Bass And More

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Mat Zo has made a name for himself as one of dance music’s more forward thinking producers, carrying on a long tradition of boundary pushing electronic musicians hailing from the UK. His debut album, Damage Control topped the iTunes dance chart upon release in 2013, while showing off a penchant for sonic exploration and experimental leanings that define his career to this day.

After releasing his sophomore album Self Assemble earlier in the year to wide acclaim, Zo resurfaced this month to offer up a new three track EP dubbed Mad, which sees the genre defying producer exploring darker terrain while injecting a notable drum and bass influence into the short collection of tunes.

Recently, we were lucky enough to catch up with Mat Zo for a quick interview before his show at the second stop of the Mad tour. His online persona has garnered an outspoken, in your face reputation on social media, but in person he’s a calm and collected guy with plenty to say about his music and the community that supports it. During our brief chat, he openly discussed his new EP, his interest in producing more drum and bass, the future of Mat Zo and more.

Check it out below, and enjoy!

You’ve just released your latest effort, the Mad EP. In a previous interview, you referred to your second album Self Assemble as “your last send-off.” How does the new EP fit into this statement?

Mat Zo: At the time I was kind of feeling like doing something else. I had a few months where I wasn’t in the studio at all and wondered if I still had it in me. But then I got some inspiration and that all went away. That was one [quote] I kind of regret.

Self Assemble’s tracklist was filled with a lot of upbeat, funky tunes, while Mad feels decidedly darker in comparison. Can you tell us a bit about the change in sound?

Mat Zo: I’ve always been trying to make some other dark stuff behind the scenes. And those three tracks felt like the only ones I could release. There’s definitely gonna be more of that kind of stuff in the future. I’ve been making it for a while but none of it’s been released until now.

You previously released drum and bass under your MRSA moniker, and now we’re hearing a bit of that breakbeat/dnb influence on the new EP again. Is that something you plan to explore further in the future?

Mat Zo: Yeah, Definitely. With the MRSA stuff it was really upbeat, happy and melodic. The new drum and bass stuff I’m doing is a lot darker, more twisted.

Do you think it’s time drum and bass gets its shot in the spotlight with the EDM crowds?

Mat Zo: People haven’t learned to dance to drum and bass, I think that’s part of the problem. I don’t know, I keep thinking every year will be the year that drum and bass will [hit] North America, but it never really happens. I’m kind of happy that it’s just a little subculture that stays underground.

Tell us about your collaboration with Foreign Beggars on “Take It Back”?

Mat Zo: We met in Australia for Stereosonic 3-4 years ago. I’ve been a fan of theirs since I was seventeen, and their first album, Asylum Speakers was my favorite hip-hop album at the time, so it’s been a boyhood dream to work with them. We’re both from the same area in London, and we got in the studio when they were in LA one time and worked on this really long track. I did tons and tons of different versions, I think “Take It Back” was version five or six. It was originally a full track with full verses, but I just cut it up and sampled it and thought it worked better that way. They did too.

For the Self Assemble tour you decided to drop the visuals in favor of a stripped down, dim lit stage production. Do you intend to continue with this trend for the Mad Tour, and how do you think it affects the way your performance is perceived?

Mat Zo: I think the best compliment I ever get is when people tell me when they go to my show it feels like a rave or a warehouse party. I like that kind of atmosphere. I’ve been doing the no visuals policy at least half a year to a year already, and I think that’s just how I like it. I like playing to a dark room where it’s not so much focused on me, it’s sort of an all encapsulating experience.

Outside of producing, you’ve launched your own label, Mad Zoo, which is scheduled to release The M Machine’s next album. Any word on when it’s coming out?

Mat Zo: Hopefully at the beginning of next year, or middle of next year. It was meant to be released at the end of this year, but they’re trying to do something really special with how the album actually gets released in a digital format. They’re trying to make a really innovative way to buy and share the music with friends, they want to make it a lot more personable. It’s pretty late in the stages of developing it now, so hopefully if it all goes well it will be out the beginning of next year.

You’ve talked a bit about the recent Fabric debacle on Twitter and how it hits close to home for you. Why do you think the powers at hand continually single out the dance/electronic music community as a source of societal ill?

Mat Zo: I think it’s a lot easier to address a single entity rather than address the education system and address the culture itself. It’s a lot easier to target a promoter or a club because it’s one person you can go after. And people want a scapegoat as well, people want someone to blame when kids die in clubs. And obviously they’re going to point the finger at the club when two kids die there, even though Fabric was one of the safest clubs in the country. People want someone to point a finger at and usually it’s the club or the venue, which is a shame.

Do you have any plans at this point for your next album or any upcoming collaborations?

Mat Zo: I’m definitely making more drum and bass. And house, as well. I’m still working on stuff with Kill The Noise, that’s gonna happen at some point. We keep saying we’re gonna drop an EP every year but we’re busy guys and it’s hard to get us in one place, but hopefully next year. I’m gonna take some time off to make an album, or at least put out some body of work next year.

That concludes our interview with Mat Zo, but we’d like to thank him very much for his time.