After 12 intense months of competition and thousands of entries, the Stagelight Monthly Music Contest is officially over and the grand prize winner has been selected by Linkin Park. And the winner is… Zayed Hassan!
We recently sat down with Zayed and learned a great deal about this humble, hardworking and passionate musician. We hope you enjoy reading his story and hope that it inspires you as it did us. Follow your dreams and keep making music!
Zayed: Music was there since the beginning of my senses. I started out as percussionist at the age 3 and my instruments were the bowls and pots in the kitchen. That’s what my Maa says! But I truly wanted to be a musician when I started playing guitar at 10. Since then eventually I started to play all the instruments, which fascinated me over the time. I was influenced by Linkin Park, Deep Forest, Slash and almost every great musicians I stumbled upon, from early 90s!
For our listeners who have never heard your music, how would you explain your sound in 5-10 words?
This is probably the most casual thing I face almost in my every day’s life, since my genre is experimental and I’m not a professional composer. As an experimental composer I work with various physical instruments and virtual instruments. The mood of the song completely depends on my mood while composing. Mostly they are uplifting ones (as I was told). I don’t think my sounds can be compared to other groups or musicians as I am strict about composing with my pattern. My songs are like ‘inverse-onion’; which means you start from the core and with time layers upon layers are added of same shape, but different sizes; yet the flavor is the same all the way!
Without getting too personal, from where do you draw most of your inspiration?
It is a good question. I am highly inspired by all good music and the nature! I love monsoon’s gloomy day with drizzling rain and autumn’s blue sky! My inspirations work spiritually only. It doesn’t leave any influence in my work. It only gives me motivation to do something! I started listening to more English songs after the Hybrid Theory. I was inspired to electronic music by “Sweet Lullaby”. “My December” made me fall in love with piano! But there was a time from 2010 to 2012, when I totally stopped listening to any music, thinking they might influence my work! A strange thing happened then and I saw a change in myself after listening to this verse “And you held it all but you were careless to let it fall; You held it all and I was by your side, powerless” from the track “Powerless”. Yes- Linkin Park stroke again and made me to get back on track! Actually that’s when I first found about the Stagelight on their page! Some LUCK- huh! I think I need to mention this too- I have a weakness over African and Native American musical culture! They inspire me to experiment more with beats and life!
How important is the Stagelight Monthly Music Contest win for you?
Let me answer it in simplest way. Even before 4:20 on July 24th, 2015- not more than few thousands people in my country knew me! But when the announcement came in- it’s like millions of people from around the world, already started to text me, congratulate me on all over social media, phone and all so on! Yes- I knew exactly this will happen and I really had no hope to win the contest due to the other strong contestants with amazing entries! I can tell for sure about this contest, that it is the bestest-best thing I have ever achieved so far! And I would also like to mention that- now that this contest has given me a platform to stand on, I want to use it to collaborate and experiment with musicians/singers/songwriters from around the world and give fresh sounds to all! I will definitely make sure I won’t deviate from my core purpose!
I’m being honest here- I was not expecting myself to be the winner. I already tried the first 3 months and couldn’t make it then! I never even dared to dream to meet the musical god- myself! I mean how can you expect that, when you managed to be in the list- just by some chance maybe! Even I made peace to myself saying, “At least you made it to the 12 and now have a classy studio, man! Aren’t you happy?” Later when Nicholas called me and said he had something to test with for his upcoming soundtrack (collaborating with my guitar god Slash), I was already so excited that I got another opportunity to work on something new! I completely set my mind up with the ‘test’ and that’s when the bomb was dropped! Hahaha.. I am lucky to be alive! Every time I watch the video of my reaction- I laugh out loud! That’s something I can watch with my whole family- like forever! It’s something you don’t get to experience everyday! It’s a ticket to meet your god! I really don’t know how can I describe that feeling in words! I really wish if Papa was here with us today! Honestly, he would be the happiest man and wouldn’t stop bragging about it to all his friends. I miss him so much now!
What do you want to accomplish in the studio w/ Linkin Park?
I am very keen to learn about the magical spell they use in the song- which turns one’s mood, brings smile on face and brightens up the day! I also want to do a little experimental in the shortest time with them! I love Celtic and oriental genre. I would really love to do an experimental there with these genres. I’m also meditating a lot- so I can keep myself calm and work there decently! I will suppress my LP-frenzy-self, by all means! Hahaha.. I believe all the Linkin Park fans out there, they know how hard it will be for me! But I will have to do it, by all means!
Can you briefly describe your ‘concept to reality’ workflow when it comes to capturing your music?
It’s a bit complicated for me to describe. Because when I get a concept, I keep flowing with it. For example I just got inspired by the rain sounds- I use it a base and keep playing my guitar with it. Stagelight comes handy in such cases as we can use it as multi layered audio-recorder! So once the guitar and rain sounds are captured, I move on to another instrument I feel like should go with the flow. But the process varies when I am in the studio! While working in my studio I pick a scale first for the musical concept or genre (like trance-RNB-Soul) and then I keep experiment with various virtual interfaces or instruments! It’s actually more like “trial and error” with my keyboard and other instruments in the studio! For a personal reason I never use any pre-made or bought ‘audio loop’; rather I prefer creating them!
Regarding music technology, can you explain how you use Stagelight to capture your musical ideas?
When using technology, I the enjoy the freedom to explore every possibility! I use Stagelight on my android tablet to record the harmony. Sometimes I hum- sometimes I strum! But I capture them all with Stagelight. Later I export them to my PC and from my working station the concept starts to take the real shape. I add layers of virtual instruments- experiment with several effects and then keep moving forward! Stagelight actually makes the life easy being so versatile! I can use all the VSTs available in the market with it and keep experimenting with them!
What is your favorite feature in Stagelight (i.e. Drum Track, LoopBuilder, Electro Instrument Suite, etc.)?
I love everything about Stagelight! And with every new updates, it’s becoming the most powerful tool to create music! I use several softwares to complete one composition. It’s like I find the advantages of each software and then use it to my benefits. For Stagelight I love the built-in compressor and the Key Lock most! This is the best feature among all the software’s. I know musicians won’t even bother about the Key Lock feature- but for the lazy experimental-musicians like me this is the blessings from GOD! Why? Because I always want to keep at least one hand free for eating something (hahaha) and keep my eyes on the studio monitors instead of my keyboard. With Key Lock feature I can do both, with no worry at all and always the result is a perfect one! YAY! And yes- LoopBuilder is definitely the game changer! Jamming with myself has never been so fun before!
Would you recommend Stagelight to someone just starting out in music?
Well actually I started to ask all my collaborators to use it quite long before. It helps to have same interface at work. Moreover Stagelight is both easy and powerful tool to create-and-share! Even the price is so affordable too! It’s even lesser my ‘lunch meal-pack’! Hahaha.. So yes- I would love to recommend people to use it!
Has Stagelight changed your life in any way? If so, how?
Yes- it has! I’ve always wanted an application like auto-tune for instruments! It’s because I am not a professional performer and I make many mistakes when trying to play any solo. KeyLock saved me from those embarrassments! LoopBuilder is another amazing thing! Jamming with myself has never been so fun, before StageLight happened! Apart from this- I got so much inspiration from the Stagelight community that I really started to give my all to music. I remember once I was so frustrated and decided never to do music any longer. I don’t know why- I just shared my frustration with Stagelight community and the response I got- was full of inspiration! I instantly understood how foolish I was! I think I’ll be forever in debt to the community for being so-so-generous and supportive to all the musicians like me! And I think everyone knows about this contest. This gave me a whole new life! Thank you Stagelight- for everything!
What advice can you give the next generation of musicians and artists?
I was told by a friend follow you passion, not the profession! I’ve done that since that. And so far I am really enjoying my life! I would like to ask all the musicians of next generation to do as much collaboration as much they can! This will not only help us to create dynamic music- but also increase our musical knowledge! Also keep loving your own work with all your heart and appreciate others! To me happiness is not being a celebrity; happiness is knowing how to celebrate the life! Hence my experiment continues! Hahaha…
Last question, where can fans find your music? Website? Facebook? SoundCloud?
I am still developing my website so that the listeners can listen to my music and live shows here. But for now all my music are available on iTunes, Spotify and SoundCloud. I do join the conversation on my Twitter and answer all the lovely message on my Facebook Page. People can see what I’m up to in my everyday life on my Instagram. Though I’m not regular on YouTube, but I will be uploading more videos there as soon as I get time!
As the grand prize winner, Zayed Hassan will be heading to Los Angeles this October to collaborate with Linkin Park at Red Bull Studios. We couldn’t be happier for Zayed and look forward to what comes from the recording session. Good luck Zayed!
Open Labs would also like to personally thank everyone who participated in the contest, the vendors for providing such amazing prizes and the fans for voting on each submission. Without you we would have no contest. The Stagelight Monthly Music Contest is the longest competition we have ever hosted and are truly overwhelmed by the number of great submissions and amazing support we received. Thank you all!
Please stay tuned to www.openlabs.com as more Stagelight contests, events and social engagements are coming your way soon!