Something of a remix king, Brighton based Zac Samuel has reworked tracks from a number of internationally recognised artists, including Hercules & Love Affair, Lily Allen, Rita Ora and Years & Years. With 1.1 million monthly Spotify listeners, his remix of Karen Harding’s ‘Say Something’ remains his most successful track to date, clocking up a massive 57 million streams on the platform. The producer and remixer has taken time out of churning out remixes to working on originals lately, and the first of this year ‘Take It Back’ seeing Samuel deliver a club-ready hit with an instantly recognisable sample. Drawing on 2000s chart classic ‘Cha-Cha Slide’ by Mr C The Slide Man. We decided to take some time out to get to know the upcoming producer for our interview series.
Welcome to DMC World, Zac. How are you? For readers who might not know you could you tell us about your background and how you got into music?
Hi, I am well thanks, hope you’re well! Well I started out in music when I was 15/16 in punk bands as a drummer. That ran its course as members went off to sixth form. Then a friend of mine started showing me electronic music i.e Crystal Castles/Daft Punk & FutureCop. We started messing around with music production software, I think it was Reason & SonarLe, kind of recreating our favourite bands, that opened the world of production to me. We made a band called I Haunt Wizards, we did alright on myspace back in the day but then I got kicked out lol. Took a couple of years away from music from 19-23, worked with my uncles in their businesses, got a certificate for drumming down at BIMM in Brighton & then thought it was time I went to get a degree, went to University of Westminster, got kicked out of that at the end of second year, NOT COOL. So I was in an odd point in life around 4/5 years ago, didn’t know what I was doing, had a job in the stock room of River Island. My brother said I should try making my own dance tracks, so around 2013 I made ‘Pushin On’, whacked it on soundcloud – sent it to some labels and somehow had an email back from an A&R at PMR Records & it all came about from there. Signed with them a month or two later, created my remix for Karen Harding of her tune ‘Say Something’ & it’s been rolling on every since, lots of remixes, lots of DJing & lots of studio aka my room.
As a producer and an artist, who are your influences?
I was really into Avicii & Calvin Harris and the EDM vibes back in 2012, I loved the positivity and hands in the air feeling. Looking back now I think it was because I was at such a low point in life it really built you up and gave you some strength. Then I started listening to some podcasts by Cafe Mambo when I would be on the bus to work, discovered lots of house music: Julio Bashmore, Tensnake & Disclosure. It was a different energy to the EDM & the production reminded me of electronic music I used to listen to when I was a teenager but it still worked in the clubs. So the combination of those two genres is where my productions sits.
Talk to us about your latest single “Take It Back”, how did it come together? And how did you come across the sample?
Well, bit of a weird one. Start of last year I was pretty sure I was done & my career was over but my managers held the faith & got me a bunch of studio sessions with some great people, one of whom being bad boi TCTS. He jumped down on the train to mine near Brighton, we demo’d a few ideas, he started with the bass line and we messed around with drum samples. I jumped on my laptop while he was on my computer, started flicking through some acapellas on Youtube & somehow the Cha Cha Slide just fit nicely, then I arranged the demo and here we are. The sample took a long long time to clear, finished the tune last September!
You’ve remixed for a number of credible artists in the industry such as Hercules & Love Affair, Lily Allen, Rita Ora and Years & Years, which record would you say kicked things in motion?
For me within the industry and gaining some attention it was my Kiesza – Hideaway remix, this then lead to me being asked to remix Karen Harding & then kaboom, soundcloud streamers loved it.
What’s your approach with reworking for a remix, would you say you have a set process or is it different every time?
Its usually a couple of ways, depends on the vocal/vibe & musical note. I will start with finding a speed that the vocal sits nicely at, then onto chords, finding either a bass line or piano part that fits the vocal. Then I’m having to think about the energy and arrangement, sketching out verses, build ups and drops etc. Then it’s simply filling in the details with the right sounds, you have your obvious house/dance sounds, but then I like to blend in some curve balls, a lot of 70s synths and big 80s drum hits. Ultimately for me it’s creating a piece of music that can touch as many people positively as it can, I think having dance music in my life at a hard time really resonated the power of music and how it can help people in this crazy/amazing world.
Having played shows with the likes of Disciples, Oliver Heldens and Oneman, are there any artists you would love to tour on the road with?
Ed Sheeran, Calvin Harris, Avicii rip, I love the positivity but also this band called Hoops & singer songwriter called Langhorne Slim, I’d go as a session drummer lol.
What more can people expect to see from you this year?
Hopefully releasing some new music!
Can we expect to see you hitting the decks anywhere this summer?
lol maybe, see how this tune does, I’ve been so quiet for the past 2 years.
Lastly what are the big 5 tunes in your box this weekend…
Joys – Roberto Sauce
It’ll All Be Over – DJ Koze
Thinking About You – Calvin Harris
Take It Back – Zac Samuel lol
I Don’t Care – Ed Sheeran, Belieber
Thanks for having me!
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