1898: A North Carolina beverage called Brad’s Drink changes its name to Pepsi.
1958: A radio repair shop called Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo changes its name to Sony.
1971: A sports company called Blue Ribbon Sports changes its name to Nike.
1998: A little-known search engine called BackRub changes its name to Google.
2017: German/Swiss duo QBIG & Zenith B change their name to QZB
After five years of establishing themselves as firm fixtures in drum & bass with releases on labels such as Flexout, Demand, Liquicity and Blendits and their monthly Random parties in Basel’s respected underground hub Sommercasino; the duo born Thomas and Ben have taken the plunge and rebranded the Dickens out of themselves. QBIG & Zenith B is over…
… Now is the time for QZB. And it started earlier this month with an outstanding debut for Critical in the form of a five track Systems EP. Sonically it’s business as usual; crisp, sleek, oft-foreboding, future-focused dark, rolling underground drum & bass. Visually it’s a clear upgrade with a name and logo that complements their aesthetic and striking stylised videos like this…
Motivationally, QZB is a whole new energy, too. Galvanising everything they’ve achieved so far – as artists and as promoters who’ve invited many of drum & bass’s leading figures to their events, some of whom on their first Swiss booking – their Critical Systems 009 EP represents a whole new chapter for the duo as they find themselves more inspired and enthused than ever before. Whether the successes of their future will echo those of Brad’s Drink or BackRub, only time will tell, but it does seem like a new level reboot. Talking to them in their Basel HQ (in a studio below the same club they host their raves) it sounds like it, too…
How’s the Swiss drum & bass scene looking right now?
ZB: It’s a very vital scene with a lot of very passionate characters contributing to it. It’s been blooming for years and there are many parties – big, small, underground and commercial – happening every week across the country.
Q: Switzerland is a very small country, but for its size the scene is very exciting. It’s been alive for years and we contribute how we can with our Random party.
Tell us about Random
ZB: We’ve been doing our nights for five years and we stand for a more forward-thinking approach to drum & bass. We’ve had the whole Critical camp down over the years and the whole Shogun camp for example.
Q: We book everyone we like and try to be as diverse as we can but maintain an underground vibe. Guys like Break are the perfect headliner for us.
ZB: It’s great to be able to support the music in this way and establish connections with our peers and DJs we really respect.
Promoters are the lifeblood of the scene. When you’re inviting DJs over to play you’re making really strong connections and making friendships
ZB: Absolutely. That’s what it’s all about. It’s all about the family and vibes. The least thing we all have in common is a love for drum & bass.
Q: We also try and get in a lot of newcomers and try to push them. We love being the night to give an act their first international booking. It’s very nice feeling.
Which new talents have you had over recently?
ZB: Handra, Submarine, Skylark, many more.
Q: Mostly people we love their music or people we’ve worked with or inspire us or we think are interesting. We have Ewol coming over. We keep searching and try to stay fresh and give new artists a chance to play.
Is this how the Critical connection came about?
ZB: This whole thing actually came together because Kasra liked our tunes. Once we all agreed about the release we held a Critical night and met Kasra and everyone.
Q: So we only met Kasra after we signed the EP. But we knew a lot of Critical guys beforehand.
So about the name change…
ZB: We’d been thinking about changing it to something more aesthetic, easier to search and more memorable so it was a good time.
Q: We’ve always labelled our remixes QZB, so it’s something we’ve considered for many years. It felt right for us to do it at this point. If we don’t do it now, we may never do it. It felt like the last chance in that sense. Everyone who’s been following our music has been really cool about it so we haven’t felt like we’ve disconnected with listeners or a fanbase in any way.
Does it also acknowledge or represent a new technical benchmark for you guys, too?
ZB: Definitely. It was very uplifting to see what we were achieving with this EP musically and how it was developing momentum online and with our video. It’s refreshed our motivation and given us a new energy.
Q: We’re always trying to push ourselves and improve ourselves with everything. Every EP has to be better than the last and this is where we are at now. We never want to do the same thing twice – that’s something that’s been the way since day one.
It’s such a fine line to have a signature but to remain varied and always trying new things
ZB: It’s all about having a challenge and having fun. Every tune we do as we please and never worry about how we sound or what we’re doing or how it fits in – we are just making what we want to hear. A signature comes about naturally through this. People tell you what your signature is.
Q: Sometimes you can hear what we’ve done in the past in what we’re doing now. Revenant, for example, references our more experimental sounds we’ve explored over the years. It’s more on our darker side.
And comes with a sick video! Tell me about Project Riot’s Luca Struchen & Thomas Steiner who made it for you…
ZB: They’re fellow promoters in a different part of the country and have been good friends of ours for a long time. We vibe together so we approached them when we got the confirmation of the EP and asked if they wanted to do the visual side of the release. Those guys really pulled it off. We gave them complete creative freedom.
Q: We only had one meeting then we left them to do what they wanted to do. We didn’t even suggest the track from EP. They came back with the perfect video that’s beyond what we imagined it could be. Huge respect to them! We’re very thankful for the hard work they’ve done.
Did you fund it yourselves?
ZB: No, no. There’s a lot of cultural funding in Switzerland. We contacted various institutions who fund creative projects like this and they gave us the money.
Oh wow. Is the club funded in the same way?
ZB: Yeah the whole venue is. This means we don’t make any coin but it means we can do this purely for the love of drum & bass
Q: It makes it even more like a passion project. And if we make any money it goes back into the venue for other nights happening there. It’s for the whole nightlife culture and everyone benefits.
I wish the UK had that type of foresight. So what’s up next for you?
ZB: We’ve got collaborations with GLXY and Phentix coming up. And a Vorso remix is on the way, too. Then we’re knuckling down and getting more written for Critical.
Q: We wanted to get all of our collaborations done so we can focus on more Critical material. It’s an honour to be working with them. They’re the perfect label for what we’re trying to do with our sound….