The genre-hopping veteran basshead ponders the state of our art in 2016, "a great year music-wise"
Bam Bam Bam: not just one of Zinc's many party pieces this year, but also a great way to describe the sound of a man who continues to revel in low-end innovation with record after record after record. A man like Zinc.
It's been this way since he emerged in 1993 with Swift & Zinc Volume 1 and proceeded to make his presence felt in jungle, drum & bass, garage, breaks and house. But this year has been especially prolific.
Just this month he's dished out a powerful double-A, in the form of late night power house pounder Turn The Bass Up and the breakbeat garage nitro number Jicarilla Jam, and appeared on Chris Lorenzo's debut album with the collaborative Purple Shoes. Prior to that we've enjoyed the perkier vocal house feels of Magic, This Time and My Energy, the murkier dark house stabs of Jackal and the dirtier breaks fusions of Come Again.
Even by Zinc's standards it's been an extraordinarily generous year. So we rang him up and told him…
It's a good time to be a Zinc fan. What's behind this heightened activity?
"I'm working with a new manager who's helping me move at the speed I've always wanted to. That made a big difference. But I think also it's the fact that more people want to hear the music I'm into. The audiences get bigger and bigger every year."
Musically we're in a good place right now. It feels that melting pot vibe is back again, especially with the drums and all the broken beats. Like Jicarilla Jam...
"Yeah I've always loved breaks. Sometimes I focus on different aspects of the music, other times I make a straight-up breakbeat banger. Simple but effective. I knew I was going to put a track like this out this year, it's great to see the reaction."
It takes up where 138 Trek left off in a way. The Prodigy remix last year did the same. Did you go back over the old Bingo stuff for memories or inspiration?
"I don't need to, really. It's in my blood - a breakbeat and a bassline! I've listened to that stuff for so many years I don't need to reference it because it's still there. I didn't make it for a while but I still love it. The same vibe but done with modern production techniques."
You've been playing a few classics sets lately. Fun to dust off the dubs?
"I love that stuff. All the time I was playing that music, I was so into it. So to go back and play those records again is a pleasure. I have to pinch myself, because they're special tunes from a very special era.
Your development into house is almost a decade deep now, but while you're doing those classics sets have you noticed enough changes in the drum & bass scene that might convince you to go back?
"Drum & bass didn't get boring - I just got bored with it. It's changed massively, lots of times, but it's still a very healthy and exciting scene. Look at Hospital hosting the UK's biggest drum & bass festival, look at the drum & bass tents filling up first at every festival. Look at the production standards. I'd just been involved in that type of music for a long time and found myself getting excited by different styles.
"If I think about acts that make me go, ‘Fucking hell that's good!' today then it's Murder He Wrote, Archive, Chris Lorenzo, My Nu Leng... those guys are making incredible music. I don't get that feeling as much with drum & bass, to think ‘I want to play this', It's vibes I'm after. Vibes and ideas that drive me and motivate me and make me want to play it to people in the club."
It's been a great year for vibes. Not such a great year for other stuff. Do you think there's a relation? Great music has come out of times of adversity...
"It has. But I don't think the result is quite so quick. It takes a couple of years of that grind to really embed in the music. But it has been a great year music-wise, and next year will be, too. I think I've said this every year for 20 years: ‘Fuck, this year has been good, next year's gonna be even better!' And it almost always is."
You've just done your first Essential Mix in seven years, you've got your Trust Me I Was There series and loads of other mixes in your Soundcloud. Do you think the art of the mixtape is in danger of being forgotten, as we're now in a scene where producers become DJs rather than the other way?
"I think as the technology changes, the culture changes. When I started, it was vinyl and the limitations of the technology and equipment meant we had to be creative in a different way. Now there are more options for producers to do more of a live thing with different equipment, so that does completely change the art of the mix.
"But then you get proper DJs come along every now and again who just blow you away and are very much of the traditional art - Jackmaster, for instance. He came through in a short time - within two or three years he was everywhere. Other people don't care about DJing, it's more about the delivery of their music in a performance. I like that there are so many options for people to do that now.
"We're not restricted by technology at all now. Technology and culture govern how mixes are made, how they're received, how much impact they have for the listener and the artist."
What have us listeners got to look forward to?
"I've got a release on Armada, Feel The Love. Then an EP of collaborations and a lots more lined up after that."
Sounds like another good balance of night-time Zinc and daytime Zinc…
"What I really like is when I've made a track that hits the sweet spot right in-between. That's what I always aim for, but as the track develops it usually either becomes more of a vocal song or more of an instrumental.
"I guess Wile Out is one of my favourites because it still pops off at 3am but they played it on the radio at 3pm. I aim to do that but in the studio I don't force a tune to be what it is, I go where the music takes me. Sometimes gully, sometimes lighter. That's what I love.
Words: Dave Jenkins