“I think every good musician makes a constant effort to better themselves and their craft. Creativity comes and goes but the only way you can be sure to capture it when it comes is to show up and put in the effort”

Stefan Z (mix) has been surrounded by music his entire life. A strange combination of listening to his father’s Vangelis tapes as a young child in Toronto and playing piano as well as the trumpet in the jazz band throughout his high school life have both contributed to his current output of music. Being submitted to the rave scene in 2000 opened his eyes to a foreign form of music, which immediately grabbed all his attention. DJ’ing was the next logical step not long after and has since seen many different genres of music pass through his record box. Releasing his first solo EP on Berlin label Resopal Shallware marked the beginning of Stefan Z’s career, which continued to develop with more releases on Circle Music, My Favourite Robot, Aurora Music and his own Rhombus imprint. Just recently he has released his debut ‘BLU EP’ on Amsterdam-based imprint Subjekt, which is climbing the charts at the moment.

Could you tell us something about the ideas/emotions behind your recent BLU EP on Subjekt Recordings?
I wanted to create a modern sounding EP but using layers of more classic sounding samples and instruments. I am almost exclusively working ITB but really like the analog emulations of classic synths and I have a large bank of sampled classic drum machines which I use to layer with modern and acoustic sounds to create my palettes. Emotion-wise my stuff always seems to come out sounding a little moody/sad/melancholic for some reason. I think I must find it more natural and interesting to write something with a darker type of edge to it. Happy tracks are a little boring to me.

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Your bio reads that you used to listen to your father’s Vangelis tapes when you were a kid. Has Vangelis had an impact on the way your music sounds today?
I’m sure in some way it has for sure. I think all of the music that you are exposed to in those early days leaves some sort of impression on all of us. I also grew up listening to a bunch of Pink Floyd, Paul Simon and Dire Straits which I think has also played a big part in all those ideas bangin around in my head!

Have your parents influenced you musically in other ways as well?
My parents haven’t necessarily influenced me musically but they were for sure the ones who insisted I stay involved with music from the age of around 9. So i’m positive that I wouldn’t be where I am today without their support and encouragement.

You started DJing in the early 2000’s. Did the decision to also start producing follow quickly or not?
No I actually didn’t start experimenting with production until around 2007. The underground DJ/rave scene in Vancouver basically died right when I started to get into the music and it became very clear that in order to be able to keep the ball rolling and become relevant on an international scale I needed to get into production. Now it is all I do and I love everything about it! From the frustrating and depressing days where nothing works and you feel like you have no idea what you are doing to the amazing days where ideas come together instantly and the music seems to write itself.

How did you first come into contact with Subjekt Recordings?
Kevin Duane contacted me a while after my No Words EP on My Favorite Robot came out to chat about being involved with a new label. I grilled him for a couple weeks asking relentless questions about the label and what his vision was. After the intense interrogation I decided it was a good fit for me!

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Do you see yourself as having evolved musically since your No Words EP on My Favorite Robot Records?
I think I am always evolving in some way so yes! I can’t say exactly how I have evolved but I think every good musician makes a constant effort to better themselves and their craft. Creativity comes and goes but the only way you can be sure to capture it when it comes is to show up and put in the effort! Practice doesn’t make perfect but it sure gets you closer to whatever that is.

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How does your personal philosophy behind your music match that of Subjekt?
I think we are both into quality emotional content that the listener can latch onto in some regard. The releases have all been really nice so far and it looks like that is the way it will continue!

Even though it’s been a while ago, I do have to ask: what was it like to play at BPM Festival? A memory for life?
A memory for life yes. That is for sure. It was my first international gig and my connecting flight from SF to Cancun was cancelled and nothing was flying out till the following day. I told Jared (MFR) that I wasn’t going to be able to make my afternoon set but then a stroke of luck happened and I hopped on an earlier flight, made it there in the pissing rain by 3pm and got to play for 1 hr.

Which are your 5 favourite dance albums in your record collection?
Well my record collection consists of breakbeat, garage and 2-step singles from the late 90’s to the early 2000’s so i’m afraid I don;t have many vinyl LP’s. But I would say these five are some great ones:

Daft Punk – Homework

Prodigy – Fat of the Land

Nicolas Jaar – Space is Only Noise

John Roberts – Fences

Francis Harris – Leland

When are we seeing Stefan Z in the Netherlands again?
I’m sure I will make an appearance in the Fall/Winter 2014!

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Can you tip us on another Canadian artist that we need to look out for?
Well I must say my label partner and good friend Oliver Nickels is for sure one to watch. He has a very interesting sound and has some very nice tunes coming out soon on Rhombus (our label)!

Which gig has made you happiest so far?
Well not to be too cheesy but for sure it was my appearance at DGTL Festival in Amsterdam just this past April. I played for 2 hrs on Saturday afternoon and it was an amazing trip to start my set with only around 50 people and end it with around 2000. It was also very organised and professional and I hope to get invited back to play in 2015!

Drugs or alcohol to stimulate the creative process in the studio?
No not at all. Although checking the mixdown with a bit of weed never hurts 😉

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