Self-Portrait: Z Lovecraft

Z Lovecraft AKA Mali is a core member of London-based label Rhythm Section‘s close-knit family, working both behind the scenes and soundtracking the label’s dances around the capital.

Back at RS HQ Mali manages the day-to-day at their in-house studio, the space where he also cooks up most of his own productions, under his various guises and projects. While Z Lovecraft is his most well-known moniker, attached to his DJing pursuits and prior releases on No Bad Days and Guru Meditation, he also masterminds several other projects and collaborations including his dub/reggae productions as Mali-I and his Splinter M90 alias for all things jungle, liquid and DnB.

His almost three hour mix brings together music from all his aforementioned projects, working through infinite sounds from lounge, neo soul and house, to vocoder electro, dub and drum and bass…

Rhythm Section’s five year anniversary compilation SHOUTS is out now.

Let’s start with an ice breaker, what’s your earliest musical memory?

Earliest musical memory has to be musical statues for my fourth party. Distinctly remember my batman costume and winnie the pooh cake 🙂

Did you have a particularly musical upbringing?

I think this is totally relative to your childhood (I was fortunate enough to have piano lessons from the age of six) and most importantly, to have at least a couple of people close to you in your life that have a good wide-ranging taste of music that they are willing to share with you. Music and experience go hand in hand. For me that was my dad and my good friend Luke aka Syd Nukuluk.

What led you into music production?

A combination of things; no attention span to practice real instruments properly, being technically savvy, and realising that music can be created in advance of actually hearing it from a young age (ie composition). Whilst I had music tech lessons at school in Garageband/Logic, in year 7 I started buying synthesisers and drum machines.

Are there any producers or artists who have inspired your production?

Probably a question as hard as ‘favourite albums’ etc. I think at the moment I’m getting a lot of inspiration from some of the ‘atmospheric’ (good!) drum and bass producers from the early 00s. Artists who also delved into other genres, particularly house / lounge / breaks / dub: Big Bud, Blu Mar Ten, Breakage (his first album is so so good), Makoto, Calibre, LTJ Bukem.

However a big mention goes to producers such as Dauwd and Phrased who have inspired me in a more practical sense, rather than me getting false nostalgia over d’n’b producers making properly banging soulful house tunes back in 2001.

Are there any particular rituals you go through before you head into the studio?

Not particularly, however a good cup of tea can’t go amiss. I don’t polish my synths haha

Do you come in with a destination in mind before starting a jam?

My workflow ranges quite a bit. I’m always trying to come up with different ways of making music to keep myself interested. The iPad is a perfect tool for this with a million apps with their own unique user interface. However sometimes I am like, ‘today I’m going to make a jungle track with a phat acid line’, or ‘I’m gonna make say a dub tune with specifically 63% swing’, or I have a complete idea already there in my head.

Are you the type of producer to work on a track until it’s perfect, or are you more of an impulsive creator, happy with first takes and sketches?

For a while (age 14-20) I used to be a perfectionist at every stage of the production of a track, partly due to my obsession with Jon Hopkins! For example, I would only work to finish the best ideas, with the best synth sounds, drum compression etc and basically I realised that the devil isn’t necessarily in the detail with electronic music – even though for someone like Jon Hopkins, it’s the detail that makes his albums incredibly re-listenable. In my case that isn’t always immediate. You can spend a lot of time when making music just meticulously crafting abstruse ideas, which I just think is a waste of time.

The tools I’m using to make music require an acquisition of the immediate idea, also need to present themselves in the simplest way possible, for example banging loops / repeated elements. That’s something that the masters of electronic music do wax lyrical about for good reason, your Brian Enos, Aphex Twins and your Jon Hopkins. This is actually the production of creative limitation (usually technological), rather than exploration – especially in the case of Detroit techno or minimalism.

Music analysis aside, ignoring collaboration, 90% of the music I make now is usually written in an hour or so, then mixed live over a session in the studio on the desk, dub style – that’s about 8-12 hours per tune. And when I have mixed it, I bounce it and leave it. Sometimes I’m really unhappy with it, but I nearly always just write something new instead.

Can you talk us through how you might construct a track?

Depends on the track. Usually I start by writing drums, usually a mix of breakbeats, one-hits and drum synthesis, sampled and then programmed with a sequencer. Then melody / chords / fx / bass on synths / samplers, which are sometimes expanded into different sections. I mix as I produce, and then arrange as I mix (as it’s all on a non-recallable desk). Hit record, do quite a few takes normally if I’m unlucky, chop up my stereo recording, then I have a finished tune – occasionally overdubs too. I’m not averse to multi-tracking I just think its fundamentally an overrated functionality when a good deal of the tracks I love were recorded from the stereo output of a shite mixer into a DAT machine.

How much of your material is sample based and how much is original?

Controversial topic this, now that copying or interpreting sections of tracks is now deemed suable rather than just sampling (in the case of Mr. Pharrell’s Blurred Lines!). I don’t ever sample composed harmonic elements (IE chord sequences / basslines / melodies), but I do sample a lot of drums breaks, and one-hits (eg one piano chord). For the sake of integrity, I would struggle to call my music my own music if I haven’t composed / constructed it as entirely as possible – no disrespect to the tactful edit :0

What’s the most important bits of kit that make a Z Lovecraft track?

I think at the moment: iPad, Old Soundcraft Desk, Patchbay for routing audio (bit of a learning curve though!), Delay / Phaser effect pedals – quick tip for any producer, currently swearing by Nux tape delay (yes the cheapest one!) and Boss super phaser.

This mix is comprised of 100% original Z Lovecraft material. Could you tell us a bit about it? Any tracks that are particularly special to you?

It’s an amalgam of my music production, which is about 100% more prolific than my output (always looking for labels to work with!). I have numerous aliases that divide my work up: Z Lovecraft is my production alias that most accurately reflects what I DJ, whereas Mali-I is just dub/reggae and Splinter M90 jungle/drum and bass / liquid.

This is to divide the creative mind for optimal output. Also, I included some collaborative work with Peter Rocket (Astrocyte / Camo Index), LT, Antonio Naccache and my brother Wazoo (Disunite). I’m a terrible critic when it comes to my own work, all very special to me! Probably the most important track is ‘Lead The Way’ by Monzanto Sound, which is the band I play keyboards in.

Anything on the horizon for you? Any releases we should know about?

Currently on my musical horizon is a LOT of video games, ganja and beats thanks to this virus. Releases set for this year are, ‘Shouts’ 5 Years of Rhythm Section (out April 3rd), my band Monzanto Sound – Time-lapse EP (None More Records), hopefully some remixes, and a Z Lovecraft EP for the lounge massive.

Rhythm Section’s five year anniversary compilation SHOUTS is out now. Photo credits: Daniel Adhami and Charlotte Swinburn.

Tracklist

Z Lovecraft – Sweep Speed
Z Lovecraft & Antonio Naccache – Untitled Beat*
Z Lovecraft – Siel Jam*
Z Lovecraft – Beat B*
Monzanto Sound – Lead The Way^
Z Lovecraft – No Drama
Z Lovecraft – Grapefruit*
Z Lovecraft – Figure First Draft*
Z Lovecraft – Georgey*
Z Lovecraft – Doooooope*
Z Lovecraft & LT – Take 2*
Z Lovecraft – Kaoss Arab*
Z Lovecraft – Speeedy*
Z Lovecraft – Load*
Z Lovecraft – Shuffling*
Z Lovecraft – A Look Beyond Our Horizon (Version 2)
Z Lovecraft – Skip*
Z Lovecraft – Bouncy*
Z Lovecraft – er1bo3*
Z Lovecraft – The Beginning (Dream)
Z Lovecraft – Fatigue
Z Lovecraft – Jesuis Mofo*
Z Lovecraft – Talkin Shit (Take 1)*
Z Lovecraft – u008*
Z Lovecraft – Belly Flop (Take 2)*
Z Lovecraft – er1bo6*
Z Lovecraft – Raising*
Z Lovecraft – er1bo2*
Z Lovecraft – er1bo4*
Z Lovecraft – u013*
Z Lovecraft – er1bo5*
Mali-I – Ghass*
Mali-I – Carnivibes*
Mali-I – What Am-I*
Disunite – Aelian^
Astrocyte – 190414*
Astrocyte – Mind Loop (Full Trip)
Astrocyte – 190520*
Splinter M90 – Annihl*
Splinter M90 – 200328*
Splinter M90 – 191230 (Ad Astra)*
Splinter M90 – 190721*
Camo Index – 190110*
Splinter M90 – 181022*
Splinter M90 – 181025*
Z Lovecraft – Sunday*

*indicates working title
^indicated forthcoming 2020

 

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