Rudi Zygadlo is the Scottish solo artist who signed to Planet Mu after sending demos to just two labels and with no real intention of pursuing music production outside of his bedroom.
After a swift response from Planet Mu label boss Mike Paradinas, a firm offer to release music on the label was made culminating in the album Great Western Laymen – a sprawling collection of futuristic pop that brings to mind Kate Bush, Sabres of Paradise and Magnetic Man. No mean feat for someone who is barely in his twenties.
Although sonically akin to bass his songs (not tracks) contain ideas and concepts generally above what is able to be contained within one sonic style, giving the impression that ‘dubstep’ is just a stepping stone for his myriad musical ideas.
Having recently moved to Berlin to focus on his music full time, I caught up with Rudi to discuss music, inspirations and more.
Lets start form the beginning – When did you first become aware of music?
Difficult. I think the earliest recollections of music I have are generally in association with the most resonant memories of my childhood. Events like holidays or birthdays; the soundtrack to which, would have been my parent’s records. Tape compilations for the annual Easter trip to Wales. Ry Cooder ‘Bop til you Drop’ in France somewhere but I also remember maniacally singing "qu’est-ce que c’est Fa fa fa fa fa fa fa fa fa fa" with my brothers in a fraternal chorus. Solly could play the bass line on a crappy nylon strung acoustic. But when was I first aware of music? I honestly have no idea. Quite a psychoanalytical question! Perhaps one is first aware of musicality, in the beating of their mother’s heart.
You played in various bands, and then started to make electronic music – did beginning to work more alone free you more do you think?
There was never a cross over or a moment of realisation because I had always been mucking around with computer music simultaneously. And whilst I did play in some bands, it was mostly on a practical basis because I never really wrote any of the music.
What kind of music did you listen to when you were younger? – You mentioned older brothers , what music did they pass on to you?
Older brother Solly had a few tapes that were used economically. Michael Jackson got taped over with Frank Zappa and he got taped over with the Prodigy in an irrevocable succession – all of which I enjoyed. For a long time Zappa was the be all and end all for me. But older, older brother Louis’ was into all sorts of stuff too, and I tended to steal his tapes. He introduced me to interesting bands, hip hop and electronica via warp records.
I think when you’re young and your parent’s listen to good music, you take it for granted. But when I started voluntarily delving into their stuff, I found my parents to be a really important musical resource. And a convenient resource. I would probably never listen to anything that comes under the vast umbrella of classical music otherwise.
Your songs overflow with ideas – do you think you will work with musicians in the future to realise some of your concepts?
I hope so yeah. I want to work with less dependence on the computer in the future. I’ve written a few tunes recently that need to be performed by a live ensemble really. Because I’m taking longer to finish stuff, revisiting tracks and repeatedly taking them in a different direction, a lot of my new tunes have become very thoroughly composed rather than having a sectional structure. In my head these would work better with a live ensemble.
You were signed to Planet Mu without really promoting yourself as seems to be the norm these day. Do you feel any kind of expectation?
When I was writing the first album, not really. Probably because no one had heard my music or had reason to expect anything of me. A lack of conviction was probably why there was no self-promotion. There was certainly no strategy in mind. Consequently, when I was signed, I was able to write the music in isolation, without deadlines or instruction. Obviously, knowing that Mike Paradinas wanted to endorse my music changed things a little, justified my tinkering, but it was a relatively pressure free process.
You mentioned beginning to work in half time opened up electronic music in a different way for you – can you tell me some more about that. What was different afterwards – what was restricting you before?
I think by doing stuff in half time, simple drums, I gave myself a medium to work with, where before there was none. I also had a distinct sound in my head, which I’d had for awhile which used half time, dubstep characteristics, a sound that, in my mind, filled a void in the current musical spectrum. So I wanted to give it a shot. I couldn’t really program drums to save myself anyway but this gave me a direction to work in. This restricted framework, at least as a starting point, was paradoxically liberating and really inspiring. Suddenly I wanted to make music everyday.
What influences your music at the moment?
Anything and everything. Perhaps too much. But how can you help but be influenced in some way by everything you come into contact with, even things you don’t like. But I guess the acknowledgeable influences come from other music. Right now, I’m listening to Janacek’s two string quartets quite a lot, Abdel Gadir Salim‘s ‘Khartoum Blues’, Punch and the Apostles‘ ‘Hymn to Death’, The Locust. I’ve just heard Stockhausen’s helicopter quartet. His concepts intrigue me more than the music itself. But I don’t want to list a whole bunch of artists. Too difficult.
I really enjoy the mixes you have put together – you mentioned not being a DJ but I think they are paced alike an abstract, but very engaging DJ set. How does that relate (if at all ) to your live set?
They are similar in some ways. Obviously the live set is comprised of one artist’s music and therefore may have more cohesion, but the overall shape is comparable. In any kind of performance or recording, be it a mix of various artists or an album, I tend to listen for some sort of narrative, how ever abstract it is. And that narrative has a shape. I think that’s what connects these mixes and the live thing dynamically.
Set up wise live set means live interaction of course. Singing, keys, buttons, guitar sometimes.
What have you got coming up in the net few months?
Writing mostly. Reading. A few gigs. Being out and about in Berlin where I have recently moved to. Making more effort to learn the language. ‘Multiculturalism has failed’ after all. If anyone has a copy of Faust’s Metropolis – could I borrow it?