Zookëper has released multiple successful singles in 2022, and we talked to him about his collaborations with Bingo Players and his DJ & production style.
Zookëper has several collaborations with Bingo Players including “Do What You Like” and “Bathroom Line”. He just released his latest solo single “Verano”, and we interviewed him last month at Lollapalooza about his life as a DJ/producer.
With his first track coming in 2015, Zookëper has found significant success as an artist over the past few years. He has earned two Billboard Dance Top ten singles with “Watch Me” and “Parallel Lines” and his song”Do You Think About Me” reached #4 on the UK Commercial Pop Top 30. Zookëper has remixed tracks by Matoma, The Knocks, and 070 Shake, and he’s the only artist to ever release an official remix for John Mayer.
Zookëper opened the Perry’s Stage at noon on Sunday of Lollapalooza 2022. We talked to him after his set about festival season, his music, where he came up with his name, and more. Listen to “Verano” below and keep reading for our interview with Zookëper.
For readers who are unfamiliar, how would you describe your sound, and what kind of vibes can people expect at a Zookëper show?
I love 90s house music. I try to have that sort of sound. I like music that sounds like its been sampled…I don’t always love super pristine production.
Your song “Bathroom Line” with Bingo Players came out in May. Tell us a little bit about the production for that one. Where did the inspiration for the vocal come from?
That was a vocal that Martin of Bingo Players found. He started an idea and sent it to me. We made “Do What You Like” during COVID, which was really fun. He sent over “Bathroom Line”, and I did a little bit of bassline work and other stuff. As soon as I heard the vocal, I felt like I needed to get on that record. It’s just a fun song that pumps people up.
Martin is really into analog synthesizers and stuff like that, and he did a lot of intricate production work on there. We’re really close friends and we’ve toured together before, so we had a good time going back and forth working on the song.
You also collaborated with Bingo Players on the 2021 track “Do What You Like”. Hysteria Records was one of the first record labels that you ever released on. Tell us a little bit about that relationship and how it’s impacted your career.
Martin really put me on. I released a song on SoundCloud, and he liked it and wanted to release an edit of it on Hysteria. After that, he took me on tour with him, and that was my first big tour as Zookeper.
We’re both nerds about classic rock, and we bro out on non-dance music stuff often. I was on the road with him again this past September. We always have a great time. We’ll go out to restaurants on the road and have nice cocktails together. And he’s such a good DJ. I basically learned how to DJ from him.
What does the production process look like for these singles? I’m sure you start with a ton of unfinished projects, so how do you decide which ones to work on further?
It depends. Some songs, like my “House Phone” record, are different. I had the idea for that vocal when I was in the shower. I was just laughing and thinking how stupid it was. But I told myself if I remembered it, I would work on it. I literally had it in my head for months and finally made it on a day I had free time.
Usually, though, I’m just hunting for a good vocal. I want people to be able to easily describe my songs to their friends. I want people to be like ”it’s that song that goes like this”. I look for vocals that lend themselves to that idea. I end up hunting through a lot of samples and demos.
You’ve released remixes for many artists like Sigrid, Morgan Page, and 070 Shake. You also made the only remix to ever be officially released by John Mayer. What’s your favorite part about remixing other artists’ tracks?
Remixing is so fun. There’s really no pressure. When you’re doing a remix, you already have a head start on the song. I never thought the John Mayer one was gonna come out. I just submitted it, and usually, for a big artist like that, it doesn’t get approved.
When people already know the song, I kinda feel like I can do whatever I want as long as I don’t ruin it. On the other hand, if it’s a song that nobody really knows, I sometimes won’t even listen to the original. I’ll just take the vocal stems and completely start from scratch.
Many of your tracks feature original vocal performances from singers like Georgia Ku. Who is another EDM vocalist that you’d like to work with one day?
I’d love to work with Becky Hill!
Working with Georgia was awesome. That song started as a demo at a different tempo, and it was cool, but it wasn’t a house tune. My friends from Captain Cuts sent it to me originally. We were playing a show together in LA, and I didn’t tell them that I had worked on the song. I was playing before them and I wanted them to hear it live during my set. They loved what I did to the demo and came running up on stage.
Your first release came in 2015 and you quickly found the support of Hysteria and other labels. What is some advice you have for young artists trying to find similar success?
It’s important to make songs that other DJs are gonna want to play. I know it sounds overly simplified, but if you make tracks that are weapons for other DJ sets, artists will be stoked for that. You’re helping them out…just make stuff that’s super hype!
We were doing a demo session the other day, and I think you really have to make sure that your drums are sick. I heard some demos that were so good idea-wise, but the drums just weren’t there. That’s the biggest tip I would have for producers.
Where did the inspiration for your DJ name come from?
When I was getting started, random artists would post on Hype Machine and reach the top of the charts. I had this idea to start remixing songs with different DJ names that I came up with. I would release each song under a different name, and if one of them got successful, I would see how far I could ride it out.
This was back when Dutch and Swedish DJs were really crushing it in America. I thought it’d be funny if I was an American DJ, but my name was slightly spelled wrong. The first remix I released as Zookeper was for this punk band The Ready Set, and it ended up doing well on Hype Machine. Warner actually bought the remix from me and put it out, and it was under Zookeper. Then, I started getting shows, and at that point, I was kinda stuck with the name Zookeper.
I think it’s a pretty recognizable name though.
It is! And, I’m at the bottom of every festival lineup, which I don’t mind.
You mentioned Hype Machine, which was something popular in the last decade of EDM. Where do you see the scene heading in this decade?
I love that remixes are back. They call them original tracks now, but I like all these tracks with samples. Maybe it’s getting to be a bit much with the 90s R&B tunes, but I love the energy of those songs. It’s like a collage…taking something and making it into something else. I think that’s a really cool part of dance music. I like how people found a way to do that again. You used to be able to put bootlegs on SoundCloud, then you couldn’t, and now, people are doing it again. It’s just fun.
Who are some artists that got you into the electronic music scene, and how did they influence your career?
Justice was the one that really got me into proper dance music. Their remix of “Electric Feel” by MGMT is so badass. That’s the collage that I’m talking about! And their remix of Justin Timberlake’s “LoveStoned”, too. Also, Porter Robinson back when he was doing electro. That tough electro that was coming out around 2011-12 really got me.
Do you think that style has influenced your music?
A little bit, yeah. But I also like how everything has moved towards being more groovy now. When I listen back to old stuff, some of those records are missing that groove. The whole ‘it’s all about the drop thing’…that’s cool too, but I want people to hear my music and vibe.