Mazi x Touch Loops
Tell us a little about yourself! Projects, styles etc.
My name is Mazi, I’m an Iranian American musician and audio engineer currently based in Washington D.C. I grew up in the Netherlands where I spent the latter part of my formative years making music and running around Europe with fellow musicians and artists.
I’m in the process of mixing my first formal EP, which will be titled ‘The Rosewater Ensemble’. It’ll be primarily large ensemble arrangements of some compositions I’ve been working on.
You play a number of instruments to a high level. What was your first instrument?
Thanks man! If I remember correctly my first instrument was one of those recorders, they give you in music class… When I turned 15, I decided to enrol in lessons on both classical piano and a jazz guitar, expanding my musical knowledge.
I would say I was definitely late with regards to learning music but once it started to click for me; nothing else mattered. I was hooked.
It has been an essential part of my life since. I stuck with the jazz guitarist for 5 years and he became a mentor to me, showing me the ropes of being a jazz musician. He was a student of the late great Barry Harris.
Mazi in action
Last month we were treated to Mazi's second impeccable collection. Entitled 'Rare 70's Library', the pack elegantly glides through iconic 70's film tones, referencing film score & chase sequences it showcases Mazi's incredible musicianship - what a stunner!
Inspiration & process
Which artists inspired your sound?
Wow! To name a couple of artists I was inspired to sound like around that time were people like: Alan Tew, Pierro Umiliani, Cortex, the Sun Ra Arkestra, Sven Libaek.
If we’re talking guitar tone, however, Grant Green, Pat Martino, Jesse van Ruller, Johnny Smith and Emily Remler were the most influential artists when it came to developing my sound on the guitar.
What’s your process like both ‘in the box’ and when integrating hardware (DAW of choice, processes, mixing live sounds with synths etc)?
I’d have to say they’re pretty similar. Most of the time, I use a kind of sketchbook approach where I flesh out tracks over a period of time and return to it whenever new inspiration pops into my head.
That being said, there are times where I set up the studio to record a track and end up finishing it completely by the end of the session. My view on it all is whatever works for you is completely valid. Part of the joy of composition and recording for me is just that, experimentation. Where the two approaches really differ in my case would be the actual interaction with the instrument; how I create the sounds for my track.
Have you established any workflow hacks or tricks for ensuring a smooth workflow thus not losing a special moment?
One of the things I tend to do when an idea spontaneously pops into my head is immediately make a note of it, as much of what I can hear at that point. It’s really because I can be sort of scatterbrained sometimes and I’ve definitely forgotten ideas in the past, so this is just something I do to make sure I’m not missing anything.
There are times where this happens to me and I’ll be at home with an hour to burn, in which case I drop everything and start fleshing out the idea, with it in mind that I’ll return to it when I have more time; and other times where all I can do at that time is record an idea into the voice notes section of my phone. Basically, the sketchbook approach I mentioned earlier.
One of the things I tend to do when an idea spontaneously pops into my head is immediately make a note of it, as much of what I can hear at that point.
Why would you choose a piece of hardware over a plugin emulation?
Personally, I like all the quirks that come with hardware and the way they affect the workflow. I’m definitely no stranger to using plugins but it’s a different way of interacting with an instrument.
Instead of mapping your plugin parameters to your midi controller that are equipped with jog wheels that move 360 degrees, you’re pretty much guaranteed to run into some sort of limitation on the physical hardware when comparing it to a plugin version; and this might result in a unique sound you wouldn’t have otherwise discovered.
If I have access to the hardware, I’ll always go for it, but plugins do just as good of a job. It’s all about what works for me in the moment.
Could you tell us about some of your favourite plugins/ what they do?
After about 2 or 3 years using native effect plugins on Ableton, I came across a Waves bundle on sale and it had everything… Like… Everything… So, I bought that, and I must say it’s been my go to ever since for when I’m working in the box.
A couple of plugins from that pack I find myself using a lot are the H-Delay, C1 compressor, the EMI TG12345 (it’s actually called that hahaha). That bundle is my Swiss army knife, it has great De-essers and the Z-Noise gate as well, both of which work phenomenally in a pinch.
Something pretty random I find myself using quite often is the Guitar Rig plugin from Native Instruments, which has a really nice emulation of the classic MXR phaser with a ‘wah’ that I use in lieu of having the physical pedal available to me. I don’t think I’ve ever actually used it on my guitar, though. Mostly on the Rhodes to get that Zawinul-esque sound.
What are you listening to these days?
Man, I’m all over the place. There’s an artist, Ojerime, from the UK that has an album called 4U she dropped back in 2018 I’ve been listening to a lot of the past year or so. That was a project that really blew me away. This track Fearless by Illnoledge is something you have to check out too; they’re based in the Netherlands. Let’s see… This album called Midnight Request Line by Qendresa is also heavy on repeat these days.
Do you use sample packs in your own music? What role do they play if so?
I still do from time to time. I don’t go looking for sample packs, but I’ll see something pass by every now and then that I’ll snatch up. I still very much love sound design and experimenting with effects chains, so that’s my primary use for sample packs these days.