Producer Marouane Zouzhi on Working Through Self-Doubt, Creative Road-Blocks
Here at Vents, we’ve spoken with many different musicians, producers, and recording engineers. During these conversations, it’s almost always easier to discuss the songwriting process itself and live performance.
Why? Well, just about everyone has been to a concert before and so understands that setting pretty well, and as it turns out, more than a few of us have tried our hand at writing our own songs, giving us context for that scenario as well.
But the studio environment is one that remains at least slightly hidden from those of us who are not professional musicians or producers.
Even video featurettes from our favorite artists show only a glossy version of their time in the studio, often accompanied by upbeat music and a strong implication that everyone is getting along just fine.
Promotional videos like these aren’t necessarily inaccurate. Working in the studio can indeed be a highly creative, almost euphoric, experience. But when it comes to how the public perceives the studio experience, one thing tends to go overlooked, namely that recording music is work, hard work.
For a moment, let’s imagine recording an album as a long road trip. The musicians themselves plan the route and maybe even make a few adjustments to the car. But the producer is the one who’s actually driving, making a million and one split-second decisions about where exactly to turn, when it’s ok to exceed the speed limit, and whether or not a quick detour is worth stopping for.
Our guest today is a skilled producer who thrives on the collective experience of making music. Marouane Zouzhi currently works with SadMoneyMusic in Los Angeles and previously served as Creative Director and Producer for Alanic in Beverly Hills.
Zouzhi took some time out of his strict studio schedule to talk to us about music, creativity, and what it’s really like to work day in, day out in a studio environment.
How important is collaboration to your creative process?
Zouzhi: Growing up in Morocco, I had a very specific view of collaboration. In short, I wasn’t open to it, and this led to musical failures as well as communication failures. When I moved to the U.S., I discovered talented people who were willing to share their vision and polish their technical abilities. Collaboration became very important to me, as I felt real improvement in my own craft. It’s like fusing two powers to reach a single objective and that feeling is just amazing. There are always setbacks, but if everyone involved has an interest in each other’s craft, nothing can stop the power of collaboration.
Do you ever find inspiration in art forms other than music?
Zouzhi: I do often find inspiration in fashion and visual art. When making a beat or a song, I usually start with a picture or a video. I then work on ways to translate that energy into music and maintain focus when choosing specific sounds, tempo, and drums.
Which of your recent projects has been most demanding?
Zouzhi: Creating my new EP. I felt like I was giving birth to a new me. I had to shed my old skin. I had to let my signature come out naturally. It took a lot of exploration, introspection, and acceptance. I had to stop doing what I was supposed to like and instead do what I really enjoyed. There has been a lot of doubt, but it’s worth it when the results come out exactly the way you wanted.
Can you tell us about your very first experience in a studio?
Zouzhi: My first experience in a studio was strange. I had mixed feelings. I was excited to come so close to all this technology that was going to help make my creative ideas a reality. At the same time, I was really nervous that I would fail, especially in the vocal booth.
How important is networking to success in the music industry today?
Zouzhi: I would say the number one thing, aside from making good music, is networking. Networking isn’t just about making business or corporate contacts, it’s about finding mentorship. The music industry is an infinite sea. Everyone needs a mentor to guide them through it all until they understand it themselves. Nowadays, in the era of social media, it is the artist’s responsibility to create his platform and audience.
Have you been listening to any new music lately that has sparked your interest?
Zouzhi: I have been listening to Rosalía a lot lately. I like how she brought her specialty to the mainstream. Taking Flamenco to worldwide Pop demands a lot of good music, great branding, and courage.
What’s one aspect of your job that you were comfortable with from day one?
Zouzhi: One aspect of my job I’ve always been comfortable with is having fun and being infinitely obsessed with the music I’m making. I could be sad, frustrated, and thinking about giving up, but my obsession just brings me back to a purely creative space.
by Giorgio Chang