Interview with Wretla (FKA Cassettes for Kids)

Apr 12, 2024
Interview with Wretla (FKA Cassettes for Kids)

Area 3000 Radio founder Sindy speaks to Zak Degenhardt. You may be familiar with Zak’s productions and DJ performances under the moniker Cassettes For Kids. However, very recently, Zak announced a rebrand as Wretla.

Zak’s distinctive fusion of nostalgic rave, house, and breaks quickly propelled him to the forefront of the Australian dance music scene. Renowned for his genre-spanning music and electrifying performances, he injects high energy into every track and set, engaging audiences with a seamless blend of eclectic sounds that range from house and techno to disco, DNB, garage, and beyond.

Zak has made a name for himself not only through his productions but also through his memorable DJ sets. These include sold-out shows at venues like Xe54 and Lost Sundays and standout appearances on platforms such as Boiler Room, where his set was highlighted as one of the "Top Moments of 2021."

Beyond his role as a performer and producer, Zak is deeply involved in the music community as a curator and collaborator. He is committed to promoting emerging talent and exploring new possibilities in electronic music, influencing the genre's evolution and actively shaping the sound of the scene.

Listen to the whole Interview on Soundcloud.

Follow Wretla for updates on his upcoming gigs and releases.

Interview Transcript

Sindy: Can you share the story behind your original stage name, Cassettes For Kids? 

Zak: So, when I was a kid, my brother gave me mixtapes, and that's how I first got into music. He made these little custom things for me, which was my first foray into music. And then after that, I think a lot of my formative memories as a kid were based around music and my siblings and being in the kitchen with mom or being up at my dad's place up in New South Wales or our place up in New South Wales that we've got. But the more it was just the formative memories of being around my siblings and bonding that way, and how they all influenced my musical taste now, the more I called it Cassettes For Kids.

My brother was always into grunge, metal stuff, Rage Against the Machine, Nirvana, and Metallica. And then my sister Kira was, she's going to hate me when I say this, she was more into the human nature kind of side of things, but then it was also Offspring Green Day, and I think Green Spoon. And then my other sister got me into dance music, a lot of dance music and just sort of weird stuff. Anytime she'd have music coming out of her room, I'd be instantly like, wait, what the hell is that? And then she'd just send it over. And yeah, it's mostly just us being together as a family like that. That's the main sticking point. That's been the main theme for me.

Sindy: Did you go to any concerts or events, like music events, with your family?

Zak: Yeah, I did with my next oldest sister, Tani. She took me to actually, we went to a lot of festivals together very early on. The first one we went to was Park Life in 2012. So I remember seeing Tam and Parlor in the Rain, which was insane. And then running over to go see Justice. No, it wasn't Justice; I think it was, I can't even remember who it was, but I remembered the excitement of the music and just the shared appreciation, and I think it's also the bonding. The main part of it was just really intimate time, and it's always just been situated around music.

And then she also took me to my first or second camping festival. She got me a ticket to Meredith that same year, 2012. And I just had a ball hanging out with their mates and talking. They were a bit older, so it was nice getting a different perspective. Music was always what brought everyone together and what brought everyone to do all that sort of stuff. But it's always been secondary to the rest of it. Being in a group and talking about things, discussing, bonding, and having that intimate time has always been really special.

Sindy: Yeah, that's great. I don't know many people who have had that same bonding experience, so it's so nice. It's nice to hear that you have; I know that for me, my influences came a lot from my friends, but it's nice that it comes specifically from your family. I'm sure your friends also influenced you, but yeah, definitely. That's a little bit more meaningful at the end as well. Yeah. And with that background, can you tell us about the transition to your new artist's name?

Zak: Yeah, where do I begin with that? I was thinking about this the other day. I'm curious about where the starting point of it was. The first bubble started when I was writing, and my most recent EP came out in September, back to self. And I started writing that in 2022. And there was just a sense of disillusionment, I would say, in the music scene, in the dancing scene, in the culture, everything. Just being in Australia, social media and world events were happening. I felt like a lot of chaotic energy was spinning around in my head. When I made that EP and put it out, that feeling of disillusionment and wanting to shed skin, the EP name being 'Back to Self', was about returning to who I was.

When I first got into the music scene doing cassettes for kids, there was no plan for it. It was like no one ever had a solid plan from the get-go. You go, alright. I guess I'm going to see what happens, and we'll just improvise from there. And I did that, and I did pretty well. And then, I started to find what I wanted to do. And then that would've been around 2019, 2020. Around that period, I remember I wanted to. The music at the time was heaps of tech house and a lot of super serious Elvis 1990. In an interview with him, he mentioned the same thing. So I am semi-quoting his experience as well, or dance system for those who dunno. 

But in that period, everything was very serious. Everything was all the same. I remember going to gigs and wondering if something was wrong with me. I'm not having fun. The breaks of these tracks happen. Everyone's going, yeah, this is sick. And I'm like, you guys are insane. This is so boring. Let's have some fun. Let's laugh. Let's take off the serious face, have some fun, and get some edits in there. And that's where things started shifting, and that's where I wanted to, I just wanted to lighten things up and take that seriousness out of things. Then Covid happened, and the speed went up. I remember coming out of Covid, not the first time, but the end of 2021 would've been November. And I remember this energy had just shifted, and I didn't know what it was. It was like there was new blood in the scene; new people had never been to clubs. 

It was excitement, but it was nervous excitement. People didn't really know what to do with themselves. And then it was the older people that were in the scene weren't there anymore. A lot of them had been burnt out, and they got into full-time jobs. My friends had started leaving that scene as well. So I'd been coming to gigs and stopped going to as many gigs as well because my friends just weren't as involved. And things just started changing. I couldn't shake this feeling. I wasn't enjoying what I was doing the same way. I had this vision of what I wanted to do to make things more fun and silly. By the time Covid dissipated at the end of 2021, everyone else was also doing that. I just felt that my mark as an artist is to be able to notice those trends and not just to be a contrarian but to move away, to shift the membrane of music in a different direction. Not just to be there first, but to progress and balance things better.

And I'm good at that. And from 2022, I started to feel that shift. In 2023, I was able to identify and realize this dance music scene and this thirst for speed, intensity, and ridiculousness, and all that stuff had its place. I don't have a problem with it, but when it's dominating everything, I move away. That's when I instinctually move away from those things. And when you do that, you also feel like you don't really have a place for yourself and feel lost. I felt very lost for a while, and I still do. I'm still trying to find my feet. But I think from a lot of this from over the last year or two, I felt like I've burned a lot of the undergrowth and a lot of the weeds and stuff that was disrupting me and were getting in my way and things that I didn't think were really giving me anything anymore.

And musically, I felt like I was moving into a place that felt more like me or I was getting into the studio and not trying to make anything. It was literally just like I could sit down. I had no preconceived notion of what I needed to do or wanted to do. I was able to express myself in a really honest way. And it needed to be measuring up to what I was doing before. It wasn't measuring up to my faster, acidy, garagey, or even drum and bass, whatever. And it's not to say that I won't go back to that, but I felt like there had just been such a shift from that music and I had this intense need to shed that skin that I felt like on top of all the other burning off that I'd been doing over the last year or two, the last thing to go would be the name.

And I think that the next little bubble that popped up in my head was when I was making a Twitch account, and I put in my name Cassette For Kids, and then I was like, this name's been flagged because of blah blah blah. I'm like, why is my name being flagged? That's really like, oh, it's the kids' bit. It's like when you look at something for too long, you don't really; it's leaving a post-it note in your room. If you see that post-it note every day of your life, you'll never see it. And when I saw kids in that aspect, I was like, oh my God, oh my God, I just never thought of it like that. And it started just really playing on me. And I'd spoken to people about it, and it doesn't matter; it's not a problem.

I don't think it's a problem, but it's the fact that it's bugging me now. Every time I see it, I'm like, no, I don't identify with that anymore. I need something new. I need something fresh. And that's when I landed on Wretla and the name I started with, I wanted the name to be the new name. I had to give myself parameters, and the parameters had to use my name, one of my given names. And it had to be either an anagram or a play on words. And at first, I was coming up with different combinations and stuff, and I was like, oh, maybe I have this, maybe I have that. And I was sending 'em off to people, and I was like, what do you think of this name? And then people would be like, oh, I don't know, that's a bit weird or blah blah.

I'm like, oh, that's cool, or whatever. And then I was like, okay, I can't be starting this new part of my journey, so to speak, worrying about what other people think and their opinion. And by going forward, the mentality with this whole project shouldn't be about what other people think. It should be about me creating the parameters, creating the box, fulfilling the criteria in that box and getting up to that threshold. And if I fulfil that criterion and measure up to the parameters I've set, I'll be satisfied with it. And I did that, and I made the name Wretla, and I showed people, and I had my friend say, I don't really like the name. And I was like, it just didn't affect me at all. And I was like, okay, this is a good start. This is where I want to be creatively; it doesn't matter what others think. As long as I've set those parameters, I'm happy with it, and then I can just put it out there. And that in itself has been very, very relieving. I'm in the same space I was in 2019 and 2020, where there aren't any limits. There isn't any preconceived notion of what I'm expected to do or expected to do. No one's ever expected to do anything as an artist. But I don't feel any of those expectations now. And I don't feel like I have to live up to anything. And these are all pressures that you brought on yourself, but it was genuinely the last thing that I needed to get rid of and start fresh with. And yeah, that's a really long-winded way of explaining. I got a name change.

Sindy: No, it was great. It sounds deeply personal and not just a split decision. So yeah, no, it makes sense. That whole gradual process goes through a number of years as well. It's funny you mentioned expectations on DJs and producers because there are some expectations sometimes, maybe not from artist to artist, but from a listener going to see an artist. You expect them to play a set you've seen online or heard on SoundCloud before or similar to the songs they've released. And that can be somewhat limiting for those artists who feel like, yeah, maybe they're stuck in a box, maybe they can't do something new. And, yeah, this name change means you now have complete freedom to go wherever you want.

Zak: And I could just be setting up a whole new set of expectations for the future. But I dunno, I felt over. It was even after I did my boiler room in 2021, and I was very grateful for the experience and opportunity. It got me out of my job then, and I could do music full-time. It was a big dream of mine, a big dream of a lot of people. And it was an invaluable experience. But I also feel grateful for the fact that I got a teaser. It's not like I did the Boiler Room set, and all of a sudden, I was touring the world or something like that. I got this sort of teaser, like a trailer version of what that hype machine crap can do and what expectations of fans, how that effect can have on you. 

And I genuinely feel lucky that I only got a little taste of it because it still messed with me. And I was like, what am I doing? Or maybe I should do this, or maybe I should do that. But it was so manageable, and it's definitely petered off now I know what I want to do in the future because of it, how I want to conduct myself and how being aware of how performances that can have an effect on you, like that, it's definitely made me a lot stronger. But yeah, it's made me more headstrong and made me trust myself a lot more. But I'm still grateful for the experience, but I'm very wary of those things now.

Sindy: Okay. So, what would you consider the most surreal moment or highlight of your DJ career so far? I'm sorry, I should just say your music career so far.

Zak: Interesting question. It would've been Pitch 2022, and I wasn't, so I was playing the Pitch Black stage that year, and it wasn't necessarily. Actually, it wasn't that gig that was the big highlight. It was actually the complete opposite. I remember getting up there, and I was nervous as hell. There were just people there who were coming to check me out and that sort of thing. So it was like I knew that going in, and I was very nervous about it. And then I rock up at night, and there's just this posse of people behind me I've just never fucking met. And then I'm like, okay, this is weird. This is so disproportionate to what's happening right now. I remember playing about an hour into the set because I was so nervous I could barely even look up. 

And I hadn't gotten to the point where I was easy in the set. I was still. I was tense. And that's bad news. If I've gotten past the first 15 minutes and I'm not easy, then something's not right. I haven't gotten into that groove yet. Something hasn't flipped over in my brain. And I remember an hour into my set, I looked up and said, oh my god. And at this point, I had the whole stage packed. Shire was playing before me, rinsed, and did a good job playing drum and bass twerk. The crowd was G'd up, and I came on. I was playing the crowd, and everything was a bit flatter. I was playing more housey stuff but tried to bring it back up. And then, yeah, this hour point came, and I sort of looked up, and the crowd had literally gone from a completely packed stage to a few rows in front of me.

And I was like, oh my God, what have I been doing? Where have I been? How have I not noticed this? Or what have I been doing? This is my fault. Oh, I suck. What's wrong with me? I should be better than this. And I looked behind me; the whole posse, the posse, had just evaporated. And I was like, oh, I can't even keep my friends here. What's going on? So, just at midnight and then the next hour, I'm just panic mixing. I'm not mixing for the people that are there. I'm mixing to keep everyone around. It's just a horrible mindset to be in. If that's happening, you should stop. Slow down, shut up. But I didn't know at the time, so I was just like, woo. Then it finished up, and I was so relieved. I was like, thank God that's over. 

I haven't had an experience like that where I've been so wanting the set to finish in practically ever, ever, ever had that drowning kind of feeling. I walked off the stage and my friends said, yeah, that was cool. I'm like, nah, come on. Let's be serious. Stop being, I'm trying to jam me up. And they're like, yeah, I mean, not your best. I'm like, there we go. Okay, see, we don't need to do all this. And then I spent the rest of the night with my tails between my legs. And then the next night my mate was running a, what's it called? Renegade stage down at one of the campsites. And he wanted me to play for an hour and a half or something. I was like, sure, I'd love to. He's come over here at midnight. I was like, midnight, okay, so wait all day, and I'll come over there at the end of the day, swing by, play a little music, and go home.

And then I get up there and he's like, yeah, you had to get onto the next DJ just in case. Do you mind just playing for a little bit? I'm like, yeah, sure. And I've got my campsite with me. We're all just hanging out thinking they're about to go after 90 minutes, and then my 90 minutes sort finishes up, and mind you, there's probably 15 or 20 people in this tent, and I'm just playing house music because I've just been so exhausted from the weekend playing all this uptempo stuff. And I literally want to play house the entire time. And it comes up to me at the 90-minute mark, and he's like, the other DJ hasn't rocked up. Do you mind playing for another 90? I'm like, yeah, sure. He gives me another beer. I'm like, alright, let's go. And then I'm playing for another 90 minutes, and people are still vibing out, and people are still dancing. It's not a packed crowd, just 15 or 20 people bobbing. I was having the best time. Then, another 90 minutes went by, and my friend came up to me. He is like, so the other DJ, I was like, okay, I'll play till the end. And he's like, thank you.

I'm like, okay, give me another beer and play for another 90 minutes. And everyone's the same thing, just grooving to the end. And then we all finish up at 5:00 AM or something. I played for five hours, and I had the best time of my life; it felt so intimate, and I didn't feel exhausted. I filled my cup from a set. And if you have social experiences or performances, you can still obviously be physically tired, but if you feel like you've filled up that spiritual cup, that means something. I had that night and still feel it when I think back to it. But I just had people coming up to me, and they were giving me very genuine praise and very genuine, not that it was a cool drug, no want to do, I thank you.

It was one of the last nights, and I knew what you'd need on a Sunday night. It was more of a Monday morning after a festival. You want that kind of, I just knew what I wanted, and that's what they wanted as well. And it was just so, such a deep connection, and I realized that that's what I wanted from now on. It wasn't like I didn't care about pack stages or thousands of people hitting some arbitrary metrics or whatever. Those are nice; you can tap on the back and do whatever. But I realized that I had been craving intimacy and craving, being able to see another dancer's face and another punter's face right up in there, seeing the expression on their face and having that intimacy after a set or before a sudden the conversations. That's what I wanted. I didn't want to have thousands of people just bouncing around, obviously. Very cool, very fun, and very satisfying, but not in the same way two or three people are coming up to at a certain; just being genuinely thankful for that. It's a completely different experience.

Sindy: Yeah, it must be a nice feeling. Have those moments also contributed to that event series you threw for the first time last year? Slow It Down, Baby. And also, there was a second edition more recently. Yeah,

Zak: Absolutely. I think, yeah, it was that, and I think it was also another reaction to the prevailing trend of music at the time and how it's now, pardon me. But yeah, I think it was about identifying what was kind of not a bit like NQR or, but I think it was also, I think the main reason that even took off in the first place was because there was an Area 3000 article that came out about CC disco talking about one 10 BPM sets and that sort of stuff. And I remember that triggered something; I saw that article, and it was in the morning, and I distinctly remember I hadn't had my A DHD meds that morning, so I was impulsive, riled up, and I was like, yes,, absolutely. I'm so sick, which you just like, and I was like, yeah, this is what I mean.

We've all been in this trance lately. I don't have a problem with all this music being the predominant thing, but I wish there was some variety and there's so much music here we can enjoy, yada, yada, yada. And I put that up and was like, I remember actually exhaling after it. I probably hadn't breathed the entire time I was riding it. And then, to put this in perspective, I'd been thinking that a few of my friends and I in the green rooms at gigs were the only people that were like, yeah, everything's a bit weird now. Everything's a bit, I wish it wasn't so intense, but I thought that was literally just that little intimate group. It wasn't like if you were on social media; all the videos and all the conversations were about all these big parties, hands up in the air, fast, heavy, intense stuff. 

So everyone was leaning that way, and everyone felt like that was what should keep going. So I think I was literally going insane and then feeling and then having that complete turnaround of having over a hundred people messaging me and DM me, being like, yes, we need to. I've stopped going clubbing because of all this. We haven't been to a club in years, or I can only ever really go to day parties because the music's more chill. Or I stay inside now, and I'm like, it broke my heart because all these people had been burnt out of the scene. And there was this mentality with the dance. With this dance music scene, there was a level of notoriety for you to sustain that intensity for so long. It's like a badge of honour; I didn't connect with it. 

People were associating club music and dance music with this perceived intensity and perceived masculinity, toxicity and aggression. When I got into dance music, it was nothing like that. It was literally smiles and cracking stupid gags. That's all it was. And to think that there are these people who have been robbed of that experience, especially young people, never having experienced that in the first place. It broke my heart, and I felt like these slower-down parties. I spoke with Jackson Greetings immediately afterwards, and he said yes, we need to do something about this. Like, asap, if we don't do it, someone else will. So we just got onto it straight away. And it was also a matter of, it was the party, and it was the concept not necessarily of slow music, but it was music that is just more gentle, and it's still groovy, but it's not in your face, and they're playing eight minute long tracks. 

Or Hannah D was playing one of the first ones, the first one, and she was playing a lot of one 20 sort of froggy minimal sort of stuff. And it worked. But then Luma played before that, and she played Brazilian funk and disco; people also loved that. It wasn't necessarily about BPMs or anything; it was just about a vibe and breathing in and soaking in moments a bit more, and I forgot what the next point I was going to make was. But from those negative experiences, I felt like things were turning in a certain way, and I needed to bend it back the other way. 

Sindy: I am similar in that I stopped going out for a while because, similar to what you touched on before, I stopped going out for a while because I was hearing the same sound over and over, and I stopped enjoying clubbing and listening to dance music. I wasn't hearing anything that excited me in the way that it used to. So yeah, it's great to see that it wasn't just one person feeling that way. It was a universal feeling, but no one was saying or doing anything about it. It was nice to see things that come out of not just the article but conversations and people talking about things. Oh, let's go out and do this and make it happen. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Okay.

Zak: Yeah, it was cathartic. 

Sindy: You also had the no-phones concept, making it way more engaging for people there.

Zak: Yeah, that was the other point I was going to make. Yeah, the no phones thing. The music was one thing, but it was also a matter of presence. And there are always conversations about social media and phones and that sort of stuff, but overseas, especially in Germany, don't; taking your phone, taking videos of a gig is so frowned upon. And I'll put stickers on your phones and all that stuff, but it's such being at a gig, or if you are, I didn't use to have a problem with people bringing their phones out and taking videos and stuff. People would be like, there'd always be these old cronies on comment sections like, oh, everyone's got their phones down. But I was like, okay, if that's the way that they want to have fun, let them have fun. I don't have a problem with that.

But then I started seeing that other people had their phones out. It's actually detracting from other people's involvement is as soon as you see a phone, you're like, where's my phone? Or what are they filming? And it takes you out of what they're even filming in the first place. So that in itself is antisocial, and it's antisocial, then it shouldn't fly. And so that was the mentality going in because had Ed and ah about it for a while, but because of that, the presence of people and it actually allowed the music and the tracks to sort of play out and for there not to be this sort of like what's next or this constant stimulation sort of thing. It wasn't that impatience and that desire of the punters to be asking more of the DJs or getting people to do special tricks or whatever. No one was looking at the DJs, even though they were looking up into the roof and stuff or chatting amongst themselves, which is what you should be doing. I feel like at a gig, if your entire thing, unless they're doing something really, really crazy technical constantly, a lot of DJs are literally just a little bit of a pitch fade, a little bit of an adjustment on the wheel. That's all it is. There are some theatrics to it sometimes, but I think people need to stop looking and enjoy the music, enjoy their friends, turn around, and put a bloody black wall up in front of the DJ for all I care, preferably honestly. 

Yeah, the whole phone thing is just a distraction. It takes you away from the music without it. You genuinely enjoy the people around you, and the music is better. And I had so many people come up to me and be like, I made so many friends tonight. I don't know if there was just something in the beers that night or something, but to have that after a gig, I'd never had that before. Someone would come up to me and be like, multiple people. I've made so many friends. Yeah, because you want a bloody phone. You are actually here. You have nothing else to do. Be like, O, what's up? How are you? What do you do? You know what I mean? That was nice.

Sindy: Yeah, that's special. It reminds me of times before mobile phones were even invented. You'd go to a club, and the DJ might be upstairs or completely separated from the dance floor, and you would just be dancing on the dance floor. You see videos of old-school nightclubs like Studio 54 and everything, and the DJ is not the focus of the night. You're there to dance, meet people, and have fun. Whereas now, the DJ has become the centrepiece of any night. And so you're all facing the DJ; you are just there for the DJ. And you're right, the better nights. So when you can meet people, talk to people and dance. Yeah,

Zak: Exactly. I had such a problem with going to gigs and playing geeks where I understand if you put a DJ up on a little riser or something. But some gigs you go to, and they're up on this God-tier sort of riser, like 18 meters above you or something. Everyone's looking up, just staring at the person putting the music, sinking it together. It's so disproportionate to what's happening, making it out to be more than it actually is. And they're so disconnected from the experience as well. So many DJs, myself included, if you are up on those stages and you are 10 meters away from the first person in the row, you can't connect with 'em. You can't see what's going on. You're playing to the crowd if I certainly can't be able to read a crowd like that. 

Even if a whole crowd is bouncing around from up there, it looks like everyone's asleep. So you lose that connection and that kind of dynamism, which is the best thing about DJing, which is the fact that it's a musical art form that can be adaptive to that exact moment in time. It's a spiritual theory where you could have the perfect moment, the perfect music for that moment. And that's what DJing allows you to do. You could have the best playlist, you could have all the music in the world, and you could technically make the perfect music for that moment. If you're in a band, you don't have that. But if you are a DJ and are up on a festival riser, bloody, 20 meters away, you've lost that element. And then it's like, well, what's the point of DJing in the first place?

Just that's the whole point of dynamism. You've got that ability to improvise and that sort of stuff. So I dunno. I feel like we've lost something on the way. We need to go back to getting a big wall in the way, getting a four-point speaker system, and getting people to dance. What is his name? That DJ, also named Zac, spoke, and he's an American guy. I'm going to have to, that's really bad. I speak about him all the time, his exact reason. But he spoke about this same thing and said how in clubs in his club that he had, I think they had a four-point speak system, you couldn't see the DJs. And then people were, at first, they walk in, and they're like, where do we dance? And then they end up just dancing in a circle around their friends. That's great. You don't have to look at anyone; you don't feel like facing anyone. Just be with your mates. That's it.

Sindy: Who will be the first to give that a crack, clubs, if you're listening? So you're relocating to Berlin next month. What are your plans for the move?

Zak: The plan is something that I've wanted to do for a while. Even since 2020, my partner, now wife and I wanted to move overseas. We want to give it a crack. And then obviously Covid and life got in the way, and this is our first opportunity to give it a crack. The plan is just for a lifestyle change more than anything. I have a limited number of connections over there. It's not like I'm really going blind at this moment. I don't even have any gigs lined up, and that has bothered me, and that scared the crap out of me. But I've wanted to move. We initially wanted to go to Amsterdam or Rotterdam, but it would be too expensive. And then I think a few things fell into place.

Then I changed the agency to Weaver, and they're based in Melbourne and Berlin. After that, my wife and I were like, why don't we move to Berlin? It's a bit cheaper. It's similar to Eastern European architecture in Australia and Melbourne. It's a bit miserable all the time, but we've always had heaps of fun there. And I was thinking a lot of the artists I'm really interested in, and even the ethos over there with dance music or just music in general and the appreciation for art is something that I feel I've been starved with here and something that I've just been craving.

In Australia, not necessarily Melbourne, there's still an appreciation, but there's, in Melbourne, or sorry, in Australia, we've got this and a funny attitude towards creativity and the arts. It's like we're void of taste and enjoyment. We've got this sort of hard yacker attitude to things, and the only things that matter in life are a good job, house, and car. And other things actually satiate you. Other things bring you joy, and it's evident enough watching Married at First Sight and seeing the decorations in some of these people's houses and stuff. People don't have paintings on the walls. People don't have; everything's just a carbon copy of furniture, and nothing has quirks. Everything's just the same old factory rinse-and-repeat crap. Part of that is also our attitude towards those things in Australia.

It's not everyone, that's for sure. I'm not going to completely disk my country, but I have had an issue with that aspect of our culture for a long time, and it's made me feel very out of place and very, I'm just kind of sick of yelling about it and sick of being like, am I going insane? I have those moments all the time. And it's not to say that Berlin's going to be the answer. It's just another chance and perspective to try and have a crack or try and see if there is another way or just to get inspired to live another way because I feel like I haven't found it yet.

Sindy: Okay. Yeah, it's interesting you bring up the whole culture of things in Melbourne. When you mentioned you were moving to Berlin, I thought it was more. I'd probably just assumed that it may be to build your brand more, and I imagine you'll try to do that anyway because a lot of artists do once I've made it here in Australia, and I would say that you have certainly made it here. They move overseas, especially somewhere like Europe, to establish their brand there. I don't know where I'm going with this now.

Zak: People would probably go overseas with more of a plan. Well, I

Sindy: I don't know if they have a plan either, but they moved to try and do something like what they've been doing here. Jennifer Loveless also moved to Berlin last year, and CC Disco moved to Portugal a few years ago. And you talk about what you think needs to change in the Australian music scene for us to retain artists or even attract international artists here. Is it the culture or the political scene?

Zak: We are geographically hindered. I only say that in relation to the dance music scene in Europe. But we need to remember that we are right next to Indonesia, next to Southeast Asia. There are many music scenes, and dance music scenes are flourishing. And we think, oh, we're in Australia, we've got Australia, New Zealand, and nothing else. There's a whole continent right above us that we never invest in. I think that moving forward, and what I would like to see in the way of retaining artists here and even getting artists to come over here, is to build that bridge more and to keep that healthy, not even keep it; it's not even really healthy now to bring it to life. There are so many opportunities there, and there's so much thirst for them. You only have to see many videos about people visiting Bali or Potato Head. 

And the parties there were just crazy people having so much fun, and then we were just like, we're over here in Australia. There's nothing to do. Oh, I'll go to Auckland. And it's like, we've got opportunities here. We need to build that bridge more instead of having this highly euro-focused attitude. And that is not to say that the Euro focus is disproportionate; it's obviously a huge market for me. I'm going over there because it's central. I can go to the same space between Melbourne and Sydney. I could go through four countries and 12 cities. So yeah, that would probably be my answer to it. There is also more investment in the arts from the government. 

But we have had a history of not respecting the arts, which has always been second or not second. It's always been right at the bottom, which is just laughable considering how much we constantly absorb media, music videos, and art and think that it's just a throwaway object when it fully enriches our lives. However, understanding through schooling how we can enrich our lives and apply it to our lives is really important. But we don't have any value in our schooling systems either. We throw it; it's a very lowly-ranked subject. Everyone's just trying to get into STEM subjects; there's no cultural appreciation for anything other than that. So I don't know. The issue is so deeply rooted in us that the solution is to be continued.

Sindy: Okay. Lots of work to be done. Alright, so I read the following in your interview with Purple Sneakers a few years ago, and it's actually similar in essence to some things you pointed out earlier. You said, "I had a bad phase where I was so uninspired by music, and everything sounded like bleeps and bloops. I had no emotional connection to it at all." 

Zak: I was depressed.

Sindy: "I was fortunate enough to go overseas, step back and listen to a lot of nice music. Then I came back to music off the back of that." So, my question is, it's not always possible to venture overseas to reset. How do you go about reigniting inspiration or taking care of your mental well-being during downtime? You threw in that comment, so maybe it's more about looking after your mental well-being, but how do you manage?

Zak: That? Yeah, the belief and blur thing happens when the music starts sounding. When I don't see colour, there's a synesthetic synesthesia sort of thing that I have with music and in my mind's eye when I listen to music. I enjoy it. I see vivid imagery, vivid colours, beautiful images, and stuff. And I know I can start understanding when I'm turning and when I'm starting to get depressed, which is an annual occasion at this stage. But when things start turning grey and sounding like static ones and zeros, that's like my trigger. And I find the best way for me to deal with that if I can't go on a holiday is to, I usually do the same cyclist stuff. I'll sort of start venturing off with different genres and stuff, then I'll get a little bit lost, then I'll kind of be a little bit sad, and then I'll sort of come back to my centre. 

And then my centre is usually music from my childhood or music from an older era, like stuff that has just a bit more texture and something a bit less intense if I would disco, funk, soul, or it can be some old metal stuff from when I was a kid. Just anything that resets me that's kind of the only way. But the mental health thing is something I'm constantly battling with without being able to deal with burnout, which I've been dealing with for the last two or three years. It takes a lot of work to get on top of it. The only way that you can really get on top of it is by just nuking yourself and just not indulging or putting, doing any work with music and just cutting yourself off because, or cutting myself off. That's the only way that I can really deal with it. 

And that's what I've done the last few months after having a very, very dark period over the last year or so. So yeah, it's just disconnecting and then going back to friends and family, exercising, looking after your body and soul, and nourishing that in whatever way you can. Or you can go to the beach or something or get some sun and do nature things. It's the only way you'll ever get on top of it outside of a three-month retreat in The Bahamas, which we're not all capable of getting on top of. But yeah, that. Did I answer that question?

Sindy: Yeah, yeah, I think so. How could we better support each other? You're definitely not alone in going through those roller coasters. How do you think we could better support each other?

Zak: Okay, so answering my question from before a little bit more, and this one as well, I think having community meetups and stuff where everyone can hang out who are in the same sort of industry and we can all sort of have a little bitch and moan about yada yada yada, and we can all kind of get excited about stuff and start building up those friendships in ways that aren't necessarily private meetups. So next week, Ableton are doing a new launch with the new Ableton 12, whatever, the push three, and all that sort of stuff. And these opportunities and ways for everyone to get together and talk to each other are the antidote to that. I always feel like when I've run into my music friends, the majority of my friends aren't musicians, so maybe this is just a thing for me, but when I do hang out with these people, I'm in the back room somewhere having a see and just being like, yeah, isn't it a bit weird how X, Y, Z? And they're like, yeah, X, Y, Z, yeah. And we're nodding. We're just patting each other on the back and stuff. I walk away from those situations, and I'm like, they're so much better now. Someone understood, and I feel relieved. I feel listened to, and I feel like someone has walked through the same things or given me a better perspective that I trust and understand. 

That's invaluable, and that's the best way. Outside of gigs and being able to meet up with each other because, gigs, especially in the dance music scene, can be quite overwhelming. There aren't a lot of quiet spaces outside of the daytime gigs, but I think there's community meetups. There's one of the Gasso that they do where they listen to everyone listen to music on a club system, and you can have a run-through and see what everything sounds like, but just opportunities that are based around music, but it's also just a chance to hang out. That's the best way to deal with it.

Sindy: Yeah, agreed. For all the Area 3000 radio residents, we do a group meetup every few months. It's something we started late last year, and it was really great to meet everyone outside of a club setting, you'll host another one in a few weeks, but maybe that's an idea to invite people outside of the radio shows, just invite people more broadly from the community. 

If you could collaborate with any artist, dead or alive, who would it be and why? Sorry, oddball one.

Zak: Holy Molly. I don't know. The first one that popped up in my head was Jimmy Hendrix, mostly because he died at the age of 27, and the stones left unturned bother me. He was doing some really crazy experimental stuff. I think it would just be so cool to listen to someone who was listening and was watching and being a part of someone who was unbelievably gifted at what they did, playing the guitar and singing, but also just so on the forefront of innovation and creativity in the studio as well. He literally had such a purely creative mind, and growing up, I resonated with Jimi Hendrix so much because he was a left-handed guitarist. I'm also a left-handed guitarist. I got a Stratocaster just like him for the same reason, and I remember just how he played music and how he sort of expressed himself.

I remember telling my guitar teacher then that it's like freestyle music, just how you play guitar. It wasn't just chords. You'd be doing chords and melodies and singing, and we'd be playing the bass at the same time. There was just this real, something just very organic and sloppy, but kind of in kind of way that I just resonated so much with and still do when I listen back to it. But I think his musical voice would, yeah, I'd love to see what the hell he could do with a drum machine or a sampler. Now, it would just be sick.

Sindy: Good answer. Yeah. Okay. Finally, what can we expect from you next?

Zak: That's a good question. There will be an EP coming out pretty soon. My main focus is to put out music that I, How do I describe this? I've been very invested in other kind of art forms. I've never really strayed too far from music ever. I never really thought of myself as very visually minded. I like writing, making artwork for my label, and just making artwork in general. I love taking photos and making weird collages and stuff because it just sort rounds out my whole creative vision with music and each ability that I pick up since it seems to lend itself to the other in a really nice way with music, the more that I've gone into more visual mediums, the more that I was saying that synesthesia thing before, I used to see music in my head as a 2D image and a weird sort of shape and pulse, but the more that I've been getting into Photoshop and making all these, and then using photos that I've taken on my walks or in life or whatever, the more and working on that, the more I've been able to see proper 3D depth and images in my head, and it's made me mix better. It's made me create better. It's made me see that vision in my head a lot better and be able to express it a lot better.

So I think moving forward, I want to incorporate all these different things, especially writing and have music, not secondary to all of that, but I want it to be a big cohesive experience when I get into video editing and even rendering or something, just something weird, something that I could just contribute to the whole picture and to be able to create a whole universe sort of thing. Yeah, I think musically, I'm moving into a lot of organic sort of sounds, and it's not really bound by how heavy or fast anything is; it just feels good and is good. There's still that textured percussion that I really, really love, as well as a lot of atmospheric pads and stuff. It's about incorporating a live set that allows me to express all those things better, incorporate those mediums in a live set, and create something.

I enjoy DJing, and I really love it. I go in this sort of live set, DJing, live set, DJing, or I hate all of these things. At the moment, I'm playing around with this idea of a live set that eventually incorporates all these things. Instead of just being flat, it's just music, music, music. Yeah. That's where I'm moving to more performance things. I feel like the music that I'm making at the moment as well doesn't fit into a DJ set, and yeah, I saw Tom VR recently did a thing fabric or something, and the fact that he was doing a live set, I was like, not that my music is heaps like that, but I feel that when I saw that he did that, I'm like, that makes sense. I can't imagine a lot of your music going in a DJ set or you going up there and doing a DJ set, and I would be interested in seeing a live set. I'm inspired by seeing him, and that's what I want to do. I want to see more of that sort of stuff.

Sindy: Okay, watch this space. Well, thank you. I've really enjoyed this chat, so thanks for coming in.

Zak: Thanks for having me.

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