By the age of 26, Dazed (Zac Daroesman) was working with some of the cream of the crop in Australian hip hop, produced for The Age Hip Hop album of the year Frasksha’s My Way and sold out of his 7inch release, Rest in SYN. In the midst of working on a new album, he woke up one morning and discovered he had lost his hearing.
a/s/l: 33/m/West Melbourne
Saturn Return: January 2013 - October 2013
What was happening in your life during the time of your Saturn return?
I was working on my debut solo album. The day that I was going to pick up my album from being mixed, I woke up feeling like there were needles being stabbed in my ear. I took a bunch of painkillers and went to work. Half way through the day, I realised I couldn't hear the clicking of my keyboard and the general office buzz wasn't there, so I freaked out. I went to see an audiologist and they did a hearing test and he told me that I lost my hearing overnight. It was messed up. That was a pretty big thing to deal with because hearing loss was something that I never even considered could happen to me.
What happened next?
At first the doctors thought it was nerve damage from my wisdom teeth, so they took out all four of my wisdom teeth under general. I was stuck at home for a week, in pain and I couldn't hear. I was told I needed hearing aids, so I did some research but there was not a lot of support out there for young people. The hearing aids that were best for me were $10,000. A bunch of people in the Australian hip hop community organised a fundraiser, Big Noise, at Laundry Bar in Fitzroy. They got artists from around Australia to play, donate stuff and they raised about $7000.
How else were you affected in this time?
I still hadn't heard the album I was working on, luckily my friends knew how I liked my stuff to sound so they were tweaking it for me. It was called Hearing Not Listening, a name I had in my head for ages. Looking back at it, it’s sort of ironic.
After that, I was trying to get used to life. It took a while to get adjusted. I was less sociable. I couldn't even can't go out and do stuff with my partner at the time because something as simple as going out for breakfast in the morning was too much, everything would be too loud. It took me about a year to listen to 30 seconds of music without getting fatigued. I had to change my job because the office was too loud for me.
Did your doctors know what caused it?
They now say it is a genetic thing that mutated. A few years ago I started getting crazy vertigo so they thought it could have been too much liquid in my head, or a tumour, but the tests came back fine. To be honest, I got fed up paying people money for a diagnosis. I've just accepted it. They think it could be a mild form of Meniere's disease, so at least I have got a name to attach to it.
Do you have a sense of grief for the loss of your hearing?
At first I did because without sounding lame, music was my one true love. Music helps you through good and bad times, it holds a special place in people's hearts, so I hated the world for taking this thing away from me. I had worked so hard; I was at the peak of my career. Then after a while I thought, at least I can see, I can walk and talk. I slowly came to peace and understanding that what I was going through was pretty bad, but it could have been worse.
Is making music still your passion?
It is still my passion, even though it sort of tainted me for a little bit. Another artist, Mic Pompei, got me working on an album about his own personal growth. I would work on ten seconds of music over a week, so over the course of the year that was like my rehab. It forced me to change the way I made music - focusing on what I could make in five minutes, instead of on one sound. After that, I made music a serious hobby as opposed to my full grind. I still work with a whole bunch of people but it's much more just doing it for the fun of it.
I also got into a new relationship and I realised how much I had sacrificed of myself. I realised that this was my chance to enjoy making music but also enjoy life a lot more, because I was learning to realise how lucky I was. Music is always going to be there and it is always going to be this thing I love, but do I have to work on it for four hours every night? I can hang out with friends and do other things and then when I feel like making music, I’ll do it. The whole experience really changed my outlook on life and taught me to cherish the things I have around me.
So what are you doing for work now?
I work for a big watch company. It's for an industry that I have a legit passion for. I wake up happy to go to work, I come home and I'm happy. It’s a spin out! It’s weird though. I catch up with friends after work and I'm wearing business attire and they're like, who the hell is this person?
We’ve noticed that you are quite the collector, what is the attraction?
I've always had that collecting thing, whether it's as a pure consumer, or it's that hunt of trying to find that thing that no one else has. Growing up, I remember my dad always had watches and maybe that is what attracts me to watches now. I collect sneakers as well.
How did you get into collecting sneakers?
We didn't have a lot growing up. I used to play basketball from a young age and every basketball season I would get a new pair of shoes - my parents would work their asses off to buy them. Once I started working as a teenager, I started buying sneakers. Then in the early 2000s a lot of companies started retro-ing shoes from the early 90s. All of a sudden there were these shoes I remember seeing when I was 10 years old, that I could never get. Now, it's this constant hunt. We went to Japan last year just to buy shoes.
How many pairs do you have?
I think there’s more than 60. My girlfriend collects shoes as well so we egg each other on.
How did you get involved with Musicians 4 Hearing?
I was researching hearing aids that improve music clarity and Musicians 4 Hearing came up. I thought what they were doing was cool and I also wanted to do something nice for the world, to help and encourage people. If someone else goes through what I did, at least they can google, ‘I lost my hearing over night’ and an article about me can pop up. I got onboard as an ambassador. We’ve got a few projects lined up; making a promo video with a deaf kid running through an orchestra and finding vibrations they think are cool, then sampling those sounds.
Has the content of your music changed since you lost your hearing?
When I was younger, I was angry, pissed off at the world. At my peak, I was producing a lot as well. Now, I’m a lot more picky about who I work with. I work a lot more with my friends, I’m very much about keeping the crew close.
I'm doing a lot more instrumental stuff. My writing has changed as well. I was sort of a heart-on-sleeve person and I realised I was saying too much, being too personal. I have learnt to get that feeling of emotion and twist it so a wider range of people can listen to it and know what that feels like.
What about personally, is there anyone who is an influence in your life?
My girlfriend. She doesn't care if I want to stay up till 3am in the morning and make music, or I can say some stupid weird conspiracy theory like everyone’s a lizard and there’s no judgement. Her outlook on life is really positive so that helps me grow. I can say what's on my mind and not have to walk on eggshells. Looking back on my past relationship, that is what I was doing all the time, because I had this idea of what love was and I just sacrificed myself for it. Now, I can be myself.
What do you want to tell people who have experienced hearing loss at your age?
That it sucks and that it's ok to cry and hate the world. I don’t want to say it's all good because it's not, but things will eventually get better. We're lucky to be in an age where technology is constantly improving. There are other people who have gone through it and at the end of the day, as shit as it is, put on a smile and just try to truck through it because at some point it will get better. It may be a week, it could be two years, but there is that proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. It comes from acceptance, learning to deal with it and knowing that there are changes that are going to happen in your life, but it's those changes that make you, as a person. You can either grow from something or you can let it kick your ass and beat you to the ground and hopefully it's not that.
Dazed's latest album, Red Room, will be released at the end of the year.
Photography / Julia Petricevic & Simone Ruggiero
Words / Zac Daroesman
Location / West Melbourne