Blasting off with Zetan Spore
Reported by Psylicious
Submitted 30-09-09 15:28
Taking a new style of dance music into the 21st century has been the primary objective in mind since Ian Hasdell formed Zetan Spore in West Cornwall in 1995. Since then they’ve gone on to release a number of albums and take their sound worldwide. Psylicious set his phaser on ask and went in search of answers.
Inspired by psychedelic rock in the late 80’s and its evolution into earlier dance acts such as Eat Static and Astralasia, Ian Hasdell was spurred into forming his own style of psychedelic dance music. After releasing his first album, Alien Frequencies, in 1996, Ian’s twin brother Mark came on board, playing guitar and didgeridoo which forms the basis for their unique synergistic partnership.
Together they brought out the next Zetan Spore album, Visitation in 1997 and were then signed to Aardvark Records, where they have so far released a further seven albums. With an eighth album due for release later in the year and countless gigs across the UK the twins of Zetan Spore touched down to answer a few questions for HarderFaster readers.
Ian and Mark, welcome to HarderFaster, how has your year been so far? What have been the highlights?
Ian: Great - we’ve incorporated some new technology into our set-up, improving sound quality and separation so the new tracks and some of the older ones which we’ve re-mastered are sounding really top notch. We’ve been playing loads of very well received gigs and festivals all over the country including Psycle in Nottingham, Bearded Theory festival in Derbyshire (yep, the one that had the tornado), Off the Tracks and Coalition (a mile out to sea on a fort off Portsmouth) – all great gigs!
Mark: We’ve also visited O.Z.O.R.A. festival in Hungary – six days of some of the best and most influential artists in the psychedelic scene in a beautiful valley network with something like 17,000 likeminded people from all over the world partying together – man I wish we could have festivals like that in this country! Very inspiring stuff!
Ian you formed Zetan Spore back in 1995. What was the concept behind Zetan Spore and how did you come up with the name?
Originally I just started off sequencing stuff on an old Amiga 1200 – I used to listen to music and think, yeah that’s good but if only it did this, or after the breakdown it banged into that, so I started writing stuff how I wanted it to sound. After I’d written enough tracks to fill an album, of a rather alien nature, I thought I’d better come up with a name. I’ve always been into sci-fi and the idea that we’re not alone in the universe and since quite an early age, I’ve been well into “experiences of a psychedelic nature”.
I came up with the name after reading "True Hallucinations" by Terrence McKenna - fungal spores are one of the few living things that can travel through space (not necessarily self propelled) and not be altered in any way, ie. they could still grow. He suggested that psychoactive mushrooms could have arrived from a different planet and grown here, providing the human race with an evolutionary stepping stone to self-reflective consciousness. As the Zeta Reticulan system was considered a region where a lot of alien visitations were originating at that time I figured they could be Zetan spores!
How would you both define the sound of Zetan Spore?
Mark: We’re on the uplifting, bouncy side of psytrance with lots of energy, especially in our live performance, with live guitar and didgeridoo adding a more earthy, tribal, analogue feel (and a dash of space rock!)
Ian: Yeah, definitely a more organic feel than a lot of psytrance around at the moment but still with good melodies and tunes throughout injecting some feeling into an often emotionless genre. You’ll hear elements from many different genres of dance music in our sound as it’s evolved over many years but we’ve always kept a very driving psychedelic edge. We like to build lots of layers into our tracks so they really build in their psychedelic intensity and properly take your lid off on the dancefloor!
1996 saw Mark come on board with Zetan Spore, what has been the musical direction since then?
Ian: After I had bought some more equipment (synth, samplers, etc) and started developing my own sound, I found I couldn’t emulate the raw, powerful edge you get from an electric guitar – I’ve always liked a nice meaty riff and always wanted to use guitars with dance music. Luckily, having a twin brother with almost identical music tastes as myself, I didn’t have far to look.
Mark: I’d not really played guitar before, so I went out and bought one and learnt as we went along. We then realised that we could not only get that raw power but could also create a level of feeling and emotion which you don’t seem to be able to get from digital hardware. I’d been playing didgeridoo for a few years and being partly inspired by Didgeridoo by Aphex Twin, we went about writing some stomping, deep tribal stuff which people couldn’t seem to get enough of – I think it’s something to do with the resonating tribal thing – it really gets people going on the dancefloor.
When we first started gigging in 1997 we were playing quite dark, twisted psychedelic trance with a heavy space rock slant and also some punk elements. Since then we’ve become more uplifting, whilst steering clear of the cheeseboard – it was still driving and intense – and more recently we’ve been leaning more towards fairly tribal, full-on psytrance but retaining our own unique twist on it.
To date you have released seven albums on Aardvark Records, what has been your favourite release to date so far?
Ian: I’d have to say Flux, our most recent album – we’re still learning new things, new techniques, which make every album we write better in ideas and sound quality than the one before. I still have a soft spot for Subspace Distortions though – classic old-school Zetan Spore with a slightly more twisted, experimental edge to it.
Mark: I’d say Flux as well. Basically, if the last album you wrote isn’t your favourite you’re not evolving in the direction you’re supposed to be.
You are about to release your tenth album later in the coming months. What do you have planned for this and how does the sound of this album compare to previous releases?
Mark: We’ve written seven tracks so far for the next album and I’m really pleased with all of them. We collaborated with Tim and Athene from 3 Daft Monkeys on a slightly more folky psy trance tune which is really ripping up the dance floors and we’ve got a few more breakbeat sections in amongst the full-on tunes just for a change in gear. We’ve also pulled out a few of our “classic” Zetan Spore ideas and brought them up-to-date with some devastating results! As for the sound, we’ve made some improvements in the bass and kick area which has cleaned our sound up and made it much more punchy – you’ll notice the difference.
Ian: Yeah, we’ve just got a couple more tracks to write and the artwork to sort, then it’ll be ready – hopefully in the autumn sometime. It’ll be coming out on Aardvark Records again and will be available through our website (www.zetanspore.co.uk) and to download from all the usual outlets. We’ll be working with Aardvark to sort a distribution deal out when it’s all sorted too. As yet, it has no title – we’ve had a couple of ideas but I’m not sure who’ll want to buy an album called Humpty Buggervest, Pigeon Wangers or Uncle Fester’s got a Brand New Twitch! – choosing titles when you’re off yer tits at a festival probably isn’t the best move!
The live sound of Zetan Spore has always been well received at the many festivals and events you have performed at. Why do you think that is and what has been your most memorable gig played to date?
Ian: We’ve always been into playing live more than anything else we do with Zetan Spore – it’s our direct interface with our fans and we love it. We always put 110% energy into our live shows – it’s great getting that energy feedback loop going where the crowd are getting off on us going for it on stage which makes them go for it more, which in turn makes us give it even more – luckily nobody’s exploded at one of our shows yet! I think people are impressed with the fact that we’re still running our live set off hardware (synths, samplers, guitars, etc) and not just pushing a mouse around behind a laptop or, even worse, playing the whole set off a DAT without even plugging the equipment in! It’s pretty scary playing in front of a big crowd, praying that none of the equipment fails on you but it certainly keeps it exciting. I still reckon the best live experience I’ve had was coming up through the stage on a riser in front of 25,000 people at the Euphoria festival in Singapore - it was one of those moments that will be hard to beat.
Mark: I’ll have to second that one – if you can imagine rocking out for two hours on a huge stage, with about 400 lights and a monster sound system, in front of two cricket fields full of people surrounded by skyscrapers just as the sun’s going down you’ll have some idea – it was totally amazing! Having said that, we still love playing to small intimate crowds where it feels like you’re having a full-on party with a load of your best mates.
So tell us which Trance Floors Zetan Spore can be found at in the near future?
We’ve just headlined the Saturday night for the dance stage at Alchemy Festival in Lincolnshire and we are hosting Hypertribe” (our SW psy crew) room at Transfest in L2 in Truro on 25th September; headlining Conscious Monkeys at Newcastle Uni on 3rd October and Aum-ni-verse in Plymouth on 19th December, not to mention a whole host of smaller gigs like The Fawcett in Portsmouth, Esquires in Bedford, Club 85 in Hitchin, etc – see the website for details.
When you’re not writing music, performing live, what do you guys enjoy doing to wind down?
Ian: Being twins, we’re both quite similar on this one – living in Cornwall provides most of our recreational activities – we both love walking and hiking and Cornwall has such a variety of beautiful places to go, every time you go out, it’s like being on holiday – from the beaches and cliffs to the woodlands and deserted moors, you just can’t beat it. We also love to put on small parties up on the tors of Bodmin Moor and Dartmoor and the secluded beaches of West Cornwall (especially on a full moon when the fungi are ripe for the picking!) – just a handful of close friends larking around in natures playground – love it!
Mark: I love knitting too! (Not really) – I like to listen to a lot of psy-dub and chill stuff and have written a solo album under the name of Lunarsonic (www.myspace.com/lunarsonic) which has been directly inspired by the above mentioned Cornish countryside/fungus.
Ian and Mark, many thanks for your time, it’s been a pleasure as always.
Thank you! See you on the dancefloor!
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For more information
Psylicious Acts: http://www.psylicious.com/acts/zetan-spore
Aardvark Records: http://www.aardvarkrecords.co.uk/zetanspore.htm
Images and logos courtesy of Psylicious and Zetan Spore . Not to be reproduced without permission.
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Other Features By Psylicious:
Initiating a ‘Digital Domain’ with Savage Circuit
Breaking into your Unconscious Mind(s)
Expanding Your Senses with Odo7
Talamasca ‘Make Some Noise’!
Into the Sunrise with Cosmosis
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.