Having seen the music video for Ziyad Al-Samman's latest single release 'I Can't Behave' with it's wonderfully weird storyline, mischievous lyrics, and catchy riffs (it's been on repeat for days) F Word's editor-in-chief Maisie Daniels had a feeling that asking Ziyad to dress up up as Tinky Winky for the day would be an instant yes. And he didn't disappoint. Captured through the lens of photographer Joseph Clarke and videoed by Rodrigo Belasquem, it was an absurd afternoon of fun - and definitely amused local Tottenham park-goers!
After all the ridiculousness was over Rachel Edwards sat down with Ziyad to find out a little bit more about who we are hailing to be the next King of Disco, and one to watch.
Rachel Edwards: Hey Ziyad! I have to ask…how did you enjoy being Tinky Winky for the day?
Ziyad Al Samman: (Laughs) I loved it! It was a very enjoyable shoot - kind of crazy, kind of random but I felt strangely comfortable and at home.
R.E: Tell me about your new single…
Z.A: It’s my biggest hit single yet (Laughs)… though the world doesn’t really know it yet! I’m super proud of this disco croon and it sparks the beginning of a bright new chapter on where I’m taking my sound…
R.E: The music video is super crazy, super fun, what's the story behind it?
Z.A: It’s set in an alternate reality, where real-world Ziyad is the star of the world's favourite reality show, controlled by an animated version of himself in a mocap suit. The animated Ziyad is a celebrity in his own right, and the narrative of the video revolves around him travelling to the home of an individual who has paid a high price for a private performance! It’d bizarre, beautiful and my most ridiculous video so far! All thanks to my darling friend Cathal Mckeon who directed and animated it.
R.E: You have a lot of energy! In my mind you’re like a cartoon who wakes up and jumps into their clothes - literally both legs into their trousers at once. Do you work to have so much energy or does it come naturally?
Z.A: Very naturally I think! I don’t workout but for some reason whenever I’m performing live everyone says I’m a fireball, and I think the same when there’s a camera you know?
R.E: You’re a natural performer! Has it always been this way? How did you get into music?
Z.A: I was 13. My fabulous step dad got me a guitar and it kicked off from there. He was a drummer, he got me into Prince and classic rock stuff. Then I got into Thin Lizzy, I was in a tribute band. A lot of people would say I look like the lead singer!
R.E: (Laughs) I see it! Did you always want to make music into this style then? You didn’t have a stage where you wanted to go into screamo?
Z.A: No, it started off very classic rock, a lot Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath. Then I got into my grunge, my Pumpkins, my Pixies, and then my electro… and of course all the indie stuff!
R.E: You grew up in Jordan, so when did you move to London?
Z.A: I moved to London when I was 21. I studied music at Paul McCartney’s fame school! I actually met Paul a couple of times… I printed out my lyrics and got him to sing along so he sang along to one of my songs!
R.E: Wow, do you have a recording?
Z.A: I do somewhere...
R.E: You should sample it and use it in a song, I’m, umm, sure that's not illegal or anything… So I was listening to ‘I Can’t Behave’ and I love it. You strike me as someone who’s quite mischievous. What's the last mischievous thing that you did?
Z.A: Dressed up as Tinky Winky!
R.E: I mean that is pretty mischievous! You have an amazing stage presence, do you get nervous before performing?
Z.A: Yes, the shits, the stress! I need to panic before!
R.E: But you’re so confident on stage! I saw that you had a paper mache head on stage, did you make it?
Z.A: A very good friend made it! It lives above my wardrobe staring down at me. He’s a good guy, Big Z! He was a whole character… Larger than life, big ego, future self. He's got the limos, he's made it.
R.E: Actually you’re always running around with these crazy outfits! You’ve done paper mache, you’ve done Tinky Winky… what’s next!? Have you got any performances lined up?
Z:A: I just sold out Lexington which was incredible! I also played in Paris… My agent is trying to get some other festivals for July! I’m shortlisted to perform at Green Man Rising, it’s down to the public vote! That’s exciting, my good friend Nuha Ruby Ra won it in 2020… but some of the other acts have a big social media following!
R.E: It should never be down to that! How do you find social media?
Z.A: I haven’t cracked it, it’s a love hate thing. It’s gotta be done. I need to dedicate more time to it and make videos. I think it's so cliche but some people are really good at it. I need to get on TikTok, I have just started it…so I’m finding my place.
R.E: And you’re going to some festivals yourself?
Z.A: Yes, flying to Barcelona for Primavera tomorrow!
R.E: If you could see one artist dead or alive tomorrow who would it be?
Z.A: Prince! Or Thin Lizzy! I’d love to also see Black Sabbath again.
R.E: Is there anywhere you go to feel inspired in London?
Z.A: The Shacklewell Arms! Moth Club! The good old Spoons...
R.E: (Laughs) You can go to Spoons in Stansted airport tomorrow and feel inspired - surely the only person feeling inspired in an airport!
Z.A: (Laughs) And festivals are so inspiring. This week I know I’ll feel so inspired, I’ll take my laptop and try to do some side writing.
R.E: And you write with Jules from TTRRUUCCES too! How did you first meet him?
Z.A: I just DM’d him saying ‘hey you’re playing Moth Club’!
R.E: Wow you slid into his DMs!
Z.A: I was like ‘mate I think we’d be a great fit, can I support you?’ And he was like ‘yes, you have to come to my studio, write music… but you haven't met me yet, let's do this gig’! And then it went from there!
R.E: You actually look like cousins! And if you weren't a musician what would you do?
Z.A: (Laughs) I’d be a bum I guess…
R.E: (Laughs) That's the best answer. How do you feel about AI? Are we going to see Chat GBT writing your lyrics at any point?
Z.A: No! Not my lyrics… I have not opened Chat GBT. I’m trying to avoid it all and not watch too many videos about it because I know it's everywhere but I don't want to know. I watched a video about someone doing a whole song with their voice sounding like Drake… I think every artist will have an AI version on Spotify… like there will be the Beatles, and then the AI version of the Beatles. People will just write random songs and then put the Beatles voice on it.
R.E: It’s scary! But there's so much human emotion in music that can't be replaced. It's what humans want!
Z.A: Yes I'm in denial! Even the AI art is horrible.
R.E: If you could fill a swimming pool with anything, what would you fill it with?
Z.A: Tinky Winky and cans of tuna, and rice crackers…
R.E: What are you most excited about this year?
Z.A: Having some downtime and writing, writing, writing! I haven't been writing these last 3 or 4 months because I’ve been focusing on these gigs. I might book a little cabin or an airbnb somewhere and get away and do some writing… maybe take Jules! I just want to get my album together.
R.E: What do you do when you’re not making music?
Z.A: I go see music, I need to be around people all the time! I mean I need my alone time but I flourish in groups of friends.
R.E: What's your favourite song to perform live?
Z.A Ya Habibi! It means ‘my darling’, ‘my baby’ in Arabic. That's the one everyone wants me to release. Hopefully I will at the end of the year … it would be the title track!
R.E: Such a nice name! What's your secret to happiness?
Z.A: Being kind and talking nicely to yourself!
R.E: And what's your favourite F-word?
Z.A: (After a long pause) Filing cabinet!
R.E: That’s one we certainly haven’t had! Thanks for chatting to us!