Rudi Zygadlo: ‘Inaccurate musical descriptors aren’t necessarily a problem unless they are derogatory’

Emma Gritt
Rudi 300x225 Rudi Zygadlo: Inaccurate musical descriptors aren’t necessarily a problem unless they are derogatory

(c) Paul Phung

Glaswegian producer Rudi Zygadlo was studying Eastern European Literature before swapping the books for a new life of beats. And what beats they are! Ornate, all-engulfing and hypnotic, it’s no surprise that hype levels surrounding his second full length LP, ‘Tragicomedies’, are at an all time high. The record, released on Planet Mu, also has a contender for 2012’s best album artwork, thanks to the genius of American painter, Jonathan Saiz.

From listening to your music and reading your tumblr, I would say you are one of the most aesthetic musicians around – style and art seem to be intertwined with your character.

Thanks. That’s a nice thing to say. I’d like to think its true. I daresay a lot of artistic movements have inspired me, musically and otherwise, but I’m a dilettante at best, blessed with artistic parents.

Who are your style icons?

I like Frank Zappa and Alfred Schnittke quite a lot.

What were you doing before you started making music?

I started making music when I was in my early teens. I’m not classically trained, and whilst I’m familiar with a lot of musical language, I can’t read standard notation nor can I play any instrument at a particularly advanced level. My ear does most of the work. I had guitar lessons for a year or two when I was about nine. Then I got into computer music when I was about 12 and noodled around for 10 years before finding a goodish sound. Actually I also had a brief spell of piano lessons for about a year when I was 16. But before I produced with a view to releasing back in ‘08 or ‘09, I was studying Eastern European Literature.

How did the artwork by Jonathan Saiz come about?

I approached him through someone else who was provisionally designing the sleeve. I was torn between his Alkahest series and photographs of his Industry series; variations on a theme of miniature classical oil portraits clamped in brutal, rusting vices. Maybe next time. In both series there was a very tangible mergence of new and old forms and of rigidity and elegance, something I hope also comes across in my own music. So I got his email address and asked him.

The way you write is incredibly romantic – what’s the most devastating thing you’ve ever done for love?

Now we’re talking. Probably challenging to a duel-at-dawn he who made me a cuckold.

What do you think of people who say you’re a dubstep producer – where do align yourself?

I don’t make any judgements because I don’t know these people personally but I suppose they are misinformed. Perhaps they haven’t listened to it or perhaps they saw the words Planet Mu, a label associated with Dubstep producers, next to my name. Ultimately though, I don’t mind what people call it. Inaccurate musical descriptors aren’t necessarily a problem unless they are derogatory. And I can’t deny that dubstep was a big inspiration for me in 2008-9. Without it my musical offerings would have started out drastically different or not started out at all. But at the moment, I’ve lost the dubstep thread a bit.

Scotland has produced some incredible electronic musicians, how did growing up there inspire you? And where do you place yourself in the Scottish roll-call of producers that are making it big at the moment?

I don’t place myself anywhere really. A lot of talent seems to be plucked from Glasgow, yeah. Good for Glasgow.

What was the last film you saw, and what did you think of it?

I finally saw A Streetcar Named Desire a couple of weeks ago. Thoroughly enjoyed it. Full of quotables and Brando. Since then though I re-watched Milos Forman’s The Fireman’s Ball. One of only two films he made in Czechoslovakia before cleaning up in the USA. Very funny.

What external stimuli shaped the writing, recording and production of Tragicomedies?

The honest answer is, by and large, I don’t know. I have in the past referred to a host of strange occurrences which have acted as creative stimuli. Perhaps to sex things up, and conceptualise the music. Location, momentous emotional and cultural events. These things obviously do affect me but I think creative stimulation is more abstract and day to day. Trivial. Sorry, I’m being very evasive. Lyrically, there are songs based on fact: about love, sex and drugs, falling out of windows and bleeding to death on a pavement. That kind of thing. But the music I write is never written with words in mind. Everything is completely produced before I even think about tarnishing it with words.

Considering you write such thoughtful prose, I’m guessing you’re a voracious reader. What’s your favourite book and why?

I have so far tried my hardest to avoid specifics but I often cite a book called I Served the King of England, by the Czech author Bohmil Hrabal, as a favourite. On the comparative literature reading list, this book was worth going to university for. Hrabal follows a Czech tradition of writing with humour self-deprecation on matters as dark and horrific as the successive Nazi and communist occupations. I must have read a dozen Czech books in which the protagonist suffers from an embarrassing impotency. I Served is a fantastical, picaresque tale of an amoral character who gets rich by collaborating (with the Nazis and Communists) but ends up finding humility in the hilltops with a dog before he dies.

Waltz For Daphnis is my favourite song on the album, did you play all the percussion/violin yourself too?

I’m pleased you like that song. I was really happy with the vocal bass. I suppose I was going for the doo-wop pastiche sound found on Cruisin with Rueben and The Jets. Don’t think it has violins in it though. I pitched the trumpet harmonies up an octave, giving it a kinda stringy texture. Maybe that’s it? My friend Gerry Mckeever played those lines.

What do you hope for 2013?

Playing shows with a new trio ensemble. Gonna write some more music. I would like to have written an album by spring/summer. Maybe that’s ambitious. I’v also just finished a 15-minute piece, in three-and-a-half movements, for String Quartet. I’m going to transcribe it with the help of a professional in a few weeks time, then ultimately aim to record it and have it performed. That will most likely take us into the New Year!

‘Tragicomedies’ is out now on Planet Mu

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