Toronto duo Zeds Dead (yes, we know the name is grammatically incorrect) really know how to throw down a live show. In fact, sometimes their sets are so crazy, the show gets shut down before they even take the stage! Of course, we kid you, but members Hooks and DC sure do know how to bring the bassy mayhem, crafting a signature hybrid of dubstep, electro house, drum and bass, and more for one seriously live low-end free-for-all. Read on to see how they do it, according to Hooks.
To begin with, tell us a little about your live setup. What kind of system do you use?
At the moment, we use Ableton with the APC40 to mix tunes, and another computer with Maschine in conjunction with the mixer for vocal chops and sound effects. We’re looking to update our setup soon to incorporate video clips, though.
How do you organize your music?
In Ableton, we have everything organized in a very weird way. It’s very counterintuitive for somebody else, but I can visualize where everything is when I need to find things. We have blocks of tracks in tempos but also other blocks of tracks that are similar styles or genres, or ones that have big splashes without drums that are good for big tempo changes, other good transitional tracks, our own songs, etc…
How many hours do you spend preparing music for an average gig?
Usually, the hour before the set in the dressing room is spent trying out different ideas and preparing. Digging is all the time. I’m constantly checking the online stores, the promos, blogs, etc.
Do you make edits of commercially released tracks to play out, or do you pretty much play tunes as-is?
We usually make edits; we figure if we’re going to play a really well-known mainstream song, we should at least have a cool mashup/mix or remix or something to make it unique. Our favorite thing though is bringing really old songs into the set and finding creative ways of doing so.
Do you typically bring only one or two major styles of music to a gig, or do you pack options for many different possible vibes, depending on the mood of the dancefloor?
We have many different styles. These days it’s commonly dubstep, house, D&B, moombah, trap, hip-hop, and some wildcard stuff.
How much does your set vary in tempo over the course of the night?
It’s as all over the place as it can be.
Do you use loops, FX, etc? How do you control them?
We use loops in Ableton and beat repeats to build transitions. We control it from the APC 40. We have vocal loops we bring in. With Maschine, we play clips and manually gate them on the mixer or repeat them.
Do you generally record your sets? If so, how?
Pretty much never.
Do you have any absolute don’ts when you play? Anything you absolutely won’t do?
I won’t play a song made by somebody that’s playing at the same show—goes without saying, but I can’t think of anything.
When you’re headlining, what would you like to hear from the opening DJ?
I love it when they play different styles than we play. It makes the night so much more interesting.
What technological innovation would you most like to have, as a DJ?
A soundcard that has a USB that will never wiggle out.
What’s the worst thing that’s ever happened to you onstage?
One time a bottle of champagne sprayed right into our computer and broke it instantly during a set. Now we always have a backup.
Do you ever miss the simpler times, when all you had was a bag of records?
No, we never had those days.
Share some good music with us:
* Peaktime favorite
Lately it’s been our Prodigy “Breathe” remix. Mainly because we’ve been playing it after a more chill section and it just gets everyone really excited.
* Opening track
The new intro we just made.
* Track for when you really need to visit the bathroom
I’ve never left for the bathroom, always powered through.
* Closing track
Usually as an encore we do something from our old catalog that we don’t play much anymore. Something for the real Zeds Dead Heads.