Bassist Ryan Nall on His Band Zoogma's Style: "While DJs Will Remix Bands, We Are Essentially a Band Remixing a DJ"
We chatted with Nall about the eclectic mix of sounds and genres represented on Wet Hot, growing up on drum and bass, and Brotherly Love Productions.
New Times: I wanted to ask you a little bit about the Wet Hot American Mixtape that you guys just put out. Even from the first track to the second track, there is such a contrast in the sound. In the first one, you sample 3 Six Mafia. Then, the next one is jazzy. Where were you guys going with it?
Ryan Nall: Well, I guess it's just a compilation of some stuff that we've been working on. It's sort of a demonstration of the different directions we're moving the project into. It was really a casual release for us, being a summer mixtape for people to listen to and see the some of the new stuff we'll be breaking out at these festivals before we get to the festivals.
I think, while a lot of the compositions are diverse, and even sometimes quite contrasting, particularly between "M10," the first one that samples 3 Six Mafia, and "Ayers Rock," the second one, which is almost a more jazz, lotus, progressive trance thing. I think it's just demonstrative of how varied we are as composers. We all work on music separately and we all work on it together. Some of the compositions might have a little bit more of a voice from one of us and some might be more the result of a direct collaboration between all four of us.
So it depends on who wrote it?
Yeah, who wrote it. We're a big product of what we listen to. Sometimes we say to ourselves "Let's do a remix song. Let's make a crunk song. Let's make a jazz song." After listening to a lot of stuff that's going on around us, we realize there's no limit to what we can do with our expression. Let's not just pigeonhole ourselves into just being a hip-hop remix band. But let's not also forget the jazzier side of things that we all we came up with too.
You'd talked to Adam Smith (New Times) awhile back and he'd brought up that you guys give away your music for free. You must be making most of your, if any, money off touring, instead of music sales. Do you feel like the music you put out online is sort of a taster for what's to come live?
Yeah, definitely. Our live show is our bread and butter. We're great producers and we're great composers and we put out really good records. But I think the songs take a lot more shape in a live setting. Sometimes, the studio track we put out is something just to get your appetite going. And the thing you see at a live show is a grander representation of it, with maybe another section added in or a teaser. We'll alternate and do a jam or something just to keep the material fresh, keep us interested, and keep the live show worth going to versus just sitting at home and listening to our record.
You're the bassist. It plays a percussive role. You also play synthesizer?
Yeah, me and Matt pretty much comprise the rhythm section of the band. A lot of the foundation of the electronic music that we get across has a lot to do with the drum and bass interaction, and the sort of sound we use and the tempos that we go to.
Do you guys have tracks that you play also?
Yeah, we so some live sequencing and cued samples as well as doing looping and stuff like that. I would say that the difference between us and a DJ is where DJs are pretty much solely relying on prerecorded music to get through their show, we kind of use the prerecorded music as an extra person in the band. We really play along with the music, versus letting it dictate what we're doing. We have a lot of control over it. If we're feeling this section should be longer tonight, let's take this groove for a ride, see where it goes, and we can manipulate it on the fly and not have to just be married to what a track is.
I know at the end of your conversation with Adam, you guys talked about how maybe there was a possibility of a DJ mixing the music and you guys playing the mix on stage... Like a mashup?
I think the thing that you're talking about is while DJs will remix bands, we do some stuff where we are essentially a band remixing a DJ. So where the DJ will take samples from 20 different bands or instruments and compose a track out of them or even just remix one track, we take a lot of producers and DJ's music that has never been played live, and we'll do live covers of it. People like Sub Focus and Pendulum, all these groups that are primarily based around a single DJ, will actually do live band representations of their music, kind of bringing the producer's music to life for the first time.
What's your musical background? Did you listen to drum and bass when you were younger?
We've all come from a serious background in electronic music for the past 10, 15 years. Sasha and Digweed, Daft Punk, Basement Jaxx. All that was kinda my stuff in the late '90s. I told you I have a jazz background. Those two things are probably what define me most as a musician, progressive jazz and electronic music.
It's kind of interesting how electronic music has evolved back to something more organic. It's sort of counterintuitive. Back in the '90s, I wouldn't have thought, "someone is going to play this live one day."
Yeah. I think that's something all of us straddle the fence between, a DJ and a live band. All of us are very savvy electronic producers and we'll incorporate lots of new technology and soundscapes and everything. But, we're also all instrumentalists at heart. We all love playing music of a lot of different varieties. I think that shows in the live show and what gives us a bit of an edge or niche. We have four peoples' voices that contribute to making Zoogma what it is. So depending on the song or the night or how we're feeling, we can kinda take a lot of different shapes, but still be a hard-hitting dance electronic project.
Do you guys like working with Brotherly Love Productions?
Ever since our first Aura Festival in St. Cloud a couple years ago, I thought it was an amazing development in South Florida. We met the right people. We really work well with Moon Goddess (Tampa) and Brotherly Love. We get to party a lot together. Before you know it, you kind of become friends. I'm actually from Florida originally, from Pensacola. I've always looked forward to when get to come down and be in Florida. I've made a lot of friends in Jacksonville and all over the state really. It's just one of those special places.
Zoogma with Stokeswood at 9 p.m. tonight at Culture Room, 3045 North Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale.