When it comes to Zeds Dead, one could argue that art has been just as important as the music.
After all, that's what first brought Dylan Mamid (“DC”) and Zachary Rapp-Rovan together over a decade ago.
Back in 2004, Mamid asked Rapp-Rovan, now known as Hooks, to graffiti a mural on his garage wall. This small-scale commission helped the two discover a close musical chemistry, eventually leading to the formation of Zeds Dead.
In 2009, DC and Hooks began hosting intimate, underground bass parties in Toronto dubbed “Bassmentality.” These shows gained notoriety among fans and fellow artists. That reputation would follow them as the group became one of the more clamored-for acts in electronic music.
Nearly 10 years later, the duo is reimagining these unique, small-room shows and evolving them into festival-like events to take on the road. The upcoming run of shows makes up the second installment of the Deadbeats tour, named after the label the duo started in 2016. Once again, art finds itself playing a part in creating chemistry for Zeds Dead, only this time between the band and its rabid fanbase.
At stops all along the Deadbeats tour, the guys take the time to come out and do graffiti-style painting with the fans. Hooks describes this as a great opportunity to get back to the basics and better connect with their following:
“I wanted to bring [graffiti art] into the Deadbeats world, the Zeds Dead world. It is a cool way to hang out with fans and stuff. I’ll do it at the shows and it just creates a certain vibe that makes it feel like a mix of different cultures,” he told CL.
Each stop along the Deadbeats tour features a uniquely curated lineup in addition to games, food and other activities making for an interactive experience unlike anything else on the touring circuit right now.
“I’m very impressed with how the fans have responded to it,” said Hooks. “I’m pretty blown away with how these shows have come together.”
Before the duo plays Boca this Labor Day weekend, and headlines Imagine Music Festival later in the month, Hooks caught up with CL to talk about bringing the Deadbeats tour to life, recent collaborations and the influence graffiti art has had on the two.
Check out our Q&A and get more info on upcoming shows below.
Deadbeats: South Florida w/Borgore b2b Snails/Gammer/Wooli/Slumberjack. Sun. Sept. 2. 3 p.m. $45 & up. Sunset Cove Amphitheatre, 12551 Glades Rd., Boca Raton. axs.com.
Imagine Music Festival. September 21-23. $299 & up. Atlanta Motor Speedway, 1500 Tara Pl. Atlanta. imaginefestival.com.
I noticed on your Instagram page that you’re really into graffiti art. Where did that influence come from?
I’ve been doing graffiti since before I started making music, and in a weird way it kind of brought me and Dylan together. He had this garage where people would hang out in high school and listen to music and stuff. He was looking for someone to do graffiti on the wall, and through a friend he contacted me, and they was the first pieces anyone had ever allowed me do. So, we started to become friends just from me being at his house all the time.
I wanted to bring that into the Deadbeats world, the Zeds Dead world. It is a cool way to hang out with fans and stuff. I’ll do it at the shows and it just creates a certain vibe that makes it feel like a mix of different cultures.
Back in the day you guys used to host weekly Bassmentality parties back in Toronto. How much of those shows have shaped the Deadbeats tour?
Those already shaped us as DJs because when we were starting out we were producers at the time, we just started making electronic remixes as Zeds Dead. Trying it out we were just making hip-hop beats and it was hard to get booked, especially when you wanted to play underground electronic music. People would want to book you for events, more like general hip-hop shows. So we decided with a group called The Killabits to start our own party and we named it Bassmentality and it was in a basement. I think it was like a 70-person capacity room. We’d rent a subwoofer and just do that. The first few shows hardly anyone was there, but I don’t know, it was a combination of word of mouth and our name getting a little bigger on the internet. Then it just started to get packed every week and it was just like the hip, new underground party in Toronto. We had like Skrillex, pretty much everyone came through and it was like a scene for awhile. In the beginning this was where we learned how to rock a party and just play a show essentially.
I think it’s different [with the Deadbeats shows] because we’re trying to create an even better vibe. Those were really bare-boned, which was really cool, but we can do better now [laughs]. We want to access that kind of rawness, but we just wanted it to be more things, like incorporating the graffiti, we have food, we have visuals, there’s much more of a show.
This is now the second installment of the Deadbeats tour. What’s it been like to watch Deadbeats grow since you two founded it in 2016? Did you ever imagine it would get this big?
I’m very impressed with how the fans have responded to it. I’m pretty blown away with how these shows have come together. I didn’t expect it to be this so quickly. We were working with Mad Decent a lot, and they did the Mad Decent block parties and it was in our heads, what it would be like if we could do our own Deadbeats mini-festivals. I’m surprised at how fast we’ve been able to put these together, and with the lineups we want. We’re getting all the people that we’re going after, and they’re down to play our shows, fans are coming out in droves. So it’s pretty amazing. It wasn’t why we started the label. We were trying to release our own music and we’ve always been pretty independent, so we just carried that on to create a vibe and an identity that people could get into and put on artists that we like to give them a platform.
How involved are you guys in picking the lineups? In particular with the upcoming Boca date where you have a back-to-back with Borgore and Snails. How does that come together?
We were very involved and our agents go back and forth on what the lineups are going to be. That one in particular I’m not exactly sure how it came together, but we were like, “Yeah, let’s do that.” [laughs] Like we wanted both of those artists and thought maybe they could do a back-to-back. I can’t quite remember. The back-to-back thing is more something in the agent world. I don’t know as much about it 'cause to me it seems they do that for certain reasons.
You guys just did a back-to-back with Jauz, didn’t you? How did that one come up?
It felt very organic. We were just trying to make some tracks together. He has been on the come-up in the game the past few years. We were putting together ideas of doing that for awhile, and we were thinking of making more tracks with him. We have a bunch in the works but have only finished one so far. I mean, he plays a similar kind of music to us, not the same, but it’s really easy to go back-to-back with someone like him.
In addition to Boca, we’re also set to cover you guys at Imagine Music Festival next month. Is there any difference in preparing for the Deadbeats shows versus a festival set?
Yeah, I think so. The Deadbeats shows are much more our fans, so it’s kind of an opportunity to go a little more weird for people. Maybe make it mean a little more for someone who has seen us more than once. For a festival you’re playing for a lot of new people in a more rigid time slot, so you want to give the crowd the most in that time and something that represents you. Sometimes I think maybe there’s a little more planning with a festival set to make it a little more precise. The Deadbeats shows are a little more loose. I don’t want to say they’re more fun, because they’re all fun, but there’s more wiggle room in my mind. I think I prefer them when it comes to DJing because we can do whatever we want.
Another act featured on the Imagine lineup is Bassnectar, someone you guys have collaborated with but haven’t had an official release. Is there a chance we’ll ever get to see those tracks come out?
Maybe one day. We’ve been working on different collabs with him for a long time and I think we both just wanted to make something that was very epic. It couldn’t be a “B+,” it had to be an “A.” We haven’t found exactly that yet. I would definitely say in the future we will do something. I don’t know if those tracks will ever come out, though. It’s kind of cool to have things like that that are just sort of dubs.
The Deadbeats tour features an expanded, interactive experience for fans. With that in mind, how far off are we from shooting for an all-out Deadbeats festival?
I wouldn’t count it out, that would be so cool. You know Excision has Lost Lands, and that’s awesome. I think it would be something to shoot for eventually. I’m just interested in building these and kind of seeing how far we can take it.