“We live in 2014; everybody has something to say. There is more power in being silent,” says Jake Udell, an artist manager at Th3rd Brain Management who represents Krewella and, more recently, a mysterious producer who calls himself Zhu.
In February, Zhu made a huge splash on EDM music blogs as the nameless artist behind “Moves Like Ms. Jackson,” a remix/mashup of the Outkast tracks “Ms. Jackson,” “So Fresh, So Clean” and “The Way You Move.” Fans and bloggers speculated that the mystery artist was Disclosure because of the track's deep house style and the fact that both Disclosure and Outkast were set to headline at Coachella only a month later.
A week after the “Ms. Jackson” release, the anonymous artist released an original, “Superfriends” — but this time he added a name: Zhu. But who is Zhu?
For the most part, people are still wondering.
We know a few things about him. A reader of the site Do Androids Dance did some digging and unearthed the info that Zhu is actually Steven Zhu, a San Francisco native now living in L.A. He’s been active with music projects since at least 2011, but right before the “Ms. Jackson” release, all social media relating to him was deleted.
Since then, Zhu has kept quiet on the Internet, except to occasionally plug new tracks from a forthcoming debut album, Generation Why. He doesn’t aggressively market his shows online; instead, Zhu and his team opt for a more grassroots, guerrilla approach. He’s advertising an upcoming show in Brooklyn, N.Y., by posting flyers with his logo and show dates (November 21 and 22), but no venue.
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His first U.S. show, however, has been confirmed: this Saturday, November 1, at Hard Day of the Dead, in the time slot right before Deadmau5.
Zhu is building buzz around his name by remaining anonymous, a tactic reminiscent of early, pre-Discovery Daft Punk. It's a brilliant marketing scheme, it also feels refreshingly unostentatious in an era when DJs' faces are plastered on billboards.
“Zhu's anonymity stems from his belief that music is faceless. He believes there is too much emphasis in our society on the creator as opposed to the creation,” Udell, his manager, explains.
More than the ultimately flashy Daft Punk, Zhu may be taking after similarly inaccessible dubstep artist Burial, who revealed his identity only after being nominated for the U.K.’s prestigious Mercury Music Prize in 2008.
“For a while there’s been some talk about who I am,” Burial wrote on his MySpace page at the time, “but it’s not a big deal. I wanted to be unknown because I just want it to be all about the tunes…I’m a low-key person and I just want to make some tunes, nothing else.”
Udell's approach with his client is considerably less modest — he describes Zhu’s music and faceless marketing as having “the potential to redefine the music landscape” — the EDM scene could really use more artists who only want people to care about the music they make.
“Zhu's art is stripped from all of the noise surrounding artists these days,” says Udell. He hopes fans won't try to find out too much about Zhu, lest they ruin the mystery that makes him special.
Zhu plays Hard Day of the Dead on Saturday, Nov. 1. Tickets, full schedule and more info at www.harddayofthedead.com.