by Anthony Salupo
When two insanely unique and creative minds come together in harmony, it makes for one fantastic team of artistic production. That is exactly what you get from the Zebbler Encanti Experience. With the recent release of Freakquency and Zebbler‘s new visual projection project, it is very clear that these two are in full creative swing. Lucky for us, both Peter Zebbler and Ben Cantil (Encanti) took time out of their hectic schedules to answer some questions for us. They delivered with some very elaborate and insightful answers that are an absolute must read. So much more than just revolutionary artists, these two are intellectual and able to teach us a little about themselves as well as life overall. I got the chance to learn more about these two individuals as people, artists, and collectively as the Zebbler Encanti Experience. Their artistic pursuit is more than just a career to them, it is who they are; it lives inside them.
With Encanti being the main mind behind ZEE”s musical aspect, and Zebbler serving as the brains behind the duo’s fabulous visual production, each member carries their weight through their own unique talents in the project. So rather than trying to develop questions for both Zebbler and Encanti collectively, I decided to interview them individually, allowing me to investigate their artistic process’ more thoroughly.
Speaking with Encanti:
Funkadelphia: Let’s start off with some background info: what is your name, where are you from originally, and where do you reside currently?
Encanti: My name is Ben Cantil. I grew up in Alaska, and I moved to Boston at 18 to attend Berklee College of Music. After I graduated, me and Zebbler became room mates and started collaborating right away. Last September, I moved to Valencia, Spain to teach electronic music in Berklee’s new overseas Music Technology Innovation masters program. I just finished up my first school year there and I’m pretty stoked with how it’s going, so I think I’ll stay in Spain for now.
Funkadelphia: When did you discover your passion for music?
Encanti: There was never a doubt in my mind about anything else I wanted to do. Like many other musicians I know, having a passion for music is like having a sexual orientation – there was never a moment where I discovered I had it, I’ve just always had it, it’s an inseparable part of who I am.
Funkadelphia: When did you start producing music?
Encanti: In 2001, living in Alaska, all I wanted to do was explore musical ideas, but I had limited resources, so I downloaded \ free drum machines and synthesizers. It’s not even that I wanted to specifically make electronic music – I just didn’t have any way to record a band. I gravitated towards digital music as a necessity rather than a decision, but soon enough, I fell in love with the sounds of synths and realized that digital music production was my calling.
Funkadelphia: Who are some of your influences? Electronic and non-electronic
Encanti: Electronic: I think most the crazy sound design on Freakquency is influenced by the clarity and crispyness of the recently deceased label Enig’matik Records. For that psy/techno sound, I was influenced by Photek, Rob Clouth, Stimming, Shpongle, and stuff I found on Ektoplazm. All the dubstep and trap parts were inspired by sounds I’ve been hearing lately from Snails, Apashe, and especially the LAXX album “Step One” on Never Say Die Records. Also, Tipper’s “Forward Escape” has been on repeat.
Non electronic: Rage Against the Machine, Jose Gonzales, Sallie Ford and the Sound Outside, Tom Waits, Deftones, Steve Wilson.
Funkadelphia: What does producing music do for you as a person? For example, an artistic release, an expression of emotions or ideals, or just to entertain the fans?
Encanti: Great question! I just make things that I wish existed. Psy-Trap is a perfect example… the idea of blending very psychedelic progressive sonic journeys with skull-thumping glitch-bass climaxes is just an infectious concept to me. Morphing these sound together is like a thought experiment I’m still rolling with.
Seeing how people respond to my music live also definitely guides many of my decisions when I get back to the studio – it’s a very specific kind of weird I’m going for, and making it perfect means observing the context of how people respond.
Funkadelphia: What do you hope your music does for your fans?
Encanti: My friend Stephen Webber says that the most important thing to keep in mind while making music is finding the emotional response you’re going for. My emotiv ingredients stem from music that engages the mind’s expectations and incites an uncontrollable impulse to move and go wild. Some of the most inspiring times of my life have been on the dance floor, and I’m trying to re-capture the feelings that I get during the peak moments, where I just feel so alive and absolutely free from all of life’s bondage. All I want is to create experiences like this for other people.
Funkadelphia: We’re huge fans of the Psychic Projections album; we love heavy bass music but also the psychedelic glitch flavor as well, and that album has a very impressive blend of both. This new Freakquency EP replaces the dubstep aspect with a very unique trap sound, and it is certainly just as strong. So what brought about this change? Was it just an interest in trying something new, to showcase the diversity of your artistic talent? Were there any experiences or moments in your career during the time between the two albums that caused the change-up in style?
Encanti: The music I make is an amalgamate of whatever influences me. It’s never a career decision, it’s just survival of the fittest for what ideas make it in to the mix. (Idea genetics… I guess that’s the definition of memes?)
Burning Man is always a huge influence on me – I trace my trap influence to a set by Willy Whompa at Camp Questionmark in 2012. His set twisted my mind in half and left a huge mark on how I wanted my drops to feel. My sister called it an “inverted drop”, where an insane build up leads to super smooth subwoofer candy, and the fake-out compositional concept stuck with me. Almost all of my biggest influences come from discoveries I make at Burning Man, but now and then, a artists like LAXX and Snails get on my radar and raise the bar for nu skool bass, and I get inspired to up my game.
Funkadelphia: What can you tell us about Freakquency? What the process of creating it was like; what were your goals or expectations for the album? What sort of impact or contribution do you want Freakquency to make on the electronic music scene?
Encanti: Teaching graduate students this year at Berklee Valencia’s Music Technology Innovation program has been a really positive experience for me. I feel like teaching electronic music makes me a better producer.
One big goal that Zebbler and I set was to make a music video for every single track. While I completed the tunes this spring, I gave Zebbler the audio stems for every track. His videos are really responsive to the audio because each sound is tied to a visual element in his work. You can see them all on tour!
As for the impact, I’d love to hear more PsyTrap out there. I’d also just like to hear more challenging psychedelic music in general, and more challenging trap music too.
I feel like most music and art that’s branded as “psychedelic” and “visionary” is kind of predictable and safe, while taking itself way too seriously. I want to hear more music that playfully walks the line between madness and bliss. We wanted the aesthetic of this album to be like Alex Grey characters twerking with demonic entities – sexy but almost grotesque at the same time, and very trippy. No lights emanating from chakras, no sacred geometry, just bad ass vibrations that rip holes in space time.
Funkadelphia: What is your next step musically? Another album or any collabs? Are there any artists you would like to work with?
Encanti: My first PsyTrap track was a collab with Ganavya, called “Infinite Absence” which I dropped on my soundcloud for free last year. Ganavya is a virtuoso classical indian music singer and working with her was so amazing, it’s as if the track just wrote itself. Later on we worked on “Immediacy”- I didn’t treat her like a sample, she wrote her own melodies and harmonies, and it came out so much beautiful than an imitation of an eastern sound. I’d like to keep working with musicians that can bring an authentic piece of their culture to the mix.
You can also keep an eye out for some more collaborations in the future with vocal talent Maviiin. She’s the “ride this freakquency” voice on the title track.
I’m trying to get really good at vocal production so one day we can collaborate with Jose Gonzales.
Funkadelphia: You’re on the lineup for Cosmic Ascension. Are there any other festivals you’re playing this summer or any plans for an upcoming tour? Any chance we will see you near Philly?
Encanti: Zebbler Encanti Experience [was also at] Rootwire and Gratifly festivals as well. Nothing else is happening on the east coast until 2015. I’ll also be at Burning Man of course, and I’m still looking for more gigs there.
Talking with Zebbler:
Funkadelphia: Let’s start with the basics. What’s your name, where are you from originally, and where do you live now?
Zebbler: I go by Zebbler these days. It’s been my artist moniker since I was 13. When I was becoming a US citizen, I officially adopted Zebbler as my middle name.
I was born in Belarus, Europe, while it was still a part of the Soviet Union. I watched it all fall apart, came to the US in 1996 as an exchange student and… well… never left.
I’ve lived in Boston, Massachusetts ever since coming to the US. Really love this city. The right amount of liberal and serious in it for me.
Funkadelphia: Who are some of your artistic influences?
Zebbler: It’s a bit hard to say… but here’s what comes to mind – Salvadore Dali, Sigmund Freud, Bjork, Russian folk songs, obscure eastern European dadaists, Punk Rock, Psychedelics, Buddha, Isaac Asimov, Chris Cunningham, Pavel Bazhov, my mom, my brother, and everything and every person I’ve ever interacted with.
I mostly try to carve out my own path in art. My head is crammed full of visions. Getting them all out is impossibly hard. But I do my best. Select a few good ones at a time and keep going.
Funkadelphia: Did you start off doing visual art or some other artistic medium? Do you practice any other forms of art?
Zebbler: I did a fair bit of rock and roll singing, somewhat strangely operatic and Russian. I did some painting and some sculpting. I am a natural nest builder, I love working with my hands a lot… I love watching things grow and creating beautiful spaces.. It’s kind of strange that things have turned so digital for me as of late. But really – I just have a vision – and then find the tools or the people to get it accomplished. My projects have grown too big for me to do everything myself these days. I started a company – Zebbler Studios – we have a few very talented individuals helping me build video mapped stages and sculptures, and creating 3d video content for them with me.
Funkadelphia: I was absolutely mesmerized by the visual performance during Shpongle’s set at Luna Light. One of the best parts was the flower that seemed to be being zoomed in on and as it got closer the image almost looked like rows of teeth. I forget exactly the lyrics in the song Simon was playing but it had something to do with the danger of love or attraction, Therefore I felt the visuals and music were synced fantastically.
On that topic, what kind of relationship or correlation do you try to establish between with visuals and the music?
Zebbler: When I work with an artist on a visual package for them, whether for a tour or for a video mapped stage, I generally absorb all of their music first. Second, comes a round of ideas, always inspired by images this music paints in my brain. Then I check with the artist to see if I am close or far from their vision of the project, and we squish our collective understanding of the visual framework together. What results – is that collaboration.
As of late – a lot of artists have just started trusting me to just go with my gut. That’s where I am with Simon Posford from Shpongle these days. We worked for several years on various different projects, and I think I understand his visual preference very well by now. He just lets me create whatever comes to my mind, that’s inspired by his music.
Funkadelphia: What was it like working with Simon (Shpongle) for the Luna Light set?
Zebbler: Luna Light was a little different – we were creating a totally new video mapped sculpture, so we also had to make all new content for this structure, completely from scratch. The entire project was actually a total surprise for Shpongle – we didn’t tell Simon until he got to the festival about the type of visual surprise that was waiting there for him. He was pretty blown away. And we were too. This turned out to be one of our favorite video mapped pieces… of all time. We convinced ourselves, after the festival, to save this structure and use it again some day. It’s just too beautiful to toss in the dumpster after one festival. We gotta bring it back.
For photos from Zebbler’s production at Luna Light and during the Zebbler Encanti Experience Summer 2014 tour, check HERE
Funkadelphia: What was the process in creating the new visual screen like, and where did the inspiration for it stem from? Is there a science behind the position and shape of the polygons that its formed from?
Zebbler: Inner beauty inspiration mixed with subtle Dadaist humor is the explanation behind the shapes, I suppose.
We’ve always, since our inception, used three projection screens to span one image. So the tryptic symbology continued with this design. We also always had the horns in the middle of our ‘e’ in zee, because we are, honestly, psychedelic pranksters. That’s probably a very subtle influence behind the rest of the design. We are taking very charged symbols (pyramid, horns, wings, eyes) and re-purposing them to be beautiful, scary, pulsing, orgasmic brain waves. We are making the symbols ours again. Because shapes are shapes. They don’t belong to anyone. They are free like we are. And like you should be. Run free.
Funkadelphia: Any plans to work with any other musical or visual artists in the future? Anyone specific you would like the opportunity to work with?
Zebbler: My favorite project of all time is Zebbler Encanti Experience. I just love the communication I have with Encanti, and the amount of trust we have in each other. Working on visuals for this project truly feels limitless – I don’t censor myself – and I aim to push on every nerve in the viewer’s brain. That’s something that other acts don’t generally like – everyone wants fun and non threatening visuals. With ZEE I have the freedom to go darker, to bring out my third-eye Joker, who will unravel a much more accurate psychedelic experience for you – one with ups and downs.
Funkadelphia: What do you try to accomplish, personally, for the fans, or for a musician, with you art?
Zebbler: Beauty and awe. That’s what I always aim for, and I am my strongest critic. I desperately need to be impressed by my own work. Probably because of that, I tend to always create nearly impossible challenges for myself and my team (Shpongletron 3 with it’s infinity mirrors and coordinated video mapping and new tech almost broke us).
After the beauty and awe are created, I try to channel the uninhibited psyche. I think that art is like a cathartic psychological therapy session, and each artist grows through their own art. In the process of growth, certain truths are revealed and shared with themselves and the world around them. This process inspires me to be an artist till my last days on earth, as this discovery and sharing of growth paradigms turn deeply spiritual.
Funkadelphia: Encanti has a new EP coming, and you have that wonderful new visual projection screen. The two of you are obviously growing and expanding as artists, what does that experience feel like, and what else can we expect from you in the future (if you can tell us)?
Zebbler: We are deeply in love… with the idea of touring every summer, and creating a whole new set of audio and visuals to share with people during the winter months. He’s currently teaching music production in Spain, and I tend to have a lot of work with Zebbler Studios / touring in the winter / spring months; so this schedule will work really well for us in the next few years. If you want to book us – we are already taking offers for the next summer – so planning well ahead is a great idea.
As for the direction of our collaboration – we are both really excited by coining a new fusion genre of Psytrap. But we are whimsical like the wind. Surely, it will evolve somewhere else over the next year. The only thing I can say for sure is this – we will be psychedelic, there will be bass, and you will want to move to it.