There are plenty of artists who proclaim the influence of hardcore, but there are very few whose birth was possibly induced by it. “She used to go out raving constantly, even when she was pregnant with me,’ laughs Etch, aka Brighton-based DJ and producer Zak Brashill, on his mum’s story that she was at The Zapp club when, aged just 18, she went into labour with him. “I don’t know whether to trust her, but I’ll go with the legend.” Later, growing up on an estate where career criminal neighbours were constantly blasting drum & bass, the now self-confessed insomniac had little trouble sleeping through blasting breakbeats.
His first releases for Keysound Recordings and Soundman Chronicles showed that the continuum was indeed in his blood, refiguring breaks, bass, synths and samples to fit the post-dubstep world to thrilling effect. Five years later ‘Ups And Downs’, his debut album on Sneaker Social Club, displays a similarly deft touch with breakbeats and samples, but reflects a new musical landscape. ‘Groovecontrol’ flips from snare driven half-time to rolling jungle, the Super Smash Bros.-sampling ‘Ice Climbers In Flatland’ is wonderful, wonky instrumental hip-hop and ‘Shine On (Zero Gravity Remix)’ offers pure beatless bittersweet emotion, the indelible neural imprint of lost nights out.
“When I first started making music I was just soundtracking my walk to school,” says Zak of his earliest productions in 2005 using Fruity Loops. Although conversant in hardcore and jungle, helped by inheriting his uncle’s record collection after he’d moved to the States to work for a computer games company, it wasn’t until he came to London in 2011 that he started thinking about the dancefloor. In the capital to study sound design (“which I wouldn’t recommend to anyone who wants to learn anything about music, it just made me hate pro-tools”), he started going to Fabric, Corsica Studios and FWD>>, where he met his eventual first label bosses Blackdown and Parris.
“About two years into that I fell out of love with it a bit,” he continues. “It felt like I wasn’t being honest with myself and I started making weirder stuff again.” Since then he’s been pouring his wider tastes — ‘80s post-punk, computer games, the madcap flights of fantasy of Kool Keith — into increasingly diverse productions and online mixes. The logical conclusion was the launch of his own label Altered Road, which has released two EPs so far.
“There are no rules,’ Zak explains. “It’s just tracks that I’ve made that I know won’t work on another label.” What it’s nurtured is an affinity for both fast and slow tempos, his atmospheric sound palette working equally well as jungle’s half-time companion. “Hip-hop is probably what I listen to the most in my free time,” he explains. “I see it as the American parallel to how hardcore and jungle evolved.”
This fluidity and openness has evolved Etch into a multi-faceted artist, a beat scientist unafraid to experiment in his musical lab. It’s the embodiment of the club that helped switch him onto a mindset that the most obvious route isn’t always the best. “When I went to FDW>> the thing that made me dance most and go home with a smile on my face was hearing a track out of the blue that confused me. I think that’s the best thing that you can feel on the dancefloor: confusion.”
Speaking of his DJ Mag Podcast mix below, Zak says, "I've been asked to do a lot of mixes lately and for the most part I've used them to put on display my myriad of different interests and influences on my recent musical output; without much thought of club based mixing or even club based music per se. This mix however is a lot more focussed while still crossing a lot of different flavours, it's something I would put on at a party and dance about to, as a matter of fact I probably will hence there being zero tracks by myself in there because I jus can't dance to my own tunes... Old, New, Unreleased - Think there's something in there for everyone to boogie to, unless you're a massively stush chin-stroker."
01 - DJ Sotofett - Be-Sides $0.99 ft. Sensational [Wania]
02 - Donna Chambray Loren (Falty DL) - Fly Race [Free Release]
03 - Facta - Ize Kashmir [Unreleased]
04 - S.Moreira - Just A Little Beat [Slow Life]
05 - DJ Abstract - Touch [Tempa]
06 - Naughty - Pussy Trak (DJ Hype Remix) [Naughty Music]
07 - Soundbwoy Killah - Abra Kadabra [Sneaker Social Club]
08 - Parris - Soft Touch [Idle Hands]
09 - 23Hz & Numaestro - Zumo (Sully Remix) [2nd Drop]
10 - Joy O - Sin Palta [Hinge Finger]
11 - Or:La - X & O [Hotflush Recordings]
12 - Cocktail Party Effect - Lemons [Cold Recordings]
13 - Textasy - I'm The Needle [Craigie Knowes]
14 - Wen - Untitled (Fall) [Unreleased]
15 - Awesome 3 - Don't Go (Kicks Like A Mule Mix) [XL Recordings]
16 - DJ Nex - Dreams & Reality (Kreggo "Altern-ative" Mix) [Art-Aud]
17 - Future Samples - Maxima [Jai]
18 - DJ Pulse - So Fine [Moving Shadow]
19 - 4 Horsemen Of The Apocalypse - Drowning In Her [Tone Def Records]
20 - Dillinja - Another Dimension [Deep Jungle Records]
21 - J Majik - Telepathic [Deep Jungle Records]
22 - FFF & Coco Bryce - Double Dragon [7th Storey Projects]
23 - Sully - Vanta [Keysound Recordings]
24 - MartianMan - Hypno Boogaloo [Scientific Wax Recordings