ZZK Records' El G on the Rise of Argentina's Dance Music Underground
ZZK Records co-founder and international DJ Grant C. Dull, aka El G, has spent the past eight years in Argentina curating projects that capture the spirit and sound of the country's art scene. The ZZK empire all began with the experimental cumbia party Zizek Club, with DJs Nim and Villa Diamante, and has now expanded to include a record label and the Zizek DJs initiative. Last year, the label released the critically acclaimed compilation Future Sounds of Buenos Aires. From Inca-house to South American folklore rhythms, the diverse collection features ZZK artists like Mati Zundel and La Yegros, and explores the best of Argentina's electronic music underground. We recently spoke with EL G about the compilation, making music in Argentina, and what's coming up for ZZK Records. He DJs Tormenta Tropical this Saturday at Elbo Room with Dubbel Dutch and residents Oro 11 and Shawn Reynaldo.
How long did it take to put together Future Sounds of Buenos Aires?
Well if you think about it macro, it took me six to eight years, because you just don't do an album like that without first establishing yourself as a label and curator who can pull that off. Zizek Club started six years ago, and I've been working in underground/emerging music and culture in Argentina since 2004, so it's been a long time coming. Logistically, however, we worked on the album for a good six to eight months.
How did you go about finding the artists featured?
Same thing; longish story about working in arts and culture in Buenos Aires for a minute. But really, Zizek Club was our training ground for ZZK Records. It was the natural spot for A&R-ing new music before I even knew what A&R meant. Everybody on the album has played and honed their craft at Zizek Club, and has released tracks on ZZK Records. So we found them all on the dancefloors of Zizek Club in Buenos Aires.
What are some differences you see in music production in the U.S. versus Argentina?
I personally don't produce music. I produce the label and all the elements that go along with it -- parties, tours, albums, careers. But if I had to name one distinguishable characteristic about producing music in Argentina, it's definitely the "less is more" analogy. People make amazing music with far less technology, hardware, and software than most northern-hemisphere producers. Chancha Via Circuito produced his album on a clunky family PC he shared with five brothers in his parents' living room. And the album is absolutely amazing.
In the past eight years, dance music in the U.S. has grown exponentially. How have you seen it evolve in Buenos Aires?
Yes, it's evolved on pace in Buenos Aires. But what's also happened culturally and socially in Argentina, with the crisis and financial constraints the 2000s have brought on Argentina, has dramatically affected their culture. Argentina has been "looking within" for the last decade now, and I think ZZK is a product of that. I mean before, most Argentine electronic music producers were trying to emulate their German, American, U.K. counterparts. But now there has been a resurgence of producers experimenting with South American sounds, and that's where the wealth of ZZK lies.
With the impact Future Sounds of Buenos Aires has had putting Argentina on the map, what do you hope to see with this new movement?
Growth, expansion, more people being hipped to this amazing musical movement in the Argentina underground.
What are you most proud of accomplishing so far for ZZK records?
Keeping it going for nearly five years! It's been a helluva ride, and the fact that we're even talking about the label five years later is my proudest accomplishment. Other than that, probably the fact we've played in 80 cities around the world and have released some seriously good music that has affected people profoundly.
What's something from Argentinian clubs you wish to see more of in the U.S. clubs?
Argentine clubs are infamously open really late. I'd like to see more dancing at 4 and 5 a.m.
Share with us something exciting coming up for the ZZK label in 2013.
We're releasing two debut albums from two great acts: Frikstailers debut album drops in February and La Yegros, our first female artist, debuts her album in April. We hope to be on the road with both of those albums and back in the U.S.A, too!