He’s one of the active DIY musicians on the social media. With over 5 self-produced albums and hundreds of videos on YouTube, whether tutorials or rehearsings, Chusss marked his place online, and is rather known for his franchise The Visitor. We had the pleasure to have a little chit-chat with him and know the man behind the screen.
Tell us a little about you, what do you do for a living?
My name is Mohamed Shawky, born in 1979. People call me Shawky; friends and family call me Chuss. I’m a 2002 automotive engineering graduate who knows nothing about cars or vehicles more than the internal combustion engine.
I worked as an engineer in various fields (System – Networks – TV broadcasting). Even though I was doing good in those areas but I never saw myself as a full time employee or a day job person.
I worked as a night shift NOC operator for 2 years then came year 2010.It was the year that allowed me to make the biggest decision regarding my career and switch to a full time DIY musician.
I have always had that intention deep inside but never knew when was the right time, until circumstances and everything in life seemed to kick me forward in the direction of my passion.
Since 2011, I have been writing songs and playing solos for a couple of bands in the region, recording guitar sessions for short film soundtracks, teaching guitar and DIY music production.Of course playing guitar and working on my solo albums, selling my tracks online and occasionally doing small gigs or performances in a few places and private parties.
My experience in writing, photography and videographycomes in handy during music business drops
When did you start playing guitar?
I got my first guitar when I was 20 in 1999. A classic guitar that helped me explore things. Then I got my first electric guitar the next year; a cheap used Les Paul copy for 300LE that stayed with me until 2002. In that period I started to seriously read about and study music.
The funny story here is that I always had keyboards to play since I was 5. But never was I satisfied.As I grew older I knew for sure that this was not the right instrument for me.In 1999 by mere chance I saw a guitar with someone who worked in a nearby shop. I offered to trade it with one of my keyboards but the guy seemed hesitant.The next second I offered him 2 keyboards (as I intended to steal my sister’s)for that guitar and it was a deal!
What were the challenges that you faced during learning guitar?
Honestly, I cannot claim that I faced any real tough challenges. I tried many things that didn’t work out for me but I had this belief that there is always some universal source that I just need to connect to.
I have tried to study music academically, at some music centers and have private tutors.For sure they helped me understand some basics and tips but I never thought to take this path till the end so I decided to quit all in less than 6 months.
I automatically resorted to self-study music books in different languages and from different cultures, buying used guitar magazines and books from the book fair in Cairo. A few years after I started, faster Internet became a new gigantic resource to learn and study.
The only challenge I can mention here was the time I had to allocate to read, absorb and practice all those things while I was doing a fulltime day job for about 8 years.
Do you play anything besides it?
I casually play keys, bass and some percussion in my solo projects and for pleasure sometimes.But only the guitar I can fully express myself with.
How did the name “Chusss” evolve? And what does it mean?
Chuss is a nickname that somehow got derived from Shawky. It was basically agreeting shout between my friends and I at the faculty…CHOSS!But it’s meaningless!
It had to be pronounced with a strong noisy S sound, so it evolved to be written this way: Shusss! With 3 S’s
Later on I was surprised that there are actually some meanings for that name, I never had any intentions about this and I find it funny and strange!
Many people are called Chusss in different parts of the world like Spain, Argentina and Pakistan. A few years after I decided Chusss as my artist name, I came to know that ‘chos’ isa pet name for Jesus in Spain!
Recently, a friend sent me an online link to a performing female guitarist from Spain called Chuss!
Related to that tell us about “The Visitor”?
“The Visitor” is a personal outlook about life.
Long before any serious music works, I have always thought that one of the clear facts about life is that it ends at some point. It is a temporary visit. I frequently liked to remind myself with this. With time, that inspired me with many fantasies and thoughts. So I used it as a label to my artist name and I intended to express this philosophy in my solo albums using text, visuals and music.
Your five albums were produced at home; tell us more about this interesting process.
Indeed produced at home. But there is many other unreleased singles that are finished in terms of arrangement and composition.The only problem here is that they are recorded on cassettes.
I started recording using my Walkman and have done some multi-tracking using my old Sony double deck that surely many guys of my generation had owned at some point in the 90’s.
By mid 90’s computer software has developed enough to allow people like me to have the possibility to record at home, specially after USB ports appeared and eliminated the need of a must have mixer to record good signal. This is how I recorded all guitars and some live bass in my albums.
All other instruments like drums, keys strings that appeared in some arrangements in my albums were played using soft synths or sound banks like Reaktor, Hypersonic and SampleTank. They were quite popular early in the 2000’s.
First I was introduced to Rebirth and Logic DAW’s after I read about the making of Satriani’s album Enginesof Creation. That was a strong push for me to see that a legendary pro like him would produce partially or the whole album using PC softwares that can be purchased or downloaded from Internet.
While I was living with my parents and when I had my own place I always had a mini studio ready for me to record demos or to work on some required sessions online. I believe I was lucky to have this under my hands. That helped accumulate a large number of finished compositions over the years.
My first multieffect (Digitech RPX-400) had an audio interface and that’s how I recorded my first album to be released Zukhruf between 2006-2008, unfortunately being a fulltime employee at the time didn’t leave me the needed time or energy or experience to focus on properly mixing the tracks. That’s why the first 3 albums are relatively poorly mixed.
I only had the chance to start understanding about audio production and mixing in 2010 after I resigned and made my career shift to music. The latter 2 albums are not perfectly done but they sound better and hopefully all the new works will be done properly.
I believe that’s a challenge to every DIY (Do it yourself) musician and maybe a common drawback, when you have to do almost everything yourself. It takes much longer time to finish the job and the results cannot be compared when separate tasks are handled by independent specialists.
Your latest album, released last February was said, in your Facebook page that it is “a concept album” Tell us about it.
It’s a 15 track concept related to “The Visitor” outlook.It is called Becoming… The Visit II.
The Visit album Part I was released in 2010 and is about some events and experiences in the journey of life.
Part II is mainly about maturity-acceptance and becoming peaceful regardless of the common sufferings people face in life
The album starts with ‘Myth You Much’ which is about the indoctrination and the brainwash of masses of young inexperienced individuals using advertising, propaganda tools and other methods.
As it proceeds, tracks describe some dark consequences and sufferings like substance abuse, materialistic addictions,‘Oil&Water’, ‘Syringe of Hopes’ hypocrisy, psychological torture, spiritual unrest ‘Dameer Mostater’, ‘Spiritual Fatigue’ and wars ‘Khan Yakhoon’, ‘Barood’.
By the end of the album individuals learn from lessons of The Visit ‘Za Skool’ they mature in their own way and by their own choices ‘Kan Lazem A3raf’ starts to accept what can not be changed ‘Becoming…’ Stop worrying and trying to control life ‘No shit given’ and eventually do ‘Living’ The Visit peacefully.
We don’t see you much live, why?
I’m deeply in love with performing live that’s for sure, but I guess it’s not my time now, maybe at some point in the future. I was lucky to have the chance to watch some of the biggest international and Egyptian bands live. That’s a source of pleasure, knowledge and experience for me and that’s how it’s currently.
I only played live a few times. Some of them were in Dubai where I lived for 5 years. I believe that everything has a price; if you want some of this you must give up some of that. My usual focus on solo albums and education leave me no time to be in a band or to have a band of my own.
What is your favorite gear to use?
I’m not a gear freak frankly. As long as my guitar is ok and in tune I don’t care much.
But I love Ibanez and Fender guitars. I love the tone of Marshall and Mesa Boogie amps. When it comes to effects I adore BOSS and Line6 and some Seymour Duncan and EHX pedals. However I started with Zoom effects.
If I were to buy a new guitar, I would go for a Musicman or a Carvin.
I’m more into versatile guitars that can smoothly play a wide range of styles from blues to heavy rather than just specifically rock or metal.
Your Youtube channel has a diversity of topics. Tell us more about the content such as Modes Talk and the Arabic Oriented music?
I started my YouTube in 2006 and it was my gate to the world. Some old videos are still there and I’m grateful for all the pleasant events and the real friends I met through it.
I have 3 main types of videos:
- Original compositions demonstrated by me.
- Original backing tracks and demo jams.
- Guitar lessons.
Demo jams and lessons are mostly requested by students and/or followers.
Original compositions videos are for pleasure and sometimes requested by fans.
The channel is a place to have fun and as a marketing engine for my services and products.
Tell us more about Licks & Tricks? Is it weekly, bi-weekly…? How do you plan your material, edit your videos and so on?
Licks & tricks is basically a playlist that contains all the lessons I upload on my YouTube to help people interested only in lessons find them easily without having to search through my 250+ videos
I usually shoot 2 lessons per month. During a busy month I would upload both at once after I finish editing them. I upload multiple episodes at once also if it’s a topic split into web-episodes.
Do you teach music somewhere else or only online?
I do both. One on one session at my home studio and Skype sessions online. I do guitar clinics to groupstoo when I’m requested.
I mainly focus on teaching improvisation and composition, producing complete demos. That’s why I mainly teach players who at least have some basic background.
We read that you’re a self-taught guitarist, what advice do you give to younger generations who want to learn guitar by themselves?
We are now living in the golden age of Internet and have access to literally infinite resources to learn music, production and any instrument.
I’m happy to see the younger generations in Egypt and the Arab world embrace this opportunity and proud to see the achievements of some serious bands and artists in the region who help deliver the pristine beauty of the middle-eastern music to the world.
I’d like to make my advice more broad about the music topic in general and it’s also a reminder to self.
It can be summed in:
Don’t try to impress anyone,
Don’t play what you don’t feel
And more importantly; if the music you play doesn’t make you feel good then you have to stop and try something different.
Don’t rush things,
Don’t have high expectations
Watch the fight club movie
And always remember that the magic of music is free and available everywhere you are,as long as you are still alive.
Without complicated technical skills or sophisticated musical theory everyone can play and produce beautiful music, that’s the method I have been following for years.
It feels good to be in touch with you Rockera team,
Proud of you and wish you luck and endless success
Interviewed by: NJ Bakr