Bassist Ryan Nall on His Band Zoogma's Style: "While DJs Will Remix Bands, We Are Essentially a Band Remixing a DJ" | County Grind | South Florida | Broward Palm Beach New Times | The Leading Independent News Source in Broward-Palm Beach, Florida


Bassist Ryan Nall on His Band Zoogma's Style: "While DJs Will Remix Bands, We Are Essentially a Band Remixing a DJ"

The guys of Zoogma take electronic music and make it live. We spoke with bassist and keyboardist Ryan Nall last fall about the Nashville-Atlanta-based band literally giving away their music for free. They just released a new album, Wet Hot American Mixtape, and the quartet will be performing at Culture Room tonight. Zoogma will likely create a dance party drawing everyone from jam aficionados to beat-heads, jazz lovers to rock fans. They've performed in South Florida before at The Funky Buddha in Boca, and they'll be riding out on the Jam Cruise this year.

We chatted with Nall about the eclectic mix of sounds and genres represented on Wet Hot, growing up on drum and bass, and Brotherly Love Productions.

New Times: I wanted to ask you a little bit about the Wet Hot American Mixtape

that you guys just put out. Even from the first track to the second

track, there is such a contrast in the sound. In the first one, you

sample 3 Six Mafia. Then, the next one is jazzy. Where were you guys

going with it?

Ryan Nall: Well, I guess it's just a compilation of some stuff that we've been

working on. It's sort of a demonstration of the different directions

we're moving the project into. It was really a casual release for us,

being a summer mixtape for people to listen to and see the some of the

new stuff we'll be breaking out at these festivals before we get to the


I think, while a lot of the compositions are diverse,

and even sometimes quite contrasting, particularly between "M10," the first one that samples 3 Six Mafia, and "Ayers Rock," the second

one, which is almost a more jazz, lotus, progressive trance thing. I

think it's just demonstrative of how varied we are as composers. We all

work on music separately and we all work on it together. Some of the

compositions might have a little bit more of a voice from one of us and some might be more the result of a direct collaboration between all four of us.

So it depends on who wrote it?

Yeah, who wrote it. We're a big product of what we listen to. Sometimes

we say to ourselves "Let's do a remix song. Let's make a crunk song.

Let's make a jazz song." After listening to a lot of stuff that's going

on around us, we realize there's no limit to what we can do with our

expression. Let's not just pigeonhole ourselves into just being a

hip-hop remix band. But let's not also forget the jazzier side of things

that we all we came up with too.

You'd talked to Adam Smith (New Times) awhile

back and he'd brought up that you guys give away your music

for free. You must be making most of your, if any, money off touring,

instead of music sales. Do you feel like the music you put out online is

sort of a taster for what's to come live?

Yeah, definitely. Our live show is our bread and butter. We're great

producers and we're great composers and we put out really good records. But I

think the songs take a lot more shape in a live setting. Sometimes, the

studio track we put out is something just to get your appetite going.

And the thing you see at a live show is a grander representation of it,

with maybe another section added in or a teaser. We'll alternate and do a jam or something

just to keep the material fresh, keep us interested, and keep the live

show worth going to versus just sitting at home and listening to our


You're the bassist. It plays a percussive role. You also play synthesizer?


me and Matt pretty much comprise the rhythm section of the band. A

lot of the foundation of the electronic music that we get across has a

lot to do with the drum and bass interaction, and the sort of sound we

use and the tempos that we go to.

Do you guys have tracks that you play also?

Yeah, we so some live sequencing and cued samples as well as doing looping and stuff like that. I

would say that the difference between us and a DJ is where DJs are

pretty much solely relying on prerecorded music to get through their

show, we kind of use the prerecorded music as an extra person in the

band. We really play along with the music, versus letting it dictate

what we're doing. We have a lot of control over it. If we're feeling this section should be longer tonight, let's take this groove for a ride, see where it goes, and we can manipulate it on the fly and not have to just be married to what a track is.

I know at the end of your conversation with Adam, you guys talked about

how maybe there was a possibility of a DJ mixing the music and you guys

playing the mix on stage... Like a mashup?


think the thing that you're talking about is while DJs will remix bands,

we do some stuff where we are essentially a band remixing a DJ. So where the DJ will take

samples from 20 different bands or instruments and compose a track out of

them or even just remix one track, we take a lot of producers and DJ's music that has never been

played live, and we'll do live covers of it. People like Sub Focus and Pendulum, all these groups that are primarily based around a single DJ, will actually do live band representations of their music, kind of bringing the producer's music to life for the

first time.

What's your musical background? Did you listen to drum and bass when you were younger?

We've all come from a serious background in electronic music for the

past 10, 15 years. Sasha and Digweed, Daft Punk, Basement Jaxx. All

that was kinda my stuff in the late '90s. I told you I have a jazz

background. Those two things are probably what define me most as a

musician, progressive jazz and electronic music.

It's kind of interesting how electronic music has evolved back to something more organic. It's sort of counterintuitive. Back in the '90s, I wouldn't have thought, "someone is going to play this live one day."

Yeah. I think that's something all of us straddle the fence between, a

DJ and a live band. All of us are very savvy electronic producers and

we'll incorporate lots of new technology and soundscapes and everything. But, we're also all

instrumentalists at heart. We all love playing music of a lot of

different varieties. I think that shows in the live show and what gives us

a bit of an edge or niche. We have four peoples' voices that contribute

to making Zoogma what it is. So depending on the song or the night or

how we're feeling, we can kinda take a lot of different shapes, but

still be a hard-hitting dance electronic project.

Do you guys like working with Brotherly Love Productions?

Ever since our first Aura Festival in St. Cloud a couple years

ago, I thought it was an amazing development in South Florida. We met the

right people. We really work well with Moon Goddess (Tampa) and Brotherly

Love. We get to party a lot together. Before you know it, you kind of

become friends. I'm actually from Florida originally, from Pensacola.

I've always looked forward to when get to come down and be  in

Florida. I've made a lot of friends in Jacksonville and all over the

state really. It's just one of those special places.

Zoogma with Stokeswood at 9 p.m. tonight at Culture Room, 3045 North Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale.

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Liz has her master’s degree in religion from Florida State University. She has since written for publications and outlets such as Miami New Times, Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, Ocean Drive, the Huffington Post, NBC Miami, Time Out Miami, Insomniac, the Daily Dot, and the Atlantic. Liz spent three years as New Times Broward-Palm Beach’s music editor, was the weekend news editor at Inverse, and is currently the managing editor at Tom Tom Magazine.
Contact: Liz Tracy

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