The Scotsman Sessions #316: Rudi Zygadlo

Welcome to the Scotsman Sessions. With the performing arts sector still impacted by the pandemic, we are commissioning a series of short video performances from artists all around the country and releasing them on scotsman.com, with introductions from our critics. Here, Rudi Zygadlo takes us on a journey “from the heart of Scotland’s post-industrial metropolis to the warmer climes of the Costa del Sol-way coast” with his new song Transport

“My song Transport is about a train journey,” explains enigmatic Scottish pop producer Rudi Zygadlo, of the recent single he’s recorded as his Scotsman Session. “It’s the story of a passenger who's alerted to the fact his train has crashed by the news on his phone, before he realises it himself. He's so absorbed in a dating app, then he sees himself on the news. It’s a silly thing about the instantaneousness of news, social media and dating apps.”

For the video, Zygadlo has gone above and beyond the call of duty, re-recording a version of the song and cutting it into a typically quirky pop promo which details a journey of his own. “I was just going to do a living room performance,” he says, “but it was the weekend I was going home for Easter. I thought, ‘I'm going to be getting on a train, I might as well document some of that and splice it in.’”

His re-recorded vocals and guitar are faithful to the original, but elsewhere he took liberties. “The original doesn't have real bass, just bass samples. I forgot I had a crappy old bass, so I got that out and had fun playing the part live, I hadn't played bass for so long. Then I got carried away and added this whole new jam section on the end – the last minute or so is a dance odyssey. I also realised how slow the song is, tempo-wise, so I cranked it up 25bpm and changed the key a bit to see what happened.”

Rudi Zygadlo

Born in Dumfries, Zygadlo grew up with his parents’ and older siblings’ jazz fusion and folk records, and in high school began exploring an unusual blend of Warp Records’ electronic sounds and Frank Zappa. He moved to Glasgow at 18 to study film and literature, played guitar for a band named the Velcro Quartet, and was signed as an electronic artist by the great techno label Planet Mu for two albums, Great Western Laymen (2010) and Tragicomedies (2012).

He was in Berlin at the time, then he moved to London, did some work with Diplo’s Mad Decent label, and started a new project named Lully. “Then the pandemic came along and threw everything up in the air,” he says. “I'd been struggling in London, financially and I guess emotionally. I wanted to start a band and didn't think I'd be able to do it in London, then it came to me in a bolt – it’s time to move back to Glasgow. The only reason I hadn’t moved before was the weather.”

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Now he has a band featuring musicians who play with C Duncan, Alex Rex and Andrew Wasylyk, and after a couple of singles, an EP and live dates are due later this year. In the meantime, there’s just one more thing we need to know.

“The reason I have a painted-on moustache is because I did have a moustache when I started filming earlier material for this project,” he explains. “Between doing a video and a photo shoot, I shaved it off by accident. I thought, ‘I’m not going to be able to grow this again in two days’, so I just painted it on. I've always liked Groucho Marx’s big fake moustache, and now I can toggle having one myself. I’ve probably been infected by Frank Zappa's moustache my whole life, maybe now it's somehow built-in.”

Discover more about Rudi Zygadlo and his music through his Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Soundcloud and YouTube channels. His EP Chattanooga will be available later this year