The 357th episode of our 12 Questions segment features producer Zein.
1. How old are you, where are you living and how long have you been producing and Djing?
I’m 27 years old, living in Giza, Egypt. I got into Djing with a couple of friends when I was 14. We all bought our gear at the same time it was very intriguing to us at that time. I remember long mixing sessions with them. We used to hide the tempo display with a piece of paper just to learn how to beat match by ear. As for producing it all started when I bought a box of cereal that had a music program attached to it like a promotion of some sort. It was called Dance Ejay as far as I remember it was extremely basic with parts of the song cut down into small parts where you can rearrange and structure the song as you like. I was 15 or 16 at that time but from the first second of using the app I fell in love with the concept and I wanted to expand my knowledge in this area so a year later I bought Ableton and then the real journey began.
2. Where do your musical roots lie, what are your first memories of electronic music and when did you know you wanted to pursue it seriously? Are there any particular productions or artists from the past that really made you think to yourself ‘this is what I want to do.”
Well I took piano lessons when I was 8 nothing major just learned how to play some of Egypt’s classic songs but that’s long forgotten now. My first memory of electronic music was Global Underground City Series GU012 Dave Seamen Buenos Aires. I always had the feeling I was going to do something in music I always dreamt about touring the world and playing my music to people but things began to fall into place 4 years ago when my music production skills improved dramatically and I started to finish tracks really fast and received good feedback from people. Also the thought of making music in my studio and then later it gets to be played all over the world and people dancing to it is what motivates me to pursue this career it’s a unique and extraordinary feeling we producers are fortunate to have. There are many artists I admire and look up to but my all time favourite artist is Sasha his first involver album was out of this world I listened to it a lot and trust me when I say a lot I still listen to it to this day and I can’t get enough of it.
3. How difficult was learning to produce for you in the beginning? Did you take any Audio Engineering programs or production courses to help you out or are you pretty much self taught? And did anyone give any advice early on that really helped?
I wouldn’t say difficult it was definitely challenging when I first started it’s like every other craft in this world when your starting out, it’s not rocket science it’s just music and people tend to overcomplicate things but it was a fun process for me and I enjoyed it a lot and when I look back now at trying to get that kick sounding fat or that bass sound cutting through the mix and failing miserably every time I laugh because I understand now that it’s a learning curve, it takes time and I believe good things take time. No producer can tell you that he learned most of the challenging aspects of music production overnight or even in a few weeks it just doesn’t work that way. I actually self taught myself everything from synthesis to mixing I also read many advanced books on music theory. The only advice I received indirectly from reading an interview and I still cherish to this day was from one of my favorite producers at that time Sebastian Leger and he said “Well, in the studio at least. It can be full of random processes, full of mistakes and some happy accidents and you’ll be left with something amazing that you could never do again. It’s not quite the same if you try to make these ‘accidents’ happen on purpose. If you plan too much, you’ll make work that isn’t spontaneous”. I try to embrace this mentality every time I work.
4. What parts of the production process do you find the most difficult and what comes easiest for you? When you do hit a creative block what helps you through it?
The hardest part for me is getting out of what I call the 8 bar loop syndrome whenever I start a new track I get stuck in Ableton’s session view for hours adding new sounds and perfecting every little thing but I figured out a way to cope with this ugly disease and that is to set a time frame for myself and just let it go and start arranging the track. I also find the arrangement part of the track a bit challenging sometimes because you can have amazing elements and they all sound good together but when you poorly arrange your track you discover that it’s not like what you imagined it would be. There is no easy part for me to be honest it really depends on the project I’m working on sometimes the melody fits perfectly from the first time and other times it could take several trials and this applies to other elements too including mixing and sound synthesis.
5. What’s a normal day like for you? Do you have a job outside of electronic music? And what do you like to do when you’re not working on music?
It’s very stressful nowadays because I’m in the middle of opening my new business here in Cairo other than that it’s pretty ordinary. I used to work in the finance industry specifically portfolio management and then I moved to sales and logistics at my family’s company but now I only work there part time because like I said I’m dedicating most of my time to launching my new company, which will be in the food & beverage sector offering a wide range of frozen deserts to impulse buyers, restaurants and supermarkets. When I’m free I like to hang out with my friends. I also like to read.
6. Apart from electronic music what other genres do you listen to and who are your favourite artists outside of electronic? and do these genres or artists have a direct effect on your own productions?
I like to listen to ambient music and film scores. There is this one particular Egyptian maestro I really like to listen to his name is Omar Khairat what he does is really exceptional and his music truly speaks to me and is very expressive.
7. What was the first and last physical (CD, Vinyl, Cassette etc) piece of music you bought?
I can’t remember exactly the name but I’m sure it was a ministry of sound CD and the last CD I bought was GU028 Nick Warren Shanghai.
8. Tell us something about yourself that might surprise people?
Actually recently I became a certified gelato chef. Music and gelato it doesn’t get any better than that.
9. Which producers in your opinion get consistently overlooked?
With the music industry getting bigger and bigger every year, the ease of setting up new labels and with all the noise, hype and marketing gimmicks it certainly gets tougher for people to discover real talent and most of the time really talented musicians don’t get noticed or the attention they deserve.
10. Which producers consistently inspire you? And where else does your inspiration come from?
Frankly there are no producers that inspire me I get my inspiration from my family and close friends and I’m blessed and grateful to have them in my life.
11. There are countless producers out there trying to find their way and create their own unique sound, what advice do you have for them?
Finish lots of music it’s the best way to develop your own unique sound even if some of the tunes you think are bad at least you will get the opportunity to figure out what went wrong, learn from it and improve the next time I can guarantee that. Also be patient and just have fun I believe true musicians are in it for the love of music and this is what drives them to move forward and develop their artistry.
12. If the final DJ/live set of your career was next week what would your last track be?
If I know for sure that it would be my last Dj set ever I will produce the most epic outro ever.
‘Different Worlds’ is out now on Simon Doty’s Rhetorical Music, you can purchase the release: here