For the past 20 odd years I've been captivated by electronic sound, absorbing as much of it as I could in my early teens before finally taking the plunge and beginning to produce some of my own material in the mid 90s. By the early 2000s I was releasing records (under a different moniker to Zpg I must add) and continued enthusiastically along that path for the next 10 years.
In early 2011 I was participating in an international music collaboration project which had stemmed out of a Facebook group. When I joined there were 100 or so members and the community was vibrant and communicative with lots of ideas flying about the place on a daily basis. Some months later I moved to Brighton and in my search for a home/work I dropped out of the group for a period of time. When I next looked there were over a thousand members and my most recent investigation showed 1600 plus. A triumph for weird music makers the world over one might argue?
Not so. Originally the group timeline was filled with discussion about sound and art and bubbling with ideas and people yearning to collaborate; to swap ideas, techniques and music. When I visited it again after this prolonged period of absence the timeline consisted purely of people hawking their wares as it were. Just reams of musicians linking to their Bandcamp pages, one after the other, without a “Like” or a comment to be found anywhere.
Sad really. So much talent and so many ideas just lost in the ether. In my former musical guise I released quite a lot of music on so –called “net-labels” (Internet based record labels which offer free downloadable albums and artwork, negating the need for the label or artist to spend tons of money on duplication and promotion) but by the end of 2011 I was starting to realise that it was getting harder and harder to make anyone pay attention to stuff released online. It’s so swamped you see: the internet has made the whole process of music production and release so democratic that it’s becoming harder and harder for a musician to grab anyone’s attention. I’m also a bit lazy in this regard to tell the truth, I love making music but always felt the heavy promotional aspect to be such a chore.
So I dropped out, kinda. I love making music so much and I don’t want to let a little thing like *ahem* “fame” or *cough* money stand in my way of doing it anymore but I still want to engage with people about the things I make. I also love hiking and being outdoors in general so I thought it might be interesting to combine the two in some way.
I resisted the following thought for quite a while (it is a very common sentiment these days and my friends will laugh at me now for saying it, given how much music I released online previously) but I guess I now feel that the incredible ease of access to freely downloadable content online (legal or otherwise) has kind of cheapened data.
“Do you like the Rolling Stones? “
“Sure, I like a few of their songs. “
“How about getting ever Rolling Stones track ever made in a matter of an hour or so via a Torrent? “
“Cool! Woah, sign me up!”
“Will you listen to all that stuff?”
“Uh, probably not. “
“Do you need it all?”
“Um, I guess not.”
Not like a true Stones obsessive who, 15 years ago would scour record shops and mail order catalogues for obscure items. The thrill of the chase has gone: of course there are still obsessive collectors who will but it seems the joy of hunting for stuff has disappeared.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not equating myself with Jagger or anything and I am under no illusion that this project will get people actively scouring the countryside looking for my tunes but I want to create something new here.
My process is simple.
1) Make a load of music. Zpg is all about the improvised synth music, man.
2) Make up some cdrs with homemade covers. (I love this bit!)
3) Plan a hike that takes in several appropriately sized geocaches. Geocaching is a form of digital treasure hunt. The geocaches are boxes of varying sizes hidden throughout the countryside and the locations plotted on an online map at www.geocaching.com. The coordinates and description of each ‘cache’ can be downloaded to a GPS enabled device and then the hunt is on. Each cache contains a logbook which visitors are encouraged to sign and there are occasionally items in the box which you can take or swap out.
4) Head out and stick some cds in the caches.
5) Wait and see what happens.
In a way starting this website sort of goes against everything I'm trying to achieve with this project. The idea is to avoid the internet for one, and yet here I am, in the process of putting a website together. Shocking irony.
Nevertheless I feel I’d like to see people get off their computers and start to engage with the real world a bit more. Yes, the internet is fantastic and all that but so many of us are online or at least active on a computer or mobile internet device for much of our working day; only to immediately check mail or social media sites on returning home. I’m as guilty of it as anyone to be honest but I’m trying my hardest to limit my computer use as much as I can.
The “music” that constitutes my Zpg project is created live on a bunch of analogue and digital synthesisers and drum machines which are loosely interfaced with each another, therefore influencing one other in interesting ways as the pieces progress. I just use the computer as a simple tape recorder of sorts and record the output from my mixer with no edits or overdubs.
So! If you’d like to join me in my experiments, or just feel like saying hello, please feel free to drop me a line at zedpeegee [at] gmail [dot] com.