Interview: In Conversation with Seb Zito
Image by Carl Fisher
Since his discovery of electronic music in the early 90’s, Seb Zito’s ascent through the ranks from London’s pirate radio scene to fully blown international club phenomenon is best summated by one word; “journey.” Zito’s is a journey experienced through and alongside the evolution of the sound of the UK underground. As a DJ, Zito’s sets echo this sentiment. Rooting himself in house and techno, Zito’s sound distinguishes itself through a rawness that is telling of his origins as a true raver. His work behind the scenes as a producer and founder of labels Seven Dials and F&Z have garnered him much respect from the house and techno scenes, and his relationship with party FUSE has seen him play some of the world’s most renowned clubs culminating in a residency at Amnesia, Ibiza with FUSE and Hyte. After years in the business, 2021 marks a career milestone for Zito with the release of his debut album, Truth in My Steps via Eats Everything’s Edible Records. And again, it’s all about the journey. With influences ranging from the Amen breaks of jungle and grime to dubstep and garage, Truth in My Steps is a reflection of Zito’s love affair with the UK electronic music scene.
We spent some time with Zito to find out more about his experience and growth in the world of electronic music, and what we can expect from him following the release of Truth in My Steps:
Set the tone for us. Why the arts?
As a child I used to sing and perform at all of my school shows and I was also in the school choir at secondary school. I didn’t really enjoy that style of singing so gave that up pretty quickly. But my interest in music is just natural, I mean how can you not love music. I took up djing when I was about 14 and I was instantly hooked, my whole life was about buying records and mastering the art of djing. From my teens to early 20’s I didn’t really see it as a career, It was just a hobby but the more I got into it the more I felt compelled to take it up full time. In comparison to artists now I guess I started late but it doesn’t matter what age or time you start, you’ve just got to follow your passion in life.
Was there a specific moment in your life where you thought, “this is what I want to do”?
Yeah, I took 4 months off work to travel around South America. Up until this point I worked for BT for almost 7 years, joining the company mid through A Levels, so from 17 years old. I guess this time away made me re-evaluate what I really wanted to do in life. So as soon as I returned I focussed more on my music and within 2 years of returning I managed to break the mould and pursue my passion.
Tell us about your adventures in pirate radio – what is one of your favorite memories from this time?
So many stories from this period but the locations of the studios always got me. We had a studio for Subjam FM that was in a squat on the north circular when all the houses were abandoned. Whilst I was talking on the mic a rat jumped up at me and over the airwaves I pretty much screamed like a little girl. The phone calls and texts we got that day, I think it was the busiest phone line we ever had.
Which comes first when you’re producing – the sound or the idea?
I guess the idea comes first but it changes daily. I really just try and create from a pure place, or a clear head with no real thoughts of sound and ideas because those are the moments where real music is made.
Does your material feature any collaborations?
Yes, just the one feature by Coco Worth which I received through a top line company. It was originally recorded at 90 bpm but I sped it up to 130 and made it into a 2step garage track.
What’s on your current playlist?
Loads of unreleased music from myself and artists from my 7 Dials label. Timmy P, Zac Stanton, Madvilla to name a few. Then also music from the Fuse, Infuse & Locus crew.
What is your favourite track on Truth In My Steps and why should fans look out for it?
It’s a cross between 2am Lover & Mans From London, mainly because its styles that I wouldn’t normally make but also I’m a proud Londoner and both garage & jungle are London made sounds.
Tell us about the chemistry you have with your fans on stage.
When it clicks, it’s the best feeling in the world. In the UK I can really throw things about and mix up the styles and no matter what, they stay with me from start to finish.
In South America I have to switch things up a little different and keep things groovy. I really do just have to play things by ear, but I always try and play for the crowd that’s in front of me.
What techniques do you experiment with to get your original sound?
I like to try and use different synths for bass lines, I don’t really stick with one sound. And I pretty much do this with every element. It’s all about keeping things fresh and trying new ways of creating sounds.
Take us through a day in the recording studio.
It changes every day but for instance, today I started with my bass line on Serum and will record loads of hits from my Ableton push. I’ll just record for 5-10 minutes or more until something starts to click. Then I work my kick into that baseline, making sure it gels and sounds unified. Then the rest of the percussion is added and lastly the melodies are worked around the bass lines. The mixing process and effects are always done at the end.
What do you keep close by while you’re playing a set?
My record bag. LOL, that’s it! I try to keep my phone away from the set up because it’s just a distraction and I hate taking videos etc.
Any emerging artists on your radar?
Yeah, the guys on my label Timmy P, Zac Stanton, Madvilla and other artists like ADMNTi, T.Jacques, Nathan Pinder, and Ollie Rant.
What gets your creative juices flowing?
I like to listen to other styles of music and then try to infuse those styles into my sound. Also working out really clears the mind and helps to get me motivated.
Take us through your collection of gear, tech or software that accompanies your creative expression.
For my baselines I use Serum, Massive and my Emu Orbit which is a 90’s hardware synth.
For the music side I use Korg M1, Emu Orbit, Sylenth & Native Instruments.
I program the majority of my drums through Ableton using drum samples from Splice or what I’ve sampled from old records.
Any side projects you’re working on?
I’ve got something I’m working on right now but I’m going to keep that a secret. Let’s just say nothing will be released until I have a large catalogue of music.
How have you refined your craft since you entered the industry?
I’m always trying to approach music differently from how I produce to how I play. You have to push yourself outside of your comfort zone in order to progress and I try to do this whenever I can. I think this process is how you refine your craft.
Breakdown the news for us: what can we expect from you this year?
Finally my album Truth in My Steps will be released along with an album tour. You’ll see music out on some big labels as well as my own, and hopefully towards the end of this year I’ll reveal my new project.
Famous last words?
It won’t be a late one.
Listen to and download Truth in My Steps here.
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