As Zardonic, Venezuelan musician / DJ / producer Federico Ágreda truly channels the intensity of metal into purely electronic music. It comes as no surprise that Ágreda got his start with noise and metal projects before launching the more drum and bass-oriented project Zardonic. He’s not content to limit himself to any particular EDM style, and allows influences of his past work and current musical tastes to permeate the Zardonic sound instead. The result is some of the hardest and most original electronic dance music.
Zardonic is also known for remix work, having done them for such acts as Nine Inch Nails, The Unguided, The Berzerker and Gorgoroth. Most recently, he contributed to the “Strike Suit Zero Remixed” album, remixing the video game’s main theme. In celebration of 10 years as Zardonic, he’s giving away free song downloads as part of a series called “Tunes From The Vault!’ More than 60 tracks are expected to be available.
In an email interview, Zardonic discussed his musical evolution, approach to performance, the Venezuelan music scene, and more.
Your music has spanned many genres – what would you say the major factors have been behind your musical evolution over the years?
Absolutely anything that happens in my life, from personal revelations to walking down a certain street or visiting a certain place to just the music I heard the other day, everything plays a key role in what’s to come. I try to be a ‘life feeler’, if that makes any sense. How do I feel about the music I released in the past? How do I feel about the music that is currently in the top charts? How do I feel about that tour that I did last time? How do I feel about this huge fucking burger? You never know what could be a source of inspiration, or change. You do have of course factors like the music you listen to but I usually ‘hear’ music in my brain and it’s triggered not by listening to music but by walking to the store and getting a pack of cigarettes. Maybe there’s an old man behind the counter. Or maybe a super hot girl. Or some dude with a sad face or a dumb face. Anything could trigger memories, and memories can be heard.
How did your mask come about? Is it always worn for performances?
The mask IS the performance. There’s no way I wouldn’t wear it. If anything I take it off during the end of the sets sometimes if it gets too hot in there or if I just want to show the people that behind the performance there’s a human being like everyone else. Keeps me on an equal level with the crowd which is the main reason I’m where I am right now.
The origin of the mask started as a marketing strategy and ended up becoming something else. It’s based off a logo based off my face. The logo went through several phases of evolution until it became the mask in 2012, and then the mask evolved too. And it still does.
Musically, what is your approach to adapting your tracks for the live setting and keeping it interesting for both you and audiences?
What I do is a DJ set live. If something is mixed the right way, that should be interesting enough. Sometimes I add a little noise fiddling with my KORG Monotrons. Love those little things. The noise they make is PERFECT for bringing the energy up. I’m not sure if I would do something else but I don’t want to have a shitload of synths just to push two or three keys. I would rather do something interesting with it or else it’s just having toys for the sake of having toys. Instead of that I think I would invest more in the visual side of things, some sick visuals or lights here and there. That’s what I like to have in a dance music event. And no matter how metal my tracks could be, Zardonic is an EDM act. It’s meant to be something to dance or bang your head to.
When initially creating music, are you thinking about WHERE it is most likely to be listened to? (For example, a single aimed at clubs vs an album track more likely to be listed to at home).
Well, that’s the good part about making an album. You can have a bit of everything, but most of the music is absolutely suitable for clubs. Just not all of them are bangers i.e. “Sideshow Symphony” off the Vulgar Display Of Bass album, that tune is perfect for closing a set, or opening a set for that matter. I think any track could be a single if marketed right. Take for example Rammstein’s “Du Hast” or “Links 2 3 4” vs “Seemann” or “Mutter”.
Could you describe your set-up a bit? Are there particular pieces of equipment or software that you feel are key for your sound and/or creative process?
Right now, my Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro Headphones, my KORG Monotrons and my M-Audio Keystation. Once you hear music through those headphones you can’t hear it anywhere else. The fidelity of the sound is uncanny, I started hearing things that I wouldn’t hear elsewhere. I believe my mixes from now on are going to have a lot more space to it.
You’ve released music under several names besides Zardonic. Has this been because you felt that the music was too different from what you’re doing as Zardonic? Or are there other reasons?
Most of the music I’ve released under other names happened before Zardonic, so it was partly because the music was different and partly because I was experimenting with all the genres I liked to see what would both be more fun and more marketable or profitable. Most of the older projects are dead with the exception of Triangular Ascension which is the name I use for Dark Ambient albums, but then again, Zardonic is kind of slowly becoming a little of all my old projects together too. I use a lot of the same Dark Ambient vibes on my intros, breakdowns and outros. So who knows what will happen. For now, it’s time to focus on Zardonic.
Has it been a challenge at all figuring out the best way to market music that doesn’t always fit squarely into particular genres?
Nope. The fact that my music can’t be completely segmented is exactly what I like the most about it. Every single timeless act in the world, from Pantera to Madonna, has EXACTLY the same perk. Not being able to be segmented is precisely what makes you different. And different means captive market. Different means your music reaches ears outside the music scene. Means more possibilities, more gigs, more money. Kaching.
To put it shortly, I make whatever I want. Some like it, some don’t. My fans do, and that’s about enough for me. I’m thankful for having such an amazing fanbase and being in touch with them when I can.
When taking on remix work, what do you look for in a project?
Remixability. In the ears of most people, anything can be remixed. But the way I see a remix is different from a lot of producers out there. To me, it makes absolutely no sense if you hear a remix that sounds completely different from the original tune. To me, a remix is an ‘update’ to a tune into your own style. I don’t get a lot of dubstep producers for example who have remixed a truckload of metal bands, and when you hear their remixes, you can’t hear the original tune in them anymore. They just take small cuts of vocals and guitars and then they create a completely different tune. Hell, why not just pay the license for a couple chunks and name the tune as your own in that case? A remix has to respect the vibe of the original track. That’s what I feel. If it doesn’t, there’s no point for it.
This is why I can’t remix anything and everything. I have to hear the Drum N Bass or the Electro or the Glitch Hop or the Hardcore potential in the original track. Specially in the key parts of the original track, the chorus, the hooks. That sort of thing.
In terms of the remixes that others have done of your music, are there any that stand out as taking your tracks in directions you never anticipated?
Yeah, and I’m about to contradict myself right here given the answer I just gave you hahah, but then again like I said, that’s my philosophy. Others have their own. My friend Determinators from the Netherlands did this OUTSTANDING dubstep remix of my track “Restless Slumber”, and it took the track to a whole new level. Same as Gör Flsh with his remix of the same track. Those two did, in my opinion, an incredible job. It’s a beautiful thing to know that your own music can inspire that.
I’m really not very familiar with the music scene in Venezuela – could you describe it a bit, especially in terms of how it relates to your music?
The good thing about the music scene here is that it’s not that segmented. The last event I played here was an electronic music festival that had only House and Dubstep in the main arena. The DNB area was, as usual, the secondary area of the festival and had like 10 to 20 percent of all attendants. Thankfully, one thing my agency is VERY strict with (thankfully) is the “no second room” policy. If someone wants me to play, it’s the main room or we just don’t do it. And I love it. What’s the point of a second room anyways? Why can’t you just play everything in the same room?
And that’s exactly what I did. After all the DJs finished in the main arena, I played my set and took no prisoners. Yet you wouldn’t see a single soul leaving the place. EVERYONE was bouncing and banging their heads like crazy. I played Drum & Bass, Crossbreed and Hardcore. Not even Breakbeat or Electro. I went for the hardest set I could play. Nothing but people cheering about it. That’s a thing most promoters need to get over. No matter how heavy an artist can be, if it’s a dance music artist, the music is meant to be danced to. They have to trust the artists that play different genres and give them a chance. I can bet you my ballsack that I would make absolutely everyone go bananas if I had the closing set of the main arena at Tomorrowland. And that’s exactly what this project is aiming to do, to prove that heavy EDM music also has a place in the main arenas.
Are there any particular ways that you feel growing up in Venezuela has impacted your work?
In many ways. One of the first things you see in Venezuela is that no matter what tools we have in our hands, we get shit done. There’s an old joke here about a Japanese, a German and a Venezuelan guy staying in the same floor of a hotel, on a room next to each other. On the three beds, one of the bed legs is broken.
– The Japanese looks for the serial number of the piece and calls the fabric to get an exact piece crafted so he can put it back on the bed so he can sleep.
– The German takes out a ruler and a compass and starts measuring everything so he can recreate the bed leg and put it back on the bed so he can sleep.
– The Venezuelan gets a fucking rock and puts it under that shit and sleeps like a baby.
Get the picture? And that’s exactly what we do. We are raw, passionate, and determined and have no time to waste. The revolution running through our veins 😉
You’ve been giving away tracks as part of “Tunes From The Vault!” – could you discuss that a bit? What was the motivation behind it? How are you selecting the songs?
A bit of anything and everything to be honest. They’re either demo tracks I want to show the people for fun, personal favorites that I feel needed more exposure and hits of the era. Key tracks like Policia or my remix of Nine Inch Nails’ “The Hand That Feeds”, for example.
Do you ever find inspiration in old music (you’ve created) that you perhaps haven’t heard in a while?
Absolutely! It’s in fact something I’ve been doing recently with that Tunes From The Vault thing. The idea was not only to show the fans what Zardonic used to be about, but to revive the vibe. This way I can choose my favorites from the vault and have that as an influence to my next album. I want to make sure I bring something new to the table, but also something that still sounds like Zardonic.
What’s in the immediate future for you?
Grabbing some dinner! 😀
For more info, visit the official Zardonic website at zardonic.net