Comandante Zero
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Comandante Zero

Brooklyn, New York, United States | INDIE

Brooklyn, New York, United States | INDIE
Band EDM Funk


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Comandante Zero @ LIttlefield

Brooklyn, New York, USA

Brooklyn, New York, USA

Comandante Zero @ Cameo Gallery

Brooklyn, New York, USA

Brooklyn, New York, USA

Comandante Zero @ Brooklyn Lyceum

Brooklyn, New York, USA

Brooklyn, New York, USA

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Brooklyn bands are known for their innovation, and Comandante Zero is no exception. This electro-funk group features an artist who creates live music videos during their shows.

"I'm painting the color of the songs," explained the band's resident illustrator, 0h10m1ke, over a beer at Williamsburg's Ontario Bar. The artist, who taught himself to create live drawings with Photoshop, acknowledges that his work is "very Brooklyn."

A "live drawing" projects onto singer/bassist Dan Freeman. (Photo: Comandante Zero/Facebook)

The full Comandante Zero experience includes hypnotic music, visual art and dancers who weave their way through the audience.

I dropped by the band's Gowanus studio this Spring to learn more about their unique set-up.

Not just two turntables and a microphone

The band's windowless, foam-covered studio is packed with instruments: a drum kit, an iMac, foot controllers, keyboards, a bongo drum and a ukulele. (Full disclosure: I unearthed the latter two objects after snooping in the dark recesses of a shelf).

Clearly, the members of Comandante Zero are not afraid to experiment with new styles. In fact, its founding members have very different backgrounds: Singer/bassist Dan Freeman is a Harvard grad who honed his technique in gospel choirs; Drummer Ken White has led hip hop workshops in the Middle East and is a skilled dancer.

russ1an d1sc0. CZ

Portrait of Comandante Zero's founding members by artist 0h10m1ke. (Photo: Flickr)

After a chance meeting at a rehearsal space led to a jam session, they discovered a shared love of funk music and a desire to create engaging live shows.

"The challenge is how to meld [recorded beats] with live music and make it dynamic, so you aren't just hitting play on an iPod," Dan explained as he simultaneously fiddled with a laptop, foot board and bass guitar in the studio.

With laptops becoming an integral part of bands, Ken added, even "the traditional two turn-styles and a microphone is changing."

Adding a visual artist into the mix has helped Comandante Zero go a step further; they've built an interactive live show that blends digital and analog technology.

'No line between stage and audience'

"Electronic music has much more of a visual score," the band's resident artist, 0h10m1ke ("Mike"), explained in an interview. "I'm trying to give you a music video that goes along with the songs."

While his technique was originally analog-- black and white contour drawings on paper-- Mike now creates full-color works with a Wacom tablet and Photoshop. His drawings are projected onto a screen behind the band, and are often cast over the band members themselves.

Live drawing by Comandante Zero's artist, 0h10m1ke. (Photo: Flickr)

A social worker by day, Mike became a fan of Comandante Zero after meeting Ken at a Bronx tutoring program. He vividly recalls his "terrifying" first live-drawing with the band at Union Docks in 2008.

"I was so embarrassed... I felt like a total failure." It wasn't until he heard whistles, clapping and cheers from the audience that he realized his rehearsal time had paid off.

Advice from Comandante Zero fans has helped the artist develop his craft. "Part of the performance is finding the guy who is the biggest geek in the crowd to help me set up," he acknowledged.

These live music videos, combined with occasional guest dancers, ensure that there is "no line between stage and audience" at Comandante Zero shows.

It's not surprising that Mike measures his success by fan reactions to his performance. The ideal compliment comes when "they're watching [the live drawing], and realizing it's not a computer program, and looking to find where it is coming from. And they see me."

Dan and Ken of Comandante Zero perform in front of a "live drawing." (Photo: Comandante Zero/Facebook) -

Comandante Zero's music
is a unique blend of 70's and 80's
disco, funk and B-52's-style New
Wave, with Dan Freeman's relaxed
crooning vocal style somewhat
reminiscent of Tony Hadley from
Spandau Ballet, but with a bit more
edge. They perform some covers
from that era, as well as some
original work, but their single is
Leonard Cohen's 1992 song, The
Future,? albeit performed quite
differently from his version.

Both band mem-
bers are extremely adept at their
instruments, especially considering
the technical challenge of having
to work various computers and
special effects at the same time.
Ken White's timing needs to be
remarkably solid in order to keep
in sync with the various rhythm
machines he plays alongside
as indeed it is. And Freeman's
fancy footwork, pushing buttons,
vocalizing and simultaneously
pumping out a mean slap bass
technique are altogether quite im-

Perhaps the Knitting Factory's tiny stage
precluded the duo from bringing out the dancers
they are known to employ, but the
two young men occupied the space
well enough visually.
For those who've heard other
bands at the Tap Room, rarely is
the sound quality as clean as it
was for Comandante Zero. That's
consistent, of course, with the tight
arrangements and professional de-
meanor of this band. They came to
entertain and listeners left with the
feeling that they had succeeded.
But despite all the clever gim-
micks and electronic wizardry the
two had cooked up for the aud-
ience's benefit, the most effective
tune was a short instrumental
where none of those things were
present. They simply played the
hell out of their instruments, bass
and drums... beautiful!

Comandante Zero is
an excellent band, an observation
that was, unfortunately, not show-
cased to it best advantage at
the Tap Room. Upstairs at the
Knitting Factory's main room may
have worked better for the duo,
but perhaps this particular venue
is not enough of a real dance
club? for them. Perhaps the scene
has changed since the era which
they evoke; one can only hope it
is still lurking dormant within our
psyches, and that it is ready to
spring into full disco action at the
next Comandante Zero gig.

see pdf @

original @ - Music Connection Magazine

“Wow! Among other things, C0 is the rhythm section of doom. This *%^$#%! is

Bob Power -Multi-Platinum producer/engineer, Multiple Grammy Award winner. Best known for his
work with Meshell Ndegeocello, D'Angelo, India.Arie, De La Soul, Macy Gray, D'Angelo, A Tribe
Called Quest and The Brand New Heavies. - Comandante Zero

Brooklyn’s Ken White and Dan Freeman comprise Comandante Zero, A Drum N Bass fueled electronic rock duo who each have roots in the Boston area. The duo has worked as the rhythm section of Virgin Records’ artist Xavier in Europe and the US and has shared a stage with the like of the Brazilian Girls and The Juan Maclean. Comandante Zero has also taken to the modern approach of funding their recordings, asking their fans to chip in. Today we’re taking a look at their three song EP, CO08E.P..

Opening up with Give It Up (Receive and Transmit), Comandante Zero lay on the catchy dance beats early on. This one is ready for the clubs; set to get you moving. Sudden Entropy is mildly rhythmic and lacks the energy of Give It Up. It does have an interesting keyboard selection that will remind listeners of a certain age of a videogame named Pong. The Future Comix is my favorite track; sort of a Drum N Bass-lite. Its highly rhythmic with an excellent groove. It’s just the thing for loft party or a rave.

Comandante Zero eschews the whole “it’s not cool to be good at your instrument” culture. Top-notch musicians with a fan’s sense of what works, Comandante Zero are the real deal. Listening to this CO08E.P. makes us very excited here at Wildy’s World to see what 2009’s Slouching Toward Babylon (their next album) will bring. Great stuff.

Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)
- Wildy's World

Show Review Ep.1
Sunday, 19 March 2006

So I went to this show on Saturday that was so insane, I just had to share it. It was called Project Skyward at R&R, put together by loveless music group. The 2 bands I saw were so sick- both blending electronic beats with live instrumentals making for wicked jam sessions. Comandante Zero are these 2 guys from Brooklyn- one guy was running the mac and tearing it up on the drums, while the other was straight killing it on the bass, every once in awhile leaking deep, syrupy vocals. The second band was Autumn Thieves, who were making a special 1-night-only appearance, and also played an insane set. These 3 guys were rocking out over incredible beats, and it seriuosly took everything I had not to make a scene by writhing around on the banquettes.

 You can see Comandante Zero at The Knitting Factory on June 8, but hopefully they'll give us a taste sometime before then. You can keep yourself updated on their upcoming shows at

Loveless Music Group is stoking the electro rock scene that's been exploding in the last few years, and has great shows and great bands, and a streaming radio station to bring you great music whenever you want it. I'll keep you in the loop on their upcoming shows, but In the meantime check out what they've got going on at -

Sexy and infectious, the music of Brooklyn-based duo Comandante Zero injected life into a plush but sleepy Crash Mansion on Wednesday evening. Their music, generally described as a blend of electronica and funk, transcended these genre-boundaries---there was more to their songs than the words electronica or funk generally connote. The lead singer, whose low and paroxysmic voice sounds like a mix of Ian Curtis and David Bowie, brought to the sound a touch of post-punk, while his five-string bass playing provided the expertly executed funk/disco bass line. The drummer, who brought to the sound the precise and extremely danceable beats of electronica, also controlled a synth trigger pad that filled out the sound in such a way that meant the subtle difference between standard electronica club-filler, and indie-electro along the lines of Junior Boys. Check out Comandante Zero, with live artist 0h10M1ke (who also joined the band at Crash Mansion) and dancers at Monkeytown this Wednesday, August 27th. - KleineKultur

Comandante Zero: Can you groove?
By: Fatima Quraishi

July 21, 2007

A man wearing a fedora and a black tank top clings to the back wall, a side of his face revealing a painted silver tattoo. As he sticks to the wall, another with spiky hair and bright red lips joins him. The two look animalistic, spiderlike, as they claw at the wall. Nearby, a woman with cropped hair and a bound neck writhes painfully against a brick column as if by command. The three dance to deep, dark house beats created by two men in the middle – one on drums and one on bass.

The crowd at The Vault at Club Element in the Lower East Side experienced this rendition of The Future, a cover of the Leonard Cohen song by Comandante Zero, a drum and bass duo consisting of Ken White on drums, and Dan Freeman on bass. Though the name is reminiscent of South American revolutionary leaders, CZ did not choose the name for any particular political reasons. They chose it mainly for its sound.

The formation of Comandante Zero seems natural, in large part to White and Freeman’s similar pasts. Both come from bi-racial families, have similar musical backgrounds, are highly trained musicians and were unhappy in previous bands.

Growing up, they were both heavily influenced by funk and gospel and spent a lot of time playing in the black church.

"I copped my slap technique off gospel records and touring black churches in the South and seeing guys with crosses inscribed on their basses playing the most phenomenal stuff you'd ever heard,” Freeman said.

When Freeman and White first met, both were coming from music projects that subdued their natural tendencies toward groove and focused too much on individual ability than collective sound for their tastes.

“At one point,” White recalls, “a bandleader told me that not everything I play has to be head-noddy.” For White, groove, this head-noddyness, was just in his playing and there was no other way about it.

White’s ability to groove was the first thing that Freeman noticed. Both met in November 2004, at a shared rehearsal space. As Freeman was finishing up, White came in to set-up for his time slot and started playing. Freeman joined in and they ended up jamming for an hour.

“Well, it just fit,” White said. “As a drummer you always look for a match in your bass player, a groove-based connection.”

Although both White and Freeman recognize groove as their connection, both find it difficult to describe.
“Groove is such a concept,” White said. “There’s no way to describe it. You feel it. It feels right. It makes it easier for you to play better. It's the way someone can recognize you just by your voice on the phone; same thing with a drummer’s sound.”

This groove-based connection ultimately led to CZ’s decision to become a pure drum and bass duo in August 2005. Prior to that the band had performed with another guitarist but soon discovered that he did not add anything substantial to CZ’s groove, not as they created music and not on stage.

“We had developed this synergy while working out songs,” White said, referring to the connection with Freeman. “So, although the second guitarist was great, he seemed extra, especially on stage.”

Since then, partly out of necessity and partly out of choice, CZ’s sound has evolved. Believing the essence of groove and the lyrics of the songs to be most important, CZ has stripped its music down to its essential elements, with dark vocals warning about “absolute control over every living soul” and “the blizzard of the world” coating deep danceable beats.

Although it is just the two of them, they try to minimize the use of preset tracks by often simultaneously filling multiple roles. White triggers electronic sounds live, often while playing two-hand beats with one hand, and Freeman often uses his bass as a baritone guitar.

“The huge challenge is using the electronics selectively to create a sparse sound,” Freeman said. “This sparseness brings color, a kind of desolation, which is great.”

The use of dancers is as much part of the show as the music. White says it is to bring the energy, feeling and story of the song across.

“Dance creates a certain energy, a different way of understanding music,” he said. “And music provides the energy for the dance. It’s symbiotic.”

It’s also another way of reaching listeners, Freeman said. “The best way to reach people is not through their head but through their ass,” he said.

White works with dancers, coming from various dance backgrounds, including jazz, hip-hop, modern and contemporary, to create a kind of movement for each song. The resulting visual is a mix of improvisation and some set moves. The purpose is to present movement that is inspired by each song, to tell a story.

“For example,” White said, “the Leonard Cohen lyrics are very rich in imagery so the choreography for Future was more about setting a visual scene.”

The CZ set featured another song, Russian Disco, for which a man wearing stilettos and red lipstick came out in diva style to evoke the disco vibe.

As far as fitting into a particular music scene, White said, “Too often you see groups changing the essence of who they are to make it in the music scene. “We’re not trying to be different, just true and honest to our own voice. Not trying to make it anything else than what it is.”

CZ has a working EP - produced by NYC’s Sisko - and will be recording more songs through the end of the year. Since 2005, they have performed with Virgin Records electro-funk artist Xavier in Germany and the U.S., The Brazilian Girls and The Juan Maclean. They have performed at the Knitting Factory, Pianos, R&R, Webster Hall, Crash Mansion, Element and at private loft parties in Brooklyn that they organized along with other indie filmmakers, DJ's and photographers. In June 2006, CZ spent a month in London playing shows at The Rhythm Factory in London's East End.

They are starting a monthly residency in September at the Vault at Element but in the meantime, they will be playing at Club Midway on July 27.

To check out CZ, please visit or their MySpace page -


Comandante Zero E.P. 2007
Comandante Zero + 3 2008
Slouching Towards Babylon: Part I 2011



Comandante Zero, or C0, is a Brooklyn-based drum/bass laptop duo consisting of bassist/singer/producer Dan Freeman and hip hop drummer/producer Ken White, who mix the live groove of bygone dance bands like Chic, a modern electro sound inspired by DFA and BK dj crews like Trouble and Bass and baritone Leonard Cohen-esque vocals sung in both English and Spanish. After performing as a touring rhythm section for Virgin Records' electro-artist Xavier and experimenting with different line-ups and sounds, they completed their vision for a unique set fusing live, heavy, minimal grooves and laptops running Ableton Live, in summer 2008. Their shows also became a cutting-edge musical and visual collaboration with Brooklyn artist 0h10M1ke who digitally draws each song as it’s being played and have gotten them labeled one of the best unsigned bands in the US by Music Connection magazine. They’ve shared the stage with some of Brooklyn’s favorite indie and electro acts like The Juan Maclean, Eclectic Method, Streetlab, The Brazilian Girls and Stellastarr* and performed in New York, London and Berlin. In 2010 they completed the E.P. 'Slouching Towards Babylon: Part I' as a collaboration with Chic’s keyboard player Russell Graham and Grammy Award- winning producer/engineer Bob Power.