Strolling down Wigmore Street, London in the sweet September rain Sara Jenkins met up with electronic wiz-kid TedZed. Causing something of a stir in certain circles he is a man of many talents and his songwriting is described as having a touch of Bolan, Rundgren and Drake. TedZed has recently signed to BMG and so their offices were a good starting point.
Where did the name TedZed come from?
Well I just thought that TedZed was ringy from the beginning, I thought that Ted sounded a bit American and I wanted to do something weird like the Bowie’s and things like that with the weird glam rock thing going on. I thought Zed sounded a bit alien and a bit weird. I actually found out Zed is like our generation, from 1993 to early 2000 is the connected generation of the social era with computers..
At the start of the year you released 2 EP’s, how did they go down and how did the public react to it?
Alien Monday was really interesting for me because Alien Monday was one of the first songs I ever put together as TedZed. That song pushes you and its sort of challenging because of the sound of it, its quite I wouldn’t say schizophrenic but similar in the way it does its own thing but it does also have a pop chorus, so when it went onto the internet and Vevo picked it up there was a load of people who loved it and a load of people who absolutely hated it. People thought ‘this isn’t Zedd’, as in the DJ Zedd guy and they thought they would stick to Zedd the DJ instead.
But then there was loads of really positive comments coming off it and I did a gig in Camden and I actually had fans popping up that I didn’t have before saying ‘I really like Alien Monday’. It also got a lot of radio play and it just taught me a lesson that it was only really one side of my sound and when believe came out thats a completely different side of my sound. I did Alien Monday with Youth (Killing Joke & producer) who did Bittersweet Symphony and he had that 90’s view and he bought that to it and it ended up sounding like a massive alien anthem and then Believe came along and thats more vintage, it still has the beeps but it feels recognisable and to me felt kind of 70’s but still sort of modern. Zane Lowe picked up on it and he played it so its really good for me now because I have these 2 sides of the story and with my next single I can bring it together and I know where mi going now which is really good.
In February you were named band of the day by the guardian, do you think that had any effect on when the EP’s were released, did people hear about you through that guardian review?
Yeah I got a message from a few people, and I think Duran Duran’s manager picked up on it and send it to some guy who was talking about it. The guy was really interesting because id never really paid attention to Duran Duran and to me it still isn’t something I would consider. When I talked to Paul Lester (The Guardian) on the phone about it and I was talking about Todd Rundgren and he is a massive Todd Rundgren fan, so as soon as I said Todd Rundgren I knew he was going to go off on one about him. Todd Rundgren is one of my favourite artists but I’m not obsessed with him..(laughs) But the guardian was good, the guardian interviews are always really honest and they show you something you don’t know about your music and it did effect what was going on and brought some people to the gigs. We didn’t tailor the release around it but it definitely did some weird things and I got some weird messages.
After their release you played some festivals in the summer such as Secret Garden Party and The Great Escape, were they the first festivals that you did and apart from small gigs were the festivals the main introduction of your music to people?
Yeah it really was, I did a few really small gigs in London because I only really started TedZed properly in 2013 and we did our first gig in a barn and it was just me and another guy in a barn with psychedelic lights and things, and this old guy who walks around the farms he actually came to one of the gigs in London all the way from Somerset and it was incredible. And then we started small gigs but the festivals were the first chance to push it out there and get it out to people, we did some gigs around Somerset but those festivals actually get people coming and looking at your music.
You have played in London before when you had a residency at club NME in KOKO which I was actually there for one of your dates..
Oh yeah I forgot about Koko as well. Which time were you there?
I cant remember which date, I think it was your third date there…
Oh good, The fourth was a disaster. Not as a gig but I just felt really stressed, but the rest of the dates there were really fun. They were a really rowdy crowd but Koko was such a good experience because I had never really done that kind of gig before and I was lucky enough to get a residency there. Each time I played there I learnt something new because a crowd never reacts the same and I expected that but I didn’t really understand it until it happened. One time if a song sounds really massive then the next set it can seem really small.
And now you are going to be doing a small tour in London, Southampton and Brighton and your also doing some dates in France as well, do you have a fan base in France? Have you played there before?
Well theres a blogger, I cant remember his name but he really liked the music and some magazines have taken notice in France. It makes sense to me because they have that electric background and I love ‘Justice’ and they love that electric scene and they picked it up in France. We have done Calvi On The Rocks which is in Corsica which was amazing, they treat us really really well over in Europe. They are very open and willing to listen to your music and can go nuts for it and they want you to go nuts as well.
When you play UK gigs and then some in France is there a difference in who comes and listens?
Yeah thats the amazing thing about doing gigs London, theres so much going on. Ive done some gigs in London that were amazing and then some that were literally empty. And that just part of London, getting people there, but im really looking forward to doing France, we are doing a gig in Reims and im really looking forward to that as well as a Rock Radio Station showcase sort of thing in Paris so that will be fun as well and then the gigs in London after that.
Your music has been described as alternative as well as electro-pop with a bit of rock in there. Where do you think your music fits in and how would you describe it?
I always find that alternative is always such a massive genre and if you don’t really know how to class something you just put it in the alternative bracket. People become really lazy with genres and I think its good because I think the lazier the genre the less people judge your music. If you are part of the dub step crew then if your dub step doesn’t sound a certain way then you don’t have a place, and I think thats very important. I think the fact that I have that alternative sound means I can get away with playing guitar and doing what I want. Its pretty much just me and I do everything myself, I just play electronics or guitars or whatever I can get my hands on so I guess I would say its kind of olden sounds that have been in hibernation for years or something, and they have sort of just woken up and in this new world. I love anything modern or anything old but a festival in France called it intelligent pop, which I really like. It just sounds awesome.
So what generally influences your music when you write it, what or who is your biggest influence?
I have always been into blues music, and I went through a period of just listening to really old music such as Sunhouse and Muddy Waters, and all of that blues period and I really like the roughness of that and then that had an impact on me, and then I also love David Bowie and the 70’s sound and anything that is slightly odd, something that challenges you but gets you singing along with it and thats what I like.
You studied in Bristol but when was it that you decided to follow a career in music?
I think I decided when I was in school and started making things on my computer and messing around, I went through a period of just thinking what I was going to do when I get out and music just seemed to be the thing that has always allowed me to get my creativity out. For you that may be photography, and for me its music that has always been the easiest way to translate something in my head into something physical and something that people can listen to or just feel. As soon as I got out of school I knew I needed to do music and Bristol was the nearest place that I could go for me to study it. And with all these EDM people around me I wanted to do my own thing so I sort of went into hibernation.
So do you write all your lyrics and music yourself?
Yeah I do it all myself. I have pretty much always done it all by myself. When I record it in the studio I record it with my drummer because im not a very good drummer so he comes in and helps me with that, but I do everything myself so its an isolated sound kind of thing. Im like some weird kid in the country making weird sounds.
Do you think thats why you have been played so much on the radio and had great reviews from people such as the guardian because your music is so different and original compared to the main style of music in the charts on the radio these days, do you think people want a change?
I think with music people always come back. Chart music definitely follows a formula and when something actually questions a formula then people will want to hear it because people are interested in things that are different and challenge them. I watched something recently about how people were confused when the 70’s style music came out and how people were dressing, I think in the end people like something challenging what they know. The reason they are challenged by my music is because I don’t think technically, I don’t think about what people are going to like, I just kind of do it and thats probably why people are interested in it and they can relate to that because they are on their own mission.
Last of all, do you have a full album coming out soon or any plans to release a full album?
Yeah, right now im actually working really hard and have this sound im developing and im really excited about it. I have loads of new songs and just insanely excited about it because its all of what I have learned so far from the EP’s coming together, and iv been able to individually come up with something which I think is really new and fresh.
TedZed website is here: TedZed
Interview and photographs by Sara Jenkins, September 2014. London.