Lev Zep Interviews with HMP Records
A Scarlett Letter is Out Now
Hey Lev, welcome to HMP Records! How have you been?
Been great thanks! Feeling super excited to chat with you guys today about my creative process, new music, and just introduce myself in general a bit :)
Can you talk to us more about your latest single "Scarlett Letter”?
With pleasure, so yeah this song is a very emotional one for me - in addition to it being my first formal release with HMP, it also marks the anniversary of when I first met my fiancé (the Scarlett of the title.)
It’s a dedication to her and to anyone out there who’s ever felt love or loved. Specifically I was going for an atmospheric sort of sound, and I knew once I added the viola parts that it was getting to where I wanted it to be. Overall I spent over a year on this track but that included a good eight or nine months where I was working on other material, touring, etc.
Did any event or experience in particular inspire you to write this song?
Meeting Scarlett was the catalyst for this one more then anything. I wanted to write her a song that got her attention, and showed off some of my talents as a producer and songwriter. The original version was a lot simpler, but adding the viola and heaver percussion elements really helped bring it all together in the end I think. Being physically separated from her for the last few months has also shaped the track somewhat - it’s gotten a little heavier and darker since the original incarnation…
Any plans to release any sort of art or video for the track?
Of course - part of my general persona is my work as a visual artist, both in the digital and analog world. Recently I’ve been challenging myself to create a work of art every day, and in the context of promoting “A Scarlett Letter” I’ve been working the details of the launch into recent posts. It’s a lot of fun, check out my Instagram for the full range of stuff from the last few months of that.
As well as the daily artwork and custom artwork I created for the single, I’ve been hard at work filming and producing the formal video which will be released on July 2nd along with the music. I won’t comment on that too much besides that it’s going to feature my trademark blends of psychedelic color-shifting visuals and funky shapes galore.
The NFT world has been really fascinating me recently also - I was honored to mint my first NFT recently in conjunction with IMT for their album launch. There’s a very strong likelihood that some incarnation of this track is going to be incorporated into one in the near future.
Who are some of your musical influences?
Hah, way too many to list out in full but I’ll try to summarize!
My earliest influences were classic rock icons like Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, and yes Led Zeppelin (my artist name came from a rock show I played ages ago that friends attended with a sign saying “Lev Zeppelin rocks!”) People like Hendrix and Morrison seemed to be really pushing the boundaries for their time, as an aspiring lead guitarist they made a huge impression on me.
Not so long afterwards I got more and more into electronic and hip-hop stuff, early pioneers like DJ Shadow and Tricky, Portishead, stuff like that as well as the old school boom-bap type of conscious rap that I feel like you don’t really get much of these days (Talib Kweli, Blackalicious, etc..)
Once I got more into DJing and fully embracing the electronic scene my tastes expanded a lot more - I was digging all types of genres, getting that DJ library together. Some of my favorite artists today in the electronic sector would include Todd Terje, Purple Disco Machine, Folamour, anyone with a strong sense of soul and groove really…
How was the creation process for you?
I approach every song with a different mentality, whether I’m going for a specific vibe or feeling sometimes or just throwing together a bassline over some rough percussion then jamming out the parts.
For this one, I started with a video clip I had sitting around of me playing the piano for a few minutes. Once I was happy with my raw clips I added some percussion, then the bassline and vocal samples. It was a fairly quick mix for that initial take, but since then I’ve kept listening to it and started tweaking it again a few months ago. Recording the viola parts and adding a more powerful chorus section is what really brought the song to where it’s at today, I think.
I wanted to create a poignant, emotionally-charged piece to show this girl I had strong feelings for her - and it worked! We are still happily together to this day and planning our wedding sometime in the not so distant future…
What role has the experience of formerly living in China play in your music?
Living in China for over 10 years was by far one of the craziest experiences of my life, in so many different ways. And more importantly it was a huge boost for my musical career - I was so lucky to have so many amazing opportunities and experiences.
The stories, man. DJing on top of the Great Wall of China at this crazy festival, on the same day I did a live painting on the wall. Touring all over the country with gigs in 20+ cities at a stretch (gigging in HMP’s home city of Haikou before IMT was even a thing for example hah!) Managing the marketing campaign for the country’s largest EDM festival. Getting interviewed by HBO Vice about the craziness, and hosting loads of local Chinese TV shows etc.
It was an incredible experience, 10 out of 10 would do it all over again. But maybe with less of that fake alcohol stuff, hah! Anyways it’s great keeping in touch with all my friends over there, I’ll definitely be back one day for a tour and catchup at the very least.
What else is happening next in your world?
Well for me recently the biggest shift in my world has been adjusting to life after China. I left the country in late January 2021 for several reasons, and it’s definitely been a bit strange in the aftermath. The states are quite different, I was back stateside a few times in the last 10 years but living here now is a different story.
What does the future hold for you, both in the immediate short term, and over the next year or so?
So the next few weeks I’m definitely focused on this single release more then anything - it’s my first formal release on HMP and I’ve been working hard on creating a load of awesome content to support it (a guitar-driven live remix video, the formal music video, daily artwork, etc…)
But that’s just the start - I’ve got a ton more releases planned for the future, an upcoming EP with some very special guest artists, and the next tour to plan. Most likely I’ll play a few gigs in Thailand over this summer but come autumn or winter once the world is really starting to open back up… I’ll be out there, rest assured. Keep up with my adventures on my socials if you dig stuff like tropical raves and the world’s best beaches yeah?
I’ve got a wandering spirit and I’ve never really enjoyed staying in one place for too long so yeah. A year ago I was living on a sunny Thai island, right now I’m in the states, who knows where I’ll be in a year from now?
One thing’s for sure - I’ll definitely still be jamming and making music. Hope we can connect on the dance floor somewhere someday!
Until then, one love and thanks for checking this out!