While I was writing No Sleep till Doomsday (Dru Jasper series, book 3), much to my surprise, I found myself listening to a certain Ukrainian pop music album over and over.
My book features an evil crystal sorceress named Lucretia, and there are subtle references throughout the book to the song “Lucretia, My Reflection” by The Sisters of Mercy.
Searching for music to write by, I found all sorts of cool covers and remixes of “Lucretia, My Reflection.” The one version that really captured my attention was by a Ukrainian electronic artist called ZXZ, on the Crystal Blue album.
A song about Lucretia (my crystal sorceress), on an album called Crystal Blue. Was it fate?
I decided to track down ZXZ and find out.
I probably listened to the Crystal Blue album close to a hundred times as I wrote that book. There was something about its wall-to-wall 80s-style synthesizers that put me in the perfect writing groove. The soundtrack-like treatment made me feel like I had been transported back to an edgy Movie of the Week. (Remember those?)
In other words, I really enjoyed this album.
I reached out to ZXZ, who is located in the Ukraine. His real name is Stan Przhegodsky. Not only is he an incredibly creative and intelligent individual, he was also kind enough to do an interview from his side of the world.
LM: Let’s start with a tough question. What’s the biggest inspiration behind your music?
ZXZ: There’s this embarrassingly melodramatic expression, “Nostalgia for lost futures,” that defines what a lot of modern underground electronic music is doing.
It’s part of this very pretentious-sounding concept by Jacques Derrida called Hauntology. It’s basically romanticism, reminding this generation of a time when the global economic climate offered things like job security, and the televised comfort and predictability that came with it.
My music is inspired by Madonna, Skinny Puppy, Ariel Pink, a bunch of Italo Disco, heavy Industrial Rock, Darkstep Drum & Bass, exploitation cinema of the 70s and 80s, horror films from the 70s/80s golden years, and anything confident, bold, neon, and “deep”.
LM: Your electronic music is brand new, but it has a distinctive 80s vibe. Is that difficult for modern audiences to embrace?
Pop music, at its core, remains the same. It’s very well-tuned to what is most pleasant to our senses, and is often made by highly professional musicians.
The music of the 1980s was technologically limited, and to the best of my understanding, people focused more on melody.
In the 1980s, there was a certain skin that I, and many musicians of my generation, have found and feel comfortable wearing today. Especially because the internet has eroded limits to what is “allowed” to be enjoyed. Now, anything goes. It’s a very exciting time.
LM: Do you use a computer, keyboards, or other instruments?
ZXZ: I grew up on horror films and their soundtracks, so that’s what drives my selection in terms of which instruments to focus on.
I use a Macbook Pro, Ableton Live, and a library of virtual synthesisers and drum samples.
Recently, I had a studio guitarist come in to lay down guitars on six tracks, three of which made it onto my new release, ‘Sentinel.’ He’s the live guitarist for a local pop star named Ani Lorak, who is a pariah now here in Ukraine since she decided to continue making money in russia (lowercase on purpose).
Business is business, however, and talent is to be respected.
Also, I own this ridiculously old piano from the 19th century, but it’s currently just furniture. When the time comes, I’ll have it tuned and maybe incorporate it into future writing processes.
LM: What would surprise most people to learn about your creative process?
ZXZ: I read once that all innovation is just remixing, so I work with that in mind. I believe conflict is the source of creativity. Every track comes from radical emotions that I pour into the melodies.
I’m not classically trained, but my mother was. She made me play a bit of piano as a kid, and I do write with piano keys in mind.
Frankly, I started making music because I couldn’t find the hybrid-genres that I was looking for, so I figured it would be easier to just make my own.
Lastly, I do it as a beacon to draw in like-minded people. It’s an acid test whether or not I’d get along with someone, because what I do is a mirror to what I like on a daily basis.
LM: I have to ask about the title Crystal Blue, because crystals are such an important part of my books.
ZXZ: I wanted to evoke a visual of a posh South Californian beach setting in the 1980s, where blondes in bikinis roller-skate down the boardwalk next to the crystal blue waters.
It would have been special for this interview if I was inspired by literal crystals, but I’m afraid I can’t say that I have been. At least not yet.
LM: Give it time. Stan, thanks so much for taking the time to do this interview!
ZXZ: Thank you, and best of luck with the book-writing process!