San Francisco - GRAMMY U SoundChecks with Zedd
Photo: Kim White/WireImage for the Recording Academy
On Sunday, October 8, 20 GRAMMY U San Francisco students participated in a GRAMMY U SoundChecks with Zedd at the city’s iconic Bill Graham Civic Auditorium. The group was invited in to sound check which was already underway – a silent sound check. The lights and visual effects were flashing in full force as we entered the otherwise darkened arena, but no music was to be heard. This is the way Team Zedd sound checks…
The visit started when Tour Production Manager Ken Floyd brought the group to the stage to get a close-up look at the massive LED walls and their mountings and the custom-built Plexiglas riser and desk Anton stands on during the shows to give the appearance of floating among the video images and effects. Ken informed that they rent all of their touring projection/display equipment because it is so expensive, and the technology is always improving, so that by renting they are not losing out on a massive investment each time there is an upgrade. He told us the video content they use for the shows is valued at $650,000 of custom content secured from designers like Beeple and also their own visuals team member Gabe.
The show is run from the Front Of House, where we found the show producers: there is the SFX tech (special effects include lights, pyrotechnics, streamers, confetti, lasers, and flames, which all takes about 8 hours to build and several hours to tweak at the venue), a Lighting tech, and a Video tech who runs all of the screens and projectors as well as an active social media program between sets. The team and their production format is based on one of three configurations: Club, Festival, or Headliner, and they revise the gear load and staffing accordingly for each. Their entire equipment rig “is the weight of 6 blue whales.”
They told us one of their SFX horror stories – the time they had a laser effect of a cage that dropped down around Zedd on stage… that ended up literally burning a hole in his mouse and keyboard during a show!
As we approached the FOH, we found Anton Zaslavski, better known as Zedd, right in the middle of the action there running the “silent” sound check from his laptop and a desktop speaker. So they could hear it all back there while synching to the visual production after all!
Zedd jumped down to answer a few questions from the GU students, greeting each one with a generous hug. He told us Bill Graham Civic is one of his favorite rooms to play in America, and that he finds Bay Area fans to be a “more educated” audience; that to keep his music from sounding too repetitive – even if that is the baseline of EDM – that he tries to focus on the melody and frame structure instead when composing. As a classically trained musician who spent some time in metalcore before breaking into EDM, Anton explained that he strives for perfection and keeping the music “on the grid” and that if you are going to do it, do it right. He shared his “Steve Jobs mentality” that there is always a way to do it, that you have to do the work to achieve it, that, “no doesn’t exist! Figure it out or bust!” In speaking about collaborations, he shared that he is not a songwriter himself, but that he finds his songwriters’ perspective to be best and most real, especially then when a song is paired with the right vocalist and refined with the singer’s perspective built into the piece as well. Whenever Zedd is in need of some inspiration, he turns to the legendary rock band Queen (very good advice!). Finally, Anton closed by telling the students, “trust yourself, trust your vision for yourself, trust your gut. Find what will make people gravitate toward you and not toward everyone – be unique and be your best.”