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No Zu leader Nicolaas Oogjes on the collective’s open door policy

“‘Once a Zu always a Zu,’ meaning that if something comes up in a member’s life and they have to depart, the door is always open for collaboration.”

Melbourne Museum is a still an odyssey of wonder for Nicolaas Oogjes, the leader of no-wave influenced noise funk band No Zu. “It was a magical place and although everything doesn’t quite seem so enormous I never seem to have lost that sense of awe,” he says, when questioned if he liked the Museum when he was growing up. “Yeah totally and dinosaurs for sure. That’s it, I was obsessed with dinosaurs.”
 
This Friday, No Zu will headline this month’s instalment of Nocturnal – an event that sees the museum transform into an adult playground with bars, great food, roving entertainment, discussions with museum experts and three of the most interesting bands in Melbourne – No Zu, the irresistible Mildlife, and world music DJ Opalikia.
 
“Mildlife, we played with them back in the day and I have seen them a couple of times since and it’s always a long time between drinks and they are always interesting and they are always changing,” Oogjes says.
 
Speaking of impermanence, ten years ago Oogjes purposely created No Zu – an ensemble that ranges anywhere between six and ten members – to be a fluid musical act in both style and personnel.
 
“We always say ‘Once a Zu always a Zu,’ meaning that if something comes up in a member’s life and they have to depart, the door is always open for collaboration. The overarching thing with No Zu is for people to feel there are no strings attached.
 
“I remember feeling overly stressed in my old band Tic Toc Tokyo, about having to stay the course even though it was no longer what I wanted to do – but I am not implying that band was overly problematic, it could have been any band.”
 
The texture and depth of No Zu’s early 2016 release Afterlife (a clever reference as it was the album to follow their 2012 debut LP Life) is so resonant and profound that it saw the band release the fourth single, ‘BODY2BODY2BODY’, in May this year.
 
Oogjes enthusiastically discusses the reason behind releasing the single so long after the album was out in the world. “With us there is no grand plan, it’s just a pretty intuitive decision with no overarching ambition in that sense. That was really poor timing but we didn’t care, we were more opportunistic,” says the 35-year-old Melburnian, before revealing that the release of this single came about because it reminded a bloke in Manchester of a certain1980s post-punk outfit.
 
“We randomly had this guy that liked us from Manchester, Luke Warren, get in touch with Jason Boardman who runs a Balearic label from Manchester called Aficionado Records that had released Afterlife in the UK.
 
“Luke and Jason both thought that A Certain Ratio might like us and put us in touch with the band, and to our absolute surprise A Certain Ratio were happy to go into the studio for free and rerecord our song ‘BODY2BODY2BODY’.”
 
A Certain Ratio formed in Manchester in 1977, and as a post-punk band were signed to Factory Records. The label’s famously verbose head Tony Wilson described the trumpet touting quintet as "having all the energy of Joy Division but better clothes." However, by their second album, the band had incorporated many elements of funk, fusion and freestyle jazz.
 
The fact that this band chose to cover a No Zu song at their own expense was a true highlight for Oogjes. “It came about from a real cool connection of people just doing things for the love of doing things – which is so refreshing.
 
“And something that I have absorbed, maybe by osmosis, is that A Certain Ratio, a band that kind of made it into the mainstream but stuck to their guns creatively – it was really nice to see them identify with No Zu as that is our philosophy too.” 

No Zu will headline Nocturnal, taking place at Melbourne Museum on Friday December 1, with Mildlife and Opalakia.