A candid chat with the illustrious Latex Zebra, ahead of his debut on Onhcet Republik!
Reported by Jessica Alici
Submitted 18-05-20 12:00
Latex Zebra has been a lively legend of the London Underground Dance Music scene for as long as we can remember! Most of us know him in some if not all his various guises, be that as a DJ, a Club Promoter, , linchpin of the HF Xmas Party, Label A&R, dare we say oldskool HF troublemaker, a friend, or as an accomplished producer in his own right. Recently Dan seems to have upped his production output and we’re seeing fresh releases left, right and centre! We decided now was the perfect time to catch up with him and see what’s what, ahead of his intoxicating mammoth release on Onhcet Republik on the 8th June 2020!
So, tell us how it all began. What is your first memory of music?
My Dad loved music so I grew up in a house that constantly had the radio playing. He had a pretty eclectic taste, but I remember a lot of country and western. Fortunately, I resisted the lure of the barn dance and headed in a different direction musically.
When and how did you discover electronic music?
I would have been about 15 in around 1989 and had mates at school that started bringing in mix tapes of proper dance music, rather than the S’Express kind of stuff that was in the charts. I think it was when I heard the wobbly wobbly acid in Adamski ‘N.R.G’ that I sat up and was like "What the fuck is this?". Never looked back after that.
You used to co-promote the legendary Zoology parties. Whose idea was this, how did it come about, why did you stop and do you miss promoting?
A couple of friends (B.S.E and RedCaT) and I had been getting together making music and started a label called Vinyl Zoo. We had a launch party for the label that went really well and everyone said we should do a proper club night. Chris (B.S.E) knew the 414 so suggested that and the rest is history. If the 414 was still open I might still well be promoting. We stopped Zoology at 10 (Ed: take note Kerb!) but we did a couple of successful reunion parties. I also ran a classics party called Alumni and then a Trance night named Brixton Trance Underworld. The latter I stopped because we just couldn't get enough people through the door. A shame. I do miss promoting. Throughout the history of Zoology we gave a lot of up and coming DJs somewhere to play and I'd love to be able to keep doing that. Never say never, though I'm not getting any younger.
When and how did you make your first track? Did you have any training or are you self-taught?
Like many kids in the 80s I had a dodgy Casio keyboard so I was plinking around making an awful noise from a young age. I left home when I was 23 (I think) and one of the guys in the house had an Atari and Cubase and a Novation thingy and we used to mess around making stuff. Not all of it amazing but I had like 50 minutes of tunes on a cassette tape that I one day left in a cab on a drunken trip home from a party. Would love to hear it now, I bet it sounded bloody awful. I’m not musically trained and I'm not that technical which is why I have always worked with engineers or done co-productions. I can write music; I just can't do all the technical stuff that makes it sound amazing. Have to give a big shout out to Loukas who has been a massive help in (re) launching myself musically. An amazing producer and engineer.
My first ever proper tune was called ‘Plastic Pants’ and was released on our own Vinyl Zoo label. It hasn't aged well but if anyone wants a giggle it's on my Soundcloud page as is all the stuff we put out then.
What was the last artist album you listened to?
Shockingly, I rarely get time to listen to music, apart from promos of course. The last album I listened to was by a chap called Hatstandy who gave me his album to review, which I did on this very site.
How do you get in the zone for producing? Ever suffer with ‘writers’ block’?
Because I am often paying to use an engineer and then travelling hundreds of miles to get there, I have to be in the zone. I try and do a lot of prep: get some riffs down, sample ideas. Like most people, it's 5% planning 95% see what happens on the day. On those occasions where it starts getting too much, the engineers I've used have always been really good and demanded "Right, what are we doing next, what do you want to do?" to really pull the ideas from me.
Co-producing is much easier because if one of you isn't inspired the other can pull up the slack. Not that I can really recall that happening. I love making music, I'm always thrilled to sit in a studio.
What’s the hardest set you’ve ever played and why?
Well, I'm gonna assume you don't mean in terms of music? I dunno. Some after party sets back in the day were tough when you really feel like you're playing to a bunch of people that are just too wasted to go home and not really feeling it.
RedCaT snapping the headphone thingy off in the mixer 30 minutes into a 4-hour set made for an interesting experience. It took us an hour to get it out! We had to get very creative with our mixes, fortunately ours was the first set of the night so there weren’t many people there. They must have wondered what the hell was going on in the booth, we both probably looked mortified!
What would you say are your biggest achievements in life?
It’s an obvious answer but I’d have to say my family. They probably feel they play second place to the music a lot of the time, but without their support and love I wouldn't still be doing it.
How do you juggle family life, full time job and being an artist?
I have learned how to survive on very little sleep.
What do your kids think about you DJing and producing? Are they into it?
My daughter is 15 and into bands and has very quirky taste in music. She appreciates what I do, but she's not a fan. My son will come and throw shapes when I'm having a mix, or forcing them to listen to my latest production, but he's not upstairs listening to my mixes. They've often said that their friends think it's cool that they have a Dad who’s a DJ, although these days, I imagine many kids do.
Do you have any vices or guilty pleasures?
Cocaine and hookers.
No! No, no, no. Just kidding. Honest. I love red wine and my guilty pleasure is a Blacksmith competition on TV called Forged in Fire. I am not interested in knives or blacksmithing but I just cannot stop watching this program.
What’s your first thought when you wake up in the morning?
Fuck, why did I stay up till half one working on that tune with Chris!
You’re recently signed your track with Chris Coles - ‘Cabin Fever’ to Onhcet Republik. Tell us about this… Where did the inspiration came from, how the track came together and what you used to make it?
We'd wanted to do a tune for the label for a while and had had one knocked back. Covid 19 lockdown had been in place for a couple of weeks, so that is where the inspiration for the name came from. We set out to write something tough with a tasty acid line.
We work remotely over video chat with me sending him riffs and him sending stuff back. It sounds like it shouldn't work but we've done around 30 tunes like this now, even before lockdown. It's his fault for living sodding miles away in deepest darkest Northernshire.
Tell us about your future music plans - what releases should we be looking out for?
Christ, we have so much coming up it's almost impossible to keep up with it. I’m having to think what I can actually say for when this is published! Stuff on Dolma VA, probably not allowed to say that but fuck it. More stuff on the excellent Rated Records, stuff with White Line, Light Side Music (we've been doing proggy stuff as well)... Remixes for Keep On Techno (who I now A&R for) and erm, stuff for Blue Monkey. Plus other bits, bits I can't talk about yet.
You should look out for them all because, like your children, I can't possibly pick a favourite.
What’s the first thing you can’t wait to do when lockdown is lifted?
Go and hug my friends and family and then party for a month!
To listen to Latez Zebra’s sounds click here:
To follow Latex Zebra’s fan page click here:
To buy Latex Zebra and Chris Coles – ‘Cabin Fever’ out 8th June 2020 on Onhcet Republik click here:
To read Latex Zebra’s posts on HF:
(nah, you’ll have to search for Dan’s golden nuggets of wisdom yourself!)
Images courtesy of Latex Zebra (Dan Nugent), PinkKitty (Jaq Bush) and Onhcet Republik. Not to be reproduced without permission.
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Other Features By Jessica Alici:
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NEM3SI$ from Techno Label Onhcet Republik talks about ethos, the scene & gives a heads up on a very exciting remix of a renowned classic anthem!
Exploring SUN! Ahead of her debut album release on Iono-Music!
The views and opinions expressed in this review are strictly those of the author only for which HarderFaster will not be held responsible or liable.