Ziggy Zeitgeist is the front man for Zeitgeist Freedom Energy Exchange, the future jazz ensemble that are causing a stir on the Berlin live scene. This week ZFEX release ‘Kreuzberg Kix EP2’ on London label Secretsundaze. We catch up with Ziggy and talk to him about his past, his inspirations, and WAYNE SNOW.
Thanks for talking to us. Where are you this moment and how are you spending you day?
Hey, I’m just catching up on emails from my flat in Berlin . Hola!
Have you been performing this weekend? Where were you at? How was the night?
Yea we did a show in Istanbul on the weekend, it was my first time in the city and it was inspiring to visit a newly opened venue out there with some really hip music curation.
Where were you born Ziggy? Can you paint a brief picture of where you grew up?
I grew up in a small scientific community in Antarctica, my father was working there doing experiments with Apes under extreme weather conditions.
What was going on musically where you grew up, was there a scene?
Yea there was a really progressive future jazz scene in Antarctica.
What was your first step into music?
My father also happened to have a diverse record collection and played the drums with a few local bands, so it was very natural.
When did you get your first set of drums?
Well yea my pop always had a kit around the house, and I guess when I was teenager I bought my own kit from a garage sale so I could set them up in my room.
What kind of sounds were you into in your teens?
Hmmmm. I guess it was a period of expanding from the usual teenage 90’s / 00’s sounds of heavy metal/ Alt rock and Hip-Hop into some deeper stuff like jazz fusion and modern art music. But also, really digging a bit more into the kind of records that were sampled in hip-hop of course like soul music / Motown etc.
What was the first record you ever bought/ invested in?
N.W.A Straight Outta Compton – changed everything forever.
How did you discover your music when you were growing up?
Sounds old skool now, but back in the day you would save your pennies to buy the CD. I guess just through friends, older kids who were into more hip stuff like Prince and stuff like that u know. If u was cool they would lend u an earphone from their Discman.
Was radio important to you?
Honestly, where i grew up was so remote we didn’t really have radio until I moved into the city as a teenager, and then of course, I was checking out local community radio stations that were playing electronic and art music. Stations like PBS and RRR in Melbourne serve as the backbone of the scene in many ways.
Now it’s one of my main sources of inspiration. I tune into NTS or the LOT or WWFM every day.
Who are the artists from the past who have impacted the music that you make today?
Too many to name… Prince, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Fela Kuti, Bob Marley, Nina Simone, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Jorge Ben, Billy Holiday, Charlie Parker, Tupac Shakur, and Jimi Hendrix. These are the true greats and should be used as a starting point for discovery.
What was the first band you were involved in?
Hmmmm it was an Antarctic nu-metal band that you’ve definitely never heard of.
What lead you to hook up with 30/70? Are you still part of the collective? How does that run with you being in Europe?
Yea, it’s fam. We drink from the same cup so it doesn’t make any difference if there are oceans between us. When we’re in the room together making music it’s an effortless and sacred experience. We transcend borders.
Why is there so much great music coming out of Melbourne? What is in the water?
Yea. It’s laced with LSD. You didn’t hear about that ?
What other new acts from Melbourne should we check?
Mandarin Dreams Collective, Danika Smith, Komang, Elle Shimad, La Sape Records, Love Above Records, Wax Museum, and Northside Records.
What lead to your move to Berlin?
Eventually, I was more interested in exploring a more sex-positive/ queer space to dance and play music. That’s why I’m in Berlin. It’s generally a bit more open-minded like that.
Who did you hook up with when you first got there?
Yea, I was linking up with people like Wayne Snow, Abase, S.Fidelity, Moses Yoofee, Ingwa, Stella Zekri. These were the selectors and artists bringing a fresh energy to the city.
Historically a city of machine music & techno. But there’s a huge new jazz there scene there right?
Yea, well it’s coming up for sure . Yea, I mean as you know the last 30 years there’s been a lot of amazing DJ’s and electronic music producers gravitate towards the city. There’s also been a strong underground scene of punk and experimental music for many years. That kind of anarchism is in a way the heart of the city and it permeates through all genres of music. So we’re just really tapping into that with the experience of the scene we’ve been involved with in Melbourne and London.
Who are the great drummers over time that you look up to?
Ivan Conti, Idris Muhammed, James Gadson, Tony Allen, Clyde Stubblefield, Paul Motian, Airto Moriera.
What does it take to be a great drummer in your opinion?
Spirit. Energy . Focus. Humility
When did the Zeitgeist Freedom Energy Exchange form and what was the catalyst for its formation?
It came out of the necessity to create more of a curated jam session in the sense it was never a strict line-up of musicians but always changing cause that’s just how we got by. We had to play every night of the week back then and we would call whoever was available, so we’re not precious about the members in that way like a rock band or something. We focused on live music for the dance floor as opposed to self-indulgent jazz or the cold rigidity of electronic music. I love both of those things, but we slip between the cracks.
Who are the members of ZFEX?
The OG Melbourne band is: Lewis Moody, Matthew Hayes, Javier Fredes, Erica Tucceri, Finn Rees, Rodolfo Panga
The Berlin Band is: Eric Owusu, Aduni Geldes, Szabolcs Bognar, Roman Klobe Baranga.
What words would you use to describe the vibe of ZFEX?
Energy Exchange is a gathering for progressive, moving, loving and creating.
What has been your most notable release to date? What release has had the biggest impact for you?
We released a track this year on Blue Note. That was a big bonus for us being such a hugely influential label of course we were gassed.
How did you hook up with Secretsundaze?
The guys are legends, James Priestly came down to a show of ours in London and introduced himself afterwards. Later that night they took us out to the Horse Meat Disco, a legendary queer disco night in the city.
Kreuzberg used to be one of the poorest areas of West Berlin. What does Kreuzberg mean to you?
Creative innovation always emerges from the outskirts of cultural city centres, that is somewhere between gentrification and the working-class immigrant neighbourhoods, exists opportunity.
When I first arrived in Berlin, Kreuzberg was such an area. Not so much anymore, sadly it’s quite gentrified now and most of the artists in the city have moved further outside of the ring, Neukölln, Wedding etc.
On this second edition of the EP you have the incredible Wayne Snow . How did get Wayne come to be involved?
He was one of the first musicians I met and connected with in the city. I have a huge amount of respect for him as an artist, visionary and I’m grateful for him sharing his creativity to this project.
Chicago heavyweight Jenifa Mayanja remixes the title cut. You gotta be thrilled with her rework, right?
Yea, it’s a banger. We’re gassed .
What other projects are you working on that you can share?
I’m working on some experimental electronic music with an amazing drummer from Ghana. I’m working on a Neapolitan disco record with a crew in Naples, Italy. I’m working on a load of new music for the 30/70 collective. I’m working on myself and my relationships. I’m working on my visual arts ……… the list goes on.
When you’re not in the studio or with your drums what do you do to kick back?
Stay in bed with my girl, smoke weed, u know normal stuff I guess lols.
Tell us something we would never know about you?
Um…. I’m a vegan. Did u know that ?
Good luck with this dynamite EP!
Interview by Sharon