Home Featured small El Mundo & Zazou [Interview]

El Mundo & Zazou [Interview]

30 min read
El Mundo & Zazou

El Mundo & Zazou are a pair of talented electronic music artists who are known globally for their melodic style with uplifting melodies and organic sounds.

They are talented producers and live performers who are known for the music they have released on labels such as Kindisch, Hoomidaas, Do Not Sit and Get Physical.

Their live performances are a fusion of live instruments and electronic equipment such as synthesisers and drum machines.

Next in their schedule is a series of releases coming via their record label Quetame Records, and we invited them for this interview to learn more about those tracks, plus their other projects…

Hi El Mundo and Zazou, it’s great to be talking with you today, How has your year been and what gigs have stood out for you these last few months?

El Mundo: We had a great year actually. Played at some nice festivals and shared some beautiful moments with crowds and friends. We started working with Sparklers Tribe, Naomi’s agency, and it's been a blessing. We made really nice steps in our career since this then, and certainly can't wait to see what 2024 brings. Some of our most memorable moments include Wildeburg Festival in the Netherlands, Molo in Tunisia, Backyard Sessions in Malmö, and Woomoon on Ibiza.

Zazou: Yeah, it's been quite a ride. We travelled to countries we had never been to before, and played some breathtaking venues, but for me, that's just the icing on the cake. My most satisfying moments tend to happen with Pim in the studio when a melody evolves with its notes just hitting the spot, and you immediately feel this right here will see the light of day.

Take us through a typical day when you’re not travelling, what does your day look like?

El Mundo: I wake up around 6:30am (have 2 kids haha) and get ready for the day, then bring our oldest to school. From there I'll head straight to the studio. Step #1 grab a cup of coffee, step #2 dive into various open projects. My workflow is very consistent. I can work very focused for hours. But also balance it out by giving my brain some rest in between. At the end of the day, I'll pick up the oldest from school and head home to prepare dinner. In the evening I try to relax and enjoy non-music activities. Actually, it’s something I adopted recently in order to lead a more balanced life. Before I always tried to squeeze in some music production whenever I had a moment for myself. But that didn't feel good after a while. I prioritise quality time with my family now.

Zazou: My kids are cats, so I usually won't wake up before 7:30am. They'll get breakfast around 9am, which is when I have my first cup of coffee. Sometime around 10am I'll embark on the long journey from the kitchen to my home studio down the hall. I'll fire up my gear and browse through projects that we're currently working on. The one that inspires me most will get my attention first. I'll mostly try to add new loops to every unfinished song and send my favourites to Pim. My work day is actually lacking any kind of structure beyond that. I'll take lengthy breaks, waste my time with online chess, and so on, until I get inspired again to compose more bleeps and bloops. I'm a night owl, but recently started (trying) to go to bed before midnight. Doesn't always work out, but oh well...

Could you describe your music style, and if your collaborative work differs from your solo style?

El Mundo: Our style is emotive, energetic, happy and fun.

Zazou: Yo, yo, yo, it's also dark and dangerous! lol.

El Mundo: We don't limit ourselves to a certain genre, and actually endeavoured into various flavours of music. For my own tracks, I do search for a certain emotion, but also try to mainly see it from a DJ perspective.

How did you guys meet, and what inspired you to start working together?

El Mundo: We met at a dinner party from a label on which we had both released music. We had a nice a chat and a good vibe from the get go.

Zazou: I was really trying to get you to listen to my stuff and collab on a song or two, but did my best to play it cool.

El Mundo: Haha, you never told me you were that desperate! Anyway, the days after we tried to connect, I actually got very sick and bed-bound for two weeks straight. When I eventually managed to listen to Jaschar's sketches, I immediately vibed with them. So, when I got better it was on.

What inspired us in the early days was our playful approach, crammed together in a little studio for hours. Jaschar is a great guitar and keys player, so he just jammed away in long recording sessions. We later harvested the elements that we liked the most, and took it from there.

How important is it as an artist to try and follow along with current music trends? Is this something you’re conscious of at all?

El Mundo: It’s relevant to keep your ear to the ground and gather what's happening out there, however I consider it just as important to free yourself from trends that dilute your artistic expression. I come from a DJ background, I know the trends, and know how to tinker with the tools in dance music production. Jaschar on the other hand doesn’t follow what's going on, like at all. And that’s great actually, because when we make music those worlds come together.

Zazou: It's weird but true. I kind of stopped listening to music in my late twenties. It wasn't a conscious decision, more like a gradual development. Strangely, I don't miss it. And yes, I guess it does make it easier for me to come up with fresh musical ideas.

I understand that you are both talented musicians, and it would be great to know what instruments each of you play?”

El Mundo: To be honest I consider myself more of a producer than a musician. I started DJing 25 years ago and seamlessly moved into music production. My talent and creativity lie within the digital aspects of my studio, like leveraging software to create music. I’m an archetypical studio nerd, fiddling the knobs, juggling plugins, shaping a hi-hat and so on. I can obsess over sounds and spend hours creating some elements, until I'm happy with the result. I took piano lessons in the past and know my way around chords, but it’s not where my strength lies. Jaschar, being a classically trained multi-instrumentalist is the exact opposite.

Zazou: Yeah, we're very much each other's complementing alter egos. Up until two years ago I hated even the thought of having to use a computer to work on my ideas. Everything I ever did was using hardware, synths and guitars to create sounds, hardware effect pedals to shape them, and even a hardware unit to record my stuff. Meanwhile that has changed quite a bit, but to answer your question: my most frequently used instruments these days are the Sequential's Prophet 06, Nord Electro 5D, and the Novation Peak paired with effect pedals from Strymon.

Tell me about your live performances, as I understand you mix live instrumentation with electronic sounds?

Zazou: My main tools on stage are a mic, an electric guitar, and a Nord Stage hooked to a laptop, which adds a channel strip and effects. Pim handles all the rest inside Ableton Live and adds some magic with his controllers.

Quetame is your own record label, and it would be great to know more about the imprint, as I understand you run it in tandem with Niki Sadeki? What led you to start the label initially?

Zazou: Every artist who has released music knows the struggles that come with dealing with labels. More often than you'd think, we had to run after our royalties, sometimes writing multiple emails to finally get the overdue payments. Many times, I didn't really vibe with the artwork that was chosen for us, but rolled with it, because I didn't want to be that guy. Also, it sometimes felt meh to give up a 50% share to a label that merely put your song out there. For me the worst part about releasing on bigger labels was getting cued in a release slot like a year in the future. The wait in itself wasn't the issue, but at times our artistic development was so dynamic that we couldn't identify with some releases like we initially had while composing them, simply because stylistically we were at a very different place already.

“Obviously running your own label solves all of those aspects and more, but it takes away plenty of precious time that you could spend actually making music - or so we thought. We realised there are some capable services out there that automate all the bothersome parts (shoutout to Proton). What's left to do is write about the songs you release (Niki does that at Quetame), create artworks (my job), run some marketing campaigns, and of course be in touch with the artists (mostly Pim's job). At the end of the day, it just feels so good to own your songs forever, and have all the freedom in the world to present them any way you like.

What’s coming next in your release schedule, as I understand you have some new music forthcoming via Quetame, and I’d love to learn more about those tracks?

El Mundo: We have a 3-track EP coming on Quetame soon. We're talking three monumental tracks which are dance floor focused and energy driven, but still have the emotive touch. Aside from that, we have an EP lined up with a beautiful remix from Yamil & Clemente. Also, we did a song with former Weval drummer, Nicky Hustinx. He contributed a groovy analogue beat to a slow version of one of our upcoming songs. Beyond that, we have a lot of material piling up, which we will plan to polish and release throughout winter. We aim to release a minimum of 1 track per month.

Zazou: Let's aim for 2!

El Mundo: Oh, and I have another label called Transvorm. Which I set up with Mulder. A dear friend. We are about to release our third EP. Willem (Mulder) also has an important influence on me and our releases as well. Being a percussionist at heart, he can always add important touches to rhythmic and even melodic elements.

The subject of mental health is complex and nuanced, and it is an issue to which those working in electronic music are especially susceptible. It can be deeply rewarding but it is also competitive, fast-paced, unpredictable and hedonistic. Talk a bit about the pressures of what you do that fans may not be totally aware of, and as a prominent artist how important is it for you to raise awareness on subjects like ‘mental health’?

El Mundo: That subject is definitely just as complex as it is important, since it's essential to our overall well-being – not only in our field of work, in any field. We humans tend to move away from our true nature, when we strive for superficial things in a way that actually takes a toll on our mental health. And that’s a common mistake we make. If we give too much power to our rational brains we tend to overthink, while the "feeling" part gets swept under the rug. You may be successful with that approach for a while, but sooner than later life might teach you a harsh lesson. It’s so important to maintain a connection to what's going on inside, and why you do what you do. It makes life easier and decisions are closer to your actual needs. In my opinion it’s essential to know yourself and where your boundaries are to find a balance. We are all unique beings, and have our own codes. If you figure out that code, you can contribute something valuable to the world.

Zazou: 100% agree with Pim's thoughts on the matter. To add a personal note: I was blessed with two caring parents and privileged with a carefree childhood and youth, which provided me with a solid foundation to develop into a mentally healthy adult. In turn I can handle the stress that comes with travelling and gigging quite well, and am thankful for that.

That being said, seeing mental health slowly but surely getting the spotlight it deserves is f***ing awesome. And yes, raising more awareness is essential. I do that more in my personal life than on social media though.

If you were not a DJs/Producers what do you think you’d be doing with your lives?

Zazou: I've been working in startups and agencies for several years, so I'd probably be a copywriter right now, if I wasn't lucky enough to live my dream.

El Mundo: I worked in Health Care for over 10 years. I’m trained as a coach and social worker. And I'll certainly return to that space sometime in the future, simply because I love contributing to the well-being, and growth of other people.

If you are not DJing or socializing at clubs, where do we find you? And doing what?

El Mundo: I have two kids to raise, which is my other full-time job :-)

Zazou: I actually spend a lot of time at home with Mia, Anna, (my cat kids) and Sarah (my gf). Being on the road a lot gives me the peace of mind to truly embrace the chill, while in Berlin.

Aside from music, what makes you happiest?

Zazou: See above, plus my friends and family. Other than that, I'm part of a collective that creates festival floors – something that I look forward to every year.

El Mundo: Spending time with family and friends, creating and sharing moments together.

What does the remainder of 2023 hold for you? Anything you can share with us?

Zazou: We'll be touring Central America. I've never been to Costa Rica – this will surely be my highlight!

El Mundo: A lot of new music is in our pipeline at the moment. We'll keep developing and trying to live each day to the fullest (and sometimes dullest, haha).

Thanks for taking the time to run through these questions, is there anything you would like to add before we finish?

Zazou: Thanks for having us! I'll leave your readers with this meme that made me chuckle today.


El Mundo and Zazou - Some Time Ago: is out now via Quetame

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One Comment

  1. Joe

    5th December 2023 at 07:35

    What a sweet duo 💜
    Interesting interview btw. Hope to see them live one day.


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