Zendid: Merging of Minds
A widely-known name in the DJ community, the French duo finally explain their story.
Zendid: Merging of Minds
A widely-known name in the DJ community, the French duo finally explain their story.
If you missed the mix they shared via XLR8R just last week, you’d be forgiven for not knowing who Adrien Doumenge (left) and Lenny Mailleau (right) are. Originating from Toulouse, Southern France, productions from the young French duo—aged 25 and 24 respectively—have quickly become something of a staple in the record bags of many of the leading microhouse DJs, including Zip, Sonja Moonear and Margaret Dygas. Type “Zendid,” their chosen collaborative alias, into YouTube and you’ll have little difficulty in finding videos of Rhadoo, Thomas Melchior and Raresh playing out their tracks, to name just a few more big-name supporters. It is perhaps the latter of these three who has become one of the duo’s biggest advocates, a relationship that has blossomed after he was impressed when he received their “OMW” track in 2014.
Of course, maintaining such a modest profile to the masses despite such widespread DJ support may seem like no easy achievement. But this, as becomes apparent, is not something they have intentionally pushed against, rather it is just something that they have omitted to push for. Having started the project in 2011 after being introduced by a mutual friend, the duo chose not to release any music until December 2014, a single track on a various artist compilation for Park and Ride Records. Time in the interim was spent DJing, all the while fine-tuning their studio techniques, tweaking and testing them until they could produce something with which they felt a degree of satisfaction. Press, as a result, was kept to an absolute minimum, viewed as an unnecessary distraction to their musical exploration. It is for this reason that it can prove challenging to find even their real names, unless you stumble upon one of just a few short interviews with a French media outlet.
It’s an interesting and long-term strategy, but one for which they are now beginning to reap the rewards. In a digital age where music can be released with unnerving ease, Doumenge and Mailleau’s sense of quality control is one of the most interesting points that arises during our conversations. The result is a discography that remains modest in quantity but extraordinarily high in quality, a point that is made even more remarkable given their little experience in the scene. Striking, too, is their growth. While their first releases are reflective of a certain natural aptitude, their more recent EPs—in particular 2014’s Fortu and this year’s Pins Of Djadi—would be considered well-produced by the standards of even the scene’s most established and forward-thinking artists.
Big things are expected, moving forward—and rumours are already circling about high-profile releases on some of the scene’s most distinguished imprints. Typically coy, the duo remains reluctant to reveal too much—but their work to date gives ample weight to the view that Doumenge and Mailleau are going to become names you’re not likely to forget anytime soon. In their first full-length interview, they kindly sat down with XLR8R to reflect on the events of the last few years. To accompany the story, they also offered a rare unreleased track for free download below.
There is absolutely nothing about you at all online. What is your history, and how did you get here?
Adrien: I first started to get into music in 2008 after I finished school. I moved to live in London, and stayed there for about a year. I made the decision to begin in electronic music there and started a course in production when I moved back to Toulouse. I also began playing records at some parties. That was when I met Lenny, about six years ago.
Lenny: I have been playing the piano since I was 12 years old. My interest in electronic music began just before I met Adrien. We just started partying together. We were not actually friends before; music was the connecting factor.
Where did you guys actually first meet?
Adrien: We just met at a party where I was playing. We were introduced by a friend we have in common.
Where does the name Zendid come from?
Adrien: The name is from our surnames. We call Lenny “Zen,” and mine is Didou—so we combined the two to make Zendid.
So were you both producing music before actually meeting each other?
Adrien & Lenny: Yes. We were both producing music separately. Everything came really naturally. After six months of working together, we really felt the willpower to make something serious together.
Lenny: I asked him a few times to join me for a session.
Adrien: I was not really looking for anything at the beginning; music for me was something really personal, but finally life decided differently.
What were you doing for work before you met?
Adrien & Lenny: We were both quite young when we first met. Music was already a big important part of our lives. That’s why we feel lucky to have met each other and started this project.
Adrien: For five months of the year, I was working in a summer job. I was keeping all the money to live during the rest of year, and also doing a few local gigs. I was still living in my parents’ house to allow me to focus on my music.
Lenny: I was working 20 hours per week in a restaurant—I was doing it for about two years after I left school.
Did you both start out as DJs or producers?
Lenny: It was electronic music as a whole that appealed to us both. DJing and production come as one to us because we have always been connected to the dancefloor.
Adrien: Both are really different—but when you become interested in DJing, it’s only natural that you become interested in making music too.
Your first release was in 2014. Why did it take you three years to actually release anything?
Adrien: It takes a long time until you are ready to do something interesting in music. We had to understand the important aspects of the collaboration, and work hard to make our proper sound.
Lenny: It was always important to us that we were happy with our work before we released anything. We are young, and our vision of music is still changing very quickly—so we took time to refine our work before entering our name in the industry. That’s why it took some time!
“The music was ready for a long time, but we didn’t want to rush and and release something that we were not entirely sure of.”
Do you see it as three years of experimentation?
Adrien & Lenny: Exactly. The music was ready for a long time, but we didn’t want to rush and and release something that we were not entirely sure of. When we started to work together, we were already thinking of the next 10 years ahead.
So 2014’s Zey EP was the first thing that you were truly happy with?
Adrien & Lenny: That was the first time we felt comfortable and ready to release some music of this period. Looking back, that music was cool—but when you produce every day, sometimes you are not happy with what you have made in the past—but that is all part of the game, and you have to introduce yourself to the industry one day.
Were your productions before the first release very different from what you are doing now?
Adrien & Lenny: Of course—it’s just a process of evolution. Your technical skills improve a lot and the vision also changed at the same time. But stylistically, it was quite similar.
Although you’ve only released in the two years, you’ve actually been DJing together for a while. Do you find that you are both different DJs stylistically, and how does this work in your sets?
Adrien & Lenny: We always let things come really naturally. Each of us has our own style, but it’s feels quite the same. We are always listening to what the other one is playing to find the best way to communicate with the crowd and enjoy ourselves.
“We can sometimes get frustrated because we can only play two hours—but we feel there is a real connection between us when we play.”
Do you always play back-to-back in your sets?
Adrien: Yes it’s always a back-to-back. We can sometimes get frustrated because we can only play two hours—but we feel there is a real connection between us when we play. It’s the result of all the time we have spent together.
Where do you get your music from? Do you play a lot of your own productions?
Adrien & Lenny: As we do lot of music, we do play a lot of our own productions, yes. But at the same time, we find lots of music from other artists really inspiring and interesting. All the time when we’re away from the studio, we are digging—and we also share music with artists in our circle.
On the subject of your productions, there’s no shortage of videos of artists like Thomas Melchior, Raresh and many others playing your tracks. It’s taken off very quickly.
Adrien & Lenny: Yes. We started to work on the project five years ago and we took our time before we released some stuff or showed our music to any other artists. Through our DJ gigs, we have developed good relationships with people, and these people have helped people to discover our music.
How did the relationship with Raresh first come about?
Adrien & Lenny: Our manager sent him a track—”OMW” released on Park&Ride001—and he played it. One day he had to come to play a gig for Bonheur in Monptellier, just near to our city, and we were invited to do his warm-up. It’s all grown from there with him. He’s a really good man, and we have a lot of respect for him.
“It’s important to show people what you do, but it needs to be sent to the right people.”
Are you selective about who you send your music to?
Adrien & Lenny: Yes. We choose to share our music with a few people and friends only. It’s important to show people what you do, but it needs to be sent to the right people. We just love to share the music with the people who inspire us.
Your Fortu EP is already worth a lot on Discogs. Are you cautious about how many vinyl presses of your records there are in circulation? Do you try and retain a degree of exclusivity?
Adrien & Lenny: For us the music is for everyone. We have never really had the chance to decide on the number of copies; it’s always the choice of the labels and the distributor. To be honest, we’re not happy to see excessive prices being asked by sellers who do not respect the artists or label—but these days there are always crazy guys with crazy prices on Discogs. If the labels see that kind of situation then they should arrange a repress.
“We never release anything just because it is a cool beat! If we don’t have this connection then there is no chance that we will show it to anybody!”
It seems that every one of your releases has been well received. Are you very critical with yourselves and careful with what you release?
Adrien & Lenny: Yes. We are cool guys when we are away from the studio—but in that intimate room, we are never scared to tell ourselves or one another if something is shit. We are really direct about it, and we don’t waste time. When we decide that something can be released, it means that we feel emotionally connected to it. We never release anything just because it is a cool beat! If we don’t have this connection then there is no chance that we will show it to anybody!
Do you show your music to anyone before releasing it or do you make the decision yourselves?
Adrien & Lenny: No. Before the release, we don’t show the music to anyone besides a few close friends and the label in question. This is something that we really closely manage.
Although all of your releases have been successful, 2014’s Fortu EP is the one that was really special. Was that a big moment for you guys?
Adrien: It is always important and nice to receive that kind of feedback from people. But the Fortu EP was something we did over one year ago. As much as we are happy to see the reaction, we are always focusing on our future productions.
Lenny: We started to receive amazing support about two years ago—both by music lovers and international DJs. When you hear that your music has been played in different cities in the world—by artists that we find inspirational—you begin to feel that something has changed. So that was an important moment for us.
Where is the studio that you have?
Adrien: The studio has had many places! Actually, we are using a room at Lenny’s Mum’s house in Toulouse! That’s where we are making music. Before it was in our own flat.
In terms of making music, how much of it is organic?
Adrien & Lenny: We use mainly hardware. The computer is used as a sequencer so all the sounds we are making on the machines then go into the computer for final treatment.
“We could produce alone, of course, but something happens when we are working together.”
Do you ever produce separately and send stuff to each other, or are you always in the studio together?
Lenny: No, we are always together. We have an amazing feeling when we are together in there. We are both really honest with each other and this makes it easy. I couldn’t do this with anyone else and neither could Adrien. I have never had the same feeling as when the the two of us are working together.
Adrien: For us, the studio is more like a big conversation. We think about the music, and then we work on it together.
Do you perceive that the sound you are putting out now is different from to what you were doing as solo artists?
Adrien & Lenny: It is completely different. We’ve been working together for five years, and our whole sound has changed a lot. We could produce alone, of course, but something happens when we are working together.
When you go into the studio now are you able to produce the sound that you have in your head?
Adrien & Lenny: To be honest, we always tend to come pretty close to the music that we initially have in our heads. But we also let the things run naturally by experimenting too—that is what we are looking for. Sometimes nothing will happen, and sometimes the magic will come to you.
You talk about experimenting. Are you trying to evolve your sound more or are you happy with what you have at the moment?
Adrien & Lenny: We are definitely trying to evolve our sound. Sometimes when we will go in the studio and make a few tracks that each sound very different. One might be minimal and then we find ourselves gravitating towards house. As we said, experimenting is a big part of our musical process. If you don’t try to evolve and improve your sound then there is no sense in doing it!
Do you have different roles in the studio?
Adrien: Not really. We each love just producing music—but it does depend on the track. Lenny is maybe more comfortable with writing notes because he played the piano when he was young.
Lenny: But this is techno and you don’t need to be Beethoven to make a melody! I can’t say that the piano has helped me. Adrien does it better than me sometimes!
You said that you are moving to Berlin for a few months this summer. Do you foresee that you might move anywhere more permanently to pursue a particular music scene?
Adrien: A few friends are already living in Berlin, and we’ve heard so many good things about the lifestyle there. I think it’s the right time to go and gain a new experience.
Lenny: It is more than just for the music. We will bring the studio, of course, but it’s just a bigger city and more interesting. It’s not just to learn something or make something musical; it’s just to experience it.
You enjoyed a very successful 2015. You have a platform now and people are really listening to you. What plans have you got for the immediate future?
Adrien & Lenny: We want to be focused on our project and sort out our label. It’s going to be another six months or a year, but it is something that we absolutely want to do. We feel it is important to save the music— to keep it for ourselves, and control exactly how it is presented.
Do you have any releases lined up or it still too early for that?
Adrien & Lenny: We’re releasing a track on Resolute’s new label called DisDat. It includes three tracks from S.A.M, Mikisderek, and us. For the rest we can’t say more at the moment!
You’ve kindly given away a track here for download. When and where was it recorded?
This track is from the end of summer. A few friends were looking to release it but we were not really ok with that. Each time we’ve played this out, we’ve had a good response from the public. So that’s the perfect moment to make it out and share it with you!
Where did the name come from?
We don’t normally name our tracks before they come out, but the title of the article fitted perfectly with our mind and this tune!
Header photo: © Cécile Argüelles