Zedd Leaks the Uber Classified Guide to Becomming a Successful Producer


Zedd‘s highly anticipated sophomore album, ‘True Colors’, is set to drop on May 21st. Since signing with OWLSA in 2011, and releasing his debut album ‘Clarity’ in 2012, Zedd has become a household name in the world of music. There’s been speculation, over the years, that a secret guide to becoming a successful EDM DJ is passed down through the ranks of electronic music. Most recently, we thought the guide was being guarded by rave-gnomes living in Insomniac’s office basement.

Ok, maybe there isn’t an actual EDM ‘Book of Secrets’, (though you can download and read this Think and Grow Rich pdf, which is spectacularly similar) but if there was, we’d guess it would be similar to this 8-point guide to becoming a successful DJ, by Zedd:

1. Extensive electronic knowledge is not essential

“The first album that got me interested was Daft Punk’s Discovery. There was something about this type of music that was interesting to me even though I was listening to metal and rock at the time. I knew nothing about electronic music or club culture because I never went to clubs, so I bought Discovery and listened to it hundreds of times. Then, while I was in a studio recording drums for a rock band, I heard Cross by Justice. That album pretty much changed my life. It reminded me of Discovery – it was this sort of very musical electronic music, but the sounds were so futuristic. It made me want to make that kind of music.”

2. Focus on the M part of EDM

“I don’t even see myself as EDM or a DJ. I started making classical music, then jazz and then I made rock. There’s a point where you have success and then suddenly you’re in a box and you ask yourself “Well, why wasn’t I in a box when I made classical music or rock or metal?” I will admit that there’s a lot of very simple music out there. EDM has a stigma. If I hear EDM, the first thing I think of is the main stage at a festival and glow sticks and rave, but really that’s not what it means. Electronic dance music is what I am. I make dance music for the most part and it’s mostly electronic so I shouldn’t feel weird about that genre but it feels like it’s been narrowed down to some very simple repetitive music where everyone steals from each other and barely uses any music, just sounds. I want to be just M. Just music.”

3. Branch out into other genres

“I was recently asked to produce a country album, which I think would have been interesting because it’s something I’ve never done before. My journey in the electronic world started by wanting to do something I didn’t know how to do, because I love learning. I have no clue about the country world but I’d love to just dive in and see how it works. I never had time: my album True Colors took longer than I was expecting. I think it would be really interesting to see where the genre might go.”

4. Massive pop stars help things along a bit

“If we take Justin Bieber’s Beauty and a Beat song as an example, I made that not knowing it was going to be for Bieber. I started it as a song around the same time I made the single Clarity, but it didn’t fit the album. If there’s not the right space for a song then usually my first port of call will be Max Martin. He’s a genius. I called him up and said I had a song that he might like and he wrote the top line and then we decided to give it to Bieber. But making the track was the exact same process [as with all my own songs]. Lady Gaga’s Artpop was a different story because she called me and said “I want you to produce my album”, so in that case it’s not about your art, it’s about hearing out an artist and trying to paint that picture of his or her art in your head. Sometimes she would email me with words and ask me to make it into a song. Words like “metallic”, “sexy”, “dark”, “mysterious”. So it was like, “How do you write that?” I’d never worked like that. I learned a lot from working with her because it was a totally different experience.”

5. It doesn’t really matter if the song doesn’t make grammatical sense

“When it comes to lyrics, Max Martin and I are really similar because we’re European and we hear English lyrics a little differently. So while someone who is native English-speaking will listen to the meaning of something, we listen to how it sounds and how it feels to say something. With Ariana Grande’s Break Free (key lyric: “Now that I’ve become who I really are”), I didn’t even realise the errors until very late! Because it sounds so good. It just felt right. Beauty and a Beat, that line was the same thing, the rest of it was just mumbled and we built everything around that one line.”

6. Matching the right vocalist to the right song is crucial

“You can ruin an entire song by putting the wrong vocalist on it. The vocal carries the emotion and meaning of a song and either you believe it or you don’t. There will be cheesy vocalists here and there and then suddenly they’ll sing something and I’ll believe it. When I made the song with Bieber I was worried because he had a bad image and all those things, but then he really delivered and that’s all that matters to me.”

7. It’s better to make an album than a collection of singles

“I think the art of making a good album is very difficult. Making 10 songs is easier than making an album. Sometimes you have to make the decision of making a song that you know isn’t going to be successful, but that’s fine because it makes an album into an album. It’s also not about working with the biggest vocalists; Clarity had Foxes on it and at that time no one knew her. No one knew Matthew Koma either, but their voices gave me so much. I worked with Logic on this new album, who’s a rapper, and he’s super tight with his timing. And Echosmith had one of the best vocals I’ve ever worked with.”

8. Broaden your sartorial choices once the money starts rolling in

My outfit in the Break Free video was very on the edge of what I can wear. I used to wear plaid every day for probably two years and now I’m starting to experiment with wearing sweaters. I loved the idea. For me it was important not to be the classic DJ, so I needed it to have a funny touch. It’s something I’ve never done before – DJing on some spaceship equipment – but I thought it turned out really great.”

Pre-order ‘True Colors’ by Zedd on iTunes

Via: The Guardian