We caught up with Australian producer and DJ, ZEKE BEATS, at Endless Summer Nights in Orlando, Florida this past month. We got the inside scoop on his journey as an artist – how it all started, his experience living in the pandemic, personal favorite production tools, current favorite artists, his opinion on aliens, the story behind his new EP Lost In Automation, and more! Electric Hawk has it all in this exclusive interview with ZEKE BEATS!
Steph Castro, Electric Hawk: Thank you so much for meeting with me! First of all, how has living in the pandemic been for you as a traveling artist? I know it’s been a difficult time for a lot of people.
ZEKE BEATS: It’s been really tough, obviously, for a lot of people, but it’s impacted international artists on a whole different level. A lot of people don’t take that into consideration as international artists. We have a special visa called an O-1 visa, which will only permit us to work in the specialty/field that the visa permits us to. So, for somebody like myself, an Australian citizen, I can’t even get a job as a delivery driver, or any other job at all, to support myself during the pandemic. Even though my livelihood consists of performing.
It’s one of the biggest flaws in the whole system. I’m not eligible for any sort of funding from the American government but I’m not eligible for any sort of funding from the Australian Government. I don’t pay Australian taxes, considering I make money here. They put people in a hard position, and it’s been extremely frustrating. Especially when I see other American artists saying, “I can’t play shows,” and there I am behind my laptop. There are people who have the opportunity to work, and then there are people like myself, and I’m not one to complain. I think I’ve only ever had an outburst one time on Twitter. It’s definitely impacted me as an international artist.
SC: In happier news, you’ve been a main contender of the Endless Summer Nights experience so far. You performed at the first event a couple of months ago, then you performed in Indiana, and now you’re back for the big summer show. What are your thoughts on your experience with Endless Summer Nights?
ZEKE BEATS: John (founder) has been doing an awesome job running all of these events. This is actually really funny because I did that outburst on Twitter one time. John was the first person to reach out to me and say, “Dude, I’ll bring you out to Orlando. I’ve got a drive-in coming up.” So, it’s actually really funny how this all relates. I was like, okay, awesome, is it all COVID friendly? It’s been awesome. John has been nothing but the most hospitable, kindest, sweetest; truly one of the most amazing promoters I’ve worked with. And that’s due to him being so attentive. It’s always been an awesome time here in Orlando and Indiana. I’m very grateful for that, and I really hope to keep building the relationship with Endless Summer Nights and Primal Productions Management.
SC: John is amazing; such a good guy. The team has done such a great job with everything COVID-related and keeping everyone safe.
How did you get into experimental bass? What led you to choose to produce this type of sound?
ZEKE BEATS: It wasn’t really a choice. It was just what I was naturally attracted to and what just comes out of me when I’m writing music. I think it has got a lot to do with my upbringing with electronic music. I’ve got three older brothers and when I was super young they were all going to raves and showing me this crazy electronic music. So I think it’s got a lot to do with my music style/production being genuine and unique in the way that it is. That, and the combination of what I like to listen to.
SC: You also have a background in scratching. How’d you get into that?
ZEKE BEATS: I used to be a hip-hop DJ. I used to battle and tour with hip-hop artists.
SC: How long ago was that?
ZEKE BEATS: That would have been well over 10 years ago.
SC: So you were touring with hip hop artists, and then made the switch to EDM?
ZEKE BEATS: Yeah, more electronic stuff, where it naturally progressed. There’s this night in Los Angeles, called Low-End Theory. It was a hugely monumental shift into that realm and becoming friends with one of my best friends now, EPROM. He taught me a lot in terms of music production in my early days. I started DJing when I was 13. But I basically just kept at it because I was passionate about it; eventually bought equipment and started battling and scratching when I was like 18. I won a few state championships in Australasian titles, world ranking, and then a world championship. Then, you’ve got to train and practice with the Bruce Lee of scratching. I felt I got to my peak with that and then moved into more of a [electronic] music production world.
SC: You were like, “Next level… here we go.”
I want to move on into talking about your new EP that came out on Excision’s label, Subsidia. What would you describe the EP’s sound as?
ZEKE BEATS: It’s definitely drawing inspiration from my very first EP, The Meltdown. That was my original kind of sound and style. Once I started touring, I progressed in a good way – but I was diverging away from my roots of what I was truly passionate about. Then during the pandemic, I had a chance to sit down and reflect. I asked myself what makes me truly happy, what made ZEKE BEATS. As an artist, I have to stop caring about what everyone else wants, and that’s when it clicked to me. This is what I really love. So the music that you hear on the latest EP is a reflection of coming back to where it all began, and what I truly love and appreciate. It’s a raw representation of ZEKE BEATS. It’s the best EP that I put effort into, having you hit play from the beginning and play all the way through.
SC: I noticed that it flows perfectly.
ZEKE BEATS: I want to bring back the artistry into being an artist again, because I feel a lot of people have stepped away from that. I’m not trying to disrespect sorts of music styles. Every music and style has a place in the scene. I saw that it was getting very monotonous and repetitive in certain music styles. It didn’t excite me, and I wanted to make music that excited me. I want people to be able to listen to this EP 10 years from now and think, “This is forward-thinking monumental shit.” The most important thing is it makes my heart happy. Even if nobody liked it, I still have the gratitude and the knowingness that I’m true to myself in my art. I feel very complete, and fully unapologetically me.
SC: I feel like that separates you from the masses. Are you really putting the work into your craft? Are you creating a story?
What is your favorite track off the new EP and why?
ZEKE BEATS: That’s a really tough one because the EP has a pretty good amount of diversity. My favorite part of “Ridden” for example, is the flute melody part where it’s a tribal, melodic, celebratory style sound. This is uplifting – it’s transcending, and then all the plucks. Also, the breakdown on “Faded” is so calming and reflective; and the hip-hop beat on the intro. It goes everywhere, it makes it exciting to listen to. It’s alive. Nothing repeats a whole lot, like a lot of my music. I don’t like things repeating. “Vibe” is me going out on a limb as well, because I’ve never really shown that side of mine.
SC: “Vibe” was a magical, beautiful, ethereal side. I love it.
ZEKE BEATS: I want to do more of that and keep being unapologetically me. It was such a big learning curve. Every time I talk about it, it makes me so happy. I know the path; I know my path. Whereas I didn’t know where I was going before, and where my intention was being put. I was being dissuaded a lot.
SC: I’ve been waiting for that song to come out for so long since I’ve heard you play it. Now it’s finally out; that was in the vault for a while!
ZEKE BEATS: I’ve got a lot of music in the vault. I wanted it to come out once things started moving again, and I want to tour the songs. It gave me a lot of time to put into the release.
SC: What are your favorite plugins for production?
ZEKE BEATS: I use a multitude of plugins like Serum, Omnisphere, Synthplant. It’s good and slightly complex to use.
SC: I was playing around with Synthplant with my friend one time. It’s one of the coolest plugins I’ve ever seen.
ZEKE BEATS: There’s a lot of cool sounds to show if you like the presets. Then there’s Hive 2 which a lot of people don’t use. I’d say those are my favorite actual suite plugins. Then for EQ, Pro Q3 by FabFilter. Those are my main go-to’s.
SC: Who are some of your favorite artists right now?
ZEKE BEATS: Sophie… Rest In Peace, Hudson Mohawke, LORN, and I’d say, Klimeks. I like a little wave music. That’s what I kind of listen to. That’s where a lot of my melodic breakdowns come from.
SC: I noticed the intro to your EP “Undisclosed” talks about UFOs. On that note, if an alien invasion happened, what would you do?
ZEKE BEATS: I think it’s already happened. Well, I believe that we already are amongst aliens. Hypothetically, what would I do? I’d probably talk to them and let them know- I mean, it doesn’t even come down to talking. It’s all about energy and feeling. So, first of all, I’d be concentrating on feelings of goodness and peace and gratitude and showing, “This is us.”
SC: Would you show them your music if that was possible?
ZEKE BEATS: I don’t even know if they’d be able to interpret music the way that we interpret music but if they could, yeah totally.
It was a pleasure to learn more about the personal side of Zeke Beats, from his Aussie roots to best friends, and his music, of course! Catch his set this month at Lost Lands to hear the EP’s fire tracks and more!
Be sure to listen to Zeke’s new EP, Lost In Automation, out now on Subsidia!
Looking for new music? Keep up with our weekly Spotify Playlist, Fresh Hunts. Updated every Friday with all the latest releases. Whether it’s the newest drops from Zeke Beats, all your favorite artists, some old-school, or underground…we just want you to hear it.
September is National Suicide Prevention Month. Year-round, there need to be discussions over suicidal thoughts and mental health conditions. However, September offers a dedicated time to come together and learn or share strength about a heavy topic. The National Alliance on Mental Illness exists as a source containing information to raise awareness about suicidal thoughts and mental health crises. More people carrying the knowledge and tools will help more family members and loved ones down the line.