An Interview about Weird Stuff with Sydney MC Zepha
Sydney-based rapper and producer, Zepha has just hit us with spectacular visuals from his latest release, ‘Weird Stuff.’ He has performed across Sydney and honed his sound to an empowering state that blends genres from Rock, Electronic, and Hip Hop. Zepha has also thrown himself into a local organisation, Blue Guitar Project, where he works with young adults as a mentor, igniting a sense of purpose and worth to those in dire need of support.
We chat to Zepha about his writing process as an artist, his work with Blue Guitar Project, and his upcoming project ‘Weird Stuff.’ Ayla Dhyani writes.
How would you describe your sound for new listeners?
It’s kind of hard to label. My original sound started off as Electro-Alternate/Electro-Rap. I reckon that would be the best way to describe it. I used to be in a rock band and punk band when I was young, so I’ve taken elements from that and mixed it with rap and a bit of indie. This is the result that I’ve gotten. I made a beat one day and then rapped and thought, “oh this is cool, this works.” I guess that there are elements of Metal as well, which is pretty similar rhythmically. Since the first EP, I’ve been a lot more focused on band sound and less about bars. Now it’s more about the melodies and everything else that goes into a song.
As a producer and rapper, tell us about your writing process as an artist.
Well, I think where I differ from some other rappers is that I do all my own. I start making a beat, and might jam with a sweet piano sound or other sound that I’m vibing with. It’s different every time, and I’ll just build that up to a point where it’s good for vocals. I set the tone with the music and then write to the feel of the music so that it gels that way. Then with lyrics, it’s a bit of a freestyle game that plays into it. I’ll freestyle the first bars and run the program and see what comes. I’ll either take the words or the rhythm from that and then tweak it from there.
When did music first speak to you?
I kind of had a musical background, but in a much different genre. My uncle is the head of the band in the military and police forces. I kind of dabbled with some brass instruments when I was about 10 years old, but it was not for me. Then I picked up a guitar because all my friends were playing it and it just made more sense. We’d have a show, then I jumped into vocals and I just haven’t really stopped since.
How do you find the support in the Sydney music scene at the moment?
Getting gigs is the hard part. When I first started, there was one artist in particular who helped me out. He offered me a show and I’ve done a bunch of shows since then, but only a couple without him. For everyone that sees the music, or experiences it, or listens to it, it’s always a great response. But getting it out there is a challenge. Although, there are a few cool nights out in the Inner-West and you just get amongst each other.
You mentioned your uncle previously, is there anyone else who has made an impact on your musical journey so far?
It’s a hard one. My Grandpa was awesome. He played the piano since he was like 5, but always had the impression that music is not a job, it’s a hobby. So if anyone has impacted me, it’s been artists that I’ve been obsessed with who have definitely developed my sound. They have inspired and motivated me.
In terms of artists, who really spoke to you?
In terms of rap, Lil Dicky. I reckon that Lil Dicky is one of the best. Just his flow and sound. Then there’s people like Goldlink and I’ll listen to a bit of heavy music as well. There are so many different elements of different songs that I make. Even artists like Earth Wind and Fire spoke to me. It’s a hard one to pin point.
How did you first get into working at Bondi Beach Radio?
I went in for an interview that I applied for. It was an “arvo drive-time presenter” position and I ended up getting called up for my audio skills. I was hired to cut up podcasts and do this and that. Then I went in and was just playing around as they were talking and then just started weighing in my opinions. They were taking it on board and then gave me the Thursday afternoon slot.
Tell us a bit about the ‘Blue Guitar Project’ that you’ve been involved in.
The ‘Blue Guitar’ project is a really cool thing that I’m a part of now. To be honest, I always thought it was great that people did mentor work, but I didn’t ever think that I’d be apart of something like that. Now that I’ve done it it’s a pretty great experience. I applied for it on Pedestrian TV when I was unemployed for a few months. It was advertised as a Music Mentor for people who played guitar and then I spoke to the founder Roxy Lee. She’s really cool. It’s based around teaching kids to have a dream and to realise that dream so that they can be motivated in some way. I can relate to it, because I didn’t really know what I was doing until I was playing music. I was still doing music, but there was that one moment where I realised “this is what I have to do.” I produce beats and rap with them and make video clips. I love hanging out with kids and seeing what they love to do.
That’s a great movement to be apart of. I can imagine that in discussing new possibilities with these kids, it allows you to reflect on what you’ve accomplished yourself and where you’re going.
Exactly. Getting to music one way or another. It definitely makes me realise that this is something that I want to be doing.
Tell us a bit about your new project, ‘Weird Stuff.’
Weird stuff was a random self-set challenge for myself to create a track from nothing to finished in just one day (hense "jaminaday" in the track title). This is just the first one I plan to do more. The concept for the actual track, though, was to just be weird for the sake of being weird.
What do you anticipate for the future?
Big things. I’m confident. It’s only been a year or so, and I’ve already seen a fair bit of growth in a few ways. I’m just adapting to being a producer or being an artist. I'm having people approach me wanting to do tracks for them. I want to do my own projects, but I also want to write for people. I want to use my producing skills and just write for other artists. I like to have my hands in a few pies (laughs). You’ve always got to do a few things. That's why I like the fact that since I've been doing music, I'm now doing video clips for people too. I'm just really loving life at the moment!
What stimulates your soul?
What stimulates my soul is being surrounding by creativity and music. It never gets old and keeps me happy and driven.