2020 was not an easy year for Daniel Zebouni. In the face of tragedy and the social isolation caused by the global pandemic, the RAC alum is kicking back with a new musical project, Frequenzee, and a hard-hitting new single, “Bonehead”. The release of the new track is just the tip of the iceberg in a year that promises a lot of new music from the multi-instrumentalist.
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Daniel Zebouni is lucky to be alive. After having survived the explosions that devasted the Lebanese capital of Beirut in August 2020, the RAC alum, who makes music as Frequenzee, has returned with the powerful new single, “Bonehead”. The track was written after months of shock-induced writer’s block and is a biting satire about those who failed to question authority in the aftermath of the tragedy. We recently sat down (virtually) with the RAC grad to chat about his new track, the event and people that inspired it, and his musical journey thus far.
Like so many born with a creative calling, Zebouni, a native of Beirut, Lebanon, was absorbed by music at a young age. He started playing drums at six years old, and when he was a little older, he was drawn to the heavy sounds of bands like System of a Down, Linkin Park and Limp Bizkit. It wouldn’t take long for the young musician to take inspiration from those artists and begin looking at music as a legitimate career path. “The music production ‘dream’ came later,” he tells us, “but when I was 19, I formed my first band and recorded an album with them. I fell in love with the process– the attempt to make the songs sound like the best versions of themselves”.
Daniel’s newfound passion and perfectionist streak led him to Montreal to study music production at RAC. “My goals as a musician are to compose great music and to be able to make it sound as perfect as it possibly can”, he tells us. “I hope that one day I will reach a point where anyone can listen to my music and enjoy it without having that ‘but I wish he did this’ or ‘he should have done that’ feeling. So far,” he continues, “my education from RAC is what gave me the greatest push in achieving that goal; they gave me the foundation and know-how for making my music a reality”.
A quick listen to Daniel’s newest track, “Bonehead”, highlights just how much his musical influences inform his creative decisions. “The music I listen to is my foundation, and I build my songs up from there”, he tells us. “Whether we’re talking about mixing or composing, the rock music I’ve been listening to since childhood has become my blueprint, which is helpful since rock music is my strong point. But I do love getting out of my rock comfort zone,” he says before admitting, “though I’m currently going through a long Foo Fighters phase at the moment. [Laughs]
His song structures may be firmly rooted in rock, but Zebouni will be the first to mention that his songwriting process needs to occur organically. “Creating music is so spontaneous and unpredictable”, he says. “I write my best material when I’m not trying to, and my not-so-great material when I’m forcing it, and that’s because my songs are about how I feel at very specific instances”. “Bonehead”, of course, is a perfect example of this. “I wrote “Bonehead” after several weeks of writer’s block due to the Beirut explosion in August–I was actually in the ‘total destruction’ zone. All of a sudden, I just sat down at my computer and wrote it, driven by a lot of anger and sadness– I let it all out in song. After the explosion, some people are STILL following their political leaders, so the song is a satire about those people. That’s what inspires me,” he continues, “my feelings at their most extreme times. And that’s what I share with my music: How I feel and what I think about politics, existence, and good vs. bad”.
With the dissolution of his band, Runaway Jacks, in early 2020, Daniel now makes music as Frequenzee but still keeps close ties with his ex-bandmates. “The band fell apart due to us all wanting to go in different directions,” he says, “but we’re still best friends and lend our expertise to each other’s projects. In fact, the guitarist and vocalist from Runaway Jacks are still my ‘green lights’ for releasing material. Also, because I write things that I can’t actually play, they take what I write to another level. They’re my greatest help”, he continues. “My guitarist always records perfect takes on my originals– I love having them on my tracks”.
The public reaction to the Beirut explosions may have inspired his new track, but the event itself has only intensified the unrest in the region. For Daniel Zebouni, that means a potential return to his second home in 2021. “I’m currently working from Lebanon,” he says, “but unfortunately, it’s not a good time to be here. I want to return to Montreal, so I can continue to thrive in what I do and then possibly return home sometime in the far future”. Regardless of the tricky living arrangements, one positive is that all signs point to new music from Frequenzee in 2021. “I’m going to release some originals that I’m currently writing, recording, editing, mixing, and mastering. My favourite part of the process is the writing and mixing; although I can sometimes come to a full stop due to the famous “What do I do next?” dilemma– I like the surprises that come after that halt. I still have a very long way to go, but I’m enjoying every minute of it”.