Name: ZAINETICA aka Mark Streatfield
Current Release: The new ZAINETICA album Transmission Vectors is out via Mark Streatfield's very own Rednetic imprint.
Recommendations: Valis by Philip K. Dick; Zen by Ebi (Susumu Yokota)
If you enjoyed this interview with ZAINETICA and would like to stay up to date on his activities, visit his Soundcloud profile for more music.
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
We never had a TV growing up. Very young my Dad used to put headphones on me and sit me down in front of the turnable and put on Tomita, Vangelis, Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon and music like that. I can remember one way or another listening and trying to make music since I was very young, I think I even had a toy piano.
I don’t think anything in particular drew me to music. It’s just another medium by which to express myself. It always seemed a wonderful thing. This is undoubtable down to my Dad. I have always had a desire to create things. Starting probably with Lego and then board games, computer games, music, sound, art, design anything.
When I was very young on a Spectrum 48k Computer, programming white noise for snares and pitched down bleeps for a bassdrum, taping it and then overdubbing live keyboard from a small portable yamaha keyboard. Then I progressed to an Amiga with tracker software which opened up a whole new world of sequencing and sampling to me, that led me to the demo scene. At Uni doing an art degree I first really got involved with jamming and using all kinds of equipment from tunable b&w TVs for white noise, guitars, amigas, digital reverbs, 4 Track tape recorders, again anything and everything.
It was only around this time that I started to really evolve the process of making music and learning the best way to maximise creativity, learning to jam but then just as crucially how to edit, to recognise the good parts of a jamming session and just take that and mix it down - Len Massey has a large part to play in that.
For most artists, originality is preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you: How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice?
Hard to remember, it was a long time ago. But I think it’s a case of a lot of listening and letting the mind naturally blend all the disparate elements into something via the subconscious. I think it’s good to listen to music and try to make something like it with different tools. Maybe I learned this due to the lack of proper tools I am not sure, but there is a history of musical evolution that has come from artists making their version of something.
After leaving Uni I just kept making music, sending demos, it was mainly Jungle and Drum & Bass in those days. Pressing dub plates at Music House off the Holloway Road and a DJ friend would play them at a night where Roni Size played in Newport, just across the Bristol Channel from Bristol. That was a good way to learn, being on the dance floor, watching people’s reactions and listening.
Kept making music and slowly started making other styles. By the time I got to the second release on Rednetic - a compilation “One Point One” - I went to a studio for the mastering and a track by Ochre stood out a mile from everything else because of the sound design.
You could tell Chris understood frequencies and a space for each sound way beyond all of the rest of us. It really stood out in a proper environment - next level production. It was an “ah” moment regarding production.
There is a track on Warp by Ko-Wreck Technique, "Metro Dade (Plaid Mix)" that was a clarification for me of melodic sounds and breaks.
It was that balance and combination that was a kind of template for my first album on Rednetic - Escaping Dust. That was, if you like, the beginning of my sound.
So my Zainetica music has always needed to have that melodic sound and beat programming at its core. Too melodic and it will be another name; too beat driven another name; too 4/4 another name, like Cyan341; too ambient and it will be something else like Anzio Green.
A few years ago I became very interested in the very dry production sound of the Syd on Fin album. It seems very raw and minimal but just worked. So over time my beats and experiments with rhythm have changed but the combination and balance have largely remained the same.
How do you feel your sense of identity influences your creativity?
I have no idea, I don’t think about my identity these days, when you are younger you like to plant your flag and find your gang and define an identity, but it’s largely a trap. I think your identity is a lot more fluid and multi-layered. People like to categorise and hashtag things to lock you into a place and state of mind. You can’t do this because you are this. I have had artists on my label who told me that people said they didn't expect their music to sound like that and they were suspicious it was because of their skin colour. That is one of the advantages of names for music personas.
I really like what is happening now with people redefining the language around identity. I find it fascinating but ultimately language is a range of shortcuts and is continually simplified, so I am not sure how that is all going to pan out. We have to understand that language is a construct and not the truth. Basically everyone of us is a pie chart of elements and everyone of us is different. Your identity should really be about what you do and how you treat people, everything else should be fluid.
All I will say about my identity is that I feel like an artist not a musician. I am currently an artist that works in sound, that gives me the freedom to do anything creative that I want and not be locked into music.
What were your main creative challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
I have never felt I have had creative challenges. It’s always been the technical, never having the money to buy the equipment that I wanted and now never having the space to have the equipment that I want. You can always learn and progress.
As creative goals and technical abilities change, so does the need for different tools of expression, be it instruments, software tools or recording equipment. Can you describe this path for you, starting from your first studio/first instrument? What motivated some of the choices you made in terms of instruments/tools/equipment over the years?
Always had limited money, I think I have talked about this above. But basically in one way or another my instrument has been a computer in some form and a tracker in some form.
Have there been technologies or instruments which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?
Korg Electribe ESX-1 basically made me realise a piece of hardware could work like a tracker. It made me want to play live again, I got so bored just using ableton. I love the sound and the way it can be manipulated.
Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?
Jamming is my favourite way of collaborating. It’s the most enjoyable interaction. I have a number of collaborations on the go, but the one that I have had the most success with is with Wil Bolton and have produced 3 albums as Anzio Green.
I do find it a struggle being in a studio trying to collaboratively produce a track, especially frustrating if I am not hands on, it’s like drawing blind folded.
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please. Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
I have a day job, so I get up to have breakfast with my wife and in lockdown we sit opposite each other and work. The table is taken up with monitors, so I have no place to put any hardware. I have no fixed schedule. I just make music when I get the chance, any way that I can, from using my iphone to visiting a friend’s studio like Ramjac’s HMVS studio.
The phone that I use has music software, the laptop I use to design has software … so the ability to make music is always only a few clicks away.
Can you talk about a breakthrough work, event or performance in your career? Why does it feel special to you? When, why and how did you start working on it, what were some of the motivations and ideas behind it?
Zainetica - Escaping Dust.
It was the first release on my Record Label Rednetic Recordings. Finally having the CDs in my hand was a major moment, good friends were involved in the journey from Matt who did the artwork, and Simon and Joe, who guided and helped choose track names. It was a real collaborative project, and was the beginning of running a label and being a part of the music industry. It was important because we were actually doing something rather than just talking or dreaming about it.
The music itself was important as well. I had been very productive using an Amiga and was finally trying to make music on a PC but was not getting on with Cubase, somehow I got hold of a copy of FL Studio and very quickly found myself making music, I had found a transparent piece of software again.
There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
With music just to play and not think about what I’m doing. Pretty much anything is a distraction. I never sit down in a structured way or think about making music. The best music comes from me not trying to make music. Always make sounds as play, as experimentation, as fun, as a way of relieving stress after a long day. So I can have a range of emotions or feelings and always make music, the music will be different. I make all kinds of music.
Music and sounds can heal, but they can also hurt. Do you personally have experiences with either or both of these? Where do you personally see the biggest need and potential for music as a tool for healing?
The death of my Dad last year from cancer almost to the day of writing this, I made a lot of very special music to me, just after he died. I dived back into the music he used to play me and made versions of that for me as almost a way of connecting with him, thinking of stars and the universe and the epic almost incomprehensible nature of life and death.
And as for listening, just have music in your life, have it at your core. My Dad had a great playlist he created for his funeral, not sure how it helped but one of the pallbearers came over and complimented him on his choice of music. We cried and laughed especially at Snap - "Rhythm is a Dancer" for his main tune as it were. I never thought I would be sitting there grieving with my family and hearing the lines of a terrible rap
“Got to be what you wanna,
if the groove don't get you, the rifle's gonna
I'm serious as cancer when I say rhythm is a dancer”
The absurdity, sadness and wonder of life was so evident in that moment.
There is a fine line between cultural exchange and appropriation. What are your thoughts on the limits of copying, using cultural signs and symbols and the cultural/social/gender specificity of art?
Be respectful, music history is a knotted web so nothing is as straightforward as people think. Educate yourself. Always be ready to learn and listen.
However I don’t think there should be limits. If you come from a sampling background then there is a freedom in sampling, by deliberately removing or changing the context of a sound. One of my favourite hip hop tracks, Mobb Deep's “Shook Ones Part II” took samples and via a genius alchemy turned them into a classic, but the samples were disparate from people such as Daly-Wilson Big Band, Herbie Hancock and Quincy Jones, pitching sounds down and changing the mood and vibes completely.
And then later DJ Zinc then sampled that track and so did many many other people.
On https://www.whosampled.com/ there are pages and pages of people who sampled it. As cultural, social & gender identity is complicated in its own right it doesn't make sense to me, not to interact with something because you perceive it to be of a different identity to you.
To go deeper into this would require pages and pages of text.
Our sense of hearing shares intriguing connections to other senses. From your experience, what are some of the most inspiring overlaps between different senses - and what do they tell us about the way our senses work?
Seeing and hearing. Scores for films. Akira. Also design and sound, I would love to be able to sculpt sound. I very much see sound, being a visual person, usually when working on the artwork for albums for my own labels or other people’s labels. I can see the colours and type of artwork before the details based on the nature of the music. All music has colour, shape and form.
As for what it tells us about the way our senses work I think it has a lot to do with how our brains interpret the stimulus it receives, how open it is and how it connects the dots. Our eyes work with shortcuts and symbols, our brain makes up the whole picture, that’s why we can be tricked so easily visually. It’s the same with sound, the way our brains will interpret rhythm from very little and space is as important as what’s there.
Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?
Making music makes me feel good, so it’s finding a way to make music where the tools are transparent. You have to connect your soul to the tools that allow you to create sound, an expression of humanity.
Art is about our expressions of humanity, for me it’s a way of connecting on an emotional level. If the music contained words then concepts could be considered. But without words the music is about emotion.
What can music express about life and death which words alone may not?
Emotion. Concepts will work more with words, but music is more universal than words.