A deep conversation/QnA session with the award-winning composer Shezan Shaikh (Music Composer//Guitarist//Composer) as The Showrunners exclusive pick of the week
I remember Shezan as one of the most badass metal guitarists from the Mumbai metal circuit and over the years, Shezan has set the bar for many independent artists that anyone can achieve their goals if the right amount of hard work and dedication is put to it. Today it's my pleasure to do this conversation with him about his journey that took him to where he is today and constantly inspiring masses.
Q1- Tell us about your early days of music? How did you start getting into music? Also a little bit about your school life?
I was fairly young when I was introduced to Michael Jackson by my Uncle, Mr. Ajay Sharma. He was the only person in my entire family at the time who had a massive collection of vinyls and tapes and quite possibly the best stereo system in a 2 block radius!
He introduced me to stuff like Madonna, MJ, Mary J Blige and the likes. Over the years I got into heavy metal and that’s that.
School life was fairly bland, wasn’t popular or cool, I used to play football for the school team and my teammates from the time are some of my closest friends to this day.
Q2 - Tell us about your experience at Musicians Institute? What were those aspects during the entire period of learning that worked wonders for you? Can you tell us about the importance and the easy access to music education in the present?
MI was a dream. The environment, the people, the teachers…everything! I went and got my music degree at MI, batch of 2008–2010. Outside of the musical aspects of MI, I learnt some very important things on how to be a disciplined musician. Me and my friends, we’d book out a room and 10 of us would sit in a circle and trade guitar solos back to back on backing tracks and trade licks and learn from each other. Amazing times!
My teacher from the time Mr. Greg Harrison (monster of a guitar player) used to tell me “From MI you will only get what you put in, so I recommend putting in your best” It’s a quote that has stuck to me to this day. As a musician, I’m of the opinion you’ll only get what you put in. Practice and Discipline along with patience are a few traits that I picked up.
As for music education, I don’t think you need any formal education to be a musician in 2020. But knowing some definitely helps along the way. It’s not as important as it was say…10–15 years ago. There are some really really good artists and musicians without any formal music education. At the end of the day, a good melody comes from within and that’s what matters.
Q3 - Tell us about your hustle during the time when Providence happened? How did the band secure its establishment in the Indian metal scene?
Providence started 6 months after I came back from MI. Charan and I used to hang about a lot, and thought it would be fun to make some music together. And that’s basically how Providence was born. The two of us kept on writing riffs and attended a lot of gigs in search of other potential band members!
Providence was a dream run. In our first year and our debut album we won best band, album, vocalist and art at Rolling Stone Metal Awards. As for security…I guess it was honest work and a lot of people saw through it and supported us the way they did.
Q4 - When did you decide to start your career as a music producer and composer? How to start a career as a film/video game music composer in India? Please give us a reality check on this side of the music industry and the amount of cut-throat competition?
I’ve always wanted to be a music composer and not a music director. There’s a vast difference between the two. A composer is the author of the music and I wanted to compose my own pieces.
My decision to become a composer for films, TV and games came about at an early age when I saw Dil Chahta hai in the theatre! There’s a scene where Aamir Khan slaps Akhsay Khanna, and there’s this amazing guitar melody that plays as the score during that scene. The scene of two really good friends in a tight spot like that…with that beautiful score really hit home and made me realise what music can do for a scene. People forget. Movies is an Audio/Visual medium.
India always think of Music Composers as “BGM WAALA” in my books that’s an Insult. Song and dance routines might make money…but make no mistake, no matter how good the actor on the screen is. Even he can’t hold a 2 hour long movie without the music. A score or soundtrack elevates and makes you feel the scene, without making you aware of it’s presence and it really does complete the film! That’s just my opinion though. I’m sure there are some really good creatives who would disagree, but again IMO good music makes the film breathe.
The music industry in general is pretty cut throat and not just Bollywood or other commercial avenues. It’s about relationships and networking.
My advice to budding musicians or aspiring film composers would be to first and foremost develop patience. And a strong mindset that it’s okay for people to not like what you put out. When you start thinking of yourself and your career as a musician your mind will play tricks with you. So, to start off I’d say condition in yourself to accept the negative, but develop your thoughts to look beyond it at the larger picture. Don’t get bogged down by what people will think of your art. Opportunity comes when you’re not prepared. So breathe a bit and prepare yourself for that opportunity and absolutely own it when the time comes.
Practice now, to kick ass later!
Q5 - What do you promote through your style of music and how does it affect your daily life? How do you define the term that is used very often by many as ‘Musician’ or ‘Composer’? Also, What do you think is an ideal way of pursuing music for a long time?
As Shezan Shaikh, I make music for everything under the sun. I’ve scored for a Punjabi Film, and a Marathi film, both due for release soon. As Shezan I want to be a Musician with no boundaries, If I can’t even make music for our regional films, I shouldn’t expect myself to make music for a French or an Italian film. Everything starts at home. For me no work is too small, and everything presented to me is a gift from the universe to make my dreams come true
As an artist I must make sure I respect the work that comes my way. Because If I can’t respect it, I can’t expect others to respect it either. I associate myself with genuine doers and hustlers who want to create. To pursue any career for a long time you need to be disciplined and dedicated. That goes twofolds for freelancers. There’s no ideal way and every individual functions on their time, But I do believe discipline is the key in all walks of life.
Q6 - Being a Synthwave enthusiast, I would love to know what fascinated you towards this style of music, and how did you come up with the idea of your latest project ‘Ronin’? What are your most favorite plugins you’ve been using for Ronin’s production?
Oh dude, this is the best question! Synthwave music really hit home. When I first heard synthwave it gave me the same feeling when I heard Heavy Metal for the first time..EPIC! I love the melodies, the culture, the vibe, the Art and most importantly the people. Man, I never thought about it…but synth wave is my childhood coming back to comfort me in my adulthood, hahah! Heavy metal embraced me as a kid and got me through tough times, and Synthwave is doing the same for my midlife crisis…hahah!
I went through a really rough patch of my life lately which lasted for most of 2017–2019. And Synthwave music held me together it gave me hope and strength when nobody else did. I read all these status updates of “call me when you’re down” Believe me calls were made and they went unanswered. And with Ronin, I made a promise to myself that the call will always be answered through Ronin’s music. I’ve been making Synthwave music since the last 4 years and only decided to take it out this year, after working on it and figuring what kind of sound Ronin would carry. That being said, I love Gunship man. “The Mountain” by Gunship is the reason that Ronin exists today.
For me, Ronin is an extension of my innerself with no restrictions. I want to turn Ronin into a voice of comfort for anyone who is looking for it. A voice of strength when you’ve had enough and want to bounce back from the shit that you’re dealing with. I want it to be a voice of reason when your own mind plays tricks with you and most importantly I want it to be a voice of comfort that’ll lift you up when you’re down. Ronin is going to be for everyone. I have big plans for the act and everything will come about when the time is right. When I make music for Ronin I’m at my happiest best and I want to extend it to anyone who wants it :)
My most favourite plugin for Ronin has to be the Ana2 Synth by Slate Digital and Sonic Academy. I also use the Virtual Tape Machine by Slate on almost all songs to just give it that extra “Vibe” Eurobass 2 by Submission audio and GetGood Drums are also heavily used in all Ronin projects.
For guitars I use a 6 String Jackson and a 7 string Ibanez fitted with Bareknuckle pickups running through an Axe-FX2 with custom made guitar synth patches, which I’ll be demoing on my Instagram Channel. And I’ll also be putting out the synth patches free of cost for all Axe users post Ronin’s album release. I use Izotope 3 production suite. I also purchase a lot and I mean a lot of startup brand effects plugins to basically go mental on my productions. You’d be surprised what a lot of small time budget plugins can do if used right!
Q7 — What’s on your playlist these days? Tell us about your current influences and Any top 10 albums you would like to recommend?
That’s a sweet question, dude! My influences in general are very broad. Two of my favourite music composers of all time are Nobuo Uematsu and Trent Reznor (Filmscore) Junkie XL is also someone that I really look unto. There’s Harry Gregson Williams who I really really love. You’ll always find their albums in my playlist.
Some of my favorite albums of all time in no particular order are
Iron Maiden — Somewhere in time
Megadeth — Rust in Peace
Pantera — All of em!
Trent Reznor — The social network
Nobuo Uematsu and the Black Mages
Mick Gordon — Doom
Gunship — Gunship
FM-84 — Atlas
Final Fantasy — Piano Collections
Q8 - Based on the privileges, This generation has to access to information as well as distraction and lack of interest. How do musicians can work on their mindset to achieve their desired goals?
I’m not sure how to answer this to be honest what works for me might not work for you and at the end of it, it comes down to the individual. However I can share what works for me.
I take my musical career very very seriously and I’m not here to be a trend for 5 years and be done with. There are some personal goals that I’d like to achieve for myself. I want to break out of Bollywood and Indian Indie and make music for global audience and want to work on International movies and shows. It’s a long road and I don’t doubt the grind…But I’ve set a routine in place to make my grind as easy as possible. I’m of the opinion that Winning is a mindset and can only come from within. In order to win and individual has to practice and train, So I take my practice as seriously as I take my career. Without practice it’s going to be a short-lived career, lol!
My routine includes waking up at 4.30am. I then proceed to meditate and clear my thoughts of all negative distractions from the previous day and try to set a tone of positivity for the entire day. I go for a run, I come back and by 6.30 am I’m already at my desk practicing and making music for clients. By the time the world is waking up, I’m done with my practice and moving onto emails. By 10.30am when my client sit on their desk, They’ll see my mail in the first 5 emails of their inbox.
I operate on a dedicated 12 hours schedule everyday. It’s been built in a manner that I can devote time to my family and to myself equally. Most of my clients know that I’m not available post 9pm. It’s a thing I’ve set for myself, while I’m a workhorse I believe certain things need to be in place for your own sanity and for the long run of my career. And finding time to reflect how the day was spend is as important as spending it. Most of my work outside practice goes into building myself and my attitude towards life and how to deal with bad scenarios. I’m a martial artist under the tutelage of Jitendra Khare, and abide by the philosophies of the grind on and off the mat.
Q9 - If you have a chance to change or improve a few things about musicians in India, what would you like to improve/change?
I’d definitely like to support them in my way. At Studio Providence, we started a free record/mix program for musicians who couldn’t afford recording time, Along with a bare basics intern program for kids who couldn’t afford audio schools.
In the future I’d like to support dedicated musicians who are good at their craft but more importantly willing and ready for the long haul.
Q10 - Any message would you like to give to the musicians before signing off on this interview?
A Musicians’ Institute (Los Angeles, Hollywood) Graduate in guitar, composing for film and TV, and piano, Shezan was primarily a guitar player with the vision of doing something concrete in music. Many leaps and bounds later, he managed to make a name for himself in the advertising industry. The music he has produced for ad films and commercials includes working with brands like Adidas, Mahindra, FX HD, Vh1 India, Star Movies, Samsung, Asian Paints, Epson, Hungama, and many more.
Shezan Shaikh is a 34-year-old producer, composer, and guitar player from Mumbai, India. In the past 3 years, Shezan has worked on music, background score, and sound effects for 160+ advertisements, films, shorts, video games, and more.
It was my pleasure to do a round of such an informative and insightful QnA session. I hope it helps and inspires every musician in any aspect of music.
You can follow Shezan Shaikh on Social Media -
Wesbite — https://www.shezanshaikh.com
Follow Ronin on Social Media -
That’s it for today. See you soon with another amazing musician in our next edition of The Showrunners exclusive pick of the week.