At just 25 years old, Mat Zo has already reinvented himself three times over.
The London producer began his career as a trance artist, signing his first track to a:Loud Recordings at 16. He was soon picked up by Anjunabeats, releasing his first EP with the label in 2008. At the same time, Zo began making waves in the drum ‘n’ bass world with releases on Hospital Records under the pseudonym MRSA. When it came time for his debut album in 2013, Damage Control, he’d already morphed into a genre-less dance music renegade. Now, in 2016, on the brink of his sophomore album, Zo is more of a wild card than ever.
The new record, titled Self Assemble, finds Zo musing about dystopianism: “It’s a story about the future,” he says. “How technology will make everything immediate, yet as we reach the singularity, other problems will arise.”
As these things tend to go, however, Zo inevitably found himself writing about his own life. “I wanted it to be like a score for a movie that doesn’t exist,” he says. “No matter how hard I tried making that score, it just turned into something very personal. In the end, it’s just a story about my life over the last three years.”
The concept of the album is perhaps best portrayed by its cover art, which depicts a person trapped inside a 3D printer from the future. “I think the metaphor there is that in my own life, I’ve always tried to get out of this cage that I’ve put myself in,” he says.” “Trying to find a way out of this EDM bubble.”
It’s a poignant theme for Zo — so much so that Self Assemble may serve as his farewell to the industry. “This album is sort of my last send-off before I go and do other things in life,” Zo says. “It feels like I’m ready to go and venture off into other realms.”
It’s hardly a startling admission. Zo has made no secret out of his disenchantment with the EDM scene over the past year. While fans will be disheartened to learn the news, he’s not throwing in the towel altogether. “It doesn’t mean I’ll stop making music entirely,” he says. “I’ve still got more music to release.”
Ultimately, as he tells Billboard, the decision stems from a much larger epidemic. “Everything is just a quick fix nowadays,” he says. “Music doesn’t last very long in people’s minds. There’s no feeling of permanence and longevity. EDM is the microcosm of all of that.”
For his sophomore album, he’s specifically resisting this trend. “I wanted to create something that is more permanent,” he says. “Homages to the past.”
The trope is immediately evident upon listening to the album’s lead single, “Soul Food.” The disco-tinged production is a clear nod to dance pioneers like Daft Punk.
“I love filter/French house,” he says. “I wanted to make a track that captured that emotion that I felt when I first listened to ‘One More Time.’” If the single is any indication as to the quality of his new LP, fans can expect a worthy follow-up to his Grammy-nominated debut.