J Hacha De Zola isn’t himself these days.
As the Rahway, New Jersey artist preps his fourth album of “urban junkyard” tunes, prompting Paste to proclaim him “a wild man in the vein of such fire breathing artists like Screamin’ Jay Hawkins and Captain Beefheart,” he is taking an unexpected detour. “Syn Illusión” an original, all-Spanish language EP that Hacha De Zola will release on Nov. 16th via the artist’s Caballo Negro label, could very well open this man that UTNE described as “the kind of alluring character found in old children’s books” to an audience as unexpected as this release is itself.
“A dear friend challenged me to step outside of this ‘J Hacha’ guy,” Hacha De Zola says, “She actually can’t stand him! He’s chaotic, he’s mean, he’s a caricature of some debauched carnival barking fire breather. Maybe ‘J Hacha’ had a more sensitive side; maybe that guy would write a record in Spanish, my first language. I originally went into this idea of a record in Spanish telling myself, ‘I’m just going to do a stripped down Hacha record, but it didn’t turn out that way at all!’”
“‘Syn Illusión’ means ‘without delusion’ in Spanish,” Hacha De Zola continues, “but it also refers to the heavy synth sounds on this EP.” The “stripped down” J Hacha De Zola sound that he says he was going for has actually turned out to be his most produced effort to date. “My producer had all these really cool vintage synths, keyboards, Mellotrons, farfisas and retro synth emulators in the studio, so I thought, “well hell, let’s go heavy with these! I love retro 80’s synth sounds.”
Where J Hacha De Zola albums (including his upcoming 2019 full-length) tend to pull from various musical bags, Blurt Magazine described “a compelling all-over-the-map collision of jazz, blues, show tunes, garage rock, and Latino flavors. At points, hypnotic, cinematic, lush, and dissonant,” the four songs on “Syn Illusión” are none of that.
“Despite the lyrics and vocals being in Spanish, the music is essentially just one thing,” Hacha De Zola says, “it’s not Latin by any stretch; it’s some kind of dreamy emo synth pop.” One may be reminded of the opening strains of Berlin’s “Take My Breath Away” or Irene Cara’s film theme “Flashdance… What A Feeling,” a brilliant stroke that someone needed to make happen sooner or later.
“I somehow got in touch with my inner ‘broken-hearted 17-year-old girl from 90’s,” Hacha De Zola jokes. “I think of this as some kind of ‘undead Romeo vampire-like dude crooning about love, power, and magic.” The EP’s title track and single bares those vampire teeth as soon as the output a smoke machine in the mind begins to fade.
“This track set the precedent for the rest of the EP,” Hacha De Zola says. “There was a bit of anxiety there, but rather than to give in to my nerves, I doubled down on this poppy, synthy, syrupy sound and just went for it. I was reading a lot of Pablo Neruda’s poetry at the time. It’s so rich in dark romanticism, and it really inspired the lyrical content of these songs, especially the track ‘Syn Illusión.’”
“I played the EP for a few of my closest confidants, who are generally very critical of what I usually do,” Hacha De Zola reveals. “My music is generally not their cup of tea, but everyone seems to love this EP! This experience has left me scratching my head.”
As it turns out, maybe Hacha De Zola IS himself these days?
“Syn Illusión,” the upcoming four-song all-Spanish language EP by J Hacha De Zola is scheduled for release on Nov. 16th via the artist’s Caballo Negro label. Hacha De Zola’s fourth full-length album is scheduled for release in early 2019.