The Extended Cut: Zero T – Former Self EP [The North Quarter]

For those who’ve been following our hit series The Director’s Cut, you’ll know its focus is on albums. Often times though, artists create EPs that almost feel like albums in themselves, with personal stories and intricate backstories. To give these bodies of work a chance to be heard in a new way, we have created a new feature called The Extented Cut, which is aimed at EPs instead of albums. To kick off this new feature, we invited Irish Drum & Bass veteran Zero T, who recently made his return to Magnetic favorite imprint The North Quarter with his emotive and lush Former Self EP

Following up from his ambitious multi-genre project “Baby Grand”, Zero T now strips things down to a focused five-track project that maneuvers through a broad range of styles within Drum & Bass. From his Soulful reinterpretation of Mango x MathMan’s “Lonely Night” to the dubbed out weight of “Clash” – with Bristol-based rising producer Myth – this is a well-balanced EP that displays Zero T’s expansive vision and is a testimony to his growth as a producer and technician. 

How to listen: There are a couple of ways to proceed. First, you can listen to the whole album, which you will find below, and then read the notes. Or, read the notes as you listen to each track. This will completely change your perspective on the whole release itself and bring you closer to the artist and their work.

Words by Zero T

Zero T

Zero T

One of the many reasons I enjoy working with The North Quarter is the creative relationship Lenzman builds with each artist for each project. If I’m the director, then he is definitely the executive producer. My first EP for TNQ was an ambitious 10 track, multi-genre affair, made in collaboration with new-jazz duo Unitsouled. For this sophomore effort, both Lenzman and I agreed it should be a stripped-down, straight-up drum & bass thing.

Track 1: “Moments Fade” (ft Steo)

A very simple track: drums, bass, pianos, an arp loop, and a string. As soon as I programmed the piano samples I knew what I wanted to do and that it was going to be a Steo vocal. I’m a huge fan of Robert Glasper and these pianos really reminded me of his chords. I went for a classic mid-2000s style beat and kept the bass sparse to allow room for the vocals. Less is more with this track and I think the interaction of the elements adds up to more than the sum of its parts. When I make musical d’n’b I always try to hit a bittersweet mood, which is something Steo understands innately and always matches with his vocals for me. With some exceptions, I generally think that musical d’n’b needs to have some melancholy or ambiguity of mood. Too much sweetness and it can become cheesy very quickly.

Track 2: Mango x MathMan (ft Loah) “Lonely Night” (Zero T Vocal Mix)

This one has an unorthodox back story. Another strong Irish connection here: MxM is a hip-hop duo from Dublin who had Steo featuring on their album last year. The original plan was for me to remix that track, but when they sent me the whole album I was bowled over by Lonely Night. It has incredible piano and Rhodes keys and a jaw-droppingly beautiful vocal from Irish-Sierra Leonean singer Loah. I knew on first listen that I could turn it into a belter without too much trouble. My main concern was to not get in the way of the original music. I ended up making two versions; the “Setting Sun” remix, which has the full rapped verses by Mango and the Loah choruses, and the “Vocal Mix” which was an extended “DJ” version featuring only the Loah choruses. MxM released the ‘Setting Sun’ remix on their label Weapon of Choice, and Lenzman and I came up with the idea of TNQ licensing the “Vocal Mix” for my Former Self EP. On a personal note, it was a real pleasure to collaborate with some Irish artists from other genres for the first time in my career. The track has a big emotional impact and I can’t see it leaving my sets anytime soon.

Track 3: “Elegy”

For this track, I wanted to write something more esoteric and less focussed on being ‘club-worthy’. The vibe of Elegy is in the same vein as the recent “Exiles” EP on Metalheadz by Beta 2 and myself; slower in tempo and with a 90’s approach to the drum programming. I have to credit Lenzman with some inspired direction on this one. It started out with the same piano, but a more dancefloor, modern d’n’b approach. He suggested taking it down a more chilled out and pensive route. That was definitely the right move – the finished track is something you could relax to on a sunny day, but still would get feet moving in the hands of the right DJ.

Track 4: “Clash” (with Myth)

Jay Myth is a young producer based in Bristol, who is also part of duo Ill Truth. I’ve been a fan of the Ill Truth stuff from pretty early in their journey, so when Jay started sending his solo material I was pleasantly surprised. Firmly rooted in original jungle methodology, but with state of the art production techniques, Myth beats are a treat for my ears. His tunes have been littered throughout my sets ever since. The obvious next step was for us to get together on a track. Clash is everything you would expect from a Myth track: old breakbeats engineered to perfection, fat jungly sub-bass, and dub-wise soundscapes. What I wanted to add to that usual palette were some soul and funk. The intro has some wonky, off-key sounds and a menacing horn, but the jazz sample that comes midway through the track switches the vibe. It reminded me of that classic Full Cycle vibe of jazzy soulful sounds blending with dub bass and fx. Watch out for Myth, don’t be fooled by the name: he is a real one!

Track 5: “I Want More”

This track is a purpose-built sonic SCUD missile aimed directly at the dancefloor. My good friend Leon, from the legendary dubplate cutters Music House, gave me a bunch of recordings of soundclashes in Jamaica many moons ago, which I’ve been meaning to mine for some time. All the bass sounds and bleeps are made from one 808 bass drum sample, reprocessed, and resampled over and over again. Just before lockdown, I was lucky enough to play this to one of the best d’n’b crowds on earth: Star Warz in Belgium. When you play a track for the first time and it gets a primal, vocal reaction from a big crowd, you know you’re onto something. There are few better feelings in this world, to be honest, but the visceral memories are fading fast – let’s hope our world can get back to some sort of normal soon. 

Grab your copy of Zero T’s Former Self EP here.