There’s no mistaking the prolific nature of musician Zach Morillo’s approach to his craft. He’s almost never not working, and always focused on being creative, inventive, and enormously productive. The Los Angeles-based drummer and producer is currently being lauded for his efforts remixing Mark Rubin’s Somatoast track “Tapping In Boyd Hill,” which was released last month on the latter’s Creation: Evolved record, via Gravitas Recordings. It’s a great sampling of the type of work Morillo has been pursuing for over two decades now, offering new energy and innovation to other people’s songs through his production and remix work.
With an enduring appetite for music production and creating hypnotic beats, Morillo was naturally drawn to the genre of electronic music. From there, his production skills really blossomed, driven by a pursuit of zeroing in on a perfect combination of acoustic and electronic sounds. Over the years, he has produced for and performed live with musicians such as Rhye, Groundation, and the brilliantly minded Childish Gambino. In fact, Morillo has toured globally as the drummer with the Canadian R&B group Rhye, led by Mike Milosh.
We recently spoke with Morillo, who donated some of his time to discuss with us his history as a musician and producer, his remix of “Tapping In Boyd Hill,” working with Gravitas Recordings, and particular career highlights.
Thanks for your time, Morillo. To start, you’re an LA-based music producer and drummer. How did you get into music, and what are some of the acts with which you’ve worked?
Morillo: “My pleasure, guys! Yes, I currently live in LA but grew up in Orlando, Florida. I first got into music through a childhood friend of mine whose father was a famous drummer. I would often visit his home, which was full of drum sets and various music memorabilia, so naturally, my interest in drums and music began there.
In high school, around 2002, I first began producing songs in my school’s electronic music class. I was enrolled in a music-focused program, so we had great opportunities to learn these things. Since moving to LA in 2012, I’ve been developing my Morillo producer/DJ project and also have played drums with Rhye, Groundation, and Childish Gambino. I’ve had some really great experiences.”
Your remix of “Tapping In Boyd Hill” on Somatoast’s Creation: Evolved album is dope. How did you become involved with this project?
“Thank you so much! I became involved with this remix album through Gravitas reaching out to let me know that they were putting together another batch of remixes for this amazing album, and I just jumped on the opportunity!”
Did you select this particular track to cover, or was it assigned? Give us some context about how the song came about.
“I chose to remix ‘Tapping in Boyd Hill.’ It just spoke to me. The entire album really is so unique and well produced, but while listening, this song just stood out. I really loved the sound design, tempo, and acoustic guitar riffs, so I also quickly was able to envision what I would do for a remix. I decided to play live drums on it, which gave a fresh approach to the tune, while still keeping the integrity of the original song form. I added a few new elements after that, and the remix came together pretty quickly.”
From R&B to Electronic, you seem to work with various musical genres. Is there a particular style of music to which you gravitate?
“I’d say that my musical influences have a wide range due to my history working in a non-electronic realm growing up playing drums. This really shaped my musical foundation. So, I wouldn’t say that I gravitate to one or the other more. I love them both equally. I have always wanted to find a balance of electronic and organic elements in my productions.”
As a musician, specifically a drummer, how does your skill factor into your work as a music producer?
“I’d say that my rhythmic knowledge really gives me an edge in production. I feel that I am able to find ways to organize rhythm that draws influence from many different styles that I’ve played in band settings. I will say, though, that I often have to actively simplify things to make things easier to dance to (laughs).”
What do you dig most about Gravitas Recordings?
“I just love the team. Everyone at Gravitas is so supportive of their artists. They really make us feel loved and are always so enthusiastic about getting our music out. I also think that they do an amazing job staying true to their unique sound and vibe, and have definitely carved themselves a special place in the electronic music world.”
You’ve got a lengthy, 20+ year career in music. Can you highlight some of your top highlights thus far?
“I’d say that some of my favourite musical moments have been at Burning Man DJing on art cars, DJing the Pagoda Bar circa 2016 at Lightning in a Bottle, and DJing Envision Festival main stage 2020. There have also been countless amazing moments touring the world while playing drums with groups like Rhye and Groundation. I am so grateful for music and feel very lucky to have had so many incredible experiences through it.”
We often ask about “gear goes wrong” stories; mind sharing one of a time when you were left scrambling or scratching your head?
“(laughs) Oh yes. I’d say the most cringe story I have is when I was headlining a New Year’s Eve party in Portland. I went up on stage to begin my set and when I pressed play on the first track just sounded like absolute death through the speakers. One of my cables had gotten loose and just made things sound horrible. Just the absolute worst way to start a big set.”
What do you have coming up that fans can look forward to? Spill some beans…
“Well, I have a new bass-heavy tune dropping on Muti Music on November 18th. The track is heavily influenced by Lofi dub reggae and has some heavy bass wobbles and growls. It’s a banger! Next year I plan to begin unleashing some of the 20ish tracks I’m sitting on right now.”