• Monday, June 17, 2024

Arts and Culture

Woah! Dr Zeus is in the house

Dr Zeus

By: Asjad Nazir

THERE is no denying that Dr Zeus has been unstoppable since bursting onto the music scene 25 years ago.

One of the greatest British Asian music producers of all time, he has entertained all ages around the world with top tracks that have become a part of popular culture. Having worked with everyone from exciting newcomers to superstar singers, his fearless approach has inspired a generation of artists, who have followed in his giant footsteps.

The Birmingham-based beatmaker’s newly released song Woah has added to his remarkable story of success. He has teamed up with rising star Ashu Sidhu and Legah, formerly of popular girl group Rouge, on a superb song that has shown once again that he is one of the finest music talents UK has ever produced.

Eastern Eye caught up with the big thinking maestro to discuss his amazing career, new songs, unique inspiration and fearless approach.

How would you sum up your musical journey?

It’s been exciting all the way through. I can’t say there have been any kind of dull moments.

You know where artists get those periods where they kind of go quiet. Yes, there were moments where I was quiet, but I have still been working. So, it’s been good, and I can’t complain.

What’s been the secret of you maintaining a high standard over such a long time?

(Laughs) My wife would say it’s all her. I think your surroundings are very important. They say, the people you surround yourself with is what you kind of become. If you’re with humble people that are still willing to learn, that is pretty much how you keep moving forward. And that’s how I’ve been.

I’m still learning now. Having a good surrounding, and people that keep you humble, and tell you when you need to make a stand and when you need not to, is very important.

Tell us about that.

I’ve reasonable, humble people around me that keep me level-headed. I think that’s one of the secrets of me being in the game for so long.

You have never compromised with your work. How much has maintaining creative control been a big factor?

Look, if I was to compromise, I probably would have done a lot more Bollywood songs and other stuff.

I’ve never compromised in the creativeness of my music. A very good example is when I moved to Mumbai and then came back. I had like 10 people working for me, constantly. There was too much poking their nose into my creativity and telling me to follow certain trends. I’ve never worked like that.

I started in the days of B21, Malkit Singh and all these artists creating bangers, but never really did what they did and made my own space. When that got dissolved in Mumbai, I had to move back.

How do you always bring out the best in a singer, whether it’s a newcomer or an established artist?

To be honest with you, I don’t know. A lot of it has to do with the singer. But I guess I take a lot of care. When I’m producing, I always treat vocals as the main instrument of the song. I take a lot of care to make sure the vocal is bang on.

Obviously, there’s not much I can do about voices apart, from making them sound a little brighter and stuff like that. I take a lot of care in making sure the tuning and all sorts of stuff is in place, so the singer sounds professional.

You have always had a good ear for new talent. What do you look for?

I look for what I had in myself – a lot of passion and having the right frame of mind.

There’s a lot of youth that are talented, but their head’s not in the right place. It’s difficult to work with someone like that. Key factors are looking for someone who is passionate, hungry and has their head in the right place. They should understand the business aspects and stuff of the game, as well as the creativity.

The cover for his latest song, Woah.

What do you like the most about newcomer Ashu Sidhu, who features on Woah? 

He’s humble, he’s got fire and wants to go forward. He travels because he wants to capture experiences around the world and relay them in his compositions, lyrics and stuff. So, he’s very talented, young and passionate. (Laughs) He reminds me a bit about myself, but just not as good looking.

What inspired your new song Woah?

To be honest with you, I made a beat that was like an old school type of late 90s, early 2000 hip hop, which is what I still love, as opposed to the trap and stuff that’s happening now in the game. It’s more on those vibes and reminds me of those good old hip hop days. I do feel as if that late 90s and early 2000 sound is coming back in now.

Why is that?

I think people are getting sick of all this trap, drill and stuff that is all sounding the same. Everybody just jumps and does the same thing. If trap or drill worked, then the whole Punjabi industry did the same. It has been like that for the last four or five years.

I’m just happy to do something different and, flip it a little bit and just stick to what I like. And believe that it will still work.

You’re working with Legha again with songs like Woah and ABC. What do you like about her as an artist?

She’s cool, man. I’ve always got on with Legha. We’ve always had this like element of luck. Every time we’ve done songs together, they have always been big, from Don’t Be Shy to more recently ABC, which is currently sitting on more than 10 million views.

She has come back after a break and things have changed a little bit since she was last on the scene. So, we’ve just tried to kind of slowly creep her back in. It’s good working with her.

Is there a Dr Zeus master plan going forward or will you carry on following your instincts?

I’m just making music, trying to enjoy my life and be happy, to be honest. That’s it really. If I can help anybody move forward and fulfil their dream, I’m kind of down with that as well. There’s a lot of young talent I’m working with.

Tell us about someone we should look out for.

There is a new singer I’m working with, and we have an EP ready, which is coming out by beginning of June. His name is Watan Sahi. He’s super talented, writes his own stuff, sings it, looks good, is young and from Punjab. The way he writes, it doesn’t seem like he’s from Punjab. He has that international feel and can pretty much write any genre.

What inspires you?

At one time I would say musical artists would inspire me, but in this day and age, I get very inspired by family, like my nearest and dearest. They inspire me because they don’t let the fire finish in me. They keep reminding me of what I’ve achieved, how I can keep going and achieve more.

They keep showing me, the sky’s the limit. I keep moving.

Are you still following your instincts?

Yeah, I am just going with the flow. I’ve got a few little bits and bobs happening, including with some Bollywood actors and stuff. They will hopefully drop this year as well. I’m really just doing my thing.

You are always brilliant live. How much do you enjoy it?

I love it. I love actually being on stage in front of a crowd. But I hate everything around it, like the travel and anxiety before going on stage. Believe it or not, I still in this day and age, after so many shows, get anxiety.

People have your songs on repeat. What music dominates your playlist?

To be honest, it’s the sh*t that my daughter and wife listen to in the car. God knows what it is. I’ve to go with that.

When I’m with my wife, it is Chris Isaak. She sings it out loud. (Laughs) Actually, we both do. The good thing with my daughter is she was into all this drill and stuff, but now she has switched a little bit into her desi stuff, which is really good because I wanted her to be in touch with our culture. She now plays me the new tunes. She is also my listener and gives me her honest opinion on my work.

You’ve never followed the crowd. Are you still creatively fearless?

Yes. I’ve never really wanted to be number one. But in my heart of hearts, I’ve always known that I am one of the very best and think that belief will never go in me. I think the day I stop making music is either the day I go or the day I stop believing that.

What does music mean to you?

It’s the language to connect with god. It’s a good feeling I get like when I do my prayers. If I feel like I’ve done something great, musically, I really feel as though that I’ve connected with god through a certain language. And god gives me his messages back because he makes a certain thing happen to my inner self when I’m producing. Like when you do something and you listen back to it, and then the hairs on your arm stand up. Those are the kind of vibes I’m talking about.

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