Zak Arogundade is the multidisciplinary artist behind Ecco2k, best known for his enigmatic style and ability to cross multiple genres and media with shocking flexibility. A member of Stock- holm’s Drain Gang, his projects include 2022’s Crest album (with Bladee and Whitearmor), 2021’s PXE EP, and 2019’s E album, among many others. He sat down with writer Emily Segal to discuss how his childhood preoccupations influence his present, the nature of consciousness, the emotions behind theoretical mathematics, his approach to novelty, and the Vedic quote that best describes his approach to the supernatural.
Emily: What were you like as a kid?
Zak: I spent most of my time with my mom. She’s a makeup artist, and I think I’m a lot like her. She’s really sensitive, and she’s present and emotionally intelligent. I feel like it’s better if you ask her, maybe. "In a delightful voice memo, Zak’s mom described him as “Happy, sensitive, and always hungry. The food could never get on the table fast enough. He loved being around people and he loved animals...Because of his stubbornness, he never gave up.”
Emily: What was the first instrument for you and what was the first band called?
Zak: First instrument was guitar, and the band was called Krossad, which is crushed in Swedish. It started when I was about twelve. I think people thought we were cute. But children are pretty well-suited for that style of music, because you just express yourself in a direct way. It’s just very raw, so I think yeah, kids are good at that. It’s not a lot of pretense.
Emily: Right now, you’re in the middle of a snowboarding trip. What’s your relationship like with nature?
Zak: I spent a lot of time outside when I was young with my mom. It feels good to be in nature. I mean, that’s one part of why I love snowboarding a lot. Because you spend a lot of time in this really inhospitable environment where you feel like humans aren’t really supposed to be. A place like this will kill you pretty quickly, and it’s so beautiful at the same time.
I think the sense of insignificance that you feel when you really understand how beautiful these things are, regardless if anyone is there to observe them or not, is really crazy. I never get used to that kind of feeling, especially regarding nature, or solar-system stuff, or the universe, or whatever. As humans, we were never supposed to see any of this stuff or to perceive any of this stuff. And it’s been there, and it’s going to be there before and after we’ve all died or whatever. And if it’s not meant to be perceived, then why is it so beautiful? That’s what I think is really cool about nature. It has nothing to do with us really, we just happen to be lucky enough to be able to observe it.
I really want to understand the natural world in part for what it can imply about some broader existential context. For example, I had this period a while ago when I was really, really into theoretical math stuff. And I’m not naturally talented at math. I don’t intuitively understand a lot of this stuff. But the existential or philosophical implications of all of this theory just made me really, really emotional, even though I didn’t understand everything.
Emily: Emotional in what way? Excited, lonely, exhilarated?
Zak: It’s exciting, but it’s also... It’s a hard feeling to describe verbally, but it’s similar to what I mentioned before about how a lot of the natural order of things is not necessarily even meant to be perceived, but it’s still, it just is. And that’s what made me feel so emotional about even this theoretical math stuff like chaos theory or fractals or whatever, this kind of stuff. Because yes, why is it so elegant? And it just is.
And that’s what’s cool about theoretical math stuff as well, since it’s so divorced from the normal application of math stuff, it’s not actually a human invention or a human concept. It’s something that is discovered the same way that you would discover a moon or a planet or something. But why is it so elegant then? Why is it like this? It was explained to me that in order for us to perceive a harmonic relationship or a mathematically elegant set of frequencies or whatever, you need to make some really intense calculations in your brain. But obviously, that’s not something that happens consciously.
So why are we wired to do that? And yeah. Nobody knows.
Emily: It’s the same with language too. When you try and learn a new language and it’s so hard, it emphasizes how crazy it is that you’re capable of making these fluid, spontaneous responses in languages that you do know.
Zak: This feels even crazier because nobody ever learns to perceive this stuff. It’s just encoded in everyone. And I can’t think of a good reason for that to be selected for in nature.
Emily: Do you have any particular topics that you’re most curious about at the moment?
Zak: I feel like one thing that I’m always really curious about is consciousness. It’s the most ubiquitous thing because it’s all that we will ever have, and it’s all that we’ll ever know. It’s so fundamental, but at the same time, it’s such a mystery, and it’s such a miracle at the same time. The most fundamental phenomenon at the core of everything that we will ever experience is this thing that nobody understands. And the fact that we are capable of perceiving our own consciousness, it also feels like this insane gift or a miracle.
Emily: Would you consider yourself an animist, someone who believes that there’s consciousness in everything?
Zak: Yes, but I don’t think there’s an individual sense of personhood in every inanimate object. I think it’s a little narcissistic to project your own experience upon something that has really nothing to do with you. But I do believe that there is a consciousness in everything, but I think it’s different from our sense of personhood.
Emily: So it’s not like Beauty and the Beast, where there’s a fork singing, with a little personality.
Zak: I mean I think that’s a really appealing thought. I have early memories of seeing things in that way. I always imagined that every single inanimate object was sentient when I was a kid. But I also really strongly believe that that is more of a me thing and it doesn’t say much about the object itself. I really think about it, I don’t think a rock is conscious in any way that is similar to me. But my intuition says that it’s something a bit more grand.
Emily: Do you believe in or practice magic?
Zak: Magic has a very specific set of connotations attached to it. I do believe in a higher type of consciousness, or a consciousness that is beyond personhood. And I guess also some form of supernature, but not necessarily the universe bending to your will or whatever. I don’t think that’s how it works.