Zebra Katz is the creation of artist Ojay Morgan. Coming from a unique background of performance art, he brings together minimalism, rhymes, and live shows that are explosions. His music has been featured during Paris Fashion Week, and he’s also shared the stage with a diverse set of names including Lana Del Ray and Diplo. Ojay sat down with mxdwn during his second time back at SXSW music festival in Austin, Texas to discuss sounds, the lost element of performance, an awesome new music video and the fine line between music, fashion, and art.
Where does the name Zebra Katz come from?
I came up with the name Zebra Katz in college, and stuck with it. I don’t know what it was, the day I came up with it. Zebras are really great with their binary of black and white. They blend and disorient the predator, so that’s kind of what I think I do sonically. In a herd, it’s kind of hard for people to figure me out, but singled out I make a statement.
This is your second time at SXSW– how does it feel to be back?
It feels great to be back. We’ve done two showcases so far. The Pitchfork showcase, which I was actually very nervous about, but we ended up doing a great job, and the Mad Descent Fool’s Gold Party. It was great to see some old friends, and meet a couple label mates.
For your new single ‘Y I Do’ you have a really awesome and kind of crazy video. What was the inspiration behind that?
I mean, it’s organic, artistic love. Nathaniel Brown, the director of the video, said he’d like to work with me, and I sent him the unreleased tracks that I had, and he chose ‘Y I Do,’ and we met up, and I kind of just did what I did, and that’s how we got the video. Nathaniel Brown is just a genius artist. We shot in Brooklyn, and it was a lot of fun.
How do you feel about song ‘Ima Read’ being used as the theme song for Paris fashion week?
It was very exciting. Having that track picked up by Rick Owens changed my life. It’s definitely placed me in the eye of the fashion industry and the music industry. It’s like walking a fine line between where fashion and music intertwine with an art emphasis.
Speaking of fashion sense, you have a very unique, and lovely one. If you were stopped in the street by a fashion magazine, and asked to describe your style, what would you say?
I would say vintage blipster couture.
What are you listening to right now?
Right now I’ve been listening to a lot of instrumentals from Hudson Mohawke, Diplo, a lot of young artists on SoundCloud and mixtapes. Just listening to beats and writing. Haven’t really been listening to anything top 40, but I did watch The Grammys and The Oscars. Also, I am excited to see xxyyxx play at SXSW.
What’s your creative process like when you go into the studio to throw down tracks? It seems that you are somewhere between a spoken word artist and a music artist.
I get that description a lot. I think it’s because of the minimalism and the effort that I put into it. The process is still fairly new. I do a lot of recording in my bedroom on my laptop, and now I’m starting to venture into professional studios. It’s just about finding my comfort zone, and trying to make that work for Zebra Katz. I find a beat that inspires me, and try to do with it something different. Running in my own direction, and trying to think about how it translates to the stage, and social media sites. Those are all a part of artistry nowadays.
It’s been one year since ‘Ima Read’ was released– what is the status on releasing a full-length album production?
I have a full-length EP out currently, but not an LP. I really want to take my time and not rush into the industry. I think I’m going to take a bit more time to let people digest what it is that I’m presenting because it is still a work in progress, and we are still trying to figure things out and I love that. There will be a new single out very soon, and then I plan to put an album out by the end of the year.
What’s it like for you to be on stage and present your music in a live setting?
I live for performing. I’ve been in the arts for a very long time now, and being a classically trained Shakespearean actor, I’m used to being on stage and performing. Getting to transfer that energy to performing one of my own songs is really awesome. I think that high energy feeling just comes from us really having fun, and getting to travel. We want to give the audience a full energy show, and visually match the songs they’re hearing and really create an experience. I feel like that aspect of performance is really dwindling, especially when it comes to hip-hop or harder music. Like old school hip-hop had dancers and chains and track suits, and it’s all just faded away. We’re hoping to bring that back. I think a lot of the artists coming out now are ready to turn shit up. I’m really looking forward to that because everything is changing, and I think the industry is wide open and excepting, because they want something like that again. Demand is definitely something and I think the audience will follow true musicianship and talent.