Home Interviews THE POWER OF SOLITUDE: An Interview With Zakè

    THE POWER OF SOLITUDE: An Interview With Zakè

    Drone Ambient powerhouse and runner of the legendary label 'Past Inside The Present' Zakè sat with Discipline Magazine to discuss all things Zakè, his process and the power of ambient music.

    Drone Ambient powerhouse and runner of the legendary 'Past Inside The Present' Zakè

    Discipline Mag: Many thanks to you for taking the time to answer some questions today Zakè, so to start off, as someone who is clearly so heavily involved in the world of ambient and drone music today, I would love to ask you a little bit about your start in that and what got you interested in this genre of music.

    Zakè: My initiation into the realm of ambient music traces back to a serendipitous encounter during my formative years as an inquisitive teenager. The catalyst for this immersive journey was the unearthing of my mother’s cherished vinyl collection, an act that not only exposed me to the nostalgic allure of yesteryears but also laid the foundation for my profound fascination with the enigmatic domain of “Space Music.”

    Within my mother’s eclectic collection resided a Roxy Music LP, a sonic relic that transported her back to the vibrant cultural milieu of 1970s New York. In the course of our conversations, she regaled me with captivating narratives of her encounters with this mesmerizing genre, and her acquaintances’ zealous adoration for the ethereal soundscapes and celestial harmonies that it offered. A particular term she employed, “Space Music,” ignited a thirst for knowledge within me, propelling me to embark on a quest to comprehend its enigmatic essence.

    In the pursuit of this cosmic sonic realm, my curiosity led me to the doorstep of an artist who epitomized the ethos of “Space Music” – the illustrious Brian Eno. His compositions, adorned with celestial tonalities and vast soundscapes, became my sonic sanctuary. It was in these atmospheric pieces of work that I found a harmonious convergence between my youthful fascination with outer space and the evocative potential of sound as an artistic medium.

    Concurrently, my father’s musical predilections provided an additional tapestry of inspiration that enriched my musical upbringing. A devoted connoisseur of orchestral and symphonic works, he meticulously curated a lovely collection of cassettes and LPs that reveled in the majesty of classical compositions. My home became a sanctuary of sonorous indulgence, permeated by the resounding symphonies of the great masters and accompanied by the grandeur of a resounding stereo system.

    Moreover, my father’s penchant for vintage cinema and his predilection for indulging in the evocative soundtracks of yore imbued me with a profound appreciation for the seamless marriage of music and moving images. The enchanting melodies that underscored the silver screen’s narratives sparked an ever-burgeoning curiosity in me, drawing me further into the labyrinthine world of sound and its emotive potential.

    Yet, it was the local record stores that acted as the gateways to my immersive odyssey into the ambient genre. I encountered a treasure trove of sonic delights, each waiting to be discovered. These veritable repositories of musical history not only sated my insatiable appetite for “Space Music” but also became the crucibles in which my passion for exploring diverse sonic realms was nurtured. My enduring affinity for this captivating musical genre germinated from a fortuitous encounter with my mother’s vinyl collection and blossomed through the enriching influences of my father’s classical inclinations and affinity for cinematic soundtracks. Thus, I found myself entwined in the mesmerizing web of “Space Music,” with local record stores acting as the guiding stars that beckoned me on a wondrous voyage of sonic exploration.

    Discipline: So I note that there’s a broad variety of different styles that fall under the umbrella of “ambient” making, as someone who seems to have a heavy focus on the warmth of tape and the world of orchestral composition, could you outline your processes briefly with regard to what interests you in ambient and what sort of music/sounds you like to make?

    Zakè: The noble cassette tape represents a harmonious convergence of nostalgia and necessity that underpins the core of my artistic endeavors. It is a medium that captivates me with its charming hiss, captivating warmth, and endearing imperfections, drawing me inexorably into its captivating embrace. Embracing the idiosyncrasies of this format, I find myself delving into the realms of tape looping, accentuating the beauty of repetition, and fervently focusing on the ethereal essence of small melodic fragments. In this captivating symphony of sound, I discover the perfect alchemy for both attentive listening and the intricate arrangement of my own works.

    Whenever the seeds of creation take root within my mind, they invariably manifest as a concise yet potent melody, or perhaps a poignant chord progression, and at times, even an evocative field recording. This initial spark becomes the nucleus from which my artistic endeavor unfolds, an embryonic structure upon which I meticulously converge layers of sonic expression. It is through this iterative process, akin to an alchemical dance, that novel patterns and captivating sonic landscapes come into existence. I revel in the sublime experience of weaving intricate tapestries of sound, introducing novel sonic elements that interweave and harmonize with the existing motifs.

    Yet, within the rhythmic tapestry of my compositions, I find myself irresistibly drawn to the hypnotic allure of repetition. As I surrender to this beguiling cadence, I relish the profound sense of entrancement that ensues, both for myself and my listeners. It is within these captivatingly repetitive movements that I discover new layers of meaning and significance, the subtle nuances that may not have been inherently present in the original recording but are revealed through the transcendent communion between sound and soul.

    Engaging in this creative process, my mind and ears embark on a voyage of discovery, as they unveil the enigmatic interplay of hidden details and subtleties. These subconscious additions become inseparable from the fabric of the composition, infusing it with a mystical aura that transcends the mere constraints of the recorded sound.

    The venerable cassette tape has become an essential companion in my artistic odyssey, acting as a conduit for my nostalgia-tinged inspiration and offering a medium that harmonizes beautifully with my creative vision. As I traverse the realms of tape looping, repetition, and melodic exploration, I unearth the beauty of hypnotic soundscapes, drawing both myself and my audience into a mesmerizing sonic reverie, where the interplay between the conscious and the subconscious fosters an unparalleled experience of artistic expression.

    Discipline: So tell us about your new album orchestral tape studies volume 2, the follow up to your original orchestral tape studies album. I have to admit from my perspective as someone who has followed your work for a few years and listened to the original Orchestral Tape Studies, I really enjoyed it and appreciated how the 2nd album expands on what made the first album so impressive.

    Zakè: OTSII, with its distinct refinement surpassing its predecessor, remains unwaveringly loyal to the essence of its progenitor, faithfully adhering to a meticulously crafted formula. In its very essence, OTSII pays homage to the past, weaving together fragments of antiquated and enigmatic classical 78s and cassettes, whose historical significance imbues the arrangements with a sense of transcendental allure. These fragments, procured with an ardent devotion to preserving musical antiquity, serve as the foundational building blocks upon which the sonic tapestry of OTSII.

    The creative process behind OTSII is akin to an alchemical transformation, where these antiquated musical relics are subjected to a profound metamorphosis through deft refinement and rigorous manipulation. The result is a harmonious symphony of old and new, the interplay of bygone melodies with novel sonic expressions, exuding an ethereal charm that bewitches the senses and transports the listener across the temporal divide.

    One distinctive aspect that distinguishes OTSII from its predecessor is the discernible presence of enhanced structural coherence. I invited three skilled musicians, each adding their unique touch to the symphonic canvas to appear on the recordings. The inclusion of City of Dawn, wielding a bow/guitar enriches the arrangements with a delicate yet potent harmonic undercurrent. Olivia May, a virtuoso on the cello, bestows her enchanting prowess upon the recordings, embellishing them with rich and resonant sonorities that evoke the deepest sentiments of the soul. Notably, my very own teenage daughter, Charlotte, contributes her prodigious talent on the viola, her musical ingenuity harmoniously complementing the arrangements and adding a personal touch that reverberates with familial intimacy.

     OTSII stands as a testament to the profound artistry that emerges when the past converges with the present, and when the virtuosic efforts of a talented ensemble harmoniously coalesce. It is a celebration of antiquity and innovation, a musical odyssey that transcends temporal confines, and an auditory adventure that beckons the discerning listener to embark upon a transformative journey through the realms of refined composition and emotive expression.

    Orchestral Tape Studies II album art

    Discipline: One thing I note with the genre of ambient is that for some listeners it can feel vague or lacking in emotion, or seems like it lacks an intent to make a personal connection with a listener. However, with the albums I have to listened to from your catalogue, I get a pretty strong sense of a variety of emotions that reflect different periods of time. I was hoping to ask about where you come from with your writing what sort of feelings you wish to convey to your listeners.

    Zakè: It is intriguing to observe the divergent responses that the genre of ambient music elicits among listeners. The albums within my catalogue indeed serve as poignant testimonials to the expressive potential inherent in this genre, transcending mere sonic abstraction to delve into the intricacies of human emotion and memory. At the core of my creative process lies a profound intent to forge a genuine and intimate connection with listeners. Each composition is a manifestation of my personal journey, infused with the essence of my experiences, thoughts, and introspections. The thematic nuances interwoven into my ambient creations encapsulate a wide spectrum of feelings, mirroring the vicissitudes of life’s many chapters. Some compositions may evoke a sense of wistful nostalgia, akin to the gentle breeze that carries the fragrance of days gone by. Others may resonate with the exuberance of hope, akin to the first rays of dawn gently illuminating a new horizon. Moreover, moments of contemplative serenity, the tempestuous turmoil of profound loss, and the transcendental elation of profound discoveries all find their rightful place within the sonic realms I endeavor to craft.

    My aspiration, in composing these emotive soundscapes, is to provide solace, introspection, and a pathway to self-discovery for the receptive listener. It is the shared human experience, the intrinsic interconnectedness that binds us all, which I aim to touch upon with each musical endeavor. Through the language of melody and harmony, I seek to foster a sense of unity, bridging the gap between artist and audience, as we embark together on a profound voyage of emotional exploration and discovery. In essence, my writing is a deeply personal endeavor to translate the ineffable, ethereal nuances of human emotion into a tangible auditory experience. As I navigate the boundless depths of the ambient genre, I endeavor to leave behind fragments of my own soul, suspended within the intangible fabric of sound, and to invite my listeners to embark on their own introspective journeys, discovering echoes of their own stories and emotions amidst the harmonies and echoes I set forth.

    Discipline: With regards to the process of making your work, what are some of the practices you’ve identified in your work (with regards to, do you prefer working day or night, is there a preferred season, do you mostly work when inspiration strikes etc)

    Zakè: I prefer working in quiet. It is during the hours of early morning and late night when the threshold between the conscious and the subconscious is at its most malleable. Undisturbed solitude empowers me to devote myself entirely to the creative process. The symphonic alchemy of my creativity seems to reach its zenith after the culmination of a long and eventful day or the invigorating advent of a refreshed morning. With the memories and experiences of the day’s journey lingering like delicate notes in the ether, I find my senses imbued with a heightened sensitivity to the nuances of emotion, sound, and melody. Likewise, in the embrace of dawn-awakening, my mind is akin to a blank canvas, receptive and eager to explore the boundless possibilities of musical expression.

    Discipline: With many of your albums, one thing I find highly engrossing is the album artwork that involves photography of different spaces and environments, can you run me briefly through how these photos end up being your album artwork? I was curious if you work with a photographer/designer or generally tend to do your own photography and album cover design for your solo releases.

    Zakè: The visual aesthetics that complement the aural narratives of my albums hold a special significance in my creative process, as they serve to enhance the overall experience for the listeners. In most instances, I have been fortunate to partner with Benoît Pioulard whose polaroid ‘prowess’ aligns harmoniously with the themes and emotions encapsulated within my music. All visual elements are carefully curated to complement and accentuate the auditory journey that unfolds through each album’s soundscapes. I will also take the reins of the artistic process, personally delving into photography and graphic design to manifest the album artwork. This personal approach allows me to infuse the visuals with an intimate connection to the music, as I endeavor to capture the essence of the sonic narratives through the lens of my own creative expression. In these instances, the photography and design becomes an extension of my musical identity, resonating with the same emotions that permeate the compositions themselves.

    Ultimately, the approach to album artwork varies depending on the thematic content of each release and the creative direction that emerges during the course of the project. Whether through collaborative endeavors or personal exploration, my aim is always to create a seamless symbiosis between the auditory and visual realms, ensuring that the listeners are not only enraptured by the music but also enticed to explore the vivid imagery that adorns the musical tapestry.

    Discipline: As a final question I’d love to know what music you’re listening to currently if you have any recommendations for our readers to check out


    Unlikely Places by Awakened Souls (Past Inside the Present)

    The Ancient Forest VI by Chihei Hatakeyama (White Paddy Mountain)

    Dreamland by PCM (n5MD)

    Cold Ecstasy by 36 (3six Recordings)

    Embryology by Purl & Sinius (Past Inside the Present)

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    Anthony Cooley is a contributor to Discipline Magazine. He has previously written for such publications as Echoes and Dust, Musique Machine, Mutiny in Heaven and others. His writing focuses on the world of drone, noise and ambient music.