Nearly ten years after moving to Colorado, musician Michael Zucker finally felt ready to begin processing some of the big moments in his life – by producing a new record.
With over forty releases in Zucker's music catalogue, ranging from progressive rock to chiptunes to experimental to psychedelic music, the challenge would be less about making a new record and more about making one that was deeply personal.
Zucker’s latest release, Nishi no Densetsu, out May 30, is about as personal as records get. Merely two months after releasing his delightfully nostalgic Super Mario Bros. 3 soundtrack cover, Zucker wrestles with losing a best friend to suicide on “Everyone's Alone” and celebrates the birth of his daughter on “Bug."
The creative experience proved to be draining for Zucker, but necessary.
“In general, things in my life have been going really well,” says Zucker. “I think throughout my time here, probably about the last ten years, there’s been a lot of traumatic stuff, and I’ve never really maybe spent the time or emotional energy to deal with it."
As for the record, “it really deals with a lot heavy things — not necessarily all sad things, but heavy things I’ve had to deal with since moving out here," he adds. "I think, in a way, at least when I started this record, my intention was, okay, it’s time to go back and in an introspective way look at what I’ve lived through in my time out west.”
Throughout his career, Zucker has done a masterful job of masking his own identity in his art and keeping his music open to interpretation.
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“One of the reasons why I don’t go so personal on previous records is that I want to keep things generalized enough so that when someone listens to it, they can experience some personal connection there with themselves," he says. “I think it really gets difficult to do both: to be able to express who you are, so you have your stamp and your silhouette on your piece of art, but for it to connect with your audience in such a way that it makes them feel something about themselves.
“Different artists from all walks have their own philosophy and why they do things and how they go about doing them," he continues. "One piece of Alex Grey’s The Mission of Art that really connected with me is that real art, even if it’s personal to the artist, is reflective to the audience, to the listener or viewer; when it’s really great, they can see themselves in it.”
After finally coming to terms with sharing a very vulnerable side of himself on a record, Zucker learned that his younger sister tragically passed away. While still processing such a loss, he seems more at peace than ever about the decision to share the new record with the world, and even hopes to release an extended cut to honor her.
“I think maybe the reason I thought it was important to release the record is that I make a lot of records, and they tend to be sort of fun or maybe cerebral if they’re serious. But they’re certainly not personal; they’re typically not personal," he explains. “I found that it was kind of important to express to other people, that if it looks like everything is hunky-dory with me and I make all these fun records, I still struggle with things like everybody else. Being able to share that puts me in a vulnerable place, but I think it’s also important because it’s a way to be honest with my fans and friends and family and whatnot. It felt important to me, even if there was really personal stuff on this record, to sort of let it go and show everyone that I, too, struggle with all these things like everyone else.”