With a massive stage presence and an infectious sense of fun, Zak Abel may be young but he is far from inexperienced. After only a few years on the music scene he is already working on his second album and has collaborated with numerous incredible musicians from Tom Misch to Gorgon City. His soulful vocals truly pack a punch and alongside his awesome band, the party never fails to get going. I caught up with Zak before his absolutely incredible headline set at Churchill Spring Ball.
You have already played St John’s May Ball before, how did you find your Cambridge experience?
Yeah that was cool. There was lots of food. Lots of food.
Always a bonus!
You have a great stage presence, what have been some of your biggest influences concerning your performance style?
Definitely Jamiroquai, I love the way he moves so freely on stage and makes it a kind of party […] I think also I come from a sporting background, I used to play table tennis semi-professionally and I see it as the same thing performing live, you’ve got to give everything you have got because essentially you are taking up people’s time and I want them to have the best experience possible.
What’s the best gig you have ever played?
The best gig I have ever played was probably KOKO in London, it’s the biggest headline show I have done to date and it’s a really legendary venue. To get a chance to play there is just, it’s an honour
Any particular favourite song to play live?
I love playing ‘Unstable’ live […] I also like playing ‘Only when we’re Naked’ live because the key thing with that song is just to imagine you are naked on stage and I always ask the people in the crowd to imagine they are dancing naked in their room. People are a lot looser then.
Have you had any weird gig experiences that stand out?
I did a little gig at Bicester Village once […] it was a really random gig and in the front row there was this woman who was kind of bopping along to the music and then I realised half way through she was actually wearing earphones. I called her out and she was like “Oh I didn’t even realise” so then she took them out and could suddenly hear the frequencies that were missing.
How are you finding being back in the studio working on album number two?
I have just been consistently writing and trying to write better songs and go deeper and talk about more interesting things. I like the idea of being useful to other people in some way so I’m not interested in writing a self-indulgently.
Obviously, I have to like all the music I put out […] but at the same time how do I think this is going to resonate with other people?
You’ve mentioned before that Afro-Caribbean production influenced your first album. Is there anything inspiring you at the moment?
I recently got into Joni Mitchell, I cannot believe I didn’t listen to her stuff before. She’s one of the most fearless songwriters I have ever heard and the way she plays piano and the way it interacts with the melodies are just genius and so I’m definitely borrowing a couple of things and I’m studying it because I have to keep studying other people to figure out what kind of direction I want to go in at the moment.
You’ve done lots of collaborations with Artists over the past few years, is there anyone up and coming you would like to work with?
There is a dude called Col3trane who I really rate. I feel like he is moving in a slightly different direction to me he is more hip-hop influenced. I definitely respect what he is doing.
Being very active on social media; how do you approach your position of responsibility as an online influencer?
I think it’s really important that the stuff I put out there is positive and not negative in terms of the effect it has on the world and on the effect it has on other people’s mental health. There is so much noise happening on social media all the time, you could literally just spend your whole day scrolling.
I do enjoy letting people know what is going on and I enjoy, especially when I put new music out seeing what people think, that’s really important to me […] but I try and limit the amount of time I spend on my phone as much as I can because I feel like you just become too distracted.
Is there anything you would like to promote more on your pages?
Maybe put your phone away man, the irony. If you’re reading this leave your phone at your Grandma’s house, lock it away, talk to your mum.
To finish up, you have previously mentioned trying to get more flexible. Any progress on touching your toes?
Nope, definitely not, soon maybe.
Originally Published on: https://www.varsity.co.uk