In Conversation with QZB

QZB announce their debut album Future Forever on Critical Music.

After 10 years of blowing our brains out with emotive yet menacing singles and EPs, the QZB boys are set to deliver eagerly awaiting fans a huge 13 track project, giving us nothing but the full QZB treatment.

Packed to the very brim with flawlessly selected vocal features from the likes of Charli Brix, Hadley, Marea, MCXL and T-Man, the pair use this project as an opportunity to showcase both their music making philosophy and their gritty dancefloor energy.

With the release – and a beasty three month album tour – looming, UKF caught up with QZB to dig deeper into the greatly anticipated project.

Hey guys! How are you? Where are you in the world right now?

B: We’re actually in a hotel in Prague ready to play Let It Roll. This is our sixth year playing, including Winter LIR. We’re a staple at LIR now, which is really cool. This year we’re playing a special album showcase on a smaller stage then, on Friday, we’re playing the main stage with the Critical guys. We can’t wait. It’s our favourite event to play.

QZ: It’s definitely the event we look forward to the most and this year with the album, it’s going to be even more special.

Amazing! And yes, your debut album. Massive congratulations guys. So many singles and EPs, but no albums until this one, why now? Talk to me about the project. 

QZ: We were planning on doing an album for a long time, we always wanted to work on a project that was a bit longer, even though from a marketing or strategy perspective it might not be the best thing to do these days. So, during COVID, we started working on an album. We rented a place for it, got ourselves mentally immersed into the project and got to work. However, this particular phase was very special because we basically made an entire album, and then didn’t actually release any of it. When we listened to the music we were making, everything felt very melodic and removed from who we are as producers. We weren’t playing gigs, so we didn’t have the feedback loop that we needed. When COVID faded away and we had shows again, we realised that club energy was the kind of vibe we wanted for the album. So, we started over again. We started completely fresh and worked on what ended up being Future Forever for nearly two years. We’ve done a few EPs and singles along the way, but it feels great to now have the album out there.

Wow! Cutting the original version was quite a decision to make. Did any of the original tracks make the final album in the end or did you axe everything?

QZ: There are only slight hints of the old album in the new album as there are a few samples and melodies that are very special to us, but nothing really made the cut otherwise. Saying that, there were a few tracks from the original album that got released as singles. We still have the files and recordings from the original version so we may do something with them, we may not.

B: When we did the first album, the music was something for us, something introspective. Something that would’ve maybe gone above people’s heads a bit because it was personal, abstract and maybe a bit too artsy. Then, when COVID hit, and then faded away again, club culture came back. We recognised at this moment in time that music for the dance floor was an integral part of our vision and how we socialise within drum & bass too. Dancefloor energy and the raves are something that resonates with all of us who love drum & bass, as our first encounters are on the dance floor. Future Forever is the product that was created when we merged those two approaches together, a mixture of something that is personal to us from a rave perspective and something which resonates beyond the dance floor.

QZ: The first album definitely wasn’t a failure or a mistake because it actually brought us closer together in a time when there was so much distance between us all. It was a hard time but for us, it meant that we were able to work in a space together for two weeks and be together making music again. Even though the tracks didn’t end up making the album, it really helped us as a duo. It was a hard decision to cut it but even the final version of the album you hear now went through so many changes. In the end, we got it to where we wanted it to be. We’re very happy with the final product.

What a journey… lots of great features on the album too! All of them are complimentary to your sound.

We collaborated with only vocalists this time. We love producing with other producers but for this particular project, we only wanted to work with MCs and vocalists. We wanted to do everything production wise on our own. So musically, everything comes from us.

Nice – so no deviating from your style. Strategic. ‘Overdrive’ with Charli Brix has been on repeat ever since I heard it. Such a tune.

Yeah we love that one. Charli actually came over and we recorded together in our studio. This was something that we tried to do with the other vocalists but it ended up just being easier to go back and forth online. If we are able to record in the same room as a vocalist, we love to do it and always will. We’re not big fans of sending out an instrumental for a vocalist to drop a vocal on it and then that’s a finished project. Having someone in the studio definitely helps the track to be made more naturally.

Totally. You guys are based in Switzerland, right? So I guess if people are from other countries it can be quite tricky just to fly over.

QZ: I’m from Germany but we have our studio in Switzerland. We both live right on the border of France, Germany and Switzerland, it’s a very special multi-cultural place. But yeah, flying over can be tricky if people are from places like the UK.

Do you have a philosophy when it comes to making music? What kind of thought process goes into writing a project like this and has that changed over time?

B: How we approach production always mutates, it’s never the same. For us, every piece of music we do is an experiment. We never go from a formality approach. It always has to have a sort of emotional narrative. Even if it’s just blatant energy of the dance floor, there is something that people can relate to. It’s never a technical flex. 

A huge aspect when it comes to production is that you need to feel confident that what you’re doing will resonate with people. Technicalities can be learnt in time, the real skill is translating emotion and giving something that is timeless. 

QZ: In terms of our production process, we didn’t change anything, but when you’re working on an album it is a bit different. It’s a bit more connected and there’s more variation. Every time we started something, we tried to see it with fresh eyes. Not focus on what we did before, just focus on the project in front of us. The structure of the album and the way the tracks are arranged, they’re not the typical set up: intro, 32 bars, breakdown, 32 bars. We wanted to let the music talk so if something didn’t feel like it needed a second part, we didn’t do a second part. You’re supposed to feel like you can float through the album. You should never have to skip a track because it’s too long or it repeats itself too much. We’ve been working together for so long, I believe our working relationship is quite rare. We really trust each other, we don’t need to talk about things. If I want to take something out the track, I don’t need to ask him, I obviously had my reasons for taking it out. Same for him, if he has something that he wants to take out that I put into the track. We kind of work together without talking about it too much. I think that’s a natural progression after working with each other for so long.

You do seem incredibly aligned in terms of your mindset and what you believe in. Is your working relationship something that came off the back of a friendship? Which one came first?

B: We met at a gig that we were both playing at. We checked out each other’s selection and it was very in line with one another and we just clicked. It’s been about 10 years now, maybe more.

QZ: Yeah, definitely over 10 years now! It happened very fast. We started doing music together just to try it and then I moved very close to his place. From there, we never stopped doing music together. Obviously, a friendship came through that. We bonded through music.

What advice would you give to artists wanting to form branded partnerships with other artists? Was there anything right at the start that helped the collaboration blossom?

B: I think it’s all part of shared responsibilities. In reality, having one person being the engineer and the other being the vibes guy doesn’t really work out. It’s not going to be as efficient as both people doing the same shared work.

QZ: We came from very different backgrounds musically and technically, so right from the start – and with no hesitation or flexing on each other – we started to teach and train each other. The number one thing is that you have to click together, and when that happens, you have to really hold on to it and make something out of it. I realise nowadays that’s a very special thing to happen. I don’t think we’ll ever stop making music together. If you’re working with someone and it just clicks, then you have to do it. It was the best thing we ever did. 

A proper working bromance. Love it. Any final words before I leave you to enjoy the beautiful sites of LIR?

B: Yes! We have a big album tour incoming from mid September to mid December. We’re focusing on playing quality shows until the end of the year and then we’re off to New Zealand for the first time. Working with Critical on a long term basis has been amazing, we’re very grateful for them, big up and big love to those guys. Last but not least, over thinking and over strategising things takes the authenticity away. In this day and age when everything is so blatant, up front and very consumable, authenticity is key and we think this is reflected in Future Forever. We firmly believe in our ethos, which is having and making things that are real, graspable and close to people’s hearts.

Follow QZB: Spotify/Instagram/Facebook