Keeping the sweeping lead lines and melodies of Dreamwave and infusing them with the chainsaw synths of French Electro, Alfa makes music for when you are in the middle of the dancefloor with your hands in the air and your brain not available right now.
An LA native, Zak is the Electro-House Powerhouse of the Binary stable, but don’t think for a moment that means his tunes are unsubtle. Meticulously produced, each Alfa track is not the noisy mess many heavy Electro tracks end up. Clean and crisp, with each gritty synth sound cutting through the mix Zak keeps it hard but never gets lost.
Alfa hooked up with the newly formed Binary crew after receiving some attention for winning The Cryptonites’ ‘Can’t Give You Up’ reMix competition and releasing his own ‘LA Passion’ EP and since the hasn’t looked back.
Here’s what he had to say:
ER: First off, many thanks Zak for chatting with us.
Z: Your welcome 🙂
ER: How did you get into music production?
Z: My life started in ‘99 when I picked up my first guitar. Then a few months later I played drums for the first time and something clicked. That 8th grade summer my destiny was locked—I had found my passion. From Punk, Ska, and Reggae, to Pop-Punk, Indie Rock and Classic Rock, I was going CRAZY trying to find the most suitable music scene for me. Then age 17 came around and I was infatuated with the Hardcore/Grindcore/Death Metal scene. I also had a great interest in dance music. While in my Death Metal band I would venture to the clubs 3 or 4 nights a week. I was 20 and my best friend at the time introduced me to vinyl and sent Reason 3 my way. It was over—I had lost almost all interest in making death metal. If you know anything about good, epic Death Metal, you would know that it’s very complicated and mathematical. So when I made the complete switch over to electronic music, it came very naturally. I was finally satisfied and content with the capabilities of the sequencing.
ER: Who were your heroes or influences, both musical and otherwise?
Z: As of now my heroes and influences are the 6 other binary artists. Every binary artist influences me in their own unique way. SHORT CIRCUIT is the tech guy. I’m not too big of a reader so when it comes to learning something new about the program I’m using, he’s always the guy to go to; he constantly reads up on how to use the software the right way. FABIAN continues to come out with the freshest, cleanest electro. Super complete and full of life. His music never ceases to amaze me and sends me in the right direction when I’m in need for some inspiration. LEXICONDON is the front man—he gives me the inspiration to stay alive out there and to “get weird” when performing. He is the crowd starter and has grown so much in the past 2 years. NIGHTWAVES, the soul of Binary, always reminds me with their music and posts to bring back the emotion, to bring the feeling back to the music. THE KIDS ARE RADIOACTIVE. He is one in a million. The kid can play saxophone like a god. He brings out the heavy in me. Whenever I see him mix live he compels me to be a better DJ and bring the power to the crowd. The one and only KEENHOUSE—I can truly say that Keenhouse has inspired me more than anyone in my lifetime. His talent has pushed me to be a better producer and musician. Every time I see him play keyboard my jaw drops to the floor. I hope to have him stay with us in LA forever. Aside from Binary guys, Nobuo Uematsu and Minoru Akao are my favorite producers of all time. They produced the entire Final Fantasy VII soundtrack. Current favourites: Siriusmo, Hemingway, lovelife, Aeroplane, Holy Ghost!, The Chase, Kansk, and Jupiter.
ER: When did the Binary crew enter the picture? Were you a fan before you got involved?
Z: I actually never heard of Binary before they asked me to join. I had been producing for about 2 years before I met Josh and Kyle. From what I remember they were a big fan of LA Passion and really liked the fact that I previously won the Cryptonites remix contest. Before KEENHOUSE joined Binary, Josh and Kyle sent me a message via MySpace, showed me all the artists they had recruited, and asked me to join. It’s kind of weird ‘cause at that time I was looking for/wanted to start a crew to DJ and produce and share music with—sort of an Ed Banger, but in LA, and what do you know, they came to me.
ER: How does being part of Binary help you as a musician?
Z: All the Binary artists are always coming out with fresh new material for me to compete with. They make me consistently say to myself, “I need to get better.” I value the feeling of being pushed and pushed to be the best. As long as the Binary family continues to feed off each other, we’ll continue to create better music.
ER: That’s a fine moustache, does it have a backstory?
Z: Ever since I laid my eyes on my booking manager’s blog “Moustache Wars,” I’ve been obsessed with the “stache.” Gotta’ check it out: http://mustachewars.tumblr.com/
ER: What’s in the Alfa studio studio? What are your favorite bits of kit?
Z: My studio is very basic, I use Reason 4 and Ableton 8. I run my audio through an M-Audio Fast track pro and play all my synth on an M-Audio Axiom 49. I have a Banshee Rocktron talk box and a couple random guitar pedals. I have an electric guitar, an acoustic guitar and I have 2 phantom powered mics in which I record acoustic guitar, vocals, whistles, claps, snaps and any other random sounds I have the hots for. My favourite drum machines right now are: Oberheim DMX, Roland CompuRhythm 1000, Roland TR-505, Roland D-10 L.A
ER: How does your live set up work?
Z: My new live set consists of my girlfriend and I playing synths, talk box, guitars and drums over a backing track. We also have guest vocalists and guest musicians randomly added to the picture. I’m striving for a complete live band within the next year or so.
ER: Do you prefer playing live or DJing?
Z: At the moment I prefer DJing. I like to express myself with music greater than my own and show the people of LA the amazing new music I constantly discover. I enjoy the fact that i can mix it up between Vinyl, CDJs and Serato. I love collecting records and would prefer to mix straight vinyl any day, but you cant get everything on vinyl these days so I find it fun switching from Vinyl to CDJs in a set.
ER: What’s the best show you’ve performed to date?
Z: I’m going to have to go with the Holy Ghost/Classixx/LexiconDon/Alfa rooftop pool party Binary and DubFrequency recently threw on June 5th this year. It was an absolutely beautiful day, sunny with a mild breeze. In my opinion the best party of the summer.
ER: If money was no object, what would be your dream synth?
Z: Price wise I would love to get my hands on a Roland Jupiter 8. The synth that I have my eyes on right now is the Yamaha CS 01 with the breath controller. Amazing.. If you type in, “JAPAN SYNTHESIZER BAND COSMOS,” on YouTube and click the first link you can get a little preview of what the breath controller does with the Yamaha CS 01.
ER: What does Dreamwave mean to you?
Z: Three words….”Costa del sol” youtube it!!
ER: Is Alfa more of a cereal or pile of pancakes for breakfast kinda’ act? Would that change the night after a show?
Z: I’m more of an omelette with spinach kinda’ guy, with lots of ketchup… I don’t think it would change the after hours but it would definitely help my hangover the next morning 🙂
Zak is working hard on the new Alfa EP, until then check out his previous releases: