Over the years, Zimmer has been sharing with the world his shimmery brand of nu-disco and has continued to evolve his sound and show his growth as a producer and DJ. We got the chance to ask him a few questions prior to his show tonight at U Street Music Hall. Read his responses below.
You released your self-titled album, Zimmer, in September of this year. Tell us about the influences behind the album.
It’s hard to pinpoint direct influences. To me, this album was about letting go and writing freely. [All] I had were a few concepts though, things I wanted my album to be (more on that in question 2). However, I really think an artist is like a filter. When I make music, the thing that dictates what I’m doing is my instinct, who I am. That’s all based on places I’ve seen, people I’ve met, where I am physically and mentally at that very moment.
When preparing an album, do you decide on a set theme or atmosphere in advance or does that come through later in the process?
Yeah, I had an idea of what I wanted my album to be. I had a few concepts, and moods I wanted to find. There was the idea of exploring the two sides of my music, the chill, slow, mellow one, and the more intense, techno-driven part of it. Another concept was doing it with radicality, pushing the boundaries of what I had done, go for really slow, and really intense at the other side of the spectrum. There was also the idea of having a record that flows, like a mixtape. The last concept was to have a record that you can both listen to on your own. It was about reaching that perfect balance.
But once I started writing I put those concepts on the side and just wrote music. After one year of writing, I kind of had a little recap, checked in on what I wanted, and thought of what was missing. But I never forced it. One year later, I realized the album was ready, that the balance was there.
Tell us about how you developed your live show, the staging as well as the music. Do you have any visual inspirations for the current set?
The idea was definitely for the live show to be a continuous experience of what we had developed in the music videos (Mayans, Make It Happen, Landing).
The main thing was to use the idea of the solar panels you see in Mayans.
There’s also the technological aspect you see in Landing.
I actually designed and built these panels myself, which turned out to be quite a challenge.
For you, is there any difference in preparing for a DJ set versus a live set?
Yeah, it’s 2 totally different things. DJing is about finding good tracks and organizing them in a way where I can improvise.
The live show is about putting on a show, with scenography, lights, it’s much more rehearsed. The idea is total art, showcasing my music exactly in the conditions I’ve imaged it in. It’s also a different preparation as I have to find ways to take the music from the studio to the stage, pick what I’ll be playing, sometimes also making new versions of my song just for the live show.
You have performed in Washington, DC several times. What are your favorite memories of playing here?
Yes! [Two] memories come to mind actually. The first time I played U Street Music hall, probably in 2013 or 2014. It was instantaneously one of my favorite clubs in America, the way it was built, the sound, the energy, the people… and then last year, I played my first ever live show in DC. I ran into so many technical difficulties, but the crowd was fantastic and gave me strength. I can’t wait to be back Thursday now that I have a lot more experience playing live!
Watch the video for “Make It Happen”, his collaboration with Panama, here: