Over the past few years, Italian artists have been making a greater and greater impact on the worldwide d&b scene, you may remember our features on Neve and Dabs for example, and Rome based Maztek is another who’s surged into the Uk spotlight recently. After launching his own Subculture Recordings back in 2005, he’s since risen through the ranks on a variety of labels before landing a release with UK behemoth Renegade Hardware in 2012. After the success of that release, Galactica/Odyssey he’s now had a large hand in the labels forthcoming Reanimation EP.
Released on July 22nd, it’s a four track EP that sees Renegade artists remixing previously released tunes of their contemporaries. As well as putting an even darker slant on Optiv & BTK’s heavyweight tune Inception, where he strips back the intro to just filthy atmospherics before dropping into an array of gut wrenching bass stabs, the artists also swap places as Optiv & BTK remix his track Limber. Emphasizing it’s flailing robot like funk, they build through a piercing break into a breakdown soaked in tense anticipation before a drum roll leads into one of the most ridiculous pieces of dance floor tech you’ll hear this year.
Accompanying them, InsideInfo reworks the stinging synths of Usual Suspects Killa Bees into a splashing tear out. For the final track, Verb takes on Future Cuts Whiplash with a relatively mild, melodic intro that puts you into a false sense of security before slowly hinting at what’s to come with injections of drum rolls and finally dropping into a busy amen tear out that, true to it’s name, is jarring but also retains a strange sense of dance floor rhythm. We caught up with Maztek to find out a bit more about one of Renegade’s newest imports and the Reanimation EP.
Hi Maztek. Thanks for taking the time out for us. What’s been going on in your life at the minute?
Hi, thanks for the interview, I’ve just finished celebrating my birthday for 72 hours! Now I’m working on my new EP for Hardware.
What are the three most important things in your world?
Music, Family (including dogs and friends), Freedom.
You started out in music as a guitarist and percussionist. How do you think this has influenced your later electronic productions? Would you say you approach d&b differently after already knowing your way around instruments?
I think it has totally affected my ear. I mean, I always try to find a melody even using only a bass line or the drums/percusisons and yes I would say i approach d&b differently even if the instruments are different. I think when you are into the music you can play anything that makes a noise or a sound, when you have “hungry ears” you try to express yourself with anything.
What kind of music were you making at that point, and what music did you grow up on?
I used to play grunge and rock music but after a while we started playing more improvisations; funk, blues and jazz up to the d&b. Playing guitar I grew up listening to all the great rock and blues classics such as Steve Vai, Joe Satriani etc. I also really liked bands like Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden to the more experimental such as Korn and Incubus. I was listening to all these bands and other jazz artists such as John Scofield and also trip hop and funky.
At the same time I was also into reggae and hip hop which I preferred to dance. At the age of 19 I even started to follow techno music before falling in love with d&b, and now some kinds of Dubstep too.
So how did you get into d&b? What was the track that first sparked your interest in the genre?
There were some nice parties in a club called Blue Cheese here in Rome, they used to host names like Grooverider, Fabio, Roni Size, Bad Company and many others. There were also nice parties promoted by Urbanpressure at Forte Prenestino.
I think the tracks that first sparked my interest were Roni Size- Brown Paper Bag and New Forms but the tunes that really got me into the genre were Grooverider- Where’s Jack the Ripper and then Bad Company- Planet Dust. After those I truly got lost in the Jungle!
You began producing all types of electronic music, do you still? Would you say d&b is your number one genre, or are they all as close to your heart as each other?
Yes I do, I actually make hip hop beats and I want to start a new experimental trip hop thing, merging what I’ve learned through the years. I think d&b is my number one right now but I’m really into producing everything; it’s music, whatever i write comes from the heart and it’s welcome.
Italy seems to have become a hotbed of d&b talent in recent years, particularly dark, gritty sounds. What do you think it is that’s inspired the countries love of this music that seems to almost juxtapose the sunny, beautiful peninsula?
I think it is because we live in a major metropolitan city and like all metropolitan cities there is not only the sun but also a very grey urban reality. I’m from Rome as well as Dabs and Aeph (who lives in london at the moment). To be honest I prefer to produce during the winter when it’s cold outside and it’s raining rather than during the summer, because as you say I love to enjoy the beautiful peninsula.
You launched your own label Subculture Records back in 2005. Tell us a bit about that, what was the thinking behind it and how did it come together? Is it still going today?
Subculture recordings was born as a multi purpose project, we used to organize exhibitions with many artists (painters, vjs, performers and everything concerning arts in general) after few years I was really into the music and I decided to start the label to release my own things but also stuffs from new producers I like.
Right now we are still going with digital releases and slowly with vinyl too. I think the next 12” will be a collab between myself and Dope D.O.D.
Speaking of Dope D.O.D. (a Netherlands based Hip Hop crew Maztek producers for), how did you link up with them? Would you say you approach production very differently when the finished product will feature MCs?
I sent them a beat because I wanted to make a collab with them for my label and they told me: ”no man we want this beat for our album” and I said: “mm ok” and this was the beginning. That beat was the “Brutality” beat. After that one I made another 3 beats for their new album “Da roach”, the “Millennium Falcon” beat, the “Black Rain” beat and the “Groove” beat which features Redman. I’m also working on some new sick bits for them.
I personally have the same approach to production when the finished product will feature MCs, but I give more importance to the voices when I do the mixing.
You released Galactica/Odyssey with Renegade Hardware back in 2012, how did that come to be?
Renegade Hardware has always been a very fascinating label for me. It was a long time since I spoke with Hardware about making a release and I tried to write something classic but with a modern sound, making a fusion of deep bass line and rock solid drums uplifted by warm, drifting pads and shimmering fx. They liked the result and we made the release.
You more recently remixed Optiv & BTK’s smasher Inception for Renegades Reanimated EP. How did you approach that, what did you aim to achieve and what are your thoughts on the end product you’ve created?
The approach to this remix was very difficult because the original track was already complete and perfect. I wanted to keep the original groove and that’s what I did, but tried to give a personal touch to the flow, the bass line and the drums. I’m very happy with it and I will be playing it for ages, I hope you like it too.
In an exchange, Optiv & BTK have also put their own stamp on your original track Limber. Did you have any expectations of their flip? Would you say what they’ve done has suprised you or is it largely what you expected?
I was sure they would do something great with it, they changed the groove and the funk of the original is emphasised. I love the original and what they did definitely surprised me when I heard it for the first time.
How would you define the perfect remix?
I think the perfect remix is when a producer understands the meaning of the original track and emphasizes the details, adding his own touch and sound.
Am I right in thinking you fairly recently played out in England for the first time? How did that go down and how would you compare the d&b scenes in Italy and the UK?
Yes you’re right, my debut night in London was the Renegade Hardware at Cable on Sat 19th May 2012 and it was just epic. What I like in the UK are the lineups, they are huge compared to the Italian ones, which provide only one or at most two headliners.
What else have you got planned for the near future?
I’m working on my new Hardware Ep at the minute and I’ve just signed a couple of tunes on BTK’s Dutty Audio which will be out on September. I’ve also made a tune for the next Program release (Programmed V.2) which has my “Dizzy Step” tune as the lead tune of the ep.
I’m working on a couple of remixes for C4C and for some original tunes for BSE’s Blackout label. I’m also making some collabs with Insideinfo, Mefjus, BTK, Cern and other big names in the scene I can’t yet reveal, so watch out for huge tunes in the future.
Regarding the hip hop side of things things, I’m making new beats for the Dope D.O.D. guys plus some nice collabs with Virus Syndicate.
Thanks Maztek! Any final words?
I want to thank you for the interview and big Italian kiss to the readers too.
I want to inform interested parties that from the second half of September I will be on tour in USA and Canada, for any inquiry please don’t esitate to contact Scott(at)cybergrooveprod.com. For all the other Europe and rest of the world inquiries please contact Clive(at)avolutionartists.co.uk