Zeitgeist Freedom Energy Exchange - Prayer For Peace (Ziggy Zeitgeist Feature Interview)
Ben chats to drummer, producer & DJ Ziggy Zeitgeist, who leads the collective Zeitgeist Freedom Energy Exchange (Z*F*E*X) from their current base in Berlin. Read on to get an insight into Z*F*E*X vision, evolution and inspiration as well as Ziggy's journey since moving to Berlin in 2019.
Having gained recognition through drumming for Melbourne's nu-soul / future-jazz group 30/70, Ziggy moved out of Australia to Berlin to embrace the technoculture of the city. Prayer For Peace embodies the Berlin chapter of Z*F*E*X, taking in darker tones of the club scene as opposed to the more disco-heady sounds of the previous projects.
Straight away on the 8-track LP, the ensembling of Brazilian percussion builds up into a trance of vibrations that ripple through into your mind. The drop into the slick groove tears up the mood as the bass punctures into the drums and Szabolcs Bognár's keys softly touch the edges with Paulo Cedraz's flutes offering the ethereal element. It's such a sexy jazz-funker to begin with, and the vibe continues with a lighter, poppy 'Cadillac' that has a more retro wave sound to it. The space the album inhibits now is fully settled on the dancefloor, and the intensity increases with 'Keep On Lovin'' featuring the talented Wayne Snow on vocals. It's a more brooding and mysterious adventure, with the pulsating percussion combining well with the echoing, reverbed synths.
A squelchiness in 'Vivid Energies' is cut through with some phat hi-hat stabs, but the beauty of this track is the move into a chiller as there is cosmic energy with the flute that guides you through the meditation. After that breather, 'Tightrope' snarls back and prepares you for the most furious dance of your life. Yannick Nolting's bass is a funk machine and Ziggy's drumming is powerful and adept at increasing the dynamics and craziness at the perfect moments to match Eric Owusu's percussion.
The finisher 'Green Eyes' brings huge climaxes and feels like a lost track from a Yussef Kamaal session. The groove is tight, the keys are nice and warm, and the funk just never ceases. The whole album is a candy flip of jazz and dance music. The energy matches the vibe for a club as much as it does a deep listen at home, where you're relaxed and can be in awe of the layers of sounds moving through the gears into freneticism and calmness.
Read below to find out more about this unbelievable record from the bandleader himself, Ziggy Zeitgeist.
What’s the message behind ‘Prayer For Peace’ and your vision for the record?
It's music for healing. It was particularly inspired by the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020 and the general state of collective grief the world was enduring, what a year!
The album was recorded live, how loose were the arrangements to begin with before you went into the studio and was there scope to see where the tracks took you?
A few things were really worked out and arranged, and other stuff was quite open just two chords and maybe a change in the groove or some kicks. The magic always happens in those moments of uncertainty, that's the skill of any producer or bandleader; being able to harness those unplanned moments of magic amongst some strong composed material.
Finding the balance of direction and composition with the unknown elements and trusting the musicians to bring their own flavour to the mix. Writing just enough in the charts to inspire but not too much that it becomes controlling. I guess I’m thinking of the kind of record you could naturally vibe to with a lover or friends, hit it on the dance floor or take it to the beach on your boombox. This is everyday life music!
The concept of the collective is all about bringing together different music styles and pushing them into improvised settings and creating dance music out of it - does this embody how you live and navigate other parts of your life?
Of course, a band is a microcosm of society. If we learn to accept and celebrate our differences we create something of beauty together.
How important is it to have an evolving roster of musicians participate and collaborate with you in Z*F*E*X?
Well, running a band like this is my school now, the musicians I work with are all my teachers and I'm desperately addicted to music so I just want to keep learning and discovering the world through music. Constantly bringing new musicians into the group keeps the sound evolving naturally but it's always in a state of flux. It never reaches a point of perfection, or completion, just like our existence and that's the beauty of it. Once we embrace the transitory, only then do we truly embrace life.
You play with 30/70 amongst many other artists like Abase and Wayne Snow - has there been any collaborations that have really changed how you have approached your music?
Yes of course. 30/70 collective has taught me beat-making, arrangement and production. Abase is a deep record collector and digger of rare groove, this cat is constantly schooling me on new music to get around, and he’s an absolute bossman on the bandstand. He has an incredibly strong vision that's constantly inspiring. Wayne Snow is such a sensitive artist, he has really taught me a lot about minimalism and space in the music, saying more with less you know? Of course, it's a cliche, but it still really takes some time to learn this lesson in life.
It’s your third album under Z*F*E*X, are you happy with how the project has evolved since you began it?
Somehow, I still have a career in music - for that, I will be eternally blessed. I need to remind myself constantly that I am doing what I love and if I have the essentials to survive, then I am extremely blessed. Thank you for supporting me.
What music has inspired your Z*F*E*X projects and other music projects?
So much that I need to grossly categorise it by decades. Basically, I grew up in the ’90s in a very musical household, so basically, I had my parents music, 1960s/1970s stuff like blues and rock and roll and jazz, whilst also absorbing MTV generation stuff like Hip-Hop and Heavy Metal. When I really started digging deeper into records I would discover more funk and disco more like the '70s, '80s, and later branching out to dig more African, Brazilian and Indian music. Yeah, I’ve been in Berlin for 2 years now, so I guess I'm still in my electronic/techno period. It's just so deep, you know what I'm saying?
What inspired the move to Berlin and how have you found navigating the Berlin scene over the last 2 years or so?
Yeah it's a deep scene out here for sure, everybody is talking about how there's so much more diversity in the music these days, which is cool. To be honest, I think the city needs more regular jam session type events for musicians to meet, I guess that's what cities like Melbourne and London have already. Berlin is a promoter city, there's so much pressure to create something exclusive and a kind of unique brand within the party scene, that it can sometimes feel kind of alienating to a lot of people.
There are a lot of dope crews now breaking down these stereotypes and creating more expressive and inclusive sessions. Berlin has a kind of attitude in the art that is entirely unique. It's a kind romantic sentiment and at the same time a middle finger to society. It's mad punk energy, I fuck with that.
Is there anything you miss from the Melbourne scene / any home comforts you miss in general from home?
I miss the smell of Eucalyptus trees and the ocean ... haha obviously. I guess Melbourne has that kind of casual thing where you can roll past your friends pad unannounced and you know the back door will be open or they will be chillin' out in the backyard sinking tins and having a jam. You know that kind of thing is priceless.
How was it getting to do a DJ set for HÖR Berlin? Is that an area you want to move towards more in embracing techno culture and dance music into your career progression?
A lot of ideas I get for the live band session come from extended sessions on the dance floor. Dancing is just an extension of drumming for me or vice versa. It's literally all of the same concepts you just don't need anything but music. It's the most immediate form of expression. That's the kind of thing that inspires me about DJing and club culture. It's just movement and expression, you feel me?
Do you feel like your music belongs to a certain genre or music scene as such, or feel like it exists beyond those boundaries?
I'm kind of tired of ‘Artists’ trying to avoid ‘genre’ tags already. It seems to be leading to a lot of mediocre, middle of the road slop. I think you’re better off spending years checking out one style of music and embodying that than being fed by your Spotify algorithm and trying desperately to be ‘different’. Yes, sure our music exists inside and outside those boundaries. It comes from so many things: Hip Hop, Bossa Nova, Techno, Disco, Broken Beat, Electro, the list goes on.
It's more important to understand and acknowledge our influences rather than trying to run away from them. We all know now that genres are a fabricated structure of the music economy but at the same time, you gotta pay your credits where it's due. No art can exist in a vacuum everything comes from something else right?
You worked on an album with Erica Tucceri, ‘Jin Mu’ - how was it exploring more tranquil sounds compared to the dance floor energy of the Z*F*E*X project?
Yeah, I’ve been studying Buddhism and meditation for some years now and it's kind of my musical outlet for that level of consciousness. Where you really start to dissolve a lot of the illusions of the mind, it's a similar state creating sound or witnessing sound. It's just a means of tapping into the universal space of selflessness.
How have lockdowns and the pandemic affected your career in music?
Loaded question. I'm still dealing with some trauma. I've always been a performer first and foremost, it not only pays my bills it's my sense of community and belonging. I managed to keep extremely busy in the studio. I'm not yet a music teacher and I have no other source of income. So we worked all the way through those long dark nights, through the entire winter in Berlin I hardly saw the sun for 7 months. My mental and physical health definitely suffered and I feel more aware of this now in retrospect. Nobody ever said that making art comes without sacrifice. I came out of that dank cellar with enough records to release for the next few years. So now it's just the game of keep hustling the labels to cough up some cash till we can get back on the road again hahaha.
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