I’m Marlon van Maastricht, a ’76 - Generation X, Dubai based Dutchie. I’m a Landscape Architect and Urbanist “by day” and Artist “by night” under the pseudonym Zero Expectations. Art, in the widest sense of the word, is what I eat, sleep and breathe. It floats my boat, so to speak, as there are many aspects of my professional life that feed into the explorations and evolution of my artistic alter-ego and vice versa.
My educational and professional background centers around the planning and design of our living environment, with a focus on the quality and future of our cities and its public domain. My artistic background ventures into the creation of a multiverse of more abstract environments and narratives. They are a culmination of experiences and themes that infinitely explore the corners of my mind, soul, imagination and creative abilities.
There are certain experiences (good and bad), emotions, thoughts, observations, perceptions and especially creative urges, ideas, and inspirations which I cannot satisfy, express and share professionally or, in some cases, even on a personal level with family and friends. Especially in its unfiltered and unpolished form.
My art is my extended creative outlet, which enables me to express the deeper levels and vibrations of my inner self. On the one hand, it is an uncontrollable and infinite source of inspiration, and on the other hand it’s an unquenchable thirst to create beyond my daily bread and butter. Which, in return, provides me immense satisfaction, strength and comfort on a therapeutic level, both personally and professionally.
I created my creative pseudonym “Zero Expectations” and my associated independent label Zero Expectations Music to be able to create and publish my work whenever and however I want. It’s a creative journal of sorts, without the pressure and constraints of being attached professionally.
I produce and release my work as Zero Expectations, and in case of this year’s entry “Come Back” and a couple of earlier projects, I used the artist name T-Rexx, under the same Zero Expectations umbrella.
Since I personally do not play any instruments, I collaborate with a variety of artists to select and develop the instrumental compositions for my songs. For this year’s entries “Southways,” “Mindless Matters,” and “One Last Time,” the instrumental tracks were created by Mexican producer xKori (aka Prod. By Kori). These tracks were recorded at Bull Funk Studios is Dubai, where they were mixed and mastered by Assaad Lakkis aka Bull Funk Zoo.
The track for “Come Back” was created by Hungarian producer eN2 and subsequently recorded, mixed and mastered at Studio 9 in Dubai. This song has a vocal feature of the amazing Dubai based Nigerian vocalist Katty Gold, for which I’m grateful and proud.
Apart from expressing myself as a lyricist and honing my skills in the art of songwriting, I had to learn how to sing and sound the way I envisioned my lyrics to be heard on the track and obviously in terms of the bottom-line minimum quality I deem acceptable to publish under my name.
Achieving this, or at least striving to do so with the tools and skills available to me at each time a new project starts, is a constantly resetting learning experience. One I imagine never to be complete, otherwise the music quite literally stops. And since I have a taste and tendency to explore new genres to suit each new creation, theme and narrative, I tend to write myself into new challenges every time I pick up my pen or hit the studio. Overcoming of these self-imposed challenges and a sense of progress every step or project along the way, is what keeps me going.
It is therefore important to work with the right artists and studios that support and facilitate the articulation of my vision sonically, within my vocal range and their technological abilities and limitations, while also challenging and coaching me along the way to get better.
Creating the music videos is also always a special experience for me, which I have come to appreciate and embrace more and more over the years. From the first video I published till date, I have started experimenting with various programs, applications, styles and techniques to create the visual mood I deem fitting for the songs I create. From the usage and creation of still images and CGIs to stock footage, templates, presets and the limitless possibilities of powerful programs and platforms such as Adobe, Motion Array and Envato, in combination with all kinds off phone apps and my camera: I love it all. Composing, compiling, producing and direction my own music videos with the objective to create the right mood and visuals to support the song’s narrative, is as much an infinite and educational process as the songwriting experience itself.
When it comes to song production, a creation can be deemed a masterpiece when the artist(s) succeed in creating the ultimate sonic synergy between the music, the vocals and the narrative itself. Beyond delivering its intended message, although this is very subjective and personal to one’s taste and standards, this could arguably be measured through a song’s ability and actual accomplishment to affect and wow people outside the genre(s) it may or may not be categorized in. If the visuals and video then add another creative layer and “cherry on top” by supporting to the song on an artistic level, then a true masterpiece is created in my humble opinion!
My creative process comes in many forms and stages. The selection and development of a concept track, and the collaboration with various artists who created them across the globe and the molding and evolution of the initial concept and ideas towards the outcome and structure that forms the actual base of a song, is something I immensely enjoy.
My lyrical writing process is all over the shop as I don’t really have a set agenda or timeline. A lyric or song may start with a single thought, or a few bars that pop to mind at the most random times and places, which I file away in my phone or notebook.
These fragments often follow and guide the initial stages of a track or concept selection and development towards the eventual fruition into an actual song, for example when I found a cool vibe that resonates with me. Other times this works exactly the other way around. I may pick up or revisit lyrical fragments, weeks or months after filing them somewhere and something clicks when I least expect it. Without any vibe or music associated with it yet, triggered by a mood I’m in or something I experience for example. This may eventually become a full story line or a series of bars that will go on to cement the theme and narrative of a song, triggering the hunt for the right tune to suit the mood. Subsequently there is the studio process of recording, mixing and mastering, which is a new chapter and challenge every time, as I tend to explore new grounds as part of the process and experience. This requires a different approach and set of muscles, which I never seem to have used or even be aware off until I’m in the studio with a microphone in my face!
During or after the studio sessions, when the song is starting to take shape, ideas will start to come to mind regarding the music video and the visual dimension I’d like to add to the song.
I have yet to perform any of my work live and on stage, which is something I have shied away from till date, so I measure my performances in terms of the end result, compared to my initial vision and hopes for the project: A good lyric, sang with a decent vocal on top of a track of my choice, structure and taste to send the message or mood of the song in the way I want it. I have yet to top my song “Invincible” by those standards.
The worst performance, which was barely watchable for me, was from Amy Winehouse’s documentary, where she just couldn’t and refused to continue on. Shot to fame too fast and furious, with such a tragic, arguably “could have been prevented” ending. She should not have been let near a stage at that point in her life.
Thank you so much! It means the world. I wouldn’t have dared to dream for all 4 entries would do so well! Very much appreciated by all those involved and with thanks to my collaborators: xKori, eN2, Assaad Lakkis aka BFZ, Katty Gold, Bull Funk Studios and Studio 9!
The early winners were announced just this week (05-04-2022), so I barely started promoting yet. Fingers crossed for the grand finale at the end of the year, so I’ll let you know when the final results are in!
In the UAE and as a consultant I work 50-60 hour weeks on average, so finding and prioritizing the time for my art was definitely the biggest challenge create and release these projects “on the fly”.
Just start by picking up that pen. Record little voice memos or write/type down with concepts to your initial lyrics. Start browsing sites and channels with backing tracks to suit your mood; start writing and don’t stop till you are happy! And a very important lesson learned by failure: Don’t rush! Step back, relax and come back to your ideas later. Once it’s out in the ether, it’s there to stay forever, so take your time to check, check, double, triple check before you publish!
On a creative level, my Grandfather, who passed away when I was just a few years’ old. He was a painter and sculptor by the Dutch classic standards and craftsmanship. Looking at his paintings is like staring at a real Vermeer or Rembrandt. Truly amazing.
Musically, since I was a teenager during the eighties and nineties, I grew up with various artists and genres that motivated me from different genres from Hip Hop to Punk/Rock to Pop. To see some of those childhood legends like Dr Dre, Snoop and bands / front men like Hetfield, Grohl (RIP Taylor) still going strong after so many decades and challenges is nothing shy of miraculous! I merely named a few examples that jump out, but who needs more motivation that that? Snoop buying Deathrow? Hell Yea!
If I could choose? And the door would open when I knocked?? I’d have definitely have Rick Rubin open his studio to work on my album. Secretly hoping he’d open his rolodex to invite some of his friends to drop by and jump in, crossing genres to jam, riff and chill till we find my true sound.. like Adam “Adroc” Horoviz, RHCP, Tom Morello, Travis Barker! That will be the day! One way ticket to Shangri-La please?!
Bull Funk Zoo and eN2 for sure, two of the collaborators on my LIT entries this year. And Tom Bailey Music, a longtime collaborator with whom I’ve done several projects over the years.
I write and create for myself first and foremost. This allows me to stay true to myself and develop myself through my art. Like my lyrics in Come Back say: “It’s the journey, not the goal. We all need music in our souls”
Well, we will have to see if actually become masterpieces, but I have two more xKori projects on the shelf which are written and ready to hit the studio. I’m also working on a new project with Tom Bailey Music at the moment, which I hope to sink my teeth in this year as well.
I’m not able to answer that as I run at my own pace and terms as far as my music and art goes. So, to have a direct line with any artist and studio and a bottomless jar of funds to create the next level of what and when I desire?
“Southways” is a song and lyric that describes that “knot in your stomach feeling” that you sometimes wake up with or…
(Read more at LIT Talent Awards)
Marlon van Maastricht, or Zero Expectations is an abstract artist who expresses his inner self with artistic ideas.