Back in September, I’d received an email that I embarrassingly overlooked in the midst of all the music submissions and suggestions for this site. This last month, I received yet another email containing the same artist’s work, but the difference was that a link to the entire album was provided. I swear I listened to that record from start to finish at least five times before bed. I responded back the next morning and was able to get the chance to ask a few unanswered questions to the artist, who graciously accepted.
Brooklyn born Adam Morgan Prince is the man behind the musical project titled Hectic Zeniths. The title is an anagram for the German word Zeitsciechten, meaning ‘layers of time.’ Once you hear the music, you’ll understand how fitting it is. Currently residing in Philadelphia, Adam has been working on this record for the past three years, pairing original piano compositions with dollar bin vinyl samples, live instrumentation and subtle vocals. Although Adam provides the majority of the building blocks for each track, the record features violinist Patrick Bailey, guitarist Dave Cohen, and The Yetti on drums. Each and every time I listen to it, I find it hard to believe that something so musically beautiful could come from a math teacher.
SSOM: So Adam, how long have you been making hauntingly beautiful sounds?
I’ve been creating music since I was about 12-13 years old…although the vast majority of the earliest music I made could hardly be described as hauntingly beautiful, most of it was pretty obnoxious sounding. I always tinkered around making stuff up on piano, but never actually tried to sit down, write a short cohesive piece, and record it until I was about 21. I’m 26 now.
SSOM: Correct me if I’m wrong, but from the sounds of it, you’ve had some classical piano training. Most people who layer their music and play each part individually simply use pianos as more of a filler or an added detail, whereas your keyed melodies can stand on their own and are actually quite impressive. Have you ever considered an a cappella or piano only B side to the EP?
Absolutely! That was actually my original idea for the album – to have either a solo piano or version with no samples accompany the regular album as an alternate version. I would still like to do something like that for a future Hectic Zeniths album.
SSOM: We have the meaning of the name ‘Hectic Zeniths,’ but what is its significance to you and why you chose it?
I’ve always loved hearing sounds being chopped and layered not just for the way they sound sound aesthetically, but the idea of it…the idea that the recordings captured by two different artists who may not have ever been in the same continent or been alive at the same time can be pieced together to create something new. I wanted to use a name that would encompass not just the musical aspect of layering but the broader idea of overlapping eras of time between artists or just people in general.
SSOM: Have the cities you’ve lived in influenced your sound at all? What else has made an impact on your sound?
It’s hard to say. I think growing up in Brooklyn definitely played some influence in my getting as deep into hip hop as I did at one point. I can’t say Philadelphia has had much of an influence musically. Honestly, the biggest things that have impacted my ideas about music are just endless hours looking things up on the internet and reading about different subgenres and artists of all different types, as well as probably digging through crates of vinyl and listening to music completely at random.
SSOM: I’m having a tough time with this one, so help me out. How would you describe the music you make to a complete stranger?
“I recorded myself playing piano, then put samples from records and synthesizers on top of that, and then got a few friends to play a few other instruments on top of that.”
SSOM: With the album taking three years in the making, it potentially has some greater meaning than just creating musical perfection. Care to give readers some insight?
(laughs) Unfortunately I can’t say it does. Ultimately I just wanted to create something I really loved and was proud of, and then put it out to as many people who would hopefully also love it.
SSOM: Tell me about your creative and recording process. There are so many layers to each song, so which instruments do you start with both in writing and recording?
On the Hectic Zeniths album, 8 of the tracks started as solo piano pieces that were recorded in a studio, then chopped into loops on a computer. I’ve decided I’m going to start actually writing out notation for the piano pieces in the future, but I mostly had them memorized and would record them in my room so I wouldn’t forget them, and then practice before going to the studio. I spent a lot of time just saving random samples from records and building up a library. Then I would go through and find samples I thought were fitting for each piano piece. The outside instrumentation, guitar, violin, and drums were the last things to be added.
SSOM: Have you had the chance to do any live shows at all? If so, what does the stage setup consist of?
I have some ideas for a live show, but don’t plan on trying to put it together for a while until I have some more material as Hectic Zeniths.
SSOM: Ever considered doing collaboration work with a Hip Hop artist? I think you and I both know that your entire album can hold it’s own, but could complement an MC’s words amazingly.
Definitely, but it would have to be the right MC who I felt was on the same page as me in what we wanted to achieve and I felt would complement my sound well.
SSOM: I’m interested to know what someone as musically diverse as yourself chooses to listen to. What are your top five most played tracks?
The most recent artists I’ve become enamored with are Arthur Russell and Jacaszek. According to last.fm, my top 5 played tracks in 2011 were:
Balam Acab – “Oh, Why”
Drake – “Dreams Money Can Buy”
Vespertina – “Hugo”
Made In Heights – “Viices”
St. Vincent – “Champagne Year”
Some other artists I listened to a lot in 2011 were The Weeknd, Blue Sky Black Death, Kendrick Lamar, Dimlite, Baths, Grouper, Tori Amos, Burial, Mew, Gold Panda, CunninLynguists, Rustie, How To Dress Well…I finished the album in April and have mostly just been a fan for the rest of the year.
SSOM: What do your students think of their teacher being a musical genius?
Yeesh…I’ve never mentioned anything about creating music in school, at most I’ve said I ‘liked music.’ The artists I’ve heard them talking about are Kanye, Jay-Z, Drake, J Cole, Meek Mill, LMFAO, Adele, and Lady Gaga, so I’m not quite sure I’d fit too easily into that playlist (laughs).
SSOM: Anything else you’d like to add?
The album is out January 10! If you read this interview you must be sort of interested so make sure to download it or buy a copy!
The full length album was released a day early today on his Bandcamp page and is available on iTunes and Amazon tomorrow. If you like the tracks below, the entire album can be streamed on his SoundCloud page. I suggest a dark room and a pair of headphones once you make the move.
Prepare to lose yourself in a sea of sound,
Hectic Zeniths – I Might Drown [Mediafire]
Hectic Zeniths – Know My List [PurchaseOnly]
Hectic Zeniths – One That Got Away [PurchaseOnly]
Hectic Zeniths – Then And Now [PurchaseOnly]