A couple of weeks ago, I reviewed the new single from Karachi – based rocker Taimur Tajik. This week I managed to catch up with him for an interview.
1. Can you introduce the band to us - are they the same members who played on Vice Versa?
The recording of Vice Versa back in 2010 was a very ad hoc process. It began with recording some rough demos and quickly escalated to a professional recording with local musicians Gumby and Omran Shafique. They had just set up a new studio at the time so it was a mutual opportunity for all of us to work together. Gumby (best known as the drummer in the local band 'Noori') played drums on 3 of the tracks and Omran, who was in a band called 'Mauj' at the time, produced them. Being full time musicians on Coke Studio, those guys had a lot on their plate so I needed to find a new studio to record the rest of the album. I met up with fellow musician Faraz Haider and he's been my producer ever since. For the rest of Vice Versa, I had to recruit drummers based on style and availability. I think a total of 4 drummers played on the album.
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Nowadays, running the band is almost a one-man operation. I do the vocals, rhythm, lead and bass guitars on all studio tracks. I only use live drums, so for the latest album I recruited Kamran Rasheed (aka Kami) from an underground death metal band called 'Karachi Butcher Clan'. He's played on 90% of the drums on the new album 'Order for Disorder'. There's a childhood friend of mine named Adnan Hussain (formerly from a band called 'Undertow') who is now based in London. Whenever he's in Karachi, I always ask him to play on at least one song. Call me sentimental.
2. Are you the only writer of the songs and music - how much input do the rest of the band and Faraz (Haider) have on the songs and arrangements?
I write music as I hear it – in its entirety. I usually have all the guitar and drum parts and vocal melodies in my mind before recording. But I'm always seeking input from Faraz and Kami. Although I write the material, these guys are the ones who help me bring it to life. And their input is extremely valuable to me. I am a shit producer. To me louder always equals better. Faraz has taught me how to strike a balance in my sound. He is the reason the new stuff sounds so good. Kami is a great guy. He's always up for a challenge and puts 110% into everything. He takes every track and listens to it and develops the drum parts accordingly. There's very little time for us to jam, so it's kind of like a virtual brainstorming of ideas. But these guys have made my music their own personal project. That means a lot to me. They are as much a part of it as I am.
3. Growing up in many different countries has shaped your musical style, where was your favourite place to live and why?
Out of all the places I've lived, I'd probably have to say Bahrain was my favorite. My family and I had just left Saudi Arabia, which was a tough place to grow up. As the new kid, it was tough to fit in and make friends. My brother and I got picked on a lot. It was a very difficult time for us so we both turned to music. In those days Aerosmith, STP and GNR were my only friends. I took a lot of my music influences from my elder brother. I'd listen to those tapes to and from school every day on my walkman. When we moved to Bahrain, life got better. People were nicer. School was better. There was a warmth which was very welcoming. I miss that place a lot. But my repertoire of musical influences exploded when I went to boarding school and then college in New Hampshire, USA. I discovered bands like Pantera, Meshuggah, Days of the New, Filter, Slipknot, Black Label Society, Nine Inch Nails and Sevendust and fortunately got to see most of them live.
4. You have toured throughout Pakistan - what are the crowds like? How easy is it to get gigs? How does the security situation affect things? (you have described Karachi as the bomb blast capital of the world)
I can't say that I've toured much. I've played a few gigs here and there. But every time I have played, crowds have been amazing. To be a rock artist in Pakistan is very limiting. To be an English rock artist is practically signing your own death warrant as you get no air time compared with artists singing in local dialects. But I believe there is a sincere audience here that appreciates the effort. Unfortunately, they're very spread out all over the country. So to pack those guys into a single event is next to impossible.
Security is a concern, but that's gotten a little better after our recent elections. You do hear about the odd show now and then, but the underground scene isn't what it used to be a few years ago. It isn't easy setting up a show and funding everything on your own. Lights and sound cost and ticket prices need to be kept low, which means bands don't break even anymore. Considering that, it's easier to wait for a sponsor to set up an event which I can participate in. Radio One Fm 91 did that a few years back with their 'Summer Jam' and we had a hell of a time playing there. The crowd seemed to be made of easy listeners, but the place went nuts after we opened. I think people here just want a release. They want to forget their everyday problems. They want to be part of something that isn't so serious. I think that's where rock n' roll has its place.
5. Are you planning to tour outside Pakistan? I know that a lot of other bands find their way to Dubai and Malaysia, (even Europe) - are their plans for you to do this?
I would love to. Considering that all my material is in English, I probably belong more out there than I do here in Pakistan. But I haven't planned anything in the near future. Not yet anyway.
6. Many of the metal bands and artists in Pakistan seem to have an interconnectivity and goodwill not observed in other music scenes - how connected are you with other bands and do you feel that the artists support one another?
I think that Pakistani artists have it rough. Our music industry doesn't lend any support to anything other than mainstream and Indian influence. So there is no diversity and hence, no acceptance of new local music. Artists invest entirely in themselves, promoting themselves online, funding their own shows etc. So it takes a lot for one band to promote another. But you find that artists from similar genres tend to do it from time to time. You find that it's more of a friendship thing than a musical thing. I have supported a lot of bands that haven't necessarily supported me in return to the same degree, but I don't blame them. I know that they're having a hard enough time supporting themselves. Support actually needs to come from our music industry. Until it does, we're going to have to support ourselves.
7. I know that you are a big fan of Slash and met him recently. How was that for you? Do you know if he has heard your music at all? Did he offer any tips?
Life changing. I've been an avid prodigy of Slash ever since I got my first guitar way back when I was a teenager. I spent hours listening to GNR and Snakepit CDs, trying to decode the way he played. I saw him live with Velvet Revolver in 2005 at the Hammersmith Apollo in London and I was completely star-struck. But seeing him from the front row in Dubai and then meeting him after the show was unexplainable. My wife and I waited for about 2 hours after the show. We had all lined up to get autographs, but I didn't think he would actually show up. When he did, it was surreal. As we were approaching him, I was at a complete loss at what to say. To be honest, I didn't want to promote myself to him. I'm sure 100's of bands have done it. I just wanted to tell him how much he had affected my life. So I did. As he was signing our cocktail napkin I said "We flew all the way down from Pakistan to see you!" and he goes "Oh yeah?". I went blank again. Then after he had signed, I looked into his aviators and said "I just wanted to tell you that you have inspired me to do so much with my life and I just want to say thank you." He smiled and shook my hand and we walked away. A little while later Myles Kennedy and Todd came out as well. I doubt any of them have ever heard of me, but it doesn't matter. Validation or not, those guys are my heroes.
8. What are your favourite top 5 songs ever?
Only 5? That's tough.
'Beggars & hangers-on' - Slash's Snakepit
- 'Estranged' – GNR
- 'Suicide Messiah' – Black Label Society
- 'I'm Broken' – Pantera
- 'The Day the World Went Away' (Still version) – Nine Inch Nails
Thank you very much Taimur. The Album "Order for disorder" will be released soon, for news, please see his facebook page https://www.facebook.com/taimurtajik?fref=ts