From Amiga computers in 1992 to Moog and Roland Synthesizers today, performing LIVE at European festivals and over 100 official electronic music releases to his name, we are proud to announce the 9th vinyl release on Rave Radio Records features the raw hardcore talent of one of Berlins’ finest: Z-NEO.
By pre-ordering this 4 track breakbeat hardcore release ‘New Hope EP’ you will also get this exciting stuff:
- FREE instant digital download
- FREE LTD edition stickers
- FREE bonus 5th digital track to download (which is incredible!)
- Automatic competition entry into winning a LTD edition pair of Rave Radio Records slipmats
- & all pre-orders are 10% cheaper than the main release!
Listen to clips and pre-order your ‘New Hope EP’ copy from our vinyl store below.
Shipping target date mid April 2021.
Breakbeat hardcore alias: Z-NEO
Place of origin: Berlin/Germany
Current location: Near Frankfurt/Germany
Favourite personal object: My Couch
Biggest hero(s): My parents, Shigeru Miyamoto, Richard D. James
What year did you start making music: 1992
FULL ARTIST INTERVIEW WITH Z-NEO – 19th of February 2021
What first inspired you to start making Electronic music?
Z-NEO: It was based on pure luck – in the early 90s my Dad bought a used Amiga 2000. At the end of 1992 after spending some time playing cracked games, my brother and I discovered a little hardware extension that came with the Amiga. We plugged it in, got a copy of Protracker, searched for a cable to record the headphone output of our Boombox, sampled the first breakbeats and never looked back :-). After some experiments my brother and I started to arrange the first tracks. I’m still wondering how we managed to program music in hexadecimal values without any knowledge about music and without having a manual for our tracker-software. But those were the days 🙂
You’ve been heavily into the Psychedelic trance and ambient scene since the early noughties, tell us how you got into that scene and what artist names you go/went under?
Z-NEO: I started to do some dark Psytrance-stuff in the end of the 90s but was getting deeper into Psy when I teamed up with a good friend (Iguana) who was a Psytrance-DJ at this time. I really liked the scene’s parties/festivals because it had the same vibe like in the raves of the early 90s. It was more like the ‘one-family-concept’ which I always admired in the early days, no stylish club-people and no bouncer-shit, just music. Our project name was ‘Naked Tourist’ and in 2003 we had our first release, our first live gig was following in 2004. We had the big pleasure to be a part of the Parvati Records family, which today is one of the best known and most respected Psytrance labels regarding Forest and Dark-Psy. In 2008 I was a little bit bored of Psy and the group split up, so I was focused more on other music. Some years later (2014) a friend of me (Brainshaker) and I restarted the whole Psy-thing again under the name ‘Nobot’ – and again we had the big pleasure to go with the Parvati Records Family. Big ups to Giuseppe who is one of the most loyal and nicest person I’ve ever met.
Besides this, since 1998 I’ve also been producing a lot of ‘open minded electronic music’ which stands for a mix between chill, breaks, IDM and Braindance. The project names are ‘My Private Psychedelic Reel’ and ‘Zoneotura’ and the influences came from the usual suspects like RDJ, Orbital, FSOL, Plaid, BOC and so on.
Before 1998 my brother and I were mostly producing Breakbeat and DnB.
What’s been this new aspiration to release breakbeat hardcore and why are we only hearing Z-Neo making breakbeat hardcore now in 2021?
Z-NEO: In the early 90s when breakbeat hardcore had its peak, coming from Germany and neither doing music on real gear (pure 8-Bit-sampling on the Amiga) nor having a DAT-recorder disqualified us for getting in contact with labels haha….. and forced us to keep our tracks for ourselves and for our friends. We were really upset when the music developed past the early 90’s breakbeat hardcore – which meant while Jungle and DnB were getting bigger, the last remaining bits of breakbeat hardcore turned mostly into 4 to da floor-music which wasn’t our cup of tea. So back then we somehow lost the chance ever to release some proper breaks.
Through the years from time to time I made some breakbeats, mostly just for fun, and also released two tracks on a German label in 2002 (big up to Risk Indust). About two years ago I noticed that there was a kind of comeback for hardcore breakbeat so I decided to do some tracks, but just for funzies 😊. Once I’d finished 3 tracks, I sent them to the German label ‘Dragon Technicals’ (big up to Systec, Shar-Pei and Sweetseal) and these guys were very kind, friendly and helpful. I can’t thank them enough. They made the contact with Rave Radio Records and here we are 🙂
You’ve got your debut 4 track breakbeat hardcore EP (New Hope EP) coming out on Rave Radio Records in April 2021, What track stands out for you on it as your best?
Z-NEO: That’s a tough one. For me every track has some personal special influences and I guess I like them all equally. ‘What Ever It Takes’ is dedicated to my dad. ‘Into Blue’ and ‘For Your Love’ are inspired by my lovely girl and the track ‘Keep coming’ is standing out because it was possible to feature two of my mates which was a matter of heart for a long time 🙂
A1: What Ever IT Takes (Preview Clip)
A2: Into Blue (Preview Clip)
You’ve recorded a live vocalist on a couple of the tracks, how did that come about?
Z-NEO: While I was doing electro music in 2011 I recorded some of the vocals from ‘Into Blue’ and ‘For Your Love’ with the vocalist Katha. She is a professional singer from Berlin who worked with a lot of people in the industry at that time. Back then we used the vocals for our electro-tracks but I recently thought why not use it again? I also had the feeling the vocals could fit perfectly into the oldskool breakbeat context.
B1: For Your Love (Preview Clip)
Track B2 on the EP is ‘Keep Coming ft. Mahnfeld and VP’, tell us about them and your relationship and desire to collaborate
Z-NEO: Yeah it was a big honour to get the chance to do a track with both. Mahnfeld is my brother with whom it all started. He’s also my moral authority when it comes to questions like “Can I use this sample” or “Is it too cheesy” and stuff like that. He was and is a heavy influence for my music and he always has some hints and tips with what to do better or how to create more of that oldskool vibe. His feedback is always really helpful and on the track ‘Keep Coming’ we were doing the architecture together, picking the right things for the right parts and so on.
And VP is my best mate from the youth days. When we were young he introduced me to Hip Hop (props to Easy E) and I forced him to listen to electronic music ha ha. In the 90s he was producing some dope beats and rhymes with his HipHop-project so I was lucky to reactivate him. He was dropping the ‘Six Dre Zero Eight’- sample because 6308 was our old zip-code – and as Dr. Dre was always talking about ‘199Dre’ (instead of 1993) VP was also using this kind of code. He’s a real G and his name stands for ‘Vertikale Preisbindung’.
B2: Keep Coming ft. Mahnfeld & VP (Preview Clip)
How do you go about making a hardcore track, what process do you through and what’s the first thing you do and the last thing you do at the end of a pucka studio session?
Z-NEO: In most of the cases I’m starting with some beats and then adding samples and melodies. I try to sketch a part that is about 1-2 minutes long and then I start with quantum mechanics ha ha, trying a lot of different melodies and parts and sounds. After a few days I get a feeling if things already feel right for me or not. Then I work a little bit on the technical side, shaping the beats with EQs and compressors and trying to get the beats to a sit where I don’t puke anymore about the bad quality. At this point I mostly have enough material in my sketch for the whole track, so I start to stretch the parts out more, adding more samples and details like fill-ins and so on. When the arrangement is finished I’m usually noticing that the track sounds completely shitty so I have to work over the beats and some of the sounds. I’m struggling a lot before I think a track is finished. In the end I try to master my mixdown on my own and that’s the point where I discover again, there are a lot of issues that I have to correct. Mostly it takes me another 20-40 hours per track to get the technical aspects finished.
New Hope EP comes across with piles of emotion, would you say it’s accurate to say that?
Z-NEO: Yes that’s accurate :-). I guess that’s why this music will always have a special place in my heart. It’s really interesting to watch how different music styles have different kind of arrangements and ‘rules’. What I really admire is the pure energy and rollercoaster-feeling that hardcore breakbeats can contain. I guess in most cases my brain isn’t satisfied by music that has only one major theme which is rolled out over the whole track. I also really love it when darkness and light meet each other so hardcore breakbeats are perfect for me. Hardcore also has the ‘anything-is-possible-vibe’ from the early days where anything was possible 🙂
What hardcore producers/DJ’s are you biggest inspiration?
Z-NEO: For me the early Liam Howlett production was absolutely outstanding. The ‘Experience’ is still my favourite album, I’ve listened to it a few hundred times ! still impressed about how he created this massive energy with this doper than dope-rollercoaster-feeling on his limited equipment. He was also a genius regarding the choice of samples and melodies.
Besides countless others my other inspiration comes from N.R.G/Liquid Crystal, ACEN, Hyper on Experience, Mike Slammer & Red Alert and so on. It’s awesome what these guys were doing back then. The tracks from N.R.G./Liquid Crystal have been on another level, I don’t know how they did it. ACEN gave us shivers, HOE’s ‘Timestretch’ changed my life and the ‘Ganja Man EP’ from Slammin Vinyl will still be my first choice of vinyl.
I also have a deep respect for the things and the music that KLF did. I really miss that kind of statement and attitude.
If you could take ONLY 1 hardcore label’s back catalogue to a desert island what would it be?
Z-NEO: That’s also a tough one. Perhaps I’d pick XL Recordings. Even if they are not pure hardcore throughout, they still gave us so many undeniable bangers and acts like Prodigy, SL2, Liquid and T99 – they all made outstanding stuff.
A geeky question here, what’s your favourite studio toy, your ‘go to’ for hardcore music production?
Z-NEO: That would be my PC home computer system ha ha. I’m in the lucky situation to be able to choose from a nice variety of mostly analogue synths and modular stuff, but regarding sound, interface and fun I’d choose the Roland SH-101 for hardcore productions. Also the Moog Voyager is a beast when it comes to Reese basslines and other things and the Dave Smith OB-6 has this special beautiful sound that is hard to describe.
Do you have any favourite new breakbeat hardcore producers that you dig?
Z-NEO: When I discovered tracks from Systec and Shar-Pei on Dragon Technicals I was blown away because they would have been massive tunes in 1992/93. Yeah, I guess these are my favourites as they create the kind of vibe that I’m after.
What would you say your biggest achievement in music is?
Z-NEO: I think my big milestones were like the first record deal and my first album. Two years ago I had my 100th release on a label which was a big achievement for me. And while the Psy-music gave us the opportunity to play live on festivals in Europe and around the world I guess my personal favourite was playing live in Tokyo with my brother in front of 1000 people. We’re both big fans of Japanese culture, especially video games and I guess we and our credit cards will always remember the trip to wonderland 🙂
What is your biggest learning with making hardcore and what emotional value overcomes you when producing breakbeats?
Z-NEO: In the early days for us it was like making hardcore and besides finding out how the program works. Nowadays I’d say there are a lot of small pieces to the puzzles. Stuff like how to EQ a sound to sit in the mix, how to compress sounds, also how to create tension and release and so on. I’m also very strict about how the snare and other elements in the beats should sound because I aim for a sound that is not too fat regarding the beats like nu-skool breaks or DnB. I like to have good transients and also a kind of modern edge to me sound but with the elements and style of 1992 production. It’s always a bit like squaring the circle!
About the emotional value: I’m really slow with producing because I’m reworking the tracks again and again. I’ve learnt there is a point where I finalise which melodies, harmonies and vocals should stay in the track. This depends on the emotional value that those parts are giving me at this point. And then I mostly don’t change anything anymore. When I’m 80-100 hours into a producing a track, I have to remember that I’ve already had very positive emotions when I originally started producing the track parts and that I don’t have to change it. It’s like you have to remember the goose bumps you were getting while listening to a certain part for the first 10 times and then be sure to remember this feeling in the case that you question this part – which will happen after 50 hours at the latest :-).
What’s to come from Z-Neo, music and unrelated music?
Z-NEO: I’ve just prepared the next few hardcore breakbeat tracks and hope they’re good enough to get released. With my other project ‘Nobot’ there are three tracks on a compilation from Parvati Records soon.
I also want to thank Sammy for being such a nice guy and for the trust to release those 4 tracks on vinyl, never thought this will happen 🙂 A big thanks for giving me this chance 🙂
SAMMY: “Likewise dude. Your music was meant for the world to experience and listen to”……
Pre-order your copy of New Hope EP by Z-NEO here: https://www.raveradiorecords.com/vinyl