Zedd on What He’s Learned From Skrillex, Lady Gaga and the Beatles
Zedd‘s music has a huge sound, so it can be surprising meeting the unassuming Anton Zaslavski in person. On the 80th story of the Empire State Building, the soft-spoken 25-year-old behind the EDM powerhouse is preparing to play his new LP, True Colors, for fans who have crossed the city to win a scavenger hunt for tickets. The record, his second, refines his earlier work, moving seamlessly from one compact EDM track to another, all building to transcendent peaks. He’s started to take on new textures here and there — perhaps most radically, the rapper Logic shows up on “Transmission” — but the result is unlikely to disappoint those who love Zedd for what he has done previously. The DJ-producer spoke to Rolling Stone about inspirations beyond dance music, studying under Skrillex and collaborating with Lady Gaga.
What’s the main difference between this album and your previous work?
Well, I think my first album, nobody had an expectation — not even my label. I’d never made an album before, so it was really a fresh start. Then obviously I gained fans through the record, and suddenly people were expecting me to do things. I thought it was really important for me to do what I want to do, and not be caught in this cage that you technically built yourself. I started the songs, and I liked that the first four or five songs were really different: “Transmission” was one of them, which sounded totally different from “True Colors,” which sounded totally different from “Straight Into the Fire.” Halfway through I realized I would like to keep that idea as a concept album, of every song being a very different color. I had a song that was very similar to one of the other songs on the album, so even though I loved the song — it probably would have been a single — I cut it out.
I imagine after “Clarity” blew up, there was pressure following you to do certain things. How did that pressure take shape?
It’s boring to stay the same. I can’t make “Clarity” 10 times. I’m bored of it; I made it once and I want to move on. It’s important for me that my fans know I’m Zedd the musician, not Zedd the EDM DJ. And if I decide to make an acoustic album next time, which is very well possible, that’s still me. My heart is in there. It doesn’t mean that sonically the sound will be the same.
To me the pressure is not on me really. The pressure is more on the label, because I’m convinced of my abilities. With “Clarity,” the label told me that the song wouldn’t be a hit because it was four-minutes-and-30-seconds long. It had two drops; they were 45 seconds long. So much instrumental — that music wasn’t on the radio. And I was like, “Well, yeah, but I love it.” And it became a club hit and everyone played it, and then the radio’s like, we’re going to play it too. . . . and suddenly the rules didn’t apply.