May 18, 2024

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Interview with Simon Zauels: Introducing Sameka: Video, new CD cover, Photos

Jazz Interview with jazz electric bassist and composer Simon Zauels. An interview by email in writing. – First, let’s start out with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music. How exactly did your adventure take off? When did you realize that this was a passion you could make a living out of?

Simon Zauels: – Hello Simon, thank you very much for having me. I grew up in a small village close to Bonn in Germany. The interest in music was already developing in my childhood through my parents. Both are classical musicians so they wanted me and my brothers at a very early age to study classical instruments as well. At the age of six, I started playing the cello. After ten years of cello lessons and playing in orchestras, I picked up the electric bass and from then on, fell in love with that quite new instrument and put the cello aside.

After gaining a few experiences in rock music, I discovered funk and subsequently jazz which later on influenced my decision to study jazz in a music college.

Already in my first semester of studying music I got asked by a variety of bands, ensembles and groups to join them, because they needed a bass player. Most of those bands were already established and had Gigs to offer, those Gigs were paid and that´s when I realized I might can make a living out of this.

JBN: – How has your sound evolved over time? What have you been doing to find and develop your own sound?

SZ: – That´s a very good question. Finding your own sound is a never ending story I´d say, because everything you do as a musician like practicing your instrument, listening to music, and transcribing your favorite musicians, influences you get from different artists and music styles. They all have a big effect in the way you sound. So I´d say as a working musician you´re constantly developing and sharpening your sound.

Creating your own sound is something very unique and it will make you recognizable, it´s like your own voice. I think the goal is to get heard (not seen) and then people say „ah ok that´s Simon Zauels on Bass“.

Moreover, the choice of instruments also puts his part to it. In my case I´m playing three different Basses from the brand Hot Wire Bass which are all three custom made for my needs and customized in every detail I wished for. That definitely helps to become one with your instrument and developing your own sound.

JBN: – What routine practices or exercises have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical proficiency, in terms of both rhythm and harmony?

SZ: – I subdivide between everyday-practice and long-term practice. Everyday practice routines include exercises I developed and collected over the years. Those can be just technical exercises to warm up the fingers or scales, moving triads, chords, inversions or rhythm exercises. One very challenging rhythm exercise I´m doing on a regular basis is something I learned from the drummer Nate Wood which he explained in one of his videos. It´s about playing a groove and moving the metronome from the downbeat to the 2nd 16th note (e) on every beat. And after that moving the metronome to the 4th 16th note (a) on every beat. That inquires a perfect timing because with the metronome on the downbeat you can move a little bit but with the “e” and the “a” it´s not possible because you could immediately hear the wrong timing.

In addition to all the great exercises I got from my bass teachers over the years, I pick up exercises like the one I just mentioned, here and there from different people on YouTube or on social media and integrate them in my practice routine. I even already have collected so many exercises, that I have a big folder in which I can choose the warm up exercises of the day.

The long term-practice can be very difficult tunes or transcriptions which I have to memorize and which needs time to learn. For example practicing Violin Sonatas from J.S.Bach. This sometimes takes me weeks of practicing every single day to get fluent in it with the right articulations.

Difficult solo transcriptions reuire practice as well. In my case, adding a few more seconds of the solo every day to getq it into my fingers.

On my YouTube Channel you can find a bunch of videos of me playing classical music on Bass or Jazz Solo transcriptions. Check it out 🙂

JBN: – Have you changed through the years? Any charges or overall evolution? And if so why?

SZ: – I believe in general, I have definitely grown throughout the years to become the musician I am today.

Consistency is key. There are not many days where I don´t pick up my bass. With every concert and every gig the experience level is growing and with every focused practice hour at home my skills level is expanding.

Different phases of life teach me different things. For example, there are busy times where I am constantly playing gigs. Those give me the experience. During the COVID pandemic, where most of the gigs were canceled, I focused on other things which gave me time to expand my jazz vocabulary and times on the ship, where I am right now – answering the questions- are boosting my sightreading skills to the extremes. To be honest I learned a lot from those ship gigs. Because every day you have to learn new music and you almost play two shows a day plus rehearsals. Being on a ship can be tough sometimes but it´s a great experience that´s why I can really recommend it to all musicians out there.

JBN: – What do you love most about your new album 2022: Sameka – Introducing Sameka, how it was formed and what you are working on today.

SZ: – What I like about the album is that it has a lot of different elements into it there´s the combination of classical and oriental elements as well as Jazz, Rock and Funk elements. Since those are all my compositions that album represents my musical journey so far.

In addition to that it makes me proud that I finally released my first album as a composer and bandleader.

I think it´s the first time in my career that I´m in charge of the whole band. It is quite challenging and laborious but it pays off. The process and mistakes would teach you a lot. It makes me feel better for the future. Being a leader means responsibility. I´m responsible for the whole band and everyone else involved. If things won´t go smoothly people would blame me.

But I don´t want to complain. I got messages from people telling me after listening to

the album, that they are „[…] anxioulsy awaiting the LP […] “ what can I say, of course that really makes me happy and shows that the hard work pays off and also gives me the energy to move on. Which brings me to the fact, that I´m already planning and writing for the second album with SAMEKA.

Moreover, I´m planning to release a solo bass album soon, where I am playing classical pieces by Bach on bass. Stay tuned.

New CD – 2022 – Buy from here

JBN: – How did you select the musicians who play on the album?

SZ: – SAMEKA was founded in 2019. I wanted to form my own jazz-rock / jazz-fusion band in which I could play my own compositions. Back in the day, all musicians from the band were still living and studying in Mannheim. So I picked musicians from the music college where I was studying as well. First we just played in a trio formation with Antoine on piano, Tobias on drums and me on bass.

Then later, Antoine told me that he knows a sax and a guitar player who would both fit very well in the band. So we invited them in and since then the lineup has never changed.

Having Tobias and Antoine in the band, coming from a more traditional jazz context, we have two musicians in the band, who are both very versatile on their instruments and already played together in many different formations, which you could hear. With Daniel Buch we found a saxophone player who is playing a variety of instruments. He is mainly playing the baritone saxophone but besides that also the soprano as well as the aerophone. The aerophone could be explained like a synth saxophone, where he could play any digital sound we wish. It´s amazing and it brings so many colors to the music and to the arrangements.

With Patrick Baumann we found an electric guitar player who is coming from a more rock background but also studied jazz which makes him the perfect match for SAMEKA. In addition to the main band members, I asked the Syrian oud player Hesham Hamra with whom I am playing in two different world music bands, to be a guest and be featured in two of the songs on the album. To get the oriental flavor into the music the oud and especially Hesham was my first choice.

JBN: – Can you share any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions over the years?

SZ: – I had the honour to perform a few concerts and different programs with a professional symphonic orchestra here in Germany, which, I´d say, is quite rare as an electric bass player. We played some modern classical music which also required electric bass. I remember those pieces as very difficult which took me weeks of practicing but this was definitely one of the highlights in my career.

I´m also looking back to some beautiful festival gigs I played with the band “Pulse Project”.

We played one concert as an opening act for the famous Terri Lyne Carrington at JazzOpen Stuttgart.

In the same year, we also performed a concert with the choir from the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg.

Another highlight was definitely a concert I played in Uzbekistan at a very big music festival called

„Sharq Taronalari“. We flew there to perform with a world music band from Germany.

JBN: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of standard tunes are half a century old?

SZ: – The thing I love about jazz is, it is very dynamic. It´s developing, exploring, and exponating. Time has already tested Jazz, and it is here to stay. It´s never stagnant. And jazz musicians are influenced by all kind of genres, from pop, rnb or hip hop artists to rock and even metal. There could be other genres that would come and go. Take my band members for example. They came from different backgrounds, but here we are together converging our energies to this album to prove that jazz is a versatile genre. It could be oriental, industrial, whimsical, energetic, hopeful, muddy, mighty, powerful, and it goes on and on. With this knowledge, we can get the young people’s interest in jazz. Showing them the roots as well as the influences from different kind of genres. And in the best case finding examples from influenced jazz music to open the doors for them to explore more jazz music.

JBN: – Whom do you find yourself listening to these days?

SZ: – I´m listening a lot to my favorite bassplayers who are: Hadrien Feraud, Janek Gwizdala and Junior Braguinha. And of course Jaco Pastorius. I´m very much into Tigran Hamasyan also. I´m a big fan of his music and his versatility. Aside from jazz and fusion music, I also like listening to bands like

Tool or even Meshuggah. I´m really fascinated by those polyrhythmic and polymetric elements these bands use in their music and I was trying to bring a little bit of that dimension to my music as well. If you listen closely you´d find some overlapping rhythms and metrics in the album combined with a lot of odd meters.

JBN: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine: where and why would you really want to go?

SZ: – If I had the chance to travel back in time I´d definitely go back to the 1970´s to attend at least one concert with my biggest hero of all times Jaco Pastorius and Weather Report.

JBN: – So far, it’s been me asking you questions, now may I have a question from yourself…

SZ: – I´d like to know how did you become a jazz critic writer? I suggest it´s a very interesting job and you have the chance to meet and talk to a lot of artists from all over the world, from newcomers to established and famous jazz stars?

JBN: – Yes, every day I talk to more than a dozen jazz and blues musicians, talented and untalented, legendary and mediocre, even rubbish. And I became a jazz critic after studying at a summer college at Berkeley College of Music Summer school and becoming a musicologist. Or before that I was already writing about jazz, but only in the Facebook group.

JBN: – At the bottom line, what are your expectations from our interview?

SZ: – First of all thank you very much for having me. My expectations from this interview are definitely to get known by more people and expand my range.

It would make me happy if some people would be interested in my band and my music after reading the interview and eventually buy a CD or stream the music online.

I´d like to draw attention to the homepage of SAMEKA where you can find news, videos, album critics, tour dates and so on.

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

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