"Wavey body music for weirdos"
Zanias is a proud ‘mum’ of her multi-faceted record label Fleisch and a person who never stops developing and searching for meaningful sounds. Today, Zanias talks about herself, her label and the current situation caused by the virus COVID-19, including its immense impact on the community, as well as the need to reinvent ourselves and values.
Hi Zanias! Where can we find you right now? How did you start off your day?
I’m in Berlin experiencing a very solitary lockdown. I started my day a trip to the dog park with my canine child, then recorded a podcast.
What was your first foray into the world of electronic music?
I guess it was when I bought a Juno 6 and started recording music with Ryan Ambridge. I had no idea what I was doing.
When did the idea of starting a label begin to take shape? Has it always been something you’ve wanted to do? After a couple of years making music I started to warm to the idea of running a label so I could focus some energy on supporting other artists and eventually take control of my own output, but the idea for this particular label was Jesse’s (aka LGHTWGHT, a co-founder of the Fleisch collective). We both really loved Forces and he wanted to create the label specifically to release their new EP. Ultimately that EP ended up delayed so we released a few other things first, but the initial inspiration was 100% Forces.
Can you pinpoint any early inspirations for Fleisch in terms of labels, artists, aesthetics or otherwise? Similarly, can you highlight any formative experiences that led you on the path to its inception? The aforementioned Forces certainly. Their sound really felt like the pinnacle of what we were into musically: a cyberpunk marriage of wave and body music inspired by the 80s and crafted for 21st century basement raves. Schwefelgelb of course also played a role, and we put out their EP as our first release because it fit our vibe perfectly but no established label seemed interested in releasing it (pretty insane considering how well it was received).
I guess the major formative experience that led to the inception of all of this was really just everyone involved converging in Berlin between 2013 and 2015. August (Agency) and I were flatmates, along with Saxon (Halv Drøm) for a while before he moved just a few minutes away, and then just down the road from us Jesse was living with Dylan (Privacy) in the same building as Hayden (Phase Fatale) and Richard (half of Primary). I had been in Keluar with Sid (Schwefelgelb), and Alex (Forces) had helped organise a gig for us in Melbourne so when he visited Berlin he hit us up to hang out. It was an organic social flow more than anything else. We were a bunch of friends who wanted to stay up late and dance to EBM, and then Urban Spree gave us a basement to do it in, and it all grew from there. The consistent visual aesthetic was a very important part of our foundation as well. Jesse conceptualised it to be a design that moved against the grain of contemporary conventions within the scene, by making our logo wavey, organic and salmon pink as opposed to rigid and monochrome. The use of anatomical lithographs with a focus on muscles was a way of expressing the most basic essence of what it is to be a body as well as placing the human subject in a somewhat degraded position, no different from the meat of animals. We are all made of fleisch!
What is your criteria for choosing artists, projects, releases…?
Primarily it has to both physically and emotionally move me, and sound like something I could play at a Fleisch party. I also favour releases from within the Fleisch extended family unless I’m particularly blown away by something – this has always been about supporting friends above all else.
What is your current trend? What sounds are you interested in?
It’s less about a specific sound and more about my social circle, and I don’t often seek out releases for that reason. Friends who make music tend to come to me with their work, and I never know what will strike me next. If I were to envision exactly what I’d like to release next though, I’m feeling really drawn towards dark Italo sounds lately.
Since you started Fleisch until now, how much has the concept of the label changed?
It started out as an extension of a regularly held event, and now the events are a rare moment for the label to showcase its artists. The party sort of transmuted into a label, and the collective nature of it condensed to being something I take care of alone. But the aim of supporting friends remains the same.
What’s the most satisfying and unsatisfying thing about running a label?
The most satisfying thing is watching artists receive the recognition they deserve for really amazing work. I’ve had tears come to my eyes watching Fleisch artists play live as the audience goes crazy to a track I helped put out there, even if all I did was send a few emails and ship a few (sometimes a few hundred) records. Their success means a lot to me. The most unsatisfying thing is dealing with the post office! I hate it and should probably employ someone else to do it, but in order to keep the label profitable I have to DIY as much as I can, so that means shipping a majority of records myself.
What have been your personal highlights and lowlights?
Releasing Kontravoid’s LP last year felt pretty amazing. It was our first LP and I love every single track on it and the fact that a lot of people seemed to agree with me and made it successful was just the icing on the cake. Also finally having a chance to release my own music on the label felt very nice. The lowlight was the period inbetween the initial excitement of releasing records and the point where it finally became financially viable. I had to learn as I went and made a lot of mistakes on the way. If I didn’t have other means of paying off the expenses I would’ve folded within a couple of years. Vinyl isn’t cheap and I always want to make sure artists are compensated fairly, so balancing that out without over-extending myself has been an ongoing process.
Name a couple of albums that you like and come to mind with the Fleisch label in mind.
These are mostly EPs and there’s a lot more than a couple here, but they’re records I’ve enjoyed a lot lately and often play in my DJ sets alongside Fleisch tracks: Buzz Kull – New Kind of Cross ( Burning Rose)
Years of Denial – Suicide Disco (Veyl) Restive Plaggona – Sadness Party (Several Minor Promises)
Black Sun Dreamer – Post-Traumatic Stress Discorder (Detriti) Kendal – Manifesto (Moustache)
What was the making of Extinction - Zanias? Did you set out with a specific idea in mind?
All four tracks were written a few months apart and I only realised they formed an EP after writing the title track and noticed there was a theme emerging. I was very depressed last year and lost a lot of confidence in what I was doing, so it took ages to scratch together anything I felt was listenable – this was also the first release I produced and mixed entirely myself (Alex Akers collaborated on the jam session that led to Endling, but I finished the rest alone). Coming up with a theme I was passionate about really helped me overcome the fear I had. I was very inspired by the Extinction Rebellion and felt particularly guilty when I found myself flying to a gig on a day when others were striking for the climate, so making a statement about climate change was a way of trying to give back to the movement.
How would you define your sound?
Regarding my production: ethereal cyberpunk darkwave with EBM, synthpop and world music influences made by someone who loves the sound of their own voice a little too much, with no desire to conform to genre conventions or trends. My DJ sets: wavey journeys through melodic industrial ketamine soundscapes.
How much has your sound changed since you started your DJ career?
Regarding DJing: I started out at age 18 playing deathrock and synthpunk and never ever beatmatched. That transitioned to crossfading between minimal synth, old-school EBM and new beat while running a party called Never Come Back in London, then I finally started beatmatching and thinking about sets as journeys rather than playlists when I got more into techno in Berlin. I think my sets have gradually grown heavier and darker, and for sure are way more cohesive now, while maintaining a focus on melodies and energetic catharsis.
In my production: DJing has definitely inspired and improved my ability to produce beats for moving bodies.
What inspired you? What was your production criteria? What did you want to transmit?
I was inspired by anxiety and wanted to transmit that anxiety to others as my small (possibly completely useless) attempt at making a change to our doomed world. My production criteria was just creating sounds that moved me, as it always is.
Are you particularly permeable to your environment, creatively speaking? If so, how does it influence your DJ focus? And producing?
I guess we’re all permeable in that respect, aren’t we? No one exists in a vacuum. I got more into techno because: Berlin. I’ve also noticed interestingly that having taken a break for a few months from playing any DJ gigs that’s sort of come undone. My latest podcast involved a lot more tracks that I just find beautiful rather than straight-up danceable, and all I want to listen to when I’m on my own at home is weird pop music like Grimes. I think my new productions are heading in a lot of new directions and taking a lot more risks without ‘the scene’ looming over me.
What is missing from the dance music scene nowadays?
An appreciation and fair remuneration for the producers of the music DJs play. Our current farcical system leads to producers being forced to DJ to make a living, while DJs feel pressure to release crappy attempts at tracks to ‘prove themselves’. Some people are very good at both, and a lot of people just aren’t – and that’s totally ok! But the ones who really should be earning more are the producers, because without them there is no music. Meanwhile, the DJs who can’t produce should stop flooding our inboxes with promos for their shitty, half-assed loops. They should either dedicate some time to learning the craft and create something worthwhile to release to the world, or deflate those egos and accept that they can’t be good at everything – and hey, perhaps they can also pay for the tracks they play in their sets rather than always expecting them for free. This would also make the vinyl industry less of an unsustainable shitshow of un-sellable pressings that languish on the shelves of warehouses for eternity. To press a release onto vinyl should be about preserving something beautiful in physical form that people want to actually own because it means something to them, not just an outlet for feeding egos and gaining higher demand for gigs.
Do you think that after the Covid-19 event, the music industry will change
I think it will and hope it will. Things were not ok before and we’re about to require a total restructuring of society, lest a majority of the population gets left behind in a global recession. In order to keep things positive, I’ll share a few idealistic hopes: the first is that newly introduced social support systems (e.g. a universal basic income) across the developed world might allow for artists to survive without depending so much on gigs. Freed from the energetically draining and environmentally catastrophic perpetual tour machine, as well as financial anxiety, perhaps the quality of creative output will finally see a boost. If larger scale gatherings are banned for quite some time, then more underground events could be given a chance to resurge, if not dominate. For the gigs that do happen, perhaps audiences will be willing to pay a little more and make a bigger effort to turn up because now they know what it’s like for them to disappear. Overall I just want to see humanity taking care of itself and the earth a little better. It’s within the economic capacity of developed nations to do so, and I honestly feel the pandemic might have finally shown beyond a shadow of a doubt that it’s both possible and necessary for these pro-social and environmental changes to take place. There are of course no guarantees these optimisms of mine will be met. Maybe things are about to collapse into a hopeless oblivion and nothing will ever be fun or beautiful again. It’s anyone’s guess!
What lesson should we learn from this paralysis?
There are many: we should learn to better appreciate each other’s physical presence and the magic we can create when our bodies inhabit the same room, that slowing down can be a good and necessary thing, that a constant urge for productivity is merely the internalisation of capitalism and does not lead to actual happiness, that it’s possible to live with less, and I think we’ve most definitely learned how to wash our hands properly by now.
What tracks would you recommend us to liven up the confinement?
It’s very strange of me to say this because it’s so rare for popular artists to move me, but since the lockdown began I’ve been listening non-stop to Grimes’ Art Angels and Miss Anthropocene. I find them so goddamn uplifting, and very interestingly produced so can handle heavy rotation without growing boring. So I’d recommend every track off both albums!
What’s your favourite “save the dancefloor” song?
"I Don’t Measure" by Forces. Honestly don’t know why every DJ isn’t playing this all the time.
What are your future plans?
For me: staying home for the foreseeable future, hopefully finishing a new solo album, releasing a Linea Aspera album, and touring as soon as it’s possible to do so. For Fleisch: releases from Halv Drøm, IV Horsemen and Fractions are currently lined up to be out this year.
Tell me one record that you wish you had signed.
The upcoming Pablo Bozzi record on BITE. It’s one of the best new things I’ve heard.
Describe the label in 5 Words.
Wavey body music for weirdos.