Saturday, 12 May 2012

Zeb aka The Spy From Cairo Interview

1) Firstly thank you for taking the time out from your busy schedule to complete this interview. Could you tell us a little about yourself and how you started your musical career?

I was a born in Italy 43 years ago but I have a Gypsy background ...as a matter of fact I left my family at 15 and run away to Britain (in the early 80s) where i lived for 5 years. At the time i use to play guitar (which I played since I was 9). I played guitar in bands since i was 13 and enjoyed very much, hard, rebellious music but also had a very soft spot in my heart for Middle Eastern music for its powerful spiritual message and last but not least reggae music (especially Dub) . I was in Brixton (London) at the time and played with many Jamaican musicians (Rockers types ... he he he).

 While in London I also started to get my hands on the first samplers and spending time in studios learning more about programming drum machines using synths etc. most of my friends were Reggae and hip hop producers and I learned a lot from them.

At 18 I accidentally ended up in a rock band called the Indians which was signed to Polydor USA so I moved to New York , we record one album and then Polydor actually having its own infrastructure problems dropped us along with a bunch of other newly signed bands. The Indians split up just after that.

It was then that I decided to become a one man band and play exactly the kind of music I wanted (fuck the labels and their stupid business).


2) What inspired you to explore instruments such as the oud rather than just continuing to concentrate on the guitar?


I've been mingling with the Oud since early age but never took it too seriously because I lived in Europe and I was too young to truly appreciate the instrument . The guitar was a more obvious choice for a novice musician for many reasons (if I was born in Cairo the Oud would be a no brainer..he he he).

I really started to pick up the Oud again about 8 years ago and actually replace it to the guitar all together (my guitars have been collecting dust since). I love the Oud in a way that is difficult to explain ... some people will understand that. All I can say is: Listening to Oud played well is like a divine thing to me and it heals all the pain that life brings us .

I also play Saz, Ciftelly and Sitar by the way .. and trying to learn the VERY difficult Nay theses days (an Egyptian bamboo flute).  I also wanna add that the Oud has been ignored a lot by the west and that's simply a shame considering that it IS the FIRST instrument made with strings in history (the father of the Lute and therefore of the violin and the guitar).

3) Your third album Arabadub was released this month. How do feel the sound has progressed from your previous two releases?

I think that we always make progress if we continue to do what we love which is exactly what I do... so.... yeah! this is better than the previous to me ...he he he.

I am very happy to have combined reggae-dub and middle eastern sounds ....I think that they share the same DNA .

I love very much both styles of music and i tried to make a record that was respectful to both . I played everything on it except  from the violins (provided by Sultan Strings in Istanbul) and the Nay (played by my friends in Tunisia). I programmed mastered and even made the album cover so i guess I'm pretty proud of this baby!

4) Alongside Nickodemus you’re involved with the Turntable on the Hudson parties. In your opinion is there any emerging talent at these events that may not be well known to the wider world we should look out for?

Ohh man! thats a tough question because TOOTH has been around for many years and sooo many people got involved at one point or another...some famous and some not.


I guess I would have to say that i am one of those talents that are lesser known even though I have been on the scene even longer than TOOTH... remember Organic Grooves? This is also why my previous album was called -Secretly Famous.

5) Could you tell us a little about your studio set up, the staple standards and any new hardware or software that’s excited you to work with?

My studio set up consists in a macbook pro (early 2011) load up with Logic studio (I have the latest Logic 9) which i adore!!


I've used Logic for at least 17 years by the way and one of the things I always liked about it its the Tape Delay plugin (perfect for Dub... ).  I really appreciate the new audio stretching capabilities (flex audio) in logic 9 cause I can do stuff that was only possible using Ableton Live before.


As far as synths go I don't use them much because my stuff is more organic sounding and I like to record live instruments. However, I do have The Sylenth 1 (a great analog sounding synth) Massive and some Camel audio synth which I can't even remember the name of... he he he.

I also use Wave plugins which I consider the best. for mastering I'm really enjoying Izotope which does a great job for the money!


My Midi controller, is an old Oxygen (midiman) and sound card is a simple usb Fast Track Pro by M-Audio (some people hate this but it works for me). While my monitors are old Alesis monitor one.


All in all I work from my bedroom and DON'T have an expensive rig at all. I think that these days one can make good music with very little thanks to computer technology ..so...if you learn the tools ...the sky is the limit.

6) Is there a tour planned to coincide with the album release and if so where can we catch a show? 

I will definitely play some shows here and there but I can't say when and where yet unfortunately.

I'm kind of figuring out some technicalities ....when you are a one man band its a bit difficult to play live ... he he he the show will probably consist of me , my laptop, Oud and live percussions for now.  Ideally I want to drop the laptop and actually have a band to perform with.

I made Arabadub sound quite organic because the idea behind it was to eventually play it as full band ( yeah.. with 6 piece strings orchestra and all).

The new Spy From Cario album Arabadub is released on Wonderwall Recordings on the 29th of May.

http://www.wonderwheelrecordings.com/




1 comment:

Rhino File said...

Love your sound, especially your take on steppers dub, Zeb. Dub reggae is my first serious love of music thats stayed with me for over 20 years and in recent times i have been appreciating the sounds of the middle east. But finding middle eastern dub reggae is almost non-existent outside of some twats in tie dye. To pull it off successfully the fusion must be dark and mysterious like how we perceived the ME before the rise of the internet and Facebook. Like a Rowntrees Turkish Delight chocolate bar advert on the telly in the early 80's. That was ME mysterious at such a young age.

The only album of recent times i can recall which had this effect on me was Maduro's "Reveries".

Oh, and i recently bought all your tunes on bandcamp. Great stuff. Keep on releasing them!!!