Planet Mu's latest addition talks revolutionary ideas and experimental sounds
The onslaught of Glaswegian producers gaining critical acclaim and serious label attention over the past few years seems to have become a distinct trend, as recent months have once again seen sights darted towards Scotland's musical epicentre and to the young dandy Rudi Zygadlo. However, trends are precisely what Rudi appears to defy. His debut release on Planet Mu displays an adventurous spirit; where the sometimes formulaic dubstep prototype is given a new lease of life with ambitious instrumentation, a youthful gaiety and, of all things, a love of orchestral chamber music. Composed and recorded entirely in his bedroom, 'Great Western Laymen' emits a tender warmth that sets Zygadlo apart from his contemporaries and is a welcome addition to this years promising display of new talent.
DD: Being tagged as a 'dubstep' producer today is something of a double-edged sword, is it not?
Rudi Zygadlo: Yeah, I think it is a danger. Dubstep fans pick it up, have a listen and say "this ain't right.” And other folks don't pick it up "because it's dubstep". Shame really. Hopefully the discrepancy between what it says on the tin and what's inside won't irritate people too much. That says to me a lack of imagination. But yeah, double-edged sword I think is dead right.
DD: Are your lyrics important to your ideas or are they just an aesthetic part of the sound?
Rudi Zygadlo: There is a conceptual continuity in the lyrics which I think ties the album together but for me, first and foremost, they are an acoustic instrument rather than a poetic device. Writing lyrics was always a burden, the last task in completing a song. Aesthetically though, like the live instruments, I hope the voice adds a human dimension. Sitting on top of the electronic happenings, they offer something natural to grasp hold of. At times, a respite even. And however incoherent the words themselves are, I think they can nonetheless move the listener, reminding them that there is a kid at work here, as well as a computer.
DD: For an electronic release, the instrumentation sounds very organic. What instruments do you predominantly use?
Rudi Zygadlo: There is some live instrumentation on there yeah. Guitar, piano, sax, trumpet. And even where there isn't, the album has quite a live, instrument-based feel. That is something I've noticed in retrospect. I suppose it's because what influences and inspires me is not electronic music exclusively. Certainly, structurally, I wanted to get away from the what dubstep had to offer. As a player of an instrument, incorporating them was natural. I think it works fairly effectively with Magic In The Afternoon; the piano solo is an abrupt breakdown, which succeeds probably the heaviest riff in the album. Adding this gave the track a new dynamic. The juxtaposition of laboriously programmed electronics and instantaneous solo improvisation can be really effective I think.
DD: Manuscripts Don't Burn is a Mikhail Bulgakov reference, right?
Rudi Zygadlo: My Dad passed me onto some Bulgakov before I went to university, and I read it without any knowledge of the social context that it was written in. When I started uni I was delighted to find The Master and Margarita on the literature program that I took up, which meant I had one less book to read. Although Stalin was an admirer of his to begin with, Bulgakov's work became 'dangerous' and he had to burn his manuscripts for The Master and Margarita on a number of occasions to protect himself and his wife from the Soviet authorities in the event of a raid. He died before the completion of the novel and his wife completed it. I can't remember if it's a quote of his or a posthumous tag, but the phrase 'manuscripts don't burn' really struck a chord with me. The notion that you can't destroy an idea, no matter what.
DD: Your album feels like the work of a composer rather than a DJ venturing into production. Did you set out with a song-writing structure in mind?
Rudi Zygadlo: Yeah, I think the reason for this is that I have never been a DJ. Playing out at clubs is more of rite of passage rather than something I aspired to do. It's interesting, transferring these tunes into the club environment because none of the music was really made with the club in mind. I guess sometimes I thought “yeah that'll sound fucking good on a PA” but on the whole though it was made for more intimate listening I think. I wanted to make music that my parents would want to hear in their living room as well as appeal to music fans across the board. But people do appreciate my sets it seems. So that's great.
DD: Do you feel that electronic music beings to lose its soul if the producer uses expensive, highly technical equipment over a more DIY approach?
Rudi Zygadlo: I don't believe it matters how you make the sounds, its the results rather than the process that the listener gets hold of. Having said that, some styles of music depend on specific equipment used. How would you make acid without a TB-303...? I'd love to have money to buy expensive equipment but you have to work with what you've got. I've got bugger all but if you want to make good music, you don't need an elaborate set up. Necessity is the mother of invention after all. Restrictions can be advantageous.
DD: What do you do when you're not making music?
Rudi Zygadlo: Read. Friends. Family. Worry. Have fun. Ket. Radio 3.