A favourite on BBC Radio, Martin Gustafsson is a Swedish producer and DJ making waves in the European house scene, his most recent project Black N’ Yellow, is an EP that’s got people buzzing. We sit down to unearth this diamond in the rough.
NAKID: Zerko, we appreciate the time, so first things first, how did you get your start with DJ’ing?
Z.: Actually for the first 3 years while I was producing music, I didn’t want to DJ at all. I was just focusing on improving my music and I figured I would start the Dj part when I felt satisfied with my own productions. So it was actually in January of this year that I fully started with it. So I booked a gig in a club in my hometown and after that I just got hooked.
NAKID: Dope that’s how it starts for most people, how did you come up with the name DJ Zerko?
Z.: I was thinking about a name for myself for about a year and I didn’t come up with anything. Then my friend and I talked about DJ’ing and my music, and he said – I know what my DJ name would be, it would be ZERKO! And I was like, hey that’s actually really cool, I´ll use that. So I “stole” it although he’s a professional hockey player and will not have a career in music *laughs*.
NAKID: Yeah that way you don’t have to worry about him wanting the name back, do you have any favourite mixes that you have created?
Z.: My personal favorite track is probably Sensei or Braveheart. I like the flow and drops in both tracks and Braveheart was the first track I created with my own vocals, so it’s special of course.
NAKID: Of course, the first is always the most memorable, any idea what would you be doing if you weren’t DJ’ing?
Z.: I would probably work with promotion for events or sell cars maybe *laughs*. I love to sell products that I believe in.
NAKID: Fair enough, the passion is there so that’s the first step, can you tell us about your EP Black and Yellow
Z.: Black ‘N Yellow didn’t start out as a planned EP. I felt very inspired for a couple of months and I came up with the general idea for those four tracks very fast. When the first two tracks were finished I just felt that I needed to release more tracks together to get more music out there fast considering I’ve got about 15 tracks just waiting to be released, the title Black N Yellow represents the ZERKO colours by the way.
NAKID: It’s a solid project. Are you signed to anyone or are you in the process of being signed to any labels?
Z.: Currently I’m not signed to any label. I’ve been in contact with some labels but they weren’t the right fit for me. I have some “dream” labels I want to sign to, so the future will tell how it plays out.
NAKID: Gotta play it by ear because label horror stories are abundant. What is it like growing up I Sweden and doing what you wanna do?
Z.: Sweden is wonderful, in the summer. Growing up here was really good, but now in my ‘older’ years, I really want to move to the states. Sweden is “lagom”. That means not too much not too little, and that can be annoying when you want to do something different.
NAKID: I can understand, wanting more excitement is natural especially when you’re young. Did you face a lot of opposition from your family and friends when you got into DJ’ing?
Z.: I would like to say no, but unfortunately yes. No one in my family believed in my music. My sister’s husband though, was a producer himself back in the day and he encouraged me to keep going. I remember when I went to my parents with the news that a label wanted to sign me, and the response I got back was: ‘okey, fun’. Then they talked it away. But I like to think of it positively because I managed to stay inspired with the music though they didn’t believe in me, and I’ve done this without their help or support and it keeps me going even more to show them someday that I finally ‘made it’. My friends on the other hand were very positive and pushed me to make music.
NAKID: I feel like i’ve heard of that kind of discouragement thing before, it’s the classic creative struggle. What DJs do you really look up to?
Z.: That would probably be Avicii, he’s just one of a kind. The way he made it and how hard he works is just amazing. Then it’s KSHMR, he’s incredibly talented and has created his very own music style in the house music genre. I love the melodic feels to KSHMR’s tracks, especially ‘Jammu’. The last one would be Skrillex, his production is incredibly complex and he makes them turn out perfectly!
NAKID: Yes they are all house music gods in their own right. How would you describe your musical style?
Z.: It would probably land in the genres of progressive house and trap house. I love to make melodies with a feeling to it, either the feeling of being powerful or of being peaceful. I think that’s a main facet of my music. Overall I can’t forget that I love making beats, it’s something I’ve spent a lot of time working on my unreleased tracks.
NAKID: Can’t wait to hear them. Is there a genre of music you cannot and will not listen to and why?
Z.: Definitely hardstyle! I haven’t listened to many hardstyle tracks but from the few I’ve heard, they sounded the same. Just some chords with a bunch of supersaw synths playing and then a big kick just playing at the rate of heart attack!
NAKID: Sounds gross, what is something that you wish people would do more?
Z.: I don’t know actually, it’s hard to say. If I can answer the question with listeners of house music in mind, I would probably wish that they would listen to more unsigned DJ’s and new music. Not just listen to the biggest ones. There’s so much talent that’s that’s just going unnoticed.
NAKID: One of the reasons Nakid does what we do, so much talent, not enough people covering it. Name three brands off the top of your head that you are loving right now?
Z.: Nike, Pioneer and New era.
NAKID: Somehow I can visualize all three incorporated in one scene. Are you a big partier and could you share with us one of the craziest things that has happened while you were out with friends or partying?
Z.: Yeah I love to party! I’m in the studio working a lot but when I feel I have the time to party aside from DJ’ing I would never say no to a great night out. *laughs* I don’t know if I dare share the craziest stuff with you guys, maybe in the next interview!
NAKID: Maybe, what was it like with the artist Cinna on Braveheart?
Z.: Incredible easy. She’s a really talented songwriter and a great singer, so the lyrics of the track was finished in about two days. We have kind of the same musical taste so when I’ve reproduced the drop for the track about three times because we weren’t satisfied with it, but when I managed to make the final one both of us just said simultaneously “That’s it!”
NAKID: Yes she’s super talented. Is Johan Kasanen your resident photographer?
Z.: Yes, he is, but he is also the one that runs my social accounts and the publicist.
NAKID: Multitasking at its finest. Is it more important for you to be authentic or is it more important for you to be successful if you couldn’t have both?
Z.: I would say successful. My biggest dream and ambition is to leave my mark in the music industry and continuously generate fanbase that supports and love my music. Without naming any names, there are many DJ’s that aren’t authentic at all and they are living the dream. Of course I would love to be authentic, but if that would mean that you wouldn’t get your music heard and get a chance to make it, then the answer still stands.
NAKID: That’s fair, what is authenticity if no one cares right? Delving into the personal a bit, what kind of girls do you like?
Z.: *Pauses to think* I like spontaneous girls that have a personality that can teach me some things in life, not just the boring ones that agree with everything I say.
NAKID: That’s understandable. Are you a lover or a fighter?
Z.: I would say fighter on that point.
NAKID: We all have to have a little bit of fighter in us to get what we want. Do you like travelling and where are your favourite spots to go?
Z.: Yeah I love to travel, that’s the best thing there is to do besides producing music and DJ’ing. My favorite place I’ve been to would be Thailand, in my opinion it’s kind of ‘The Wild West’. Everything is just relaxed and thing happens with no reason, it’s just so weird! *laughs* But I’m gonna go to U.S. soon and I think that it’s gonna be be my new favorite place.
NAKID: Absolutely, it’s the greatest country on earth. What can we expect from you soon Zerko?
Z.: Very big things for sure! My team and I are always working on new stuff to get my things off the ground and I’m currently working on many new tracks with different labels, so you’re gonna see me in many different places in a near future.
NAKID: We’re looking forward to big things. Next time we get to Sweden can we hang out?
Z.: Of course! Just say when and I will plan some crazy stuff for the night!
NAKID: That’s great because we’re gonna hold you to that. Finish the sentence: Hard work and dedication is…
Z.: …The key to everything, no doubt about that. I mean, either you’re a musician or a bus driver, if you want to get somewhere you have to work for it. You have to be really motivated and consider giving up things in life to get where you want to get and for me I’m willing to do pretty much whatever it takes to be the biggest DJ there is.
NAKID: Were rooting for you bro. Where can our readers find you on social media?