After meeting at the 2015 SCI-FI LONDON film festival, Anni Hogan and Derek Forbes launched a new musical collaboration called ZANTi. Hogan is known for her solo work and collaborations with artists such as Marc Almond, Nick Cave, Barry Adamson & Wolfgang Flur. Forbes was a long-time member of Simple Minds and has also been part of bands such as Propaganda and Big Country. After 18 months of work, they completed a cinematically inspired eight-song album “Broken Hearted City” (out now on Downward Records). Hogan and Forbes discussed ZANTi in an email interview.
Your bio says that ZANTi came about from a meeting at the SCI-FI LONDON film festival. Was that the first time you’d ever met? Were you both familiar with each other’s work?
DEREK: Yes, that was the first meeting of like minds. I knew of Anni, of course, and I had lived through the Columbia Hotel years, where the likes of Marc Almond and Stevo hung out, along with all the other bands who stayed there..Anni was there, and our paths must have crossed at that time.
ANNI: Yes, I was very familiar with early Minds, and included tracks in my dj sets back in the day. I have hazy memories of Simple Minds staying at the Columbia Hotel when I was actually a resident there for a while, ABC also stayed a lot, in fact all those 80s bands stayed there when they were in town.
What were the initial creative ideas that made you decide to work together?
DEREK: There was no particular idea which could be singled out.. it was like magic when we got together. Ideas flowed out of both of us, and if anything, we had no brick walls on any of the songs..
ANNI: I think it was more like we got on brilliantly and musically so it was and is that extra special thing of mutual inspiration, we like a lot of the same music and films and we have a shared similar musical history. It felt like we had always known each other so it felt very easy to create music together, firing off each other’s ideas.
How do you feel the project evolved from the beginnings to what we hear on the album
DEREK: We could not be happier with the result. It was as if we had been waiting for this moment all of our lives. I must say, that this is the most fulfilling, satisfying album, and creative collaboration that both of us have been lucky enough to be involved in
ANNI: I would say it evolved organically. It was a ‘big studio’ experience in as much as we went in knowing whatever happened it was going to sound good, we were a bit prepared and a lot spontaneous and had the confidence of working with a top engineer (and mutual friend) in a studio we both knew well namely Parr Street in Liverpool. I think we both had high hopes for the album but it grew into a much bigger and more satisfying experience than we could even have imagined.
What was the creative process like? To what degree were you collaborating remotely versus working in the same place?
DEREK: We started off sending each other little snippets of ideas. Anni sent me loads of albums to listen to, to enlighten me to what she was inspired with. I reciprocated, with guitar parts and synth sounds. When we got to the studio, everything just clicked, and we raced through lyrics and melodies, even being sent out to the graveyard of the Anglican Cathedral in Liverpool to finish off lyrics, by our incredible engineer Andrea ‘Ando’ Wright.
ANNI: After initial home studio pre-production, the main writing was really done in Liverpool, either in the studio or as Derek said in St James Park where we wrote (and sang ‘quietly’) lyric and melody ideas to each other. I have never written like this, it was a bit like you see in the old musicals, we were flying ideas at a rate of knots. I did record a couple of big pieces on my baby grand and my Wurlitzer organ in Studio Blue but I also recorded a lot of piano on the Upright in Parr. Derek came loaded with a thousand guitar and bass pedals and I took all my synth toys in, we had drum machines, melodica, tons of guitars and basses and my main workstation keyboard. It all made it extra fun and the vibes flowed throughout the whole recording period. Ando encouraged us to do what we felt which was usually ‘can I just add one last thing…’ until all things dreamed up had been. Ando mixed the album and sent us mixes along the way. It was usually only a couple of tweaks and it was there as she understood exactly what we were after every time.
You both do vocals on the album. Was it a case of you each singing lyrics that you wrote, or were there times where you wrote vocal parts of the other member?
DEREK: We wrote for each other. Some songs would be one of us, and others would be both of us writing together on parts
ANNI: We wrote the lyrics together, sometimes writing our own verses or choruses sometimes writing the others lyrics, sometimes writing the lot.
Did either of you have past projects that you feel were of particular influence on your work as ZANTi?
DEREK: Nothing compares to ZANTi. Of course, the bass lines could not be mistaken on certain songs, and Anni’s classic piano parts couldn’t either
ANNI: We could perform at optimum level because of the big studio environment so we easily bring our own historically unique styles to the ZANTi music.
Your name comes from the Outer Limits episode “The Zanti Misfits” – what inspired you to use it?
DEREK: Fear. I watched that episode, as a child, and it scared me to bits.. I loved it though, and on mentioning it to Anni, the deal was done on the name
ANNI: What Derek said : )
I see that you’ve done a few music videos – will there be more?
DEREK: I will let Anni answer this
ANNI: We have made a series of films for each track on the album and will leak them over the next weeks. Downwards loves them and encourages us to post them. We have aspirations down the line to make a ZANTi film with live performance and various visuals.
Does your approach to music videos differ now with the internet the major means of people seeing them (as opposed to TV)?
DEREK: I’ve always said that, nnowadays,we have our own TV coverage in our hands, due to technology. It’s a great medium to get your work across, but TV still helps..
ANNI: It’s a very inclusive process now, technology allows for very professional visuals for a slight of the financial burden felt in previous eras.
Have you or will you be doing any live shows as ZANTi?
DEREK: Most definitely. We cannot wait.
ANNI: We have not yet but we intend to.
Do you see it as an ongoing project?
DEREK: Yes. We have been champing at the bit to get back in the studio.. but for now, we need to let the album breathe.. it is rather good.
ANNI: Yes deffo
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
DEREK: If you like what you hear, then please spread the word, and we hope to see you somewhere on Planet ZANTi.
ANNI: Thanks very much for the probing and interesting questions and we appreciate your support. You can find the album on exclusive license to Downwards & it’s in stock at Cold Spring records & will be on Boomkat online very soon!