Is the EDM scene kind of played out and boring? Kill the Noise think so, "everything from the guys on the stage to the crowd."
"Pretty much the whole thing, right from the second you walk up to the door, is all a routine that we've all been through a million times," he said. "Show the guy your ID, you go inside, stand around, fucking kids hear the same tunes, they respond to them more or less the same way, the guy on stage more or less does the same shit, shows over. I don't really know where the experience is there anymore."
As a producer and performer, he's become obsessed with finding more in this banal mess of a scene. That's why he made the surprising move to collaborate with Mat Zo, a figure more famous for his light and airy trance hits than anything KtN has come to represent. The two could have continued down the beaten path, growing more jaded and cynical with time. Instead, they chose to shake things up.
"There's a lot of guys who do stuff like that," he said, citing Pretty Lights and Skrillex who experiment with musicality, setting, and presentation to give fans a new and varied live experience. Of course, it's easy for those guys. They've got incredibly-loyal fan bases and tons of money to fall back on.
"It's hard to do that when you're not at that level, where you have a lot of resources to play around with, and you can sell tons of tickets," he continued. "We're trying to work within the format that we're able to as this point, but still trying to create some kind of an authentic experience for people."
You may think you go to a lot of shows, but imagine being the life of the party for a living. Mat Zo may be young, and he's already tapped out on the usual. It's even worse for Kill the Noise, who's been an active member of the dance community for decades.
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"One of my favorite times going out to clubs was way back, late '90s early 2000s, when there would be guys in the club doing all the turntable shit," he said, giving shout outs to his buddies Craze and A-Trak. "Part of what made all that stuff really exciting was that there was so much room for error. The reason it was so dope was because, if they fuck up, there's so much on the line. But when they nailed it, everyone was hanging on every second. Man, there's no kind of energy like that you can get in the club."
By now, EDM has been branded and packaged into a pretty bland, basic consistency. It's like the McDonald's of "counter-culture." You could be in NYC, LA, Miami, Vegas, or middle of nowhere collegetown USA, walk into a club and know what you're getting. Kids in neon tank tops with wide eyes and glowsticks in their hands will jump when the beat drops and go home sweaty. When excitement is premeditated, it's not real.
The point of Kill the Zo is to murder the routine. Instead of rehearsing their back-to-back set, the two are shrouding themselves in secrecy. They won't even tell the other one what songs they've got up their sleeve. That way, they can be just as shocked as the audience when that next track starts mixing in.
"It's like just brushing up on the way I used to DJ," he said, "me and my buddies would just fuck around in a basement, just play tunes. We didn't come up with a playlist, and when someone would play something, you'd be like 'oh shit!' You'd hear it coming in, and there's just that excitement. That's something that I think is pretty rare."
It also opens the decks to friendly competition. The two are always trying to impress the other, out-shine him with new goodies no one has ever heard. Of course, they also plan to unveil some new collab tracks, testing out their strange new amalgamation of genres through live trial and error. For better or worse, it's all in pursuit of the greater good.
"That moment where there's something unexpected going on on the stage, there's something unexpected going on in the crowd," he said. "We're looking at what's going on out there, and it's like 'oh shit, there's some kind of energy out there were not used to seeing." And they're looking up on stage like there's something different going on out there, too. The sum is greater than the parts. It's not one plus one equals two. It's one plus one equals three."
With the success of this latest project, Kill the Noise is still obsessing over the next step. What can he do to help shake the scene out of its stupor? How can he help push the boundaries of the craft and sound while not alienating the audience he's managed to build? All year, he's been a man on a mission, but at least for now, he's pretty sure he finally got something right.
"Sometimes you overshoot and you kind of go over people's heads," he said. "Other times you underestimate how in tune people really are. But I still haven't given up I'm still trying things. This seems to be working pretty well, so we've got a little bit of the answer, a little bit with this tour."
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Kill the Zo. A collaborative project from Kill the Noise and Mat Zo. With Wuki and Sluggers. Presented by Poplife. Friday, May 23. Grand Central, 697 N. Miami Ave., Miami. The party starts at 11 p.m. and tickets cost $30 to $35 plus fees via ticketfly.com. Ages 18 and up. Call 305-377-2277 or visit grandcentralmiami.com.
Follow Kat Bein on Twitter @KatSaysKill.