by ASJAD NAZIR
DR ZEUS TEAMS UP WITH RAP ICON SNOOP DOGG FOR HIS SOLO RETURN
ACE music producer Dr Zeus has been delivering hits for two decades and maintained a high standard throughout.
While others have fallen by the wayside, the hard-working British Asian music hero has conquered the charts with superb songs that have his unmistakable signature. He has collaborated with some of the biggest names in the music industry and helped turn a number of promising newcomers into major stars.
Today he divides his time between creating the Punjabi songs he is known for with big Bollywood tracks and cracking the western mainstream. He is also on a mission to build a bridge between the east and west with seamless songs that have a universal appeal.
He took the first steps towards that with his recent release Woofer, which featured Snoop Dogg, Zora Randhawa and Nargis Fakhri. The song clocked up over 35 million YouTube views in the first month.
Eastern Eye caught up with Dr Zeus to talk about the exciting new chapter of his career, collaborating with Snoop, inspirations, and the secret to his long-term success…
You are gearing up to release your first album in a decade. Your last one was a blockbuster, so what has taken you so long?
After my last album around 2007 I got roped into doing music for loads of other artists. It got to a point where if I did a hit for one artist like Jazzy B, I would get another saying I want a song like that. I was stuck in a situation where it was difficult to refuse the talented singers, but then I got some comments from my fanbase asking me to change it up and that is when I decided it was time for a forward-thinking Dr Zeus album.
How did you approach your own album?
The game has changed a lot since my last album was out a decade ago, so I had to make a Dr Zeus release that set a new trend and give the fans something new. With my own songs I am not constrained by what my clientele wants and as a senior in the industry I felt duty bound to make songs that are more global and blaze a trail for others.
We are in 2018 now and I really felt like we need to make a change in the industry. The only people who can really make that change are artists who put their hands in their pockets and create a movement built around our language.
It would have been easy for you to stay in the comfort zone, was moving the industry forward the biggest motivating factor?
Pakistan and India are huge territories, so many artists are content to be earning enough money there. But they are not motivated to move the industry forward. I’m not sure if they are being self-centred or in a comfort zone. I really wanted to be the one who makes that change.
Now I’m signed to BeingU Music in India, they are giving me full backing to make it happen. I haven’t signed to a company since I left my record label in 2012 and have been rowing the boat alone with no road map since.
You have been successful without a record label though…
Yes, I was considerably successful without one but now I have that road map and a great label who believes in my vision. I believe this will take me to another level, but more importantly the album will create that crossover movement where we can see the likes of myself side-by-side with western mainstream artists at international award ceremonies with global songs built around the Indian musical language.
You have started in top gear with Woofer, the first song from the album. You have Punjabi music star Zora Randhawa, Bollywood actress Nargis Fakhri and hip-hop legend Snoop Dogg. How did you manage to get Snoop?
Zora and I were working on the Woofer track. I wanted a rapper on there and was thinking of Badshah or Honey Singh. Then
I thought I have a very well-connected dear friend named Cheryl Murphey, who runs a major agency in Los Angeles. We thought let’s just phone her and she made it happen.
We couldn’t believe we got Snoop to actually do it. Our next mission was to get him on the visual because that would be grand. All that took shape after his vocal. We got him in the video and it was amazing. We had a great day! He was a lot of fun and so down-to-earth.
You have never hidden you are a huge Snoop Dogg fan. How was it for you meeting him?
I was starstruck the first time I met him, but he actually made me feel so comfortable. I told him I first started learning music in 1994 and have waited to work with him since then. He said you believed and you are here today. He said always believe in yourself, get down on your knees and pray, and anything is possible.
Who else is on your wish-list to work with?
I have loads and fortunately, have access to big names. There is another big collaboration about to materialise because a top American artist wants to redo one of my hit Punjabi tracks. So with the new album, we are starting with a big name and finishing with another huge name.
In between I will introduce talented new faces, which a Zeus album normally has. I have always introduced new credible acts who come from humble beginnings, and will do that again.
So you are clear about the mission?
Yes! I have clear road maps, Asjad. I’m working on more Bollywood songs, I’m never gonna neglect Punjabi music as that is where I started and got my fanbase from. The other plan is to do hip-hop in the US and soundtracks for movies.
How have you managed to maintain a high standard when there is a whole generation who started with you who have fallen away?
When I first started, a lot of those people weren’t getting the grief I was getting. I felt I got stick for doing things differently and because some thought I wasn’t on their level. That made me work harder, learn more and become stronger.
Even when I have been successful, I have had anxiety attacks and thought I am going nowhere. So I don’t think I will ever be complacent in life or be content I have reached a certain goal. Every time I reach a goal I find something else I passionately admire or wanna go after. I also feel fortunate and that God is on my side.
You have a very high hit rate; where do you draw inspiration from?
I will be honest with you, I get inspirations from new age sounds like trap beats. I also really appreciate melodic music and admire when artists are intelligent and commercial with beats. It inspires and makes me search for them types of sounds. You will see a transition change in my album and forthcoming songs. But I will never lose that Zeus signature.
Today, what is your biggest unfulfilled ambition?
To be honest, I am going with the flow but would love to do some kind of acting in Hollywood. (Laughs) Not even a lead role, someone on the side who gets shot up.
What advice would you give new music producers?
I would say learn your trade, find a genre you feel and try to understand what your audience wants. Nowadays it’s about the sound design, so learn about that. Take your time. Learn the trade properly until you feel right and confident. Only release the song when you get that gut feeling.
The hairs on the back stand up when you do something great of your own. Only then make a choice of releasing it and making it public. I’m still learning today. Music is like the sea so has endless possibilities and will never run out.
Are you still a rebel?
It’s funny you say that I have a t-shirt on today that f***ing says rebel. (Laughs) I haven’t worn this in ages. I can be rebellious, but like to think I have matured over the years.
Why do you love music?
I believe music is the only language you can connect with god.