Jasper Eckert preps his DJ equipment on stage. His partner, Zack Stevens, is connecting the sound equipment and making sure the sounds are loud and vivid.
Eckert begins to play some beats off speakers that make the whole room shake. The bumpy noise is introduced to Stevens’ voice as he begins to rap. They are practicing for their performance at Bomb’s Away Cafe.
These aspiring musicians combine to make the duo ZAP. Stevens, known as Gun$linger, is the rapper/producer, and Eckert, known as Jaapur, is the engineer/DJ of the group.
How did you get involved with music?
Eckert: The first memory I have of creating music is realizing what harmonics are on a guitar. Before I could really socialize with adults, when I was 3 or 4 years old, I was in the hallway with my Dad’s guitar hitting it in specific spots to make it sound super cool.
Stevens: Through lyrical writing first, which was inspired by music from a very young age. Inspired by rock, blues and most of the music that my parents were listening to, I started writing lyrics when I was about 9 years old. I started picking up actual instruments around middle school. From there I was in a couple of bands with Jasper.
What surprised you the most being a musician?
Eckert: When someone approaches you as an artist, and not a musician.
What do you find the most challenging?
Stevens: Being able to promote yourself independently is a very big task. We just don’t have a lot of outlets other than the very standard ones, and it’s becoming even more common for people to put their music on iTunes and Spotify. It’s so easily accessible that it is actually diluting what you’re doing in a sense.
What is the best thing since you’ve started being a musician?
Stevens: The ability to express emotion where I can’t in words. I am able to do that in music, whether that is instrumentally, lyrically, or both. That’s the most fulfilling part because there isn’t a lot of success in this industry. I’ve had some milestones, but as far as making money off of this consistently, there hasn’t been a lot of that.
When your family found out that you were planning to be a musician, what did they say?
Stevens: It’s still a realization that my parents have constantly as I continue to pursue music and try to make it my full-time vocation. It’s definitely not something that I explicitly said to them, it’s just something that through my actions, it has been shown and will continue to be shown.
Eckert: I feel like it was a slow realization. I didn’t have to tell anybody, everybody just realized it after a while. For some part of my family, it was a lot easier to understand and support than others.
Who is someone that has influenced your work?
Stevens: My older brother was the reason I got into writing hip-hop lyrics. I always looked up to my brother, so it was almost like he inspired me to aspire to be what he grew up listening to, and still listens to.
Hip-hop has become the most popular genre in music, do you think that will affect your audience?
Eckert: I definitely wouldn’t have had the inspiration from hip-hop if it weren’t so popular. The fact that it’s the most popular genre right now, I think isn’t necessarily in my favor as much as another genre would be. My creations of music are more drawn towards electronic, so I make hip-hop beats in an electronic fashion.
If you weren’t making music, what do you think you would do instead?
Stevens: I’d be struggling man. If I didn’t have music, a lot of my dire situations that are really difficult would seem much more difficult. It’s just really hard for me to put myself in the shoes of someone who isn’t an artist because I don’t really see myself doing anything else.
Eckert: If you took away music from my life there would be enough of a person there. I would probably be doing some other sort of expressive outlet that allows me to feel OK with the human experience.
As a musician, what sort of trends have you seen?
Eckert: Numbers, people think songs are good just because of numbers.
How would your audience best describe you?
Eckert: Eclectic and diverse. Inconsistent with those who don’t recognize my style. My album has three different genres on it at least. They are very different songs. There are common themes of course, but overall, down to try new things, expressive, and experimental.
Is it difficult to find people to work with?
Stevens: Yes and no. People can be standoffish because they think they know better, but collaborating comes with the understanding that not everything you say, or contribute, is going to be a part of that collaboration. People need to realize it is an equal contribution. Otherwise, it will just be two people butting heads. It’s not hard to find people to work with, but finding the right people.
What else can you tell me about ZAP?
Eckert: It’s basically our names combined, Zack and Jasper, ZAP. We made it in high school and then released a really experimental three-track EP. We’re trying to make our next release the most, potent. We also have so much unreleased music, we need to get around to just making releases happen.
Story by Audric Macone
At a glance
Jasper Eckert AKA JAAPUR. DJ and engineer for other artists.
New album: Star is the universe Part 2 coming soon
Interests: Creating art
Zack Stevens AKA Gun$linger. Rapper and producer, writes and creates all his music. New single “Without You” available on most streaming services.
Interests: Making and creating connections.