I've always been a fan of Mat Zo and the music he's created. He was the original Twitter troll in the electronic music scene and always seems to put his all into his craft. We got the chance to talk to him around his hotel after getting some coffee, so enjoy our conversation with him. We chat about his label Mad Zoo, his musical growth, mental wellness and more.
Charles: On Mad Zoo, a reflection of 4 years, and recent releases. How did you find Counsel Pop, and effective ways you’ve found great music.
Mat Zo: Counsel Pop was actually one of the ones we were most excited about and they came through the demos email in the middle of last year. We were blown away by the fact that someone was daring enough to do that kind of music in 2018. We like anything of quality but especially sounds that make a nod to previous times or tries to be more timeless. Honestly most of the stuff we’ve had have come through the demos or recommendations from people we’ve been scouting.
Charles: Who are some artists that are releasing music on Mad Zoo soon?
Mat Zo: We just signed an EP with WAVEDASH and QUEST and that’s one we’re really excited about. I’m doing a remix for it and a few others are doing remixes and it’s gonna be really exciting. They have a dubstep sensibility but they’re very creative people and they remind me a lot of the The M Machine when they were younger.
Charles: Being an experienced artist now working with new artists, how do you approach mentorship and is there some kind of flow you go through when signing a new artist?
Mat Zo: The first thing we do when we’re thinking about signing a new artist is add them to the Mad Zoo group chat on twitter. That way even if we even if we don’t end up singing them, they have a community of artists to get feedback from, as well as myself. The thing we’re trying to create is a community and give them a place to share their music with other artists. Things like Soundcloud aren’t good for a community, so Mad Zoo is definitely a community first, and label second.
Charles: Regarding your new EP, when you’re making and composing new music, is it important for you that your favorite song ends up being the best song?
Mat Zo: Hmm...Well that’s a difficult question.
Q: Well, is it something you think about?
Sometimes my favorite song off the EP will change halfway through but yeah, generally when you’re making an EP there’s going to be a “least-favorite song” and you try to bring that track up to the level of the other tracks but really at the core of it, you know it’s not as good as the other tracks.
Q: And that’s just kind of something you have to accept, right? Yeah, I think of it like I’ve never had kids [laughing] but you have one kid that stands out but you just can’t admit it.
Charles: 4 years ago you had an interview with Above & Beyond and said you preferred playing festivals over clubs because it’s easier to control the crowds. Do you still feel that way or have things changed?
Mat Zo: Wow, yeah, a lot of things have changed! Festivals are nice for a good, hah, dopamine hit I guess. You get everyone jumping and everyone’s having fun but back then the music I played was different and catered towards festivals but now I prefer clubs because the music I’m playing is more suited towards that.
Charles: You’ve mentioned that you prefer playing other artist’s music in your sets over your own. Has that changed over the last few years?
Mat Zo: Mmm, no, I still love playing other people’s music versus mine. I do try and play more of my older material because I do have quite a large backlog of music that people keep asking for [laughing]. I think it’s a good idea for any artist to play more of their own stuff but I think for some artists there’s an aspect of embarrassment or feeling that their tunes aren’t good enough which I’ve had for a long time.
Charles: Do you ever think of bringing the Mad Zoo tour or a pop-up on the East Coast?
Mat Zo: Absolutely. We’re gonna start doing it more locally but we’re already talking about venues and whatnot.
Charles: And it’s great because you get to meet your genuine fans and further nurture that community and brand.
And it’s nice after years and years of playing other people’s events to just have a little more control and throw your own thing.
Charles: When you’re feeling unmotivated and stressed out from everything, do you have a go-to thing that kind of just brings you back?
Mat Zo: Yeah, um, it’s either drawing - I’ll have a good few months of being inspired by making music and then I’ll get burnt out by that and just start drawing. My real passion is music so the drawing only lasts a week or two. If not drawing, I find taking a month off to travel helps a lot.
Charles: When’s the last time you visited London and do you miss living there now that you’ve been in LA?
Mat Zo: Yeah, I do, in some ways. I just miss all my friends that I have there. Last year I played Hospitality in the Park, (which is a Drum and Bass festival).
Charles: A ton of fans, including myself, always wonder if you would want to work with Porter Robinson now that’s he’s pursuing his Virtual Self project?
Mat Zo: Yeah, we’ve already talked about it, briefly. It’s nothing concrete but it’s an idea at this point. But yeah, I’m definitely up for it.
Charles: Are visuals and art production important to your music?
Mat Zo: I’ve never had a real strong visual identity for what I do because I like so many different visual styles, so I can never really land on one. I’ve had various visuals in the past and they’ve all been different from each other. Eventually I just said “fuck it” and started playing without visuals because I wanted to create a warehouse-y, 90s rave vibe where it was just some lights and more about the music.
Charles: Avicii passing away was a huge hit for myself and countless other fans, did he have an influence on your sound and did you look up too him?
Mat Zo: I’ve always respected Avicii. I’ve always acknowledged that he was honest and wasn’t afraid to do things differently. But yeah, he was never an influence on my sound but I’ve always tried to combat Avicii haters. Whether you like country music or not, you have to admit, releasing a version of a country song as a dance music fan is really fucking punk. Whether he knew it or not, he was definitely doing something risky and I always respected him for making risky decisions in music.
Charles: Continuing off that, was mental health and wellness something you thought about for yourself?
Mat Zo: I think not only does this job attract mentally unstable people, but it can make a mentally stable person turn into a nervous wreck. I know a lot of people in this industry who battle with mental and emotional issues, and I’m definitely not excluded. It’s just an occupational hazard, just like any job that involves a lot of traveling and very little sleep. Most musicians are already kind of volatile before you factor in the sleep deprivation. I’m lucky enough to have good people and a team around me that care about my mental wellbeing, which can’t be said for a lot of people.
Charles: Okay, final question. Shake Shack or In-N-Out?
Mat Zo: [laughing] In-N-Out, no question. It’s like comparing a fancy dinner to literally, a hamburger. You can’t really compare them because Shake Shack is a little fancier whereas In-N-Out is a good, honest burger. Shake Shack doesn’t have the same, pizazz.