University of the King - Interview with Zang Productions

"University of the King" are one of many bands on Birmingham based label Zang Productions. They released their latest album, Zang Hibidy, late last year - reviewed here on CDtimes. Billed as a "hip hop epic on the philosophy of unconditional love", it remains one of 2005's lost gems, a unique album, full of complexity, packed with fantastic tunes.

Simon Rueben meet up with David Blower and Rob Blakeney of UotK, to talk about their music, their record label, and their plans for the future.

Simon: Tell me a bit about Zang Productions

Rob: - Zang Productions initially came as a result of putting on some gigs in our home towns when we were all at college.

David: - Its an independent record label started by us - Robert Blakeney, Kevin Toms, and David Blower. We got the name from Wayne’s World, where Wayne is impressing Casandra by speaking to her in Cantonese and he says “ZANG!” which means “excellent”, according to the subtitles.

Simon: What about University of the King – as a band, how did it come about?

David: We were all in different bands, but we started messing around together with bits of musical junk: 4-tracks, guitar pedals, drum machines… things Rob’s Dad had found in skips.

Rob: One summer, I had just got a computer and a copy of Pro Tools Free, and was starting to play around with sampling and recording into a computer, I played Dave some bits and we decided to make an album of covers from films but done in a more destructive manner than your average cover. And the result was the Huckleberry 5000ep which was ZANGCD00001. Some people liked it, a lot of people didn’t - we sold a few. The following summer Dave returned from uni having created a hip-hop track and because it was so good we decided to make an album, ‘Look Out For Germs’ The last album - ‘Zang Hibidy’ was released in Nov 2005 and is told completely from the aspect of foetus’ in the womb.

David: We started rapping kind of as a dare. There was suddenly a lot to explain, and hip hop is very wordy. Look Out for Germs is all about wrongness, humanity, death and God. Zang Hibidy is all about rightness and unconditional love.

Simon: So how do you makes these records, what do you use to record them?

David: With junk, masking tape, computers, Earl Grey tea, E-bayed technology, biro pens, broken glass, and some other things. You can do a lot with will-power.

Rob: Zang has its own recording studio which revolves around a computer, but incorporates a lot of external hardware too. As Dave said my dad has found lots of cool stuff in the past that we use to make sounds too. There is also the more standard use of guitars, double bass, drums, clarinets, as well as programmed beats and other instruments.

Simon: Your website at Zang features heavily on the free downloads. What is the aim of this?

Rob: The Free Downloads section of the Zang website is there to give people who are already interested in Zang some more stuff to hopefully keep them interested. And for people new to Zang, a free taste of what we do. Some of the bits are specially prepared tracks which have the sole intention of going on the site for free. Other tracks are sometimes bitsthat didn’t make it onto albums but we still want people to hear them.

Simon: So whats coming up in the Zang pipeline?

David: Bethan Marshall is our most recent signing. A brilliant singer and a brilliant writer. She blows our minds! Her first album will be out 2006. Last year we released a hip-hop album by The Custodians. He was one of our biggest influences when we started rapping, so it was quite humbling to sign him up a few years later.

Rob: We also hope to release a second album by Beloved, Dave solo project, and a debut release from Greybeard, which is mine.

David: We like doing this, but its not just for us. We want to make a dent in our world. Challenge people, ask the questions being ignored, cause trouble and spread the love.

The album Zang Hibidy is available now from Zang Productions, priced at £6.00. Payment is by Paypal. Visit the website for more details.

Hear tracks at their MySpace page.

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