The Grammy-nominated producer takes us through his sultry third studio album DREAMLAND 2021.
While some people love the spotlight, others prefer to make noise from behind the scenes and conceal their identity. For years, no one knew the mysterious figure behind the intoxicating club hit “Faded”, and there is a reason for this, as the producer ZHU valued his privacy in a social media-focused world. “Privacy is undervalued,” he tells us virtually. “You can’t buy that anymore in the modern world where everyone thinks they know everything about you. When I first came up, all the DJs were selling their faces and I was in the club in pure darkness dancing. That’s how I want it to be.”
First stepping on the electronica scene with his smokey and sensual project “THE NIGHTDAY”, the producer leapt into the same soundscape as noughties-favourite Crystal Castles and British powerhouse Disclosure, with his unpredictable orchestral arrangements and well-crafted soundscapes. Following up his inaugural project with a string of slick and rave-ready EPs, the producer confidently brought a new sense of cinematic waves to the scene, using his sophisticated taste of genre-bending sounds and originality. Releasing his debut album GENERATIONWHY back in 2016, the producer took us to a psychedelic desert with Tame Impala-esque synths and ambitious sweet-toned productions. Continuing the same sound sonically two years later for his follow album RINGOS DESERT, ZHU enlisted the likes of TOKiMONSTA and Majid Jordan for a project that took the genre to a whole new level.
Keeping us fed during lockdown with various provocative remixes and effervescent productions, the producer is now back with his highly-anticipated third studio album DREAMLAND 2021. Serving up deep sonic flavours and slithery synths, ZHU pushes the boundaries of house and electronica, infusing his signature sultry sound with renowned collaborations that are making us crave the dance scene. “While making this record, I would finish a song and then go for a drive, over and over again until the album flowed,” the Grammy-nominated producer revealed. “One of the places I set up a studio had concrete floors so it wasn’t really treated right and I couldn’t really hear the details in the mids, but rather just the drum bass and big rhythms. I imagined this to be a large warehouse and the records were mixed in such a way.”
Featuring the likes of Tinashe, Yuna and Channel Tres, ZHU cites this album as his most collaborative yet, as he wanted to create a world in which other people could be a part of. Already selling out six DREAMROCKS shows and set to perform at numerous festivals this year, we caught up with ZHU, diving in deep on the production of the album, becoming a staple figure in the scene and how he’s grown over the past year.
Check out the interview below…
Hey ZHU! How has this past year been for you? What is one thing you’ve learned about yourself?
I’ve grown as an artist and I feel like I’m ready for big shit. Navigating through the pandemic, I learned that I love to drive. I have the need for speed now.
You’ve been in the music game since 2014, how do you think the electronica scene has evolved over the years? You deliberately concealed your identity for a while, why is this?
Privacy is undervalued. You can’t buy that anymore in the modern world where everyone thinks they know everything about you. When I first came up, all the DJs were selling their faces and I was in the club in pure darkness dancing. That’s how I want it to be.
Congratulations on your new album DREAMLAND 2021, talk us through your mindset approaching the album?
While making this record, I would finish a song and then go for a drive. Over and over again until the album flowed. One of the places I set up a studio had concrete floors so it wasn’t really treated right and I couldn’t really hear the details in the mids, but rather just the drum bass and big rhythms. I imagined this to be a large warehouse and the records were mixed in such away.
You’ve worked with Yuna, Tinashe and Channel Tres on the album, what has been the most memorable moment working on the project?
When Tinashe and I shot the video for “ONLY”, it was early covid and everyone was freaking out. I had designed this shoot where the camera was on another building shooting into an adjacent building so that no one had to be in the same space. The night of the shoot, I had lawyers, label, and everyone telling me not to do it and to kill the video. They say it’s better to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission.
How do you think this project differs from your last?
This project has felt more collaborative than my last project. I was able to create a world in which other people could contribute and feel a part of it. In the past, I have been more solitary making the records because that was just the purist in me.
What is it like releasing music during such a difficult time?
The fans need it. I need it, The collaborators need it. It’s something that everyone can rally around and find hope and excitement in. This is just the beginning. I told everyone let’s just put it out, good things come when you release art into the world regardless of the landscape of the industry.
You’re also set to go on tour and play at numerous festivals, what can we expect?
Expect the unexpected.
What are you most excited for? What’s next for you?
I’m most excited to take this to millions of people in the flex. I’m excited for people to dance again. I’m excited for the night. I’m excited for people to gather together on the same wavelength. I’m excited to headline.