September Feature: MUZZ

· Artist Features

Experience MUZZ's debut album The Promised Land in a full concert-based live stream with some special guests on-demand here

 

For avid fans of the Monstercat brand, MUZZ’s high energy melodies have become legendary over the years. One of the pioneer producers on the label, his distinctive sound design continues to etch his name into the hearts and minds of Monstercat fans everywhere. What people may not know, however, is that MUZZ’s stylistic inspiration lies outside of the music he’s become known for. Inspired by everything from Hollywood blockbusters and video game scores to the random waveforms emitted by broken plugins, he steers clear of the guidelines prescribed by dance music genres like drum ‘n’ bass.

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As we approach the nine year anniversary of his first single, “Riding the Storm,” released on November 23, 2011, now is the perfect time to draw back the curtains on his biggest project to date: The Promised Land

MUZZ joined us to discuss the development of his first album, what got him into producing, and more! Here’s what he had to say:

How did you get into producing drum ‘n’ bass in the first place?

I came from rock and metal, originally, when I was 10 or 11—the start of secondary school in the UK. I made new friends and a lot of them were into rock and metal, and a lot of them were in bands. My best friends in the group I’d hang out with, we’d always hang out in the music room in school and I’d sit there and watch them play because I couldn’t play any instruments. I never really wanted to play an instrument, but when I saw my friends do it I thought that was really, really cool.

Instead of picking up an instrument, at the time, I had a computer. Back then, getting a computer, especially at that age, was extremely difficult. And to convince your parents to get you one, at that age, was a nightmare. Luckily I had one and that was like my main toy at home where I learned a bunch of things like graphic art, a little bit of coding, illustration—and music was just one of those things. 

I really wanted to make rock and metal but on my computer and it was extremely hard. I tried to make remixes of Metallica and Megadeth and Iron Maiden but electronically. Then I discovered Pendulum, who were obviously the only people doing rock and drum ‘n’ bass at that level. I think I heard “Slam” on MotorStorm. I think the game came out on PS3 around 2006. That’s when I heard that track and I was like ‘oh man, this literally sounds like rock and metal.’

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You’ve had your music featured in Fortnite, Roblox, Beat Saber and Rocket League. Do you want to do more, musically, in the gaming industry? 

Yeah, I’d love to. It’s a wonderful coincidence that a lot of these video games like my music. I’m definitely not complaining there.

I think a misconception about some of my music is that I wrote those tracks specifically for those video games. Now sometimes that is true, but usually it just happens to fit whatever game they’re writing. In fact, for Rocket League, I had the roll call for Rocket League way before I wrote “Horsepower”, and the brief I got for something for Rocket League was actually to stay away from anything car-themed or car-related. 

I originally wrote “Horsepower” for The Cascade EP and then it never made the cut. It just stayed as a demo. Then I finished it—it was actually really quick to write. I sent that demo to the label just to see, ‘I know you guys said that Rocket League didn’t want anything with any kind of car theme around it, however just check this out.’ I was really expecting them to say ‘yeah, no, we don’t like it’ or ‘this is not going to be good enough for the game.’ But it turns out not only did they love it, they wanted it to be the title track for that season. They used it in a bunch of trailers and things as well and I thought ‘wow, I didn’t expect that at all.’ 

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Talk about your cinematic influence a bit! Where do the lines cross between your love of movies and your path as a musician?

I mean everybody loves movies. I’ve always wanted to be an audiovisual brand, and the way movies merge sound and visuals together always excited me. When you really break it down, it’s really cool to hear those dynamic changes and why a certain piece of music is played in this particular scene. 

I can’t remember who said this... I think it was a big director who was saying if you’re filming two people in a small room, there’s no point putting a big, bombastic orchestra in it. That’s not translating. Whereas using a solo instrument will be more appropriate for a scene like that, or a duet of some sorts.

A lot of dance records I was listening to, especially bodies of work, sounded great and everything, but had very little care or attention to emotions and attention to feelings of catharsis and feelings of being engulfed by the ambience of the song. That’s something I picked up from cinematic music. You can’t go and do big movements and massive buildups and drops and large sound design in cinematic music because the attention is the visuals. However, the way they express music in a very subtle way to create emotion is something that has been lacking in dance music because everyone’s just trying to make the loudest, ballsiest sounds they possibly can. 

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Your journey as an artist has led us to The Promised Land, your first full-length album!

The first track, “Valhalla,” kicks things off in an almost cinematic way. Talk about any of the influences you drew from movies or video games that bled into the development of your first album.

I left the first track on the album until the last minute. I had sketches at the very beginning, but to really get it right, I waited until the album was done to write the intro. It made sense for me to do that because I didn’t really know how to start it. I didn’t know how the whole album was going to span out and how it was going to sound, and that would ultimately determine what I wanted the intro to sound like. 

Throughout the album, there’s elements of mystery and nature versus technology concepts. I felt like that was the best way to introduce the album. At the beginning you have all these natural sounds like strings and bells and things that people play in real life, and then it goes straight into synths, like big moog bass and the Blade Runner sound. You’ve got both of those elements together, and that is a way to tell you what’s coming for the rest of the album. You’re going to have that synergy between natural sounds, harsh technological sounds, and rich synths.

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Briefly talk about the story you’ve woven for us in The Promised Land. What is it all about?

It’s kind of hard to put into words. There’s a bunch of concepts for the album. There isn’t really one singular idea or story or theme. There’s themes of nature and tech coming together and there’s also themes of religion and paganism and ancient rituals and things like that also weaved in there. 

All the lyrics are done in a way that makes sense (a) for the position of the track in the album, and (b) the themes of the album. The theme of the song. At face value, it might just seem like lyrics on a track. It’s actually a lot deeper than that and I wanted to leave those ideas and concepts to the listener to figure out what it means to them. It’s all well and good saying what the album means to me, but what’s more important is what it means to you. 

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The Promised Land brings up this theme of technology-infused nature. Where did that come from?

A lot of the animals and nature on the cover arts and the visuals and the music videos and the lyric videos—it’s to make you think a little bit. Technology is taking over the world, step by step, very gradually. Should it be something you should embrace or should it be something you fight against? The whole concept of using animals but turning them into robots and making them metal – but they’re still moving like animals, they still function like animals, they still behave like animals—they still look alive, but they have a shell of technology around them – it’s an abstract way to give people an impression of what I wanted to achieve with the album and the sounds in the album. The synergy between nature, technology, ancient religion, prophecy. Themes like that. 

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What was your thought process heading into the development of your first album, and what needed to be done differently from your past EPs?

The main thing that I wanted to do with the album was start expanding from drum ‘n’ bass and start doing other genres. People have this impression of me, because I make drum ‘n’ bass all the time, that I only listen to drum ‘n’ bass and that’s completely untrue. People who know me know I listen to literally all kinds of music.

I know that’s kind of the cliché thing to say but it really is true. I love everything from, as I say, film and video game scores to screamo to french house to electro house to old school garage to whatever. You name it! I listen to everything. I really tried to hone that in when I outlined the influences for the album, just to show people that a lot of them don’t come from drum ‘n’ bass at all. A lot of them don’t even come from dance music. Very rarely, except maybe some sound design and mixdown things.

The main goal with it was to start introducing MUZZ as a multigenre brand and artist rather than drum ‘n’ bass only. 

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During the production of The Promised Land, did you use any new software or plugins that you’d never used before? 

A few contact libraries. I really like outdated or “broken” plugins. A lot of freeware, just to get ideas down. They’ll malfunction and spit out waveforms that don’t make sense, and I like to draw inspiration from that before I go into really rich sound design. There isn’t really a particular plugin. One of my go-tos for synths anyways is just Serum. Massive X as well. I use Waves plugins a lot, but that’s because I have them, not because I think that they’re the best plugins ever. iZotope, FabFilter, Melda – the standard stuff. Nothing outlandish.

Did you run into any roadblocks along the way? If so, how did you overcome them?

I got the album done faster [as a result of COVID] than I would’ve if I was still on tour. The biggest bummer is not being able to play the album live. I gauge a lot of my drops and things from performing live and if tracks are hitting right and if the buildups are right. 

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A handful of songs in the album reference some of your older music, including your track “Insignia.” How often did you approach your older works for references when writing The Promised Land?

Never! In fact, I really only put those things as fanservice, just to be like ‘remember this?’ That’s honestly the only reason. For “Nemesis” that was the only reason. There’s a track on the album called “The Sanctuary” with another reference in it, and that reference was actually tied into the central theme of that track in particular. It made sense to have that in there. Having the “reach up higher” or whatever is a recurring thing that I sometimes put in tracks just to show who’s in charge I guess!

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You work with a lot of different artists in this album: MVE, Cammie Robinson, Bloodhounds, PAV4N, Miss Trouble, Danyka Nadeau and Koven. What did the lyric-writing process look like on their collab tracks? 

They definitely did a good portion of the lyric-writing. However, I also contributed. A lot of the time it was a 50/50 effort, but in terms of the themes and everything that was all my call. They allowed me to have that call on it. For them, it’s also liberating to not have to sit there and come up with a central theme. I had all the themes and braces of the tracks written before they even went anywhere near vocalists. 

I’m very, very choosy with vocalists. And not just vocalists, any artist I work with. I don’t just work with anybody who will say yes to me. It’s a case of will this person benefit the track, or is it just filling in space for no particular reason and you just want a vocal? 

If there’s one thing you want listeners to take away from The Promised Land, what would that be?

I hope that people listen to the album and feel more open-minded about music than when they came in and not feel restricted by genres and not feel restricted by moods, either. Because some people listen to very dark music only or very happy music only. To get rid of all these weird barriers that people create for themselves and just learn to appreciate everything from intense, dark tracks like “Born For This” or “The Warehouse (feat. PAV4N & Miss Trouble)” or stuff that’s really euphoric and uplifting like “Catharsis (feat. Koven)” or “Start Again”. I really want people to feel great about all styles, all tempos, but obviously my whole interpretation of that, which is big drums, big basses, big riffs, big vocals, the epic orchestra stuff—stuff that sounds three-dimensional!

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The Promised Land illuminates MUZZ’s continued innovation through music production

He may call it a cliché, but the fact is this latest body of work from MUZZ is unlike anything we’ve seen or heard from him before. Each track included in The Promised Land goes above and beyond to explore a different angle of the overarching nature versus technology theme, and the matching visuals just take it that much further. As a whole, MUZZ’s first album does a great job of highlighting his past and present influences, as well as how he wants to go about piercing the genre barrier. We’re thoroughly impressed with what MUZZ has accomplished in his debut album and we can’t wait to see your reactions to it!

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Listen to The Promised Land here

Follow MUZZ on: SpotifySoundcloudBeatportYouTubeFacebookInstagramTwitter and Twitch.

 

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