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Interview with Zak Abel

ByRoss Devlin

Nov 3, 2015

Zak Abel is a young musician, currently on tour with Kwabs. When I interviewed him, he was walking from room to room at a GP in London to search for an elusive Wifi signal.

LGG: So you’ve been on tour with Kwabs for a few shows now, where have you been?

ZA: Manchester, Birmingham and Oxford, so far it’s been incredible man; the best thing is that I just feel like people are really properly listening. Especially when I do the acoustic songs, it’s silent in the crowd, which is an incredible feeling. People are there to listen to the music. Kwabs is an artist where he makes great tunes, and people are there for that after searching for him, rather than just showing up to a venue. Yeah man, it feels good… *connection drops*

LGG: Right, now we are connected again, where’s the best place you’ve actually played recently?

ZA: The best place I’d say I’ve played so far with Kwabs recently was Somerset House in the summer. It was a really beautiful place, I felt like I was in some kind of Disney movie or something.

LGG: I feel like your sound always suits dusk, like “Running From Myself” (the opening track off One Hand On The Future) I always see as a sunset tune.

ZA: It’s funny you say that, whenever I write songs I always try and set it to an image in my head or a colour scheme, and with ‘Running From Myself’ I couldn’t stop thinking about a New York street corner at sunset. Good call man!

LGG: When you listen back to One Hand On The Future what track are you possibly most proud of?

ZA: One of the best songs that goes down best live is actually ‘Running From Myself’, it’s one where I can really let loose. I originally wrote it with Karma Kid, sat on his bedroom floor and got really involved with the percussion with both of us playing everything, we had such a laugh making it and I hope it comes across that way in the song. I mean when the chorus comes in live I just want people to feel like they know I’m giving everything and trying to create as much energy as possible. It’s the reason for it being the opening song on my live set.

LGG: In a handful of your tracks you can definitely feel some roots in soul, obviously ‘Soul Child’ for one, but I often feel that you play with elements of proper 70s soul. The chorus of ‘Soul Child’ especially showing some parts of Stevie Wonder.

ZA: Ah man, Stevie Wonder is one of my biggest inspirations. I always listen to Innervisions and man that album is incredible. I really want to take elements of that into my album. In terms of the soul, the funky R’n’B vibes, it’s just perfect. The musicality and lyrical quality in ‘Visions’ *Zak starts singing the chorus* is incredible, but also so heavy in its meaning. I love it when artists tackle more difficult subjects in their songs but in a really classy and entertaining way. I love the idea of empathy in my songs and really trying to acknowledge bigger issues in society and culture.

LGG: In what way do you feel you tackle any “larger subjects” in your tracks?

ZA:  In terms of themes that I’ve covered in my songs I always talk about things that are important to me and things that are relevant to my life. Kendrick Lamar is a huge inspiration to me, earlier this year, and even now, I still can’t stop listening to To Pimp A Butterfly. The way Kendrick talks about issues regarding equality and his inner battles and emotions is huge. Although I haven’t personally come across the injustices that he’s viewed first hand, there are other elements of society that I feel strongly about and discuss in my songs like ‘Don’t Belong’. That song came about cause I just didn’t feel like I belonged to any group, whether it be religious or social class, I feel like an outsider. I often feel like there are a lot of people who are always telling you how to live your life and I was tired of it. People are always guessing about how to treat life, but in my opinion it’s ok to not know how life works. There are loads of people who have insecurities and doubts [about that] and I think its fine, because we don’t belong together… *he acknowledges that he’s accidentally quote his own lyrics and starts to laugh *.

LGG: Going off that question then, being someone who left school at 17 to be an artist and are now doing an interview for a student newspaper, I feel like those themes in ‘Don’t Belong’ could resonate with a lot of students assessing their own life plans.

ZA: Well I’ve always been a plan A kind of guy, I really love to live for the moment and so pursuing music wasn’t a hard choice to make cause of how much I really wanted to do it. At our age we are always being told what to do in our lives but no one really knows the perfect route. I fully respect people going to uni to study more direct courses like medicine or just studying more general subjects purely out of love and interest, and also just to be at university… *The GP receptionist walks into the room*… Oh hello, I was told it was it was ok to come in just to make a phone call.. *muffled conversation*.. Sorry man I actually need to leave the room…

LGG: I know you have to go dude, but just before, what is next for you after the Kwabs tour finishes?

ZA: I’ve got my new album that I’m currently writing songs for. Looking forward to go and record it in Reading soon with some really awesome guys helping me work on it like Stuart Zender (from Jamiroquai), Joker (who’s previously worked with Zak on the ‘Joker Presents EP) and Ed Thomas… Man I need to go, hopefully I’ll try and play in Edinburgh soon though!

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