All photos are courtesy of Hans-Peter De Zeeuw
Born to a conservative family in Rotterdam, gateway to Europe, the life of Dutch drummer and composer Hans-Peter de Zeeuw a.k.a d'Z changed at the age of nine when he took his first drum lesson. He sat down behind the drum kit; the feel of the drumstick comfortable as if they had been waiting for this moment to meet. He knew he was destined to be a drummer. By 19, d’Z attended the largest conservatory for pop, jazz and world music in Europe, being taught by leading musicians of the Netherlands. He thrived while exploring the richness of music’s different styles & genres. It wasn’t long before d'Z was a sought- after drummer known for his inherent sense of groove and ability to allow fellow musicians to shine. With his career as a professional drummer in full swing, d’Z took to composing his own music. Giving voice to the melodies that filled him and finding inspiration from Incognito, Steely Dan, The Brand-New Heavies, Tower of Power and Gino Vannelli. It wasn't until the summer of 2016, d'Z decided to record. His mandate was simple. An EP of music made without concessions. He hand chose five original tunes with the Jazz-Funk flavor he so loved and went straight to his favorite producer, Raoul Soentken. The two began making plans to record “Connected” using some of Holland’s finest musicians. In the very early stages of the journey, it was clear each song demanded a different vocalist which would prove to be a challenge the duo took on with gusto. The participation of Katie Léone (Incognito, The Brand-New Heavies, Anastacia), lifted the project to a higher level. There was a buzz forming in the local music scene. Comments like “What a pleasant surprise”, “This is a HOT production” and “You guys sound brilliant on this”, were heard over and over again. After having recorded four out of five tunes (with Freddi Lubitz, a German soul singer/kick-ass bass player, Ingmar Glerum, a Dutch young vocal/guitar talent and Adriana Romijn, a well-known singer in the Netherlands, and Katie Léone) there was one song proving difficult to find the right vocalist. Searching for the perfect fit, d’Z asked two times Grammy nominee Sandra St Victor (Prince, The Family Stand, Chaka Khan, Curtis Mayfield) to lend her soulful voice to the title song “Connected”. She accepted and the rest, as they say, is history!
d’Z’s much-anticipated album “Connected” was released June 2nd, 2018. With his often socially conscious lyrics and groove-based songs, d’Z feels the need to reach out, connect and – if only for a brief time – give people a place to feel love, hope and lightness. In the summer of 2019, the song Conviction ft Freddi Lubitz reached #1 for several weeks on the Jazz Juice Radio indie-chart in the UK. In 2021, d’Z entered the indie-charts again with Sunlight, a soulful ballad, written and composed in collaboration with vocalist Vivian Veronique. By the end of the year, it reached #1 on the Jazz Juice Radio indie-chart, reprising a number one hit by d’Z. D’Z will continue to release new music in collaboration with vocalist Bernadette Dengler, and other vocalists in 2022. Tell me a little bit about your background. Where are you from and how did you get started in music? My name is Hans-Peter de Zeeuw. That isn't quite an international stage name, so I release my music under the artist's name d'Z (d'Zee). I’m from The Netherlands, born in Rotterdam, and currently living in Arnhem, a town near the German border. For as long as can I remember, I've always known to become a drummer. When my father bought himself an electric organ (including a rhythm box!!!), I taught myself how to play harmonies. In high school, I started to write music and lyrics for the school band. It was my first attempt at songwriting. Around the same period, I discovered Powerful People, a record from Gino Vannelli. It totally blew me away! From that moment on, I knew I wanted to be a composer/songwriter as well, apart from being a drummer. After high school, I attended the conservatory, developing my drum skills. I graduated and started to live my life as a musician, a very challenging time back then. Nowadays, I'm a drum teacher, freelance drummer, producer, composer, and arranger, releasing my own music. Occasionally, I write music for others.
What would you say is positive about being a musician? Well, that would be the gift of expression. I think music can touch hearts, while words can’t always. If I hadn’t got the opportunity to develop myself as a musician, my life would be very diﬀerent. Creating music is like breathing to me. So, I'm grateful for the musical oxygen! What are some of the challenges you face being musician? One of the main challenges of being a musician is being heard and noticed. There are so many great composers, songwriters, and musicians! As an independent recording artist, you have to be aware that focusing on your music ONLY, isn’t working anymore. Nowadays, you have to work on being visible (Where can your music be heard? Where can your music be purchased? What’s your audience? What should I do marketing wise? etc.,). It's more than a full-time job, hahaha.
What type of music do you play? When people ask what kind of music I create, I always tell them I create melodic groove Jazz- Funk with positive Soul vibes. Although other might say Acid-Jazz or Neo-Soul; o)
Who are your band members and how did you meet? I work alone, so I don’t have a band. When I’d like to record a new song, I invite musicians to the recording studio to add their playing. The same goes for the vocalists. Every time again, I search for a new vocalist (male or female) that suits the tune I'd like to record.
What do people who have heard your music say about your style that sets you apart from other musicians? From time to time, I get messages from people who have discovered my music. Apart from compliments about the production and the fact they like the craftsmanship of all the musicians, I often hear that my tunes have helped to get through a dark or diﬃcult period of their lives. I don’t know if it sets me apart, but it’s the holy grail for every creator, isn’t it? Every track I’ve recorded and will record has a positive message about (universal) Love. Chances are, you won’t see me writing about love relations between people. Who is your independent favorite artist? I’m not sure, but I thought nowadays Gino Vannelli is an independent artist. If so, definitely Gino!! If not, then Emily Merrell is second best. She is a wonderful American vocalist with awesome writing and composing skills. Besides that, she is a very inspiring great human being. Who are your musical influences? I’m influenced by many bands and artists. But if I have to pick some, I’d say Gino Vannelli (yep, him again), Incognito, Prince, Steely Dan, Yellowjackets, and Tower of Power (the list can go on and on, but I’ll leave it here).
How do you prepare yourself mentally for public opinion (either positive or negative) when you’re preparing for a show? For me, preparing physically (basically knowing what and when to play), comes before being prepared mentally. Feeling confident enough to play a show, is the best mental prep, I believe. If I know I did the best I could, public opinion, both positive and negative, isn’t that important. Although I’d be lying to say I don’t appreciate a compliment once in a while, hahaha.
What advice would you give to musicians entering this changing industry? My advice would be don’t expect to become rich and famous. Focus on the artistry, enjoy the creative process as much as you can. That’s what it’s all about. Ask for feedback, especially from people who aren’t close to you. It’s necessary to improve yourself and hear what other people think of your creations, whether it’s a song, the lyrics, or mastering your instrument. Keep your expectations low and focus on your happiness.
What is your instrument and what other instruments do you play? My main instrument is the drums, my first love. I’ve taught myself to use the black and white keys on the keyboards. That way I’m able to compose and arrange my music. I recently played the vibraphone with four mallets for two tunes I’m about to release. However, it’s not that big of a deal. The same goes for the guitar. I would love to master it, but so far, I can only play a few chords. I’m not built to play that fine instrument, hahaha. How many singles/albums do you have out presently? I released 5 singles so far. Four of them can be found on my EP CONNECTED, which contains 5 songs, each sung by a different vocalist. Among them are Katie Léone, former Incognito vocalist, and Grammy Nominee Ms. Sandra St. Victor, who worked with Chaka Khan, Prince, Curtis Mayfield, and many other legends.
My next single will be released Friday, March 11th. It’s called ONE, a funky tune with an incredible horn section, featuring Aussi Ben Matthews on piano. In June and October, I will release two more singles.
Tell me about your latest album/song and what was your inspiration behind it? Is it out now and where can people buy it? My latest single is called SUNLIGHT. For the first time ever, I wrote a song in collaboration with somebody else. Vivian Veronique, who sings on it, wrote the lyrics and melody, while I am responsible for the harmonies, arrangement, and production of the tune. It’s a soulful ballad with positive vibes, an ode to positivism. “Sometimes, hearing the words "cheer up", can be extra hard when the sun feels far away. By celebrating beautiful tiny rays of sunlight, you can feel a little happiness every day. Help yourself by clinging onto the little sparks of joy around you that can actually help. More rays will follow. The song builds up towards an epic, orchestral, gospel-like ending, illustrating solidarity and clarity”, Vivian says.
Due to COVID, almost every collaborating musician recorded her/his track at home (or in church) except for the lead vocals and drums. The song is available on all digital platforms, including Bandcamp (https:// dzthemusic.bandcamp.com) Do you have any upcoming shows? If all goes as planned, I will do a couple of shows in May and June. It’s a tryout for a new collaboration with vocalist Bernadette Dengler, a vocalist I teamed up with during the pandemic. She and I are writing songs together with an acoustic Jazz-Funk flavor. We’re very excited to hit the stage with Dengler & d’Z in the future!
Has Covid affected you in a positive way? I don’t know. Yes, I have written and composed some new music during this challenging period. Yes, I made some new musical friends. Yes, I learned to relativize and worked on personal development big time. I tried to make the best out of it. But it was hard as well. I’m not going to lie about that either. But, hey! I’m still here! So that’s a good thing, right?
What advice would you like to give to upcoming artists? The same I told you when you asked my advice for musicians. Focus on your passion and love for your creations. Listen to your heart. Don’t be a copycat because of someone else having the success that you desire. Everyone walks his/her own path. Find yours. Be authentic. Be patient and hang on. And remember, don’t become dependent of the outcome of your endeavors. The most important thing is to stay happy, whether being successful or not (and please DO explain to me, what IS success???). Love what you do!
How do you make your funky P Funk when you want to get funked up? Well, that’s an easy one! I turn the studio monitors from my home studio to eleven, trying to be funkified as George Clinton!
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