Since his mask first debuted back in 2004, Federico Ágreda Álvarez, the composer/creative known as Zardonic, remains an iconic fixture in D&B and EDM. Known for blazing a trail with his visionary musical concepts, Zardonic now finds himself with a sizeable discography of metal-influenced bass music along with a long list of accolades and sponsorships for his work.
His chart-topping album, Become, dropped like a ton of bricks last year, making waves with heavyweight collabs alongside Coppa, The Qemists, American Grim and his own full-throttle solo tracks. This year, Z’s crushing remix for Pythius on “IDWD,” featuring Thrasher on Blackout, has set the stage for yet another busy round of heavy drum n’ bass. Check his special Bassrush studio mix below as we also caught up with the Venezuelan born Zardonic to learn more about what he’s been up to this year and where you might see him next.
Now that the dust has settled after releasing Become, have you been working on new material?
I plan to start working on the next Zardonic album in July or August of this year. In the meantime, I have to finish a lot of bands I started producing and a few other remixes. American Grim has a second record coming which I will mix and add a bit of co-production to, and the new Gomad & Monster album is nearly ready so hopefully you’ll hear it very soon as well.
The collaborative process seems such an important part of your work. What’s the key to a solid collaboration?
When it comes to collaborations I usually need three things: the person has to be nice to me, the connection has to be genuine, and their music has to be good. Whether they’re a big name or not, that’s a factor that labels and managers take into consideration. I just want to be able to do great music with people I genuinely feel comfortable around. I’d rather work with someone whose music is ok but is willing to hear feedback that could help him/her be a better artist, than working with someone who thinks they’re the shit and expect everyone to kiss their ass, especially if they’ve just started. You need to know where your name begins, but also where it ends.
Which artists are popping up in your rotation as of late?
Anything and everything from Badflower to Behemoth. I actually don’t listen to a lot of electronic music unless I’m practicing for a mix. To me dance music is music to stand up and move to. I can’t listen to it on the bus. So, when I’m in front of my Denon players that’s where the real test begins. Again, I don’t care about someone’s name. If it makes me go on a trip wild enough to remind me that you don’t need drugs in the first place, that’s usually a track that goes on my sets. Some of my favorites these days include: Inward, Hanzo & Randie, Mob Tactics, Gydra, Evol Intent, Prolix, DC Breaks, Joe Ford, Drumsound & Bassline Smith, Coppa, Akov, Muzzy, Killer Hertz, The Prototypes, Matrix & Futurebound, man there’s so much awesome drum & bass coming out. I can’t wait for it to take over America!
Where are you calling home these days?
I’ve been in Germany since July 2017. It’s been a wild ride, and absolutely the best place to live in Europe. It’s a good balance between personal space and chaos. My only complaint is the taxes. 42% of your income is way too high, even with a progressive tax rate system I don’t think taxes should be more than 30%. The good thing is that I officially registered as a self-employed DJ, so at least the state allows me to file all gear as expenses. I still try to stick to what’s necessary, but anyone who’s serious about this business knows that it’s not cheap to maintain. The constant upgrades, plugins, monitors, synthesizers, DJ gear, and in my case, also the stage gear, it’s like an RPG. You level up, you get more credits, you get better armor, you go back into the fight. Rinse and repeat.
When was the last time your visited your home country of Venezuela?
July 2014 was when I left the country to move to the United States. I don’t think I will ever go back. I’m a different person now. To survive in Venezuela you need a specific kind of character which will make people respect you, but those same traits can land you in jail very easily in Germany. I’m glad to live in a place where I don’t have to be defensive all the time. It’s still sad of course because I do have a lot of friends that I love and respect me a lot, but most of them left the country as well and have no interest in going back.
Speaking of travelling, are there any tour dates in the works?
Absolutely! It’s been crazy since I signed with Gram Agency. Literally the best agents I’ve had in my entire life. The prices went up, the quality of promoters got a lot better, they made people understand the value of my project and they take no shit from anyone. You need people like that. I have upcoming dates in Ukraine, Czech Republic, Germany, South Korea, Romania, United Kingdom, Finland and the list keeps growing. I look forward to this and many more!
And when will the US see you again?
Now that drum & bass is starting to get more traction again I would say it’s only a matter of time until it starts happening. I still believe it’s not strong enough, as much as that will piss some people off, but it’s the sad truth. A strong drum & bass scene should have a festival like Rampage or Let It Roll. Not a few underground raves. You don’t play for 500 people and say you have a strong scene. In my opinion, people will eat whatever you give them for food and you instinctively go to the bigger places because that’s where supposedly the best sound system and best artists are. How about we put some drum & bass acts on the main stage instead? No more small stages. No more underground raves. Radio play. Main stage just like in Europe. Why the hell has that not happened yet? We need to bring it back. It’s time for Revolution!
Where did you record this mix? We know your preference is Denon equipment, right?
This was recorded at my studio in Germany. I’m mighty proud of saying that because it took me a LONG time to have a studio like this one. And it can still probably look better and sound better, but I started with so little. My first “studio” was me with a pair of hifi speakers in Venezuela in my room. Zero acoustic treatment. I managed to get some great sounding tracks, including classics like “Policia” in that room. Of course, with time you learn how important a good pair of monitors and a properly treated room are. Before buying any plugins, hardware synthesizers or anything of the sort, this is the first thing everyone should be investing into. First your ears, then your room, then your monitors. Then comes everything else.
Are you dropping any premieres or music from any any special up and comers we should be on the lookout for in this mix?
I’ll let you look at the tracklist. I made sure to curate a selection that everyone will love. Since it’s a short mix, it’s hard to put so much drum & bass history in any length of a set, but it’s basically a recap of sixteen of my favorite tracks that have been in my sets for the last 15 years, as well as a couple new ones that I literally just received this month! With so much amazing drum & bass coming out lately it’s easy to pick amazing tracks from artists both old and new, but hard to play it all in one set! I hope you like listening to it as much as I enjoyed doing it for you!
00:00 Zardonic ft. Coppa “Children Of Tomorrow” [eOne Music / JVC Kenwood Victor Entertainment Corporation]
02:26 Killer Hertz “The Unknown” [Elevate Records]
03:29 Kilobite & St4sh “Dirtfix” [SubSine & T3K Recordings]
04:53 QO ft. Julia Marks “Red Lazers” [Hoofbeats Music]
06:17 Muzzy “Photons” [Let It Roll]
08:02 S9 “Warehouse” [Titan Records]
09:26 The Hard Way “Total Fucking Nihilism” (The Panacea VIP) [PRSPCT]
11:11 Sinister Souls & Pythius “Ultimatum” [PRSPCT]
12:55 Toronto Is Broken “Radiation” [Sub Slayers]
13:37 Toronto Is Broken “No Gyal Tune” [Sub Slayers]
14:40 Fragz “Never Stop” [Yellow Stripe]
16:04 Katharsys “Storm Of Light” [Order In Kaos]
17:07 The Qemists “Stompbox” (Spor Remix) [Ninja Tune]
18:52 DC Breaks “Gambino” (InsideInfo Remix) [RAM Records]
20:15 Sinister Souls ft. Gein & Bratkilla “Come At Me Bro” (Counterstrike Remix) [PRSPCT]
22:11 Kolt ft. Coppa “Bloodsport VIP” [Blackout Music]