'Slow Sex Music Video' / Interview with Aka Zeb and Maxine Zanoni
Header image captured by Maxine Zanoni.
The alluringly smooth track Slow Sex by Aka Zeb & China ft. Pascal sizzles with zest and bubbles intimacy. Effervescing with simple yet effective drumming patterns, a soulful saxophone solo and codependent vocals and rap, Slow Sex wedded a visual partnership in the form of a music video directed and produced by Maxine Zanoni. I asked a few questions to producer Aka Zeb and film-maker Maxine regarding their respective crafts and how the Slow Sex music video came into fruition.
How did you get into producing? Was it the product of your environment, a natural curiosity or the simple progression from being a drummer?
Zeb: I got into producing based off my love for sample-based music, specifically ‘boom bap’ hip hop which is a very raw and groove based genre. I was always fascinated with GarageBand as a kid (even though I didn’t know how anything worked). I actually think my passion for producing arose before my passion for drumming, which is somewhat of a separate entity. I properly started producing at the start of 2016 though, in year 12 alongside doing VCE music at school. I picked up my MacBook pro from the Crown Casino hotel lobby off some guy on Gumtree. That was the first tool I had for creating hip hop before slowly moving towards electronic music. From there I started taking music more seriously.
You released several hip-hop/rap tracks in the past before venturing to house and techno. Slow Sex sees your return to RnB / hip-hop; why were you drawn back?
Zeb: I wouldn't say that I was drawn back to hip hop as Slow Sex was in the works for almost a year. I was mostly making hip hop at the time I started working on Slow Sex and since then I have moved onto electronic music. I am finding it hard to go back to making Hip Hop at the moment as I am currently obsessed with listening to and making house. I am sure that I will start making hip hop again very soon but at this point in time I want to focus on what's interesting me the most. I have so many tracks that I haven't released yet that I probably should because I can’t see myself touch them anymore . I hope to release a hip hop EP soon with Pascal and some other rappers.
And when did you join the Slow Sex journey?
Maxine: It was pretty early on after the three of them made the track. Zeb had sent me an early demo and told me they were interested in making a video for it. China was leaving for LA pretty soon so I made a treatment straight away and we started organising shoot dates.
Tell me a little about your directorial vision for the Slow Sex music video.
Maxine: As soon as I heard the track I knew it was going to be super intimate; lots of interior spaces with warm colours. I never really intended for it to be a love narrative until we started shooting and I was like ‘oh yeah this definitely comes across that way’. In my mind it was more so about imagination and fantasy. The scenes of China in the bathroom and motel bedroom always seemed to me like she was thinking about someone she didn’t necessarily have. So the dinner and car sequence is more of an imagined scenario. China, Zeb and Pascal gave me so much creative freedom which was great. It was also really fun thinking of a way to include Zeb in the clip. It’s not that often you see the producer of a track in the actual video, so it was really cool that we got to set up Zeb’s studio room and have him in it.
To me, the use of colourful neon lighting contrasted with the retro shots in the music video gives Slow Sex a Blade Runner meets Casablanca vibe. In light of that, who are your influences and interests in your respective crafts?
Zeb: I honestly have too many to count. I was raised listening to jazz, funk, disco and similar genres and that evolved into a deep love for hip hop. I can remember Gang Starr was probably one of the first groups I really got into. Then it was groups like Public Enemy, Cypress Hill, Ugly Duckling, Wu Tang Clan, Mf Doom, The Roots, Madlib and J Dilla. Hip hop is also the sole reason I got into producing. I was looking at buying Akai MPCs even before I was looking at buying a laptop, but my laptop was the first tool I used to make music, excluding the drums. Funnily enough, I actually think it was video games from my childhood that lead me to a lot of hip hop music. Dave Mirra’s freestyle BMX 2, a game I had when I was roughly 7, is where I first heard Gang Starr - it was their song ‘Moment of Truth’. I instantly fell in love with it and hip hop in general. My dad also introduced me to a lot of the music I love, either by only playing Triple R or PBS on the radio or by playing me one of his CDs.
Maxine: Blade Runner meets Casablanca - I love that! In terms of light and colour, Wong Kar Wai is a big influence on me. Each of his frames looks like it could be a photograph, saturated with one specific colour. One of the scenes in the music video is also actually based on a photograph of Andre 3000 and Kate Moss eating Chinese food in a 2004 edition of Rolling Stones Russia. I remember seeing the photo floating around Tumblr circa 2013 and its been my favourite photograph ever since. I’m so happy I got to pay homage to that even if no one knows but me!
I also have to mention Hannah Lux Davis and Melina Matsoukas - the two female bosses behind all of our favourite Ariana, Halsey and Beyoncé music videos. I can’t even explain how much their careers have inspired me.
Favourite shot and why?
Maxine: There’s a wide shot of China crouching down on a rooftop, illuminated by a purple light. That entire scene wasn’t planned at all and completely impromptu. We had a little bit of time left after shooting the car sequence and I was playing around with the lighting options on the nanguang. When I saw how cool the purple looked on China I was just like um okay we’re adding another scene. We only filmed that scene for 10 minutes but got some really cool shots.
Lots of Melbourne up-and-coming talent is featured on Slow Sex including rapper Pascal, singer China as well as saxophonists Nikodimos and Yang and Martin on the guitar. What was the process of making the song together and creating a vibe?
Zeb: All the instruments were recorded separately over the space of about 6 months. Yang, Nik and Martin all recorded extremely quickly, it was just me that took ages to finish the track. China, Pascal and Myself worked on the song over multiple sessions at our houses in the same time period. We had a great time recording together. I both trusted and admired everyone’s skills and I knew they would take my beat and help me turn it into a great song. The hardest part was taking all the good material they had given me and structuring into a proper song. I think I changed the overall structure like 10 times before I found what I wanted. It was an 8 minute song at one point.
Since coming out on the 12th of May, Slow Sex has gained over 100k streams on Spotify. Why do you think it has been so popular?
Zeb: I can definitely credit a lot to China, Pascal, Nik, Martin and Yang for adding their own elements to the track and making it what it is. The song was just a beat without them, they really brought it to life. They promoted the song a great deal and got it the initial attention it needed for the likes of Spotify to plug it. The track has gained a lot of traction through Spotify playlists such as ‘discover weekly’ and ‘release radar’, so I can thank their algorithm for that. I would like to thank my group Medium, they did a lot of work helping me promote it. I’m forever grateful to Maxine for the music video, it’s amazing to see what she did to the song. Above all, the amount of support I have received from my family and friends has been wonderful. Thank you to everyone who has taken the time of day to talk to me about the track, it means a great deal!
Check out the music video above and here is a sneaky snippet of my favourite shot from the vid - one that breathes intimacy!
Interview by Margarita Bassova.