CH.89: If you were to categorize or describe the style of your music, what would it be and why?
Z: Emotionally-driven bedroom pop by spiritual punk. I can’t help any and all influences that come through me. The next releases will sound quite different from ‘My Idles’ but I intend to keep true that core statement as my project develops.
CH.89: Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Z: Life experiences certainly shape me more than anything. ‘My Idles’ is so scattered genre wise. It is because of my formative years of being a huge music nerd intersecting with my current phase of becoming more comfortable pushing my own artistic vision that is more honest and less centering virtuosity.
Z: I’m one of those people that has tons of anxiety about people from different phases of my life meeting one another. Ultimately really good scenarios can form from that, I sometimes think of my artistic process and growth comparatively to those situations.
CH.89: What made you want to start a music project and how did you come up with the name?
Z: Za(ne)Al(len) We(st). It’s just my name. A venture into letting me be me I suppose. Also… when me and my mom got the internet on a compact disc in 98, she made Zaalwe an email address. Hiii 90s kiddos.
Z: I feel that after nearly 15 years of playing music as a sideman instrumentalist, my intentions of why I was in music have shifted. I didn’t want to rely on playing covers and party music for others in the atmosphere of bending to the desires of a crowd. My early musical experiences were rooted in this.
Z: I also knew as a collaborator, my process was something I needed to explore on my own, I wasn’t confident to share a version of myself and artistic ideas that weren’t fully seen through. It’s a process that parallels intimacy with another. I suppose I needed to heal an issue of trusting other musicians and collaborators. I would often feel shut down creatively, even though the result was usually good.
CH.89: Can you talk a little bit about what your creative thought process is like when starting a new album?
Z: Writing for this EP was a strange and simple process that I enjoyed thoroughly. I just started most of these tracks with just one instrument. Drums, piano or guitar. I would just play a whole take and let it rock, mistakes and all, there were minimal edits as I recorded everything on a 4 track tape machine. Starting out is usually chaotic, especially how thus far it’s been only me for the most part. I need to have my freak outs first and then organize the chaos to get the base idea to build on.
Z: I actually spent years teaching myself digital audio workstations/ music recording software, but I learned that I do best when I can just get everything out on instruments.
CH.89: What would you want people/ the listener to take from your music?
Z: All one can ask for is to have listeners resonate with you and relate to you.
CH.89: Can you talk a little bit about your lifestyle as an artist and what that is like?
Z: I am slowly but surely giving myself more time for me to be creative. I am writing a lot more and processing life deeper. I am of course balancing all this because New York is a place that kicks your ass. I definitely am working 6-7 days a week but am lucky enough to be surrounded by great creatives that inspire me endlessly, luckily I get to call a lot of them my friends. I try and catch multiple shows a week if I can. It took awhile to get comfortable with this lifestyle and stay sharp but I’m finally in the flow for now.
CH.89: When starting out an artistic task, do you think it is better to have a particular direction/set plan guiding your way? Or, is it better to act on impulse and go from there?
Z: It can go either way. I am more one for starting with impulses and scaling it back to see the big picture. I would like to get better at the more structured way of formulating a vision and seeing it through, I think it’s a skill that collaborators have an easier time working with.
CH.89: What is one major lesson you’ve learned as an artist?
Z: Self acceptance. Push to be your best self and be confident in it but also be gentle and let yourself fuck up. As long as you see a way out of it and learn from error, you’re okay.
CH.89: Do you regard personal style & taste to be of highest importance?
Z: Of course!
CH.89: What do you consider to be the hardest thing about being an artist?
CH.89: What is one thing you love about being an artist?
Z: Once you release a project, it’s not all yours anymore. In my opinion, the best shit is made when you create for you – because you have to. But the fact that it’s out in the world and people get to vibe with it (or not!) is the best part.
CH.89: Is there anyone in particular, any artists that inspire you in any way?
Z: Definitely my friends in the scene around NY! They give me clarity on why I’m trying to do this in the first place and keep me moving forward and accountable to keep working on this and staying visible.
Z: Also Solange’s most recent record I’ve listened to more than anything this year. It’s got all of the Knowles’ family witchcraft to it but has this swampy, rebellious, free jazz vibe and a revealing of magic to it. It’s been the soundtrack to my manifestations.
CH.89: What do you think of technology in terms of being a useful tool for artists today?
Z: I spent so long trying to learn production and engineering myself. I’ve sort of developed these guerrilla tactics of creating music that may or may not only serve me. It took awhile to be even the slightest bit confident in it but it’s working now.
Z: It’s amazing that it’s so accessible to us. It’s awesome that kids get to easily learn about these things formally and in school now. Anything is possible really.
CH.89: Do you think being an artist allows you to view the world differently from those who don’t follow creative paths?
Z: We don’t all see the world in the same way but we are all creators in some capacity. Our words, home, spaces. Having kids. Etc.
CH.89: Do you enjoy traveling? If so, do you have a favorite city?
Z: Hell yea! I’ve been enjoying Charlotte a lot. I love the south, the drawl is intoxicating. Also the pace of life is quite attractive to me when nearing burnout up here.
CH.89: Do you have a favorite author or book?
Z: I often find myself very into books on the mixed race experience as it relates to me and affects my life and art heavily.
Z: I like Baldwin a lot.
CH.89: Any future goals or plans for your music?
Z: So much in the works! Local shows and a tour next spring. New music will be out in the spring too. Also a video. There might be horse masks involved.
CH.89 What does being an artist mean to you?
Z: My favorite artists are definitely visionaries that have a message, or even just aesthetic that others relate to. That’s all that I can ask for as Zaalwe develops. This is a process of constantly revealing myself and I love it.
CH.89: Any last words on the aesthetic of your music?
Z: The aesthetic is changing often. I want it all to remain dreamy and led by emotion.