Its been two years...a very long post
I have been very busy, some of it in a good way some of it not. A little while back a relative of mine passed away and I was deeply affected by it. Personally I have had a lot to figure out, in terms of the future of the band, my relationships and my own career.
However, these last few weeks have been among the most creative of my life. The last proper song I wrote was “Likhta Nahin Mein” and I wrote that when Khawer was still in the band so basically the Summer of 2006. Truth be told I hadn’t written a new song in two years.
Incidentally through all this stuff happening, I forgot to remember that ADP have now been together for 2 years. We’ve lost one of our guys, but we’re still soldiering on. Thank you all for your love and support.
What if I never write another tune like this again?
Since then I hated all the songs I was writing. I was spending so much time promoting and performing the songs I had already written that I was neglecting to come up with any fresh material. During this time, Imran, the other composer in the band was coming up with new stuff all the time, something that made matters worse because this started to fuel an unhealthy competitive streak in me. This was also showing up the very different direction Imran and me were going musically. Imran was beginning to really grow as a songwriter, becoming very progressive and experimental. You couldn’t keep a guy like Imran down because musically he is prolific. While I would struggle with a single riff or a melody, or worse, lyrics, Imran would come up with entire songs, sections and beats.
The end result was that musically I was completely paralysed and I had no joy in composing anymore. The more I tried to force it the worse it would become. I actually remember hunched over my acoustic guitar strumming chords away endlessly and destroying reams of paper in fits of rage. I would listen to “Sultanat” and “Shehar Key Aansoo” and start feeling panic because I kept thinking “What if I never write another tune like this”. I felt like a fake musician and when people would tell me they loved the band or my songs, I wouldn’t believe them. I had an intense self-loathing for myself as a musician who couldn’t even write good songs anymore, and I was fooling everyone.
I really hope this doesn’t come across as self-indulgent emotional it-aint-easy-being-me type crap. I just wanted to share how things will usually get really bad before they get really good again.
Personally, around this time, I was in a relationship that was falling apart. It reached a point where I thought that both my band and my relationship which had started at the same time would end at the same time. Now one usually thinks that emotional upheaval is great for us musicians and that we actually look for drama to use as inspiration for songs. Nothing could be further than the truth for me. I didn’t want to write songs about lost love or broken hearts. I wanted my songs to give me joy, not help me wallow. Songs should bring you joy, or at least be cathartic. Nothing pisses me off more than contrived songs about heartbreak. All you “terey bin jee nahin sakta” type lyricists are trite and do not do real heartbreak any sort of justice.
When Imran left, I really thought we were finished. With him gone, me not writing any new stuff, Yasir getting disillusioned and Omar getting busier with work we were extremely low on confidence.
Then the Indus Valley Concert happened
It would be wrong for me to say that a single event helped to bring me out of funk. The truth is there were several contributing factors. Ali Alam is one of them. When Ali came over to start rehearsing for the concert with us, Omar, Yasir and I immediately raised our game, because I guess we were trying to impress him. Ali has been around the music scene for a long time so we automatically had a lot of respect for him but there was also a bit of an insolent streak in us that caused us to well…make sure we played at the top of our game, almost like we were showing him what we were capable of.
Plus, Ali’s songs are fantastic and we jumped at the opportunity to perform them, having become bored with our own songs.
For the first time in awhile, we weren’t complacent. We knew that we had to put on a killer show at Indus because we hadn’t performed there before and a lot of people were coming to see us for the first time. We also knew that it wouldn’t be easy to incorporate a new player into the bands dynamic and we weren’t sure if we would still have that onstage chemistry that people associate with us.
Once that incredible Indus Show happened, I finally felt good about the band again. Plus Ali’s songs inspired me to go back and try doing my own.
As well as Ali’s input, a very good friend of mine played a big role in getting me to love music again. I was constantly giving her music to listen to and in the process I discovered all these simple songs that were so incredible. She in turn really encouraged me to be happy about my music and not to take it so seriously. She helped me realize that there is a less mental and more physical side to the music that I needed to get in touch with.
And then one day it happened. I woke up on a glorious Sunday morning and I wrote down the opening lines to what would be a brand new song
Aaj mein zarra hoon, kal mein insaan,
(Today I am a particle, tomorrow I am a human being)
Aaj mein zameen hoon, kal mein aasman
(Today I am the ground, tomorrow I am the sky)
I wrote the entire composition within a matter of minutes and I loved it. It was finally something honest, something uplifting and more importantly it was simple. Songwriters pray for moments like this, when it seems like divine inspiration. I think God has better things to do than to provide me with hit singles but I’m hoping he had something to do with it.
Whatever it was, I went on a creative streak. Within a week I had drafted 5 new songs. Some of them were only basic ideas and sketches. Some of them were fully formed compositions. But they were definitely different from the stuff I had previously been trying to write. I basically fell in love with my electric guitar all over again, and the songs I was writing were hard, loud, brash and obnoxious. The guitar parts were dangerous sounding chugging chords or really snaky, snarling rhythm bits. I wasn’t afraid to make the sound dirty and really bring a very sexual edge to them. Very punk rock, very liberating. There are no slow beats, no room for balladry, just uncompromising, bone-crunching rock’n’roll sex magic.
I’m singing this note cause it fits in well with the chords I’m playing
I can’t pretend there’s any meaning hidden in the words I’m singing
But I’m in tune. Right in tune. I’m in tune. And I’m gonna tune
Right in on you.
- The Who “Getting’ in Tune”
When I played them for Omar and Yasir, they were actually kinda shocked, and well pleasantly surprised that I would be writing material that raw and primal. They loved it, and when we jammed on one of the songs with Ali, it took on a completely new life. Suddenly everyone came alive. Omar Khalid found his groove and was back to his skin-pounding best. Ali helped me flesh out some of the changes in the songs and Yasir contributed on guitar, something he is actually beginning to get very good at.
It was an incredible moment, I’m probably being overly dramatic and the others will read this and have a complete wtf? Moment. We’ve never been so charged before. And I am dying to record this new material and put it out as soon as possible. Everyday, I am getting new ideas, riffs, lyrics and beats. Other music is beginning to inspire me again.
What is even more exciting is I’ve found a great ally in Ali Alam. Ali hasn’t officially joined ADP just yet, although we’re hoping he will. But last weekend we managed to have a wonderful one-on-one session where he showed me the songs he was working on. In fact he actually took one of the guitar riffs I had been working on and turned it into a full-fledged song complete with lyrics and structure within a matter of days. I felt extremely humbled, but really excited that things were finally starting to look up again.
You guys will have to wait awhile but it will be worth it. I promise you we are going to debut our brand new singles at out next concert and you can judge for yourself. Till then, I’m going to go rock out with my incredible band. Life is good again :)