An icon, a globetrotter, an innovator and an outstanding performer, Federico Ágreda Álvarez is a multi-talented award-winning keyboardist, DJ, composer, producer and remixer, best known for his Rock infused Electronic Dance Music one-man-DJ project Zardonic, seamlessly encompassing Glitch Hop, Breakbeat, Electro House, Dubstep, Drum & Bass and Hardcore Techno with shredding Metal guitars and commanding vocals. Check out my interview with him below:
XS ROCK: Hi Zardonic! What’s the latest news? We saw your new album “Become” is gaining a lot of traction!
Zardonic: It’s been pretty interesting! I sure busted my ass to get that record done, but I struggled so much to finish it that I almost came to hate it when it was done and had zero expectations for it. To my surprise, it debuted at #1 on the iTunes Electronic charts in Russia (considering nobody buys music in Russia that is almost a miracle – all other albums in the same category are stuff like Cher), #3 in Japan, #9 in the USA and the review average is 8/10. Features all over German magazines, shows booked in Czech Republic, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Germany, France, Switzerland and the requests keep coming! The first single “Takeover” got half a million views in two months. Usually my most played tracks get a little over a million after a year, with Bring Back The Glory and my remix of Semargl’s Credo Revolution being the most played with about 7 million each. But again, that took 6 years. I’m starting to realize that people really wanted this sound to happen. This mix between Electronic Dance Music and Metal really is getting somewhere, even when people told me for years that it would never work.
XS ROCK: So how long has the project been going on?
Zardonic: Officially since 2004. Admittedly I didn’t do anything of much relevance in my first years, but that was the year when I first released something somewhere. It took a long way to learn the curves, and I still think somehow I’m learning. I’m not satisfied even if people are satisfied or if the music is popular or everyone loves it or hates it because I’m more focused on how I’m going to continue. How am I going to improve myself next time? What’s next? What should inspire me? Should I stick to a concept or just do whatever the fuck and that’s it? You kind of should be careful because when you have a certain reach, people look up to you, and with great power comes great responsibility. I don’t think a lot of people really understand what that means.
XS ROCK: What was your main motivation for originally becoming a DJ? Your music sounds a lot like a full band sometimes. Did you consider creating a band instead?
Zardonic: Sometimes yes, sometimes no. I like the way my music sounds and I purposely engineer it to sound like a live band, but I love the comfort of being a solo act dude. The beauty of being a DJ is that you can make music at home, load it on a USB stick and that’s literally everything you need. I even put too much sacrifice in wearing a god damn mask.
XS ROCK: The mask sure adds a lot to the visual aspect of it! What image do you think your music conveys?
Zardonic: I try to make it fit the mask. It’s powerful, mysterious, somewhere between life and death, between good and evil, between the confines of my studio and the infinity of the unknown. My mind is a pretty wild place, and music helps me keep it in the right direction. Else I keep having these daymares, you know? I deal with major anxiety for reasons I still do not understand. It’s something that has plagued me my whole life and I’m not sure how to deal with it, but music helps a lot. I have it under control for the most part, but when it’s been out of control it has wrecked some things that, well, I can’t do much for the past. I can only look towards the future. I just wish for one that the noise in my head would for once just fucking stop. I think that’s why I’ve always loved heavy music. The louder it is on the outside, the quieter the noise in my head feels. A lot of people surely can relate to that.
XS ROCK: What is your music background?
Zardonic: I learned to play the cuatro at a very young age, which is a Venezuelan 4-string guitar-like instrument that resembles a concert Ukulele. The tuning and sound is also kind of similar, except it sounds lower, so think of it like a Baritone Ukulele. Since I was a kid I also enjoyed keyboard instruments a lot. My mother tried to get me in a Piano academy, but I hated music theory and I ended up crawling in this other room where they had a bunch of what they then called “organs”. They weren’t organs. They were SYNTHESIZERS. And that’s what I really loved, but nobody in my town actually knew what that was. I just remember I loved artificial, electronic sounds. They resonated a lot with me. Also loved to use portable recorders to sample things. It was really weird. Imagine this 7 year old kid literally recording EVERYTHING he can find, and presenting it. “Hello. This is the sound of a blender”, then I would point the mic to the center of the blade and you could hear my mother freaking out in the back, then I would say “and that was my mom”. I just loved sound. I also recorded over a LOT of cassettes from my father’s personal collection because I had completely used up the one tape they gave me. I don’t think my family expected me to do anything else but a few dumb things.
XS ROCK: What are your current music career goals?
Zardonic: My goal is constant and that is to better myself every day. Pay attention to what can be improved while at the same time trying to have a little fun. Sound design is a joy for me so it never gets boring. I can sit for weeks modulating shit and never get bored. But there’s always a bit of gaming sessions for whenever I do get bored.
XS ROCK: Which do you prefer? Writing new songs and recording or playing a DJ set for a live audience?
Zardonic: There’s a bit of fun in both, but I have to admit recently I’m starting to become worn out from shows. I don’t know. It just doesn’t feel that exciting anymore, plus the money is not enough for me honestly. I know I shouldn’t complain because I know I’m getting a lot more money than the average person in my scene, but I just don’t care about that. I don’t measure my success by someone else. Maybe I set my goals way too high for the music that I chose to play, but I feel me and my team have put way too much work in the game for what we’re reaping. Lot of people say mainstream stuff sucks because people are closeminded. I have not met crowds more closeminded than the underground crowds. You know what I fucking love? Electro. Yeah. I said it. I love it. It’s badass. It’s banging. You know what happens if I play Electro at a Drum & Bass show? I can get away with one track. Then everyone just wants me to play neurofunk. Not even Drum & Bass. Neurofunk, which is a completely different thing from what it used to be, and it’s also not what I do. Basically what people now call Neurofunk is a sub-genre of Drum & Bass that consists of very repetitive, simple drums, pitched up snares, over-compressed subs and weird noises and it all sounds like a carbon copy of a carbon copy of a carbon copy of the stuff Mefjus was doing 5 years ago. It makes me sick to my stomach. I want to play everything. I want to play the music I love. Not the music people want me to play, but I guess that’s one of the negative things about being a DJ. You don’t show up to only play the music you do, and people are not there to see you perform only the music you produce. You’re there to make them dance. Fail, and you’re a bad DJ.
XS ROCK: Dance music doesn’t have much lyrical content, but you have a lot of vocals in your tracks. What are your songs lyrics about?
Zardonic: I still do some instrumental stuff or tracks that have very little vocal content, but when I do get lyrics on it, there’s usually something that just goes along with the music, or on the other hand, I make music based on a vocal, which has also happened. As opposed to having a specific lyrical theme, I choose to use vocals as an instrument, meaning the purpose of the vocals is to enhance the energetic content of the track, so to say. Any theme that I touch will have to adapt to that. Since Antihero, though, there’s been a bit more vocals in my songs. A few recurrent things you can find in my lyrics are about overcoming change, enduring struggles and the duality of man. I’m fascinated by our capacity to be both creative and destructive, and I try to always make the right choice. I believe it is our responsibility as individuals to understand that we do have a choice to do good, even if our head sometimes wants to push us to the wrong side.
XS ROCK: What is the single most important thing to you as a musician?
Zardonic: Being able to have creative freedom while still producing enough money to pay the dues and get what I want. What I want is sadly these days a luxury: a house, a family and a dog. And for all of those things, you need money. Buying a house costs money. Girlfriend costs money. Kids cost money. Dog costs money. And I won’t sell my gear again LOL, but I sure got to a point where I don’t think I’ll need more gear unless it’s something significantly innovative that I can put to good use, such as the Polyend Perc Pro. That thing has been on my wishlist for a while. I’ve got LOTS of ideas for it!
XS ROCK: What’s the strangest request that you’ve ever received from one of your fans?
Zardonic: I had a fan ask me once to sign his girlfriend’s tits, and that was in front of my then-girlfriend. I guess that’s not considered too strange or outrageous by today’s standards when 14 year old girls show half their tits on Instagram and then whine about being preyed by weirdos online because they’re the victims here, right? Anyways, I don’t sign tits, or at least I haven’t done it for a good while. It’s self-degrading. What am I? Why do you want me to sign your tits? Seriously? And why would any real man want someone else to sign his girlfriend’s tits? And why would you date a woman that actually wants that? I would never even buy a beer for a woman that wants some random dude to sign her tits. Doesn’t matter if you’re an artist or the zombie of Michael Jackson. We’re dudes. No man is touching my girlfriend’s tits, and I won’t be that man, even if I’m asked to do so. Have some fucking respect, people.
XS ROCK: Are your friends and family supportive of your choice to be a DJ?
Zardonic: My mother sure wasn’t very fond of it at first but she started applauding it when she saw I was bringing money home and getting booked in Japan.
XS ROCK: What advice do you have for new bands trying to get started?
Zardonic: Don’t rush to release the music. Make sure you’re doing your very best first. It will still not be better than what comes later, but your introduction should always be a very, very good one. Being confident is not all it takes. You have to actually do good music. Trust me. I did shit music for years and got nowhere. All those million YouTube plays came from tracks that actually mattered, because they were good, because they were powerful, because they resonated with people. Your random whatnots won’t. So make sure you do something that sends chills down your spine (and the spine of a few others, preferably with professional background in the genre you’re working with), and then you know you’re ready. Of course, you can’t measure yourself by the opinions of others that much either. I did push the Metal / EDM hybrids when people told me it wouldn’t work, but for once I also wanted to try doing a bit of what I wanted, while applying everything I had learned from the professionals. It pays off.
XS ROCK: What are your favorite tracks to play?
Zardonic: from my own stuff, I love Children Of Tomorrow, Takeover, Revelation, Before The Dawn. That one ALWAYS goes off. Then there’s Against All Odds, both the Original and the Rusty K Remix. Rusty K is one of my favorite artists. Way underrated and underappreciated. I also love him like family, he also suffers from mad anxiety. I’ve seen him struggling so much, and he is literally the best electronic music producer to ever come out of Russia. I also love his own track “The Savage”. ALWAYS goes off. Merikan’s “One Man’s Hell Is Another Man’s Paradise” goes very well with that one, too. But back to Zardonic, I like my “Feel” Remix for Skarlett Riot. Great closing track. My remixes of Blue Stahli’s “Shotgun Senorita”, Semargl’s “Credo Revolution”, Black Sun Empire’s “Bitemark”, Crossfaith’s “Rx Overdrive”. I also love to play “Policía”. Love having had the opportunity to work with James Messinian. I love what he does! Every now and then I close the sets with “Antihero”, too. Seems to be very well received by the people!
XS ROCK: Which band or artist inspired you to perform? Why?
Zardonic: I don’t think I actually saw someone performing and thought “oh shit, I want to do the same thing this guy is doing!”. It was more of a decision that kind of… happened. As a matter of fact I don’t feel inspired in that way by most performers I see. I focus more on what they’re delivering to me as a spectator. Being that said, Dieselboy’s performance in Caracas in 2005 was pretty mindblowing for me, so I guess from the DJ world you could say he did something that was kind of inspiring me to pursue the DJ path.
XS ROCK: If you could design a dream tour, who would be on the bill?
Zardonic: Probably me with all the artists I can think of that have pursued a similar sound so we can create our own festival with it. Celldweller, Blue Stahli, Pendulum, Voicians, The Bloody Beetroots, Counterstrike, The Algorithm, Igorrr, Atari Teenage Riot, The Prodigy, Infected Mushroom and so on.
XS ROCK: What do you consider your greatest accomplishment so far?
Zardonic: Signing to Entertainment One Music and JVC Kenwood Victor Entertainment Corporation. These are real labels, you know? People who are able to invest money in your project and actually make it work so they make their money back and then some. That’s something extremely important for me, being able to work with people who understand the business aspect of music.
XS ROCK: If you weren’t performing in a band what kind of career do you think you would have?
Zardonic: Probably something involving Marketing or Graphic Design. Technically Zardonic is my own Marketing project, so it would make perfect sense. On the other hand, my other dream job as a kid was to be a Paleonthologist. No idea if I would’ve made a lot of money from that, but would’ve been an interesting job for sure. And I also kind of wanted to be a Doctor, but realized how much I was going to have to study for the rest of my life and how little time I would have for everything else, so I abandoned that idea. Ultimately I’m able to do anything as long as I enjoy it and it is a rewarding activity. Rewarding is the key word. I can’t do anything unless I know I’m going to be able to generate something tangible from it.
XS ROCK: What type of equipment do you use for shows?
Zardonic: Right now I’m on Denons. The new Prime Series are amazing. WAY ahead of the curve. 2x SC5000 Prime Media Players and 1x X1800 Prime DJ Mixer. For DJ Headphones, I try to choose them based on how they feel on my ears when the volume is all the way up. The least damage or pain I felt came from the V-Moda Crossfade M100, the Denon HP1100 and the Pioneer HDJ 2000. The V-Moda are awesome sounding, but I feel the bass eats the sound too much. The Pioneer seemed very balanced, but WAY overpriced (over $400) and are not exactly as robust as they make them out to be. The Denon win the round again because of affordability which is a little over $100. Bass is still strong enough, too.
XS ROCK: What do you think of the current music scene?
Zardonic: I think a lot of exciting things are happening because of the democratization of music making, but something has to change. We need music. It’s getting tiresome. I keep going back to classical music these days because I can’t stand most music these days. Minimalism has run its course, I think. Time for people to realize that Less is less and More is MORE!
XS ROCK: For anyone that doesn’t know you, what would they be surprised to know about you?
Zardonic: That I am a conservative straight man with christian values who wants to settle down, marry a beautiful wife and have children. I desire a traditional family. The picture perfect family, you know? I don’t think much good has really come from challenging our institutions. To be fair, when I mean christian values, I mean values. I still don’t trust the religious institutions that much, but I still feel closer to home when I walk through the Vatican Museums than when I spend an entire night in a goth club where people are having an orgy on coke, you know what I mean? Dude, the other day a friend told me about this feminist, bisexual, punk ex girlfriend I had about 10 years ago, who literally posted something about how AWESOME her last orgy was, and how “respectful” it was because everyone was wearing a condom and omg so much respect there, and how she tried to suck two dudes off to help them get it on because they were too shy to try and join the orgy, and she was sad because she couldn’t get them to join. Then she commented that the orgy had 4 women and 17 dudes – AND ALL OF THIS WAS POSTED ON HER FACEBOOK PROFILE. I was thinking to myself, “is this real life??”. I can’t believe I was ever so deeply, madly, crazy in love with THAT. Insane. But hey, human rights and democracy and freedom and who cares.
XS ROCK: Is there anything that you’d like to promote or say to your fans out there?
Zardonic: Yes. Stop obsessing about taking selfies, about being pretty or not, about measuring your worth by some arbitrary number of likes or dislikes, comments from random people, and stop showing off your bodies like it was everything you had to offer. Seriously every time I see some chick pushing her tits up or taking a picture of her ass I just shake my head. Nobody like that makes a serious, long-term partner. And I would freak the fuck out if I had a daughter that did the same thing. Think about that for a second and leave the narcissism aside. At the end of the day, I don’t want someone who knows only to be pretty. I want someone who can also be messy, useless, stupid. Someone that allows herself to be vulnerable around me. Someone who will also love me when I am old and don’t get a hard-on because when all is said and done, it really doesn’t matter how big your tits are or how thick your dick is. Now we treat our partners as options because the second shit goes south, all you have to do is open Instagram to remind yourself that you can always go find another perfect partner. But we are not perfect. None of us are, and we’ve learned to try and find something that does not exist as opposed to learning to be more tolerant with each other, and to become better people for those who surround us. Family. What the hell happened with that?
So I think it’s time to leave all that narcissistic bullshit aside and show off better things. Can you paint or design? Show off your work. Can you make music? Make some REAL music and show it off! Show off what you CAN do. Quoting deadmau5, “What do YOU do?”. Instagram was meant to be about beautiful photography and they turned it into an underage soft porn fest. And to me, that’s a real problem. A problem that a lot of people seem to be ignoring. We need our family values back. That ex girlfriend I mentioned in my previous answer? She was hot. Super hot. She had huge tits. I actually remember she had potentially the biggest tits I’ve ever dated. Her face was gorgeous and she fucked like a queen. Any selfie from her would probably get millions of likes online. Who cares? Seriously. Who cares? Fuck Kim Kardashian. Fuck Kanye West. Fuck Miley Cyrus. Fuck all these weak, useless, pitiful human beings that have done nothing positive for our society.
See? I’m pretty fucking conservative LOL. Sorry to poop the party guys 😀
XS ROCK: Thanks again for taking the time to talk with us at XS ROCK!
Zardonic: Thank YOU for the interview! Much success and until next time!