As someone who listened to heavy metal since I was a kid, being a metal musician was never a full-time job I’d considered, even though I wished really hard it was possible in India. If I’ve not said it enough even through so many pieces, we’ve been drowned by Bollywood the day we exited the womb, literally! But there have been many musicians and people who’ve shaped their lives around doing what they love, finding comfort in the music they make, while still staying true to their roots, and adapting to changes.
One such person is Shezan Shaikh – a heavy metal guitar player and composer from Mumbai. Most of his friends would know him as the guitar player of metal band Providence, formerly also a part of Mumbai metal band Zohak in the early 2000s. A big heavy metal fan and gamer, Shezan has seen all sides of music – be it the educational or application of everything he’s known, learned and absorbed over time. He’s now most known for his score for the mind-blowing Indian sci-fi film Cargo, for which he received the prestigious Dadasaheb Phalke Award. He also recently did music for the Games The Shop’s Cyberpunk 2077 promo in India. He has worked with a plethora of brands like Vh1, FXHD, Adidas, Mahindra, Star Movies, and many, many more. He’s also trained in MMA, and is now making some great synth wave music under RONIN, whose EP you can expect in the next few months. Shezan is one of the most real people I’ve come across, and I did this little interview to give you some perspective on his journey in music through a few focused questions. We will talk about learning music, metal, video games and the future!
Pratika: You’ve been playing music for around 15 years, and you’ve graduated from the Musician’s Institute. Can you elaborate on how your experience there made you a better musician – considering you learned theory, mingled with people from different places? And would you encourage more young musicians to learn music?
Shezan: Musicians Institute was a killer experience, and very early on, I took a class called Composing for Film and TV. Our teacher there at the time was Mr. Mark Holden, who to his credit had Metal Gear Solid 3 and Metal Gear Solid 4 (video games)! As a fan of the series, I was sold to take that class! I learned a lot about how composing for film and TV works under him! I think the most impact MI had on me was that I was surrounded by all these incredible guitar players and musicians. It actually instilled a lot of discipline to practice, and understand the importance of practice. Once you reach a point when you can write a few tunes, a lot of people fall out of the habit of practicing, you know?
To answer the second part of your question, I’d definitely encourage more musicians to learn music. It’s one thing to know your chord progressions, but it’s a very different thing to orchestrate around your chord progressions. Theory and practicality are two very different things! It’s also very important to have an open mind as a musician, especially as a film/game composer.
Lastly, I want to drop a shout out to two of my favorite teachers from Musicians Institute, who helped me grow as a musician, and still do it from time to time. So yea, Thank you Greg Harrison and Dale Turner, you guys have played a massive role in my life and journey as a musician! And to the MI gang which was also known as the “Shred Pit”, Adam, Bronston, James, Drew, Seve and Alfred!
P: For our non-metal readers who don’t know about you, what made you transit from regularly playing in a metal band, to working on more commercial music (of course for life and bills), and how did this start?
S: I dived into commercial music because I wanted to grow as a musician and I had no plans of being a guitar player in a metal band for the rest of my life. I wanted to be a musician and explore various other genres, and see if I had it in me to walk that path. I believe it was the right decision personally, as I’ve forayed into Advertising music and worked for some major brands, two of which you’ve been a part of 🙂 Scoring for films is something that has always interested me as a kid, and I guess ‘Film Composer’ has a nice ring to it, haha! To be honest, I’m very happy to be around at a time when the industry is changing and there’s finally space for the kind of music I’d like to create for Indian films! I’ve also transitioned into scoring for video games, and that is where most of my interests lie. I hope to go deeper into that side of composing.
So yea, to round it up, the idea of exploring and growing came from the point of view that I wanted to be a full-time musician, and diversify my music into multiple genres. At the core of things, I’m still a heavy metal boy, and I still jam to a lot of heavy metal in my personal space 🙂
P: Where do we, normal people, find you creating scores and music? And tell us a little about how gaming influenced you as a person or even a musician.
S: You can find most of my scores on www.soundcloud.com/shezan208, and my team and I are working on getting the score for Cargo and a few other projects to streaming platforms as well, so you’ll be able to access that anytime you’d like!
Games have definitely impacted me as a musician because they’ve been an integral part of my life since childhood. I’ve been more exposed to games than any other medium of storytelling to be honest, and again, rarely have I come across a game that has a bad soundtrack. Most of my composing sensibilities have been shaped up by video games. There’s so much room from orchestral to electronic to metal. The landscape for music is so vast that there aren’t too many restrictions! I really enjoy that part of it the most. And Inshallah, I hope to get where I see myself in that world as a composer!
P: And we wish you all the very best! What would be your ultimate dream as someone who has been exposed to this variety of music, and what’s that one project in the world you must have dreamed of working on as a young dude from Andheri? This could be something you’ve accomplished or aspire to do.
S: My dream has always been to make music for games and films, and I’m very thankful that these opportunities have come my way. It’s only been 4 years since I started doing commercial music and have had my work spread across all mediums. But, if there was one project I could work on in a hypothetical scenario, it would be BLADERUNNER. I’d love to score for a movie like BLADERUNNER. Or score for Animated movies for DC Universe. You never know man, wishful thinking does come true sometimes. I’m just putting it out there for the universe to pick it up 🙂
P: If you had to choose one artists’ discography on the day of an apocalypse, whose would it be and why?
S: LOL I’d probably pick Mick Gordon’s DOOM soundtrack. Seems pretty self-explanatory, haha!
P: As the lockdown has been a time for a lot of introspection, how did it affect you? What aspect can you say you reflected on that made you think differently since then, if at all?
S: Oh, damn! I did not see this coming! Haha! I had too much time with my head and sometimes as an artist, that’s not the best idea. As an artist by default, you’re hardwired for self-doubt, anxiety, and the “what ifs”, right? We try to suppress that voice and move on, and keep doing what we do. For me, that voice just became a bit louder than it’s usual self, and I had to deal with some internal issues that would hamper my progress as not just a musician, but an individual. I channeled all of that on the RONIN debut EP which really helped me cut the chatter internally and of the outside world.
We hope to hear more music and scores from Shezan, wishing him all the best for his long journey ahead!