In Conversation: Zodiac Childs
Ahead of the release of their new album 'Atoms to Atoms' on the 26th November, we had a chat with the two heads behind the Zodiac Childs project: Mike & Dave.
Listen/Buy direct from the artist here:
First off, for those reading who may not have heard of you before, tell us a bit about yourselves?
Mike: For starters, we’re both music tech obsessives, having both worked in the industry in one shape or form for many years and there’s no denying that we’re old skool ravers at heart. It’s this love of synthesisers, drum machines and classic vibes that drives Zodiac Childs.
Dave: Don’t forget the vinyl obsession too! What's also mega is that we’re both as passionate as ever about the music. When you hear a tune you love, a fresh drum break or nail a new synth patch and the hairs on your arm stand up - that's a vibe.
How did you both meet? And how did this develop into Zodiac Childs?
Dave: I wanted to step up my production skills and was looking for some help. I met Mike through a mutual friend. Mike’s skills in the studio are amazing. Not only as an engineer and tech head but an accomplished musician, it’s proper inspirational to be around.
Over time it became obvious that we worked well together as a partnership. More importantly we always had a laugh in the studio and Zodiac Childs was the natural progression.
From listening to your releases and mixes I think it’s fair to say oldskool hardcore and rave are a big influence on you both. Do you agree? Why is this scene such an influence on you both?
Mike: The oldskool scene was where it all started for both of us. At that time it was a new and exciting scene to be in. There was a rawness and a ‘mishmash’ of influences. What was great about the oldskool hardcore and rave scene is that you could go out and get a whole mixture of sounds and tempo’s in one sitting, a real selection of music and vibe. I started producing hardcore in the 90s with a lot of the classic gear (which we still have) and its still very much a part of my DNA.
Dave: Completely agree with what Mike said. The raw energy and ‘mishmash’ of styles is something that I love and is a constant inspiration. Like now you listen to someone like Ben UFO, it’s not about playing a specific style of music. It’s the quality of the tunes and the energy they bring to a room, not being defined by a specific genre and never being afraid to play or create the unexpected
Your mixes are truly magic! They bring so much energy and feel so well thought out. Is there any specific way you go about putting together a mix?
Dave: Thank you, very kind words. I suppose the one constant when it comes to putting mixes together is the constant search for music and the love of playing records. I love hunting for new music whether it's old or new - always searching for that elusive tune! Doing mix tapes/Djing is where it all began for me. Whether I’m playing tunes at home or at a venue, when two or more tunes are mixed together and create something new it’s still a total buzz - that's the magic. Tune selection is paramount but on a personal level If I’m listening to a mix I want to be constantly thinking what the heck is going on there - that's something I try and put across in our mixes. It may sound cliche but there should be drama in a mix. Yet another cliche….always love a good intro and outro to a mix.
Listening to your album all the way through feels much like how you put your mixes together. Was the album made with this intention? Why?
Dave: When it came to the running order of the album then definitely it was done with the same mentality of a mix. However, prior to the album the tracks were all produced on an individual basis never really with an order in mind. We got to a point and realised we had enough material for an album.
Mike: We have developed our own way of working really that's kind of evolved over time. It's like a game of production tennis sometimes. The tracks usually start with a good solid groove and a skeleton idea that Dave lays down. Then from here we start to explore. The beats and the vibe speak to me and I can hear the melodic framework forming in my head. There is usually this big wave of creative output and as soon as both our heads are nodding and there’s that smile, we know we have the lines and parts needed to form the tune. Dave carefully dissects and arranges the madness and then the tennis begins! Once we’ve added all the final subtleties to the arrangement then we get stuck into the mix. It’s a lot like cooking, just the right ingredients and not long in the oven!
We love the “Channels” music video. How did this come about?
Dave - My brother in law Ged has been involved in tv/film production for years & I asked him if he was up for doing a video. I had a very very rough idea for the video and he totally made it happen! We’ve been having fun/getting up to mischief for years but to sit down with someone you know so well and watch how talented they are for the first time is a real treat. The second video is currently in production.
What has been each of your favourite Artist/DJ set you have seen to date and why?
Mike: Orbital……… I just love how they get that perfect balance of hardware, software and amazing visuals neatly packaged together with some classic music.
Dave: There’s a few DJs who I love but it has to be in terms of a performance it has to be Steve: Reich - Music For 18 musicians - I was utterly mesmerised. This incredible piece of music which is based on a cycle of eleven chords. It was so different to anything I’d seen or heard before but related to with same emotion as I’d feel in a lot of my favourite pieces of electronic music.
What do you do when you’re not producing music?
Mike: I spend time with my family and their sports activities!
Dave: spending time with my family & swimming!
When producing what hardware and software do you use?
In the studio we’ve recently been playing with some hardware synths such as Sequential Pro 3, Novation Summit, the great little Behringer clones of the Model D, Pro 1, MS1, our trusty Cyclone Analogic Bass Bot TT 303 and treating some of our sampled breaks with the Roland W30 12 bit sampler and Akai S3000XL. We love using the Strymon Big Sky for our reverbs.
Our go to DAW is Ableton Live 11 for many great reasons supported with 3rd party plugins from UAD, Fabfilter, Eventide, and more recently some of the great stuff in the Plugin Alliance bundles.
Is there more to look forward to on Zodiac Wax from yourselves or any others?
We’ve got new new material ready to go for sure. Ninechecker is ready to bring some serious electro heat. Definitely more collaboration with Baraqiel - he was a really important part of the album.
In fact there’s a video for the track Goblin that should be finished soon.
There’s a release with MOY on the horizon too so plenty to look forward too
A few quick-fire questions to finish...
What’s each of your guilty pleasure tune, for when no one is around?
Mike: Street Tough by the Rebel MC because my 5 year old loves it!
Dave: Stevie Nicks - Edge of Seventeen.
What 3 artists do you think should be getting more attention?
I’m probably biassed but one for sure is MOY. Jonny has already built up a really solid following, he’s created an amazing back catalogue in a short space of time & his records are in my opinion buy on sight. However, every time I listen to his album ‘Dynamics Of Acid’ I’m left a bit confused as to why it just went under the radar - it’s an incredible piece of electronic music.
Baraqeil - long time Zodiac Childs collaborator. Hopefully releasing music very soon.
Ninechecker - his productions and sound design are something else.
Favourite podcast/book/TV show you’re into recently?
Dave: been really enjoying Foundation. The film Dune was well worth the wait too. I’ve got a little boy who’s seriously into Batman: people tend to go on about Marvel but the DC animated Batman productions are brilliant.
Mike: My favourite TV show at the moment has been that series “SEE” on Apple TV.
Favourite record stores to dig through?
Always worth popping into Phonica for a listen.
I really really miss the shop Lobster Records shop used to have. Their online store is ace but the shop was brilliant: small peaceful shop, lovely staff and ridiculously good tunes. Record shops with humans in are something I’ve really missed over the past 18 months!