Radio UTD’s Amanda Maceda sits down with local pop artist, Zeke Forever to discuss his most recent work. The two of them talk all things quarantine, woes of being a local artist and making music with your friends.
(Interview has been edited for Clarity)
Amanda Maceda: Hello. Thank you for tuning in. This is Amanda, and you are listening to the Pseudo Stereo Local Music Feature on Radio UTD. We’ve got a special interview today. Woo-hoo! And it’s…
Zeke Forever: Hello!
AM: We’ve got Zeke Forever in the station. It’s gonna be fun. We’ve already been talking. If you tuned in ten minutes ago, you may have heard a little bit of testing mics cuz this is the first live interview we’ve done since—
ZF: This is so cool! I’m so excited!
AM: Same here. Oh my gosh. And if you are new to Radio UTD, you can see on the Tuner page that we do have a comment section now where you can submit like a sentence or a question and we’ll be able to see it over here. So if you have any questions for Zeke Forever, feel free to submit those in the comments and we’ll get to those questions at the end of this interview. But again, thank you so much for tuning in. With COVID and these buildings just closing down in March without a concrete plan, all of our DJs and bloggers and audio techs are so excited to start just bringing back Radio UTD this school year. We just finished off our first week of programming, and we are just finishing it up on a really high note with this interview. So let’s just get right into it. So this is your first time visiting Radio UTD. We started communicating in the summer, but can you tell our listeners a little bit about yourself and how you came to become a musician?
ZF: Yes, so my real name is Kenan McWilliams. My first name is actually my mom’s maiden name, which I love and I think that’s so cool. I started making music when I was really young. My mom and her family were musicians, and my dad, like, he’s a songwriter, but he can’t sing, so… But I kinda got my talents from both of them. My dad is super creative; my mom’s like a beast at music and so, I just kind of learned from them. Learned music, learned how to write, and I got a Wii microphone—do you remember those karaoke games?
AM: Oh my gosh!
ZF: I plugged it into my computer, and I just taught myself how to record myself. And as I told you, I wanted to be a radio DJ, so I already kind of knew those things. And one year, when I was in the sixth grade, I found Mixcraft, which I still record music with, and I just started making music with my cousin. If you go on YouTube and look up Zeke Forever, you will literally find like the worst music video ever. It’s terrible. It’s called “Live Life to the Fullest,” and the only reason that it’s up is because I don’t know the password to the username thing anymore. So it’s just up there, and it’s terrible. I’m just running around in the backyard in my Phineas & Ferb shirt and just singing this terrible song. But I’ve always written music. I’ve just always written music to escape, and that’s something that I still do to this day is to just write and hopefully get all of my emotions out so I don’t freak out on everybody *laughs* during the day. That’s just kind of how it started for me.
AM: Yeah, for sure. Music is just such a creative medium and also an outlet.
ZF: Oh, yeah. I think music is beautiful, and I think that the reason why I’m so passionate towards it is because a lot of things that I felt like I couldn’t say or a lot of things that I felt that…that I was nervous to, I could just put it in a song and that’s still kind of how it is today. It’s just a way for me…I’m not good at communicating. I’ve learned this the more and more I grow, but I know that I can write a really good song and tell you how I feel without having to tell you. You can just press play and hear it, so that’s really cool.
AM: Speaking of which, you were saying that it was an outlet to getting those emotions out and communicating. With one of the trailers you posted on your current YouTube, you said that Kryptonite was about letting go.
ZF: Yes. Yeah, so when I first started writing Kryptonite, first of all I had about seven different album names. At the time, it was When I Feel, and I had just released a single called “Blind,” and this was right before the pandemic happened. There’s three songs that I have on the album that were from right around that time: “Control,” “Relapse,” and “Fooled Me.” All of those songs are, like, “Relapse” is about smoking, which is not good, guys, don’t do it. And “Control” was just about settling because I wanted love, but I just kind of settled for the situationship; and “Fool Me” is in the title: I was kind of like duped. That was kind of like before COVID ruined everyone’s lives really and we had to, like, isolate ourselves. So this album, for me, was kind of realizing what I was doing. Writing these songs really helped me realize what I was doing and help me try to figure out how to get out of those situations or just to get out of my head. When I listen to it…and I listened to it today because I’m a weirdo. I’m just like ‘I wanna know what I’m talking about today.’ I just think about the stories and the person I was writing the song, and it’s just so weird to see. It’s really weird.
AM: Is it like a time capsule for you of sorts?
ZF: Yes! So like, I’ve always said that I could tell, like, where I was with each album. During Dear Golden Boy, I was kind of figuring out myself and I had just moved out, so I could find my own voice. I was like ‘yeah, I’m golden,’ and blah blah blah. And with Kryptonite, it was more of I’ve always hated being alone…I have my friend, Carly, here. She knows; I’ve always hated being alone. So the fact that I was basically forced to be in my own bubble, and if I wasn’t, I was still super anxious because of COVID. It really taught me that these are my flaws and pretty big flaws and am I gonna deal with it. Am I just gonna settle? I’d be in my own head about it.
AM: That was one consolation of the isolation other than we needed to be, to prevent this from getting worse, but with that, with the song, “Kryptonite,” you say it in the lyrics ‘Loneliness used to be my kryptonite.’ I feel like you really did explore those times. There were, for sure, from the times I listened to it, there is a gradual theme across the board and that’s further cemented with those samples that you included.
AM: Can you go into that a little bit?
ZF: For the album, well, I’ll take it back and say this: as an artist, when I was listening to music as a kid, I felt really alone. But I listened to music to sort of get me out of that feeling. As an artist, I want to, whoever can relate to music, anyone who can relate to my music to know that I was going through the same situation. And I think that during the time that I was super lonely and just didn’t feel like there was a light at the end of the tunnel. I had family and friends around who were constantly checking up on me. Like my dad, he’s on the album twice, and he has this big, long monologue about like “with greatness comes great power. That’s what he was telling me at the time where I didn’t really believe in myself. My sister, we have this really funny and cool relationship, and she was like checking in on me when I was unemployed, didn’t have a job. So I wanted to make sure that when you listened to a Zeke Forever album that you’re gonna have a sense of ‘okay, I can do this. I’m not alone.’ The message of that album is always gonna be ‘nights won’t last always and I’ll live through it,’ and I just wanted anyone who was gonna listen to feel that.
AM: With this, it’s very vulnerable for you to do and to share those moments, but again, it’s how you communicated with your feelings. It’s very beautiful how you wanted to let other people know that these feelings are not, ‘what is wrong with me for thinking like this or feeling like this’, especially with some of the samples you included.
AM: So when it came to, cause on this album, there were a lot of collabs you did with other artists. How did you go about working with those? Did you let them know your theme, your central idea for your album with these collaborations?
ZF: I didn’t.
ZF: It’s crazy. Like “Fade,” Global Octopus, they are so cool. I remember that I saw them at a marketplace and like…we have this artist marketplace in Denton, so like you could come and buy our merch and I had met them and they were cool. I was actually working on a song that’s not on the album, but I just wanted to work with them. So, I had sent them one song and after a few weeks, I started working on “Fade,” and right after, I was just like, ‘hey. This song is, like, about clarification.” I don’t really have verses yet, so just do whatever you wanna do. And when I tell you, I got the verse back and I was like ‘yes!’ I was freaking out, but a majority of the time, I just let them say and do whatever they wanted to. I think that at the time when I was working on songs and doing collaborating, I had no idea what I was doing. I knew, like, I wanted to be relatable and I wanted to just tell my story, but I didn’t know how. I think that the only collaboration that I really had were the two collaborations that I did it in-person was with Ariel & the Culture for “Relapse”–and that song was done right before COVID kind of took its toll–and then Nat Marie where…that one we did together, which was really cool. We did that at my apartment right when things were opening up again. But for the most part, most of the ones we did virtually. It was kind of cool.
AM: Yeah, how was that?
ZF: Honestly, I would just have an open hook and be like, ‘hey do you wanna get on there?’ Justin Wes, cool artist too, I just sent them a song, and there was no revisions. I think most of the artists just really did their thing. There wasn’t like, ‘I don’t like this. Can you re-do it?’ Everyone brought their A-game, and I thought that was really cool. Shoutout to y’all! I love y’all!
AM: All those, they did such a great job, especially the Global Octopus one.
ZF: Yeah, I, like, pinched myself when that happened. Just knowing that the vibe was right and everything was correct. Cause, you know, when you collaborate with people, it’s always like I don’t know if you’re gonna do what I want or what I envision because I’m very much also a control freak, so…but no, they killed it. They killed it. Killed it.
AM: Speaking of fate, since we’re on the topic: three months ago, I think, you released the music video?
AM: How was that?
ZF: So…I’m about to freak out for a little bit. My best friend, Lauren (I hope she’s listening), she was like, ‘I wanna do a music video.’ And I was like, ‘great. I wanna do a music video, too.’ And I had never really shared any of the album with anyone other than the singles that were already out. I sent her a thing, and she was like ‘I love it. Here’s what we’re doing.’ And I was watching a lot of That 70s Show, and I was watching a lot of Insecure when we were doing that. The song is based off my life but also based on Insecure when Molly and Issa said they weren’t friends anymore–or like, they were friends but it was just weird and they didn’t know what they were doing. And I…we wanted to make it as cheap as possible, as low-budget as possible. And she and I, we just kind of, also Ryan, we just kind of put it together. And I wanted to really highlight a lot of local artists because I feel like we’re cool. In Denton, we have such a cool, cool local group. So I had obviously Global Octopus, but Retro P, who actually just released a single too, he’s such a great rapper, visionary, just great. Alex O’aiza is really cool too. It just happens. I don’t know how…when you have a good team and especially with Lauren and Ryan, everything that I just mumble, they’ll have it down. It was a really fun experience.
AM: Yeah, it was fun to experience as well.
AM: Just knowing that you all had a great time, that makes it even more better. And those behind-the-scenes that you posted along with it…
ZF: Yeah, that was…that was a great day. I’m always super nervous about things, so I was like, ‘oh I hope nothing goes wrong. I hope nothing goes wrong. I hope I can perform well,’ and all of that. I’m really hard on myself, but when we did it, everyone’s…everyone was on the same vibe. We were all hyping each other up. And Global Octopus killed it, Retro P killed it, everyone was on their…we were all on our A-game, we had pizza, it was fun. It was a fun time. That will probably be one of my favorite things that I did this year.
AM: Yeah, I’m glad y’all got to have that happen, cuz it looked phenomenal. Are you planning on doing any future music videos with your friends?
ZF: I want to so bad. I know that me and Lauren have talked about doing another music video, but honestly, if I do another music video, I want it to be for the next song that I put out and it’s not on the album. That’s a little far ahead. I really want to push Kryptonite as much as I can. If I do a music video, I definitely want to do one for “Unprepared” because “Unprepared” is such a vibe for me. That would be really cool, but we really haven’t talked about it yet. If anybody wants to fund the music video though, come on. Come on!
AM: So Kryptonite just released two weeks ago?
ZF: Two weeks ago, yeah. That’s my baby. That’s my baby.
AM: Y’all check it out on the streaming platforms, YouTube, they’re all released on YouTube as well.
AM: And check out the “Fade” music video while you’re at it. But for future endeavors, I know you just mentioned wanting to push the album. Are you planning to do any virtual or in-person concerts?
ZF: So I’m actually a part of the No Stress Fest that is on October 2nd at Harvest House in Denton, TX, which I am announcing for the first time here, so that’s cool. I don’t know the full line-up, so that’s actually terrible on my part, but it’s gonna be a fun time. I’ve actually started working on the performance of that too, so it’s gonna be really fun. Also, I’m doing a livestream for Move Texas for voting registration, which is really cool. Whenever they emailed me, I was like ‘Ahh! What?! This is so cool!’ I know that the livestream [was] September 28th, so that [was] really fun. And everyone: register to vote. Come on. What are you doing?
AM: Awesome! I think we’ll be wrapping up our interview real soon, but since we’re still on air, if you wanna shout out some more local music artists…
ZF: Ooh! Okay. So Retro P just released a new single, and it’s really cool. Obviously Global Octopus, that’s my babies. Wow, everyone that I work with, I love, so shouting them all out–
AM: We’ve got the Pokemon jazz if we go over.
ZF: Yes, come on Pokemon jazz. I actually really like Pokemon jazz. I definitely just had a weird reaction when you said it. Love me some Pokemon jazz.
AM: It’s a vibe. But yeah, thank you again for coming into the station and for having us interview you.
ZF: Oh no, thank you for having me. This was really fun. We really have been in contact for like the longest trying to get this to happen.
AM: Yeah, which by the way, y’all, if you’re a local musical listening or a UTD student who’s maybe interested in getting involved in the local music scene, you can contact firstname.lastname@example.org for direct contact, but we’ve also got a few forms on our website if you are a band or an artist and you would like to have your music played during our Local Music Feature as well as we are starting up Pseudo Stereo. Not this month, but next month pending cases go down–
AM: and all our techs feel comfortable recording.
ZF: Hopefully. So…
AM: Thank you again.
ZF: Yeah, this was so fun. Thank you so much, Amanda. You’re awesome!
AM: You’re awesome!
ZF: OOOH! Don’t tell me that!
AM: I was expecting to be a nervous wreck on air cuz it’s been awhile since we’ve done a live interview.
AM: I’ve gotten…very good at editing after if I just mumble or go off, but this has been very organic, and I really appreciate that.
ZF: I was actually really nervous, too. This is actually my first college radio interview, so I was like, ‘grrl…I don’t know what am I gonna say–’
AM: And I was like, ‘me too!’ I had some…I tried to plan for that structure.
ZF: I did. You know, it’s crazy, I had a monologue planned, and I didn’t say it, so there’s that.
AM: I mean, do you wanna say it now?
ZF: No! Well, okay, I will say that…I’ll talk about the album, I guess. Kryptonite, for me, is like my second baby. Obviously, I have old songs like Dear Golden Boy; that’s like one of my most proudest things, but Kryptonite is, like, a live diary for me. So I’m just really thankful for everyone that listening to it and super grateful for a lot of the friends that were a part of the project, but also like my family that support me. Cuz my family has really, really supported me the past couple of years. Just seeing me really depressed and just like ‘I don’t know if I’m gonna do this,’ cuz honestly, writing Kryptonite I was definitely just in my head, like ‘okay, so I’m just gonna go back to school and be complacent.’ But I’m really thankful for a lot of the friends and the family that just kept me going and just kept pushing and supporting me, so thank y’all. And that’s it!
AM: Perfect. Cuz we’ve got twenty-two seconds until Pokemon jazz.
ZF: Okay. So, ladies and gentlemen, this has been Landon Escapade, and tonight, we’re gonna play the smooth sounds of Pokemon jazz. And thank y’all for listening.
Listen to our Zeke Forever interview on the Radio UTD Youtube below!