No doubt most people are now aware of Zomby’s most recent controversy, an accusation of plagiarism from a little known producer in the UK bass scene - Reark. Whilst we may have become used to Zomby’s reputation for not turning up to shows, as well as sending arbitrary death threats to the likes of Roska, Ben UFO and various members of dubstep forum, plagiarism is something few of us would expect from a producer who obviously has much talent of his own. We caught up with Reark to find out abit more about this remarkable story.
Could you introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about your background in production?
I was always interested in making music from an early age. Around 2003 I bought a copy of Reason 2.0 and a controller keyboard, but it wasn’t until 2006-7 that I became more serious about producing. Moving to Calgary at the end of 2007 marked a big change, because via the “Electronic Music Club” run by Richard Reynolds (aka BrokenPaws) I met and collaborated with many local artists including Adam Geosphere, Aurchid, Honeey Mustard, Vi An, Lee Livingston, Lara T among others. With their help I got to play in clubs, street parades, music festivals and coffee shops. It gave me the discipline and motivation to try and bring ideas to conclusion.
How did you first hook up with Zomby?
We were introduced on MSN chat in the summer of 2007 via a friend of mine, MC Diamondog. The three of us were thinking of making a kuduro track together.
Did you find it difficult gaining recognition for your work from 4AD?
Not particularly. Once I was put through to the right person, I explained the situation and presented my evidence. My main concern was to receive credit for the track, and this they put right while preparing a one-off contract for Natalia’s Song.
The track was released in July last year, why did it take so long for this story too emerge?
I noticed in August 2011. 4AD updated their credits by late October 2011 — they were communicating with their web designers on the updating of the 4AD page. At that point I was satisfied with getting my due credit. Meanwhile, some of my friends were getting angry comments on YouTube after saying that the track had been written by me. At first, I resisted posting my evidence, but within the last weeks I was receiving inquiries myself on soundcloud.
How did Zomby respond when you complained to him after the release of ‘Natalias Song’?
I sent him 10 or so e-mails and got a similar number back. Without going into the details, let’s just say it was difficult to have a sensible conversation about the matter. I think the line he decided to take was that I had only provided the vocal samples, and he did the rest.
Zomby has been caught out before regarding samples and plagiarism, his track ‘test me for a reason’ more than extensively sampling this ‘Alesis Micron Sound Design’ video. Were you aware when you considered working with Zomby that this had been an issue previously?
I wasn’t aware of any previous issues. However, I quickly realised that he wouldn’t be keeping to the spirit of a collaboration, because once I had sent him the Reason files for Natalia’s Song he began to act as if the files were his. I never received any Reason files in turn.
After watching your soundcloud profile skyrocket since posting the original loop, do you think Zomby has innadvertantly done you a favour by creating so much ****hype?
Yes, I think that’s a fair observation. And I can thank him for the fact that a musical idea that began in my mind, together with Natalia Ladygina’s singing, became known to so many people. While I’m happy to make music for myself and friends, of course I’m proud that it has been so well received by a wide audience. It’s highly likely that if he had released it as a collaboration, I would have received much less hype. So in either ethical or cold-blooded terms, he has shown poor judgment.
Listening through to your other tracks, you can hear that ‘Natalia’s Song’ is born out of ‘your sound’ although it is at the same time fairly ****distinct. Can you tell me a little bit about the track and how you came to produce it? What influenced you in creating it?
Natalia Ladygina and I had been thinking about making a track with her voice. Her cover of Irina Dubtsova’s “O Nem” is something she had to hand, so I worked with that. I cut up her sample in Recycle and tried to find musical possibilities in the pieces. This is relatively quick once you have the cuts mapped onto a keyboard, because you are bound to stumble across attractive combinations before long. The harmonisation of her loop with the modulated synth was probably a matter of luck. I rarely hear these things in full in advance. I first have to realise the first few steps to narrow down the choice before other factors (constraints on harmony, my musical taste) complete the phrase automatically. So had I been in another mood that day, I’m sure it would have come out differently. The second synth that ties up the phrase that sounds like a bit like a subdued brass/woodwind instrument is also ‘automatic’, and all over my other tracks. The only goal I had for the drums was to swing with Natalia.
How far are 4AD going to make sure you are properly credited? Are there going to be reprints of the vinyl with ‘Zomby/Reark’ on the cover?
I used the magic word ‘credit’ so many times in e-mails to 4AD I must have sounded tedious in the end. I don’t know if they plan to repress the vinyl. I would like to thank them for their fair-minded handling of this case thus far.
For those of you that still have doubts about Reark’s story, you can view a video he posted isolating the different components of the track here. Obviously the issue of plagiarism is a very sensitive one, especially amongst a scene that for the most part remains all about the music. Maybe Zomby sums it up best in his own words from this post on ‘dubstep forum’ in 2007. Ironic huh?
“From names to beats as i jus see some tnuc called steve ZOMBIE not to mention every fucker skanking coki riffs, burial drums and loefah minimal halfstep „pls be original or FUCK OFF this scene doesnt need this shit its small enuff as it is.
“If ud have robbed my tag as a kid id have split ur hed open with a can of hycote, dont think u can jack on ppls shit for easy ride in music and go unnoticed.”