The biography of Mazeter. Born in Tiel in The Netherlands, on September 12th, 1966, as Nicolas van Oss, to his close friends and family know as Nico or Nick. Nicolas was the only child in a working class family.
Like father, like son
His father, who had his own piano workshop, tuned pianos for many private clients and world-known artists playing on Steinway and Sons grandpianos. He also worked with and for many famed Dutch artists in the 60’s to late 80’s and was a theoretic music teacher at conservatories. Following in the footsteps of his father, Nicolas started playing instruments at the age of only 3 years. Although, in Nick’s recollection, that never was a real choice.
My father put me through all these excersizes like playing scales, finger excersizes. First do my music excersizes, than go out and play, which i hardly did by the way. I just had to master an instrument and I’ve always loved music”.
“Now my mother wanted me to grow up as a more or less normal child, whatever that means, make friends. So my father was the inspirational one, my mother always tried to balance everything”.
At the age of 5, he got his first real instrument, a drum set, followed by an accordion at 7. He began playing piano and organ one year later. By the age of 14, he began writing his own music. “With writing music, I mean: fully structured songs with chords, bass, counter melodies and additional parts for other instruments including drums and percussion”, he explains. He still knows this very first song by heart and how he got to make it, being inspired by a movie (it is in a reworked version featured on his upcoming triple album “Resonance – Part III” – ed. Annalee).
“My father always had me playing solo, second and counter melodies, together with other musicians. And as they played a lot of folk and jazz, I had started playing Hammond organs and we also had a pre-owned Hammond B3000 (as we couldn’t affort a true B3). So it meant accompanying others and also going solo and improvising on the spot. This means you have to be comfortable playing in whatever key, instantanious. I think I had that down by the age of 14 or so. There is no better way to learn music then to play with other musicians, live. You interact, you jam and learn. And that’s when new melodies, complete songs started popping up in my head.”
“I was struck by lightning, to say the least”, Nick says. “Those electronic sounds, out of this world, they opened up a new world. To me they instantly meant I could suddenly tap into ideas in my brain and transform my music. It just made sense. But for a few years, it would still remain in my brain only”.
Music in bits and bytes
At that same time, I tought myself to program in machine code on the Commodore 64, Amiga and later on the Atari ST“. Nick started programming sounds and a sound engine for the games industry in 1983. “I never planned for that, but now looking back, it all makes sense. My musical endeavours, lust for technology and programming just came together.” Nick sold his first licensed work by the end of 1983, a sound engine for the SID-chip which gave game programmers the possibility for 4-track, real time sounds and music.
“The funny thing was, all these electronic sounds, even the 8-bit noisy ones from back then, they have a life of their own, a unique quality to them, even by today’s standards. Back then and even now, you have people saying electronic sounds are ‘not real’ and ‘cold’. Often these statements are made by the same people who love the sounds of howling electric guitars”.
The difference between ‘cold’ electronic sounds without presumed ‘character’
and a sound which captures you, that would be performance and production.
Something however happend one day which would also change his world, almost like a counterpart to this world of electronic sounds.
“In a church, I stepped behind this church organ and with my foot played a pedal key, a 32 foot flute register. Suddenly this whole church, the entire structure started rumbling. You could physically not only hear the note, but even behind the organ have a sense of the air pressure that was being generated. I was instantly sold to that sound and feeling. The ironic thing is though, I never developed a true sense for (church) organ music. I mean, I like it in a sense, but the instrument means more to me than the music that was traditionally composed for it.”
Nick studied classical compostion, arranging, composition and harmony with main instruments being church organ and piano, with drums/percussion on the side. he had a very hard time finishing his classical training, but is now thankful he did.
“I hold little respect for people who wing it, who don’t want to put in the hours nor the effort. To me the classical training was almost opposed to my improvising on jazz organ and synthesizers. Now improvising, one might say ‘winging it’, is not what you are supposed to do to traditional compositions. Yes, you can interpret them, but within very strict boundaries. Back then I was maybe too young, unexperienced to understand that. But you come to appreciate just that. Having said that, it is still a love-and-hate relationship, but it has ironically grown to be my main inspiration”.
In the mid-90’s, he travelled much less for his work, Nick started running a studio of his own.
Music, almost 24/7
He was recording all sorts of music, (ghost) producing and working on commercials, and as sound design, ‘plug-ins’ and DAWs (digital audio workstations) developed rapidly, there was much demand. He also designed musical hardware (instruments) in a conceptual form. Nick worked very hard back then but also found it very difficult to strike a good balance between work and private life. He wasn’t feeling well physically nor mentally and it all backfired. Then a ‘chain of life events’ happened. Nick experienced a burn-out, divorced and had to sell everything including his studio and lost near everything.
“When life comes knocking on your door, you’ll get a few lessons handed out. We always like to think we are in control, like I though I was in control, but when you don’t look after your health and mental wellbeing, sooner or later you’ll crash, and so I did. It gave me a much needed new perspective, on myself, on work, on everything, including friends. Like this ‘friend’ who took my designs and plans for an instrument and made it into a company. But eventually you have get on your feet again, take the hit, be ashamed and own your mistakes, then learn from them and how to make the best of it.
The homing beacon
I did a number of jobs before I once again returned to my homing beacon so to speak, being music. And I experienced there was new era of creativity starting to surface. It all came out at once for the first time. Money needed to be put on the table and old dues had to be paid for. It was hard work, creative too and yes, it transformed me. For the first time, the artist in me, if that is the right word, truly surfaced, yet in a very strict, disciplined and business driven way. I finally started grasping the concept of what balance means”.
I got to be more humble and appreciative, a lesson which was quite necessary, in retrospect.
“Like I already hinted at, work doesn’t always have to be about pleasure, it’s about discipline too. It’s not about putting out two songs a week. It’s about progression, learning, improving, balancing. If you don’t learn to be your own toughest critique, you’ll never get anywhere. That’s why the 10,000 hour rule applies. Don’t let it be overwhelming, don’t think about it. Once you get to and over that limit, it starts to make sense. It doesn’t mean you can’t produce from the first hour onwards, because you should. It means you’ll get to appreciate the journey and not just the ride. The basic advice would be, just hang in there, you owe it to yourself. Being whatever sort of artist is about constantly learning. You can’t run before you can walk and you will be crawling first. But you do get to explore, even when you’ve just started crawling”.
In his own words, Nick never expected it would once more open the door to actually produce his own music, and it would lead him onto new directions like art, design, writing and mentoring and coaching upcoming artists.
Being lucky and finding balance
“And I got very lucky as one day I met the true two loves of my life. One would be my life partner Norma. The second one, my dog Nina. It all gave me peace of mind. It made me bounce back and find balance. So now there is this hugely creative time and freedom, to write, to make things, to compose, to produce. I can honestly say I have never been so creative ever. I have a lot to be thankful for, but i could not have done it without Norma”.
I humbly and honestly believe having a muse, a true inspiration, is something no
artist can do without. To me, that is Norma, my love and life partner”.
“And my dog is a good second”, he laughs, “How’s that for being artistic?”
What’s in a name?
2018 will mark his 35-year anniversary in the music business. His first indie release which again opened doors was “Undiscovered Country”. When he had to choose a new artist name, he thought up the name Mazeter. It is pronounced, just like in Game of Thrones, as “maester”. Initially, the name was written as ‘Maze-ter’ (this was due to inavailability of online names and domain names – ed. ‘Annalee’).
She was looking at me and suddenly the name for my production company surfaced, being ‘A Man and his Dog Productions’. Then I remembered that old dog and gramophone logo: ‘Nipper’ and ‘His master’s voice’“.
“That’s how the name Mazeter came to be and how I got the inspiration for designing the logos for Mazeter and A Man and his Dog Productions. So yes, my dog Nina is my muse too, just a different kind. And she is always right beside me in the studios when I am working. My truest fan, and my audio analyzer, pun intended!”
A look to the future
Mazeter is currently working on releasing singles and a triple album (“Resonance”) of which Part I will be released in 2018 and post-production on parts II and III starts. He’s also already working on the first compositions after Resonance and has two more albums planned. Next to his music , Nicolas loves working with new and upcoming artists and talents as producer, coach and mentor, providing guidance and development.