Japan's Must-Read Magazine

Zak B: Producing the Stars

Zak Baney is one of the key international music producers in Osaka. He has his own studio, his own record label, and his own toothbrush. Back in 1987, he pioneered a new style of Techno in the form of acid breaks. He’s also one half of champion Gaijin Sounds 2009 duo Beat Persuasion, whose music was so persuasive that it practically boogied into the Top Ten of its own accord. Zak B took some time out of his busy schedule of mixing with (and just mixing) the stars to speak to little us, for which we’re genuinely honored. Here’s what he had to say.

Jonti Davies: I really enjoyed the Beat Persuasion tracks you submitted for Gaijin Sounds, and so did everyone I played them to. Would you say those tracks represent your signature sound?

Zak B: First of all, thank you, I’m very happy that you enjoyed the tracks. But no, not at all. Beat Persuasion is just one of the few side projects I use, as an outlet to do a certain style of music and to incorporate talented singers. I consider the style I make with Deron Reynolds in Beat Persuasion is Electro New-wave Disco. For the other project that I am working on, with Sabrina Surovec in Z Machine Labs, we are doing mainly an EBM/Gothic/Industrial style. They are like day and night. All other genres of music I dabble in are always done under the Zak B/Zak Baney name.

JD: You’re a DJ and a label owner, then, but is it right to say that you’re focused on the production side of things now?

Zak B: I started back in 1986/87 as just a producer first, then later on I decided to deejay. So I’ll say my main focus has always been on the production side of music. For me deejaying has always been more of a fun thing to do after the music was done, because while all the other DJs out there were spinning other people’s records, I was one of the rare few who was spinning all of my own music. That gave me a chance to test the songs on the crowds and fans first. Sad to say, I’ve now retired from deejaying to concentrate more on the record label and to spend more time with loved ones.

JD: Hey, silver linings… So how easy/difficult was it to get a record label going in Japan? Does Japan have good distribution networks for that kind of thing?

Zak B: Once I make up my mind to do something, I usually don’t let obstacles get in my way. So for me personally it was not hard at all. I have been weighing the pros and cons of starting my own label for almost 20 years now and the pros have always outnumbered the cons. One of the many reasons for starting the label is that I always hated giving up my music rights to other labels; on top of that, they also owned the rights to my name. That’s why, back in the early 90s, for every major label I was on I had to use a different name. It was the only legal way I was able to keep doing the music at that time. But now I have all the freedom to do things the way I want and when I want. Moreover, I get to control all my publishing rights – it’s just a great feeling! Ah, sorry, I got sidetracked. As for distribution, I use only UK and USA distributors but the music is distributed all over the world.

JD: Which Japanese artists have you been producing recently?

Zak B: I am now producing for Makoto Togo and Ryo Azuma – two very talented singer/songwriters. We have just finished Makoto’s first mini album and are starting the storyboards for his music video. Ryo’s new album will be done by August. Then we get back into the studio and work on their follow-up albums if all goes well.

JD: Are major Japanese artists easy to work with, or are there lots of prima donnas in that sphere?

Zak B: I have produced/worked with/remixed many of the biggest names in music history and they have all been a pleasure to work with. But what I love about working with professional Japanese artists is their lack of cockiness – they are very humble. Once they feel comfortable and you have gained their trust, they will tend to do as you ask, all in the vision of making them the best they can be.

JD: Could you tell me a little about the movie and TV soundtrack work you’ve done? Are you planning to do more of that?

Zak B: In the past I have made music for viral video documentaries and ESPN, but since starting the record label I also established a production company along with my co-director and producer Minha Kim. I take care of the music and technical part of production, and she does most of the directing and editing. We have produced some music videos featuring Japan’s top b-boys and b-girls and an adidas promo TV ad. We have also worked with the great guys at Power Arts Gym and are now in the process of completing a full feature film and a sci-fi movie. As long as there is always a story to tell, we will keep making movies and the soundtracks for them.

JD: Multimedia, nice. Is there an artist out there whose music you would particularly like to produce? Perhaps they’ll read this and get in touch – you never know.

Zak B: I don’t have one particular artist in mind. There are many I would like to work with. But my main goal in finding an artist to work with is that they have to be creative, professional, open-minded and, most importantly, have a God-given talent to sing WITHOUT the use of Autotune. Those people know who I’m talking about. [Laughs]

Zak Baney can be found online at myspace.com/dubtone and myspace.com/zakb1

Beat Persuasion can be heard at myspace.com/beatpersuasion

To download a PDF of this story as it appears in the magazine, click here

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