Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Advice for underground bands.

I've been in and out of bands ever since I was 16 years old, and I've played some really incredible shows along with some really shitty ones. Over the years, I've seen a lot of audiences and venues. Now a great gig is a combination of many things, you need to have good sound, the crowd has got to be enthusiastic and the band has to be in the right mood. One thing we never have control over is that unnamed factor, I suppose I would have to define it as 'chemistry', where the energy between the band and the crowd is just right, and it makes all the difference between a good show and an incredible show.

With ADP, I can count on one hand the number of 'incredible' shows we've had, out of the 50 odd times we've performed, which either goes to show you how much we suck or how elusive that extra bit of brilliance is to find. And we keep searching for it, because the high you get after an incredible show is one that lasts for days and no other feeling compares to it.

Sure luck is something we all need. but every time I go to an underground show, I see a lot of the newer guys making some very basic mistakes and pissing off the crowd. Here's a couple of tips to underground bands to make sure you put on a great show every time. Some of them sound really basic but these are practices that ADP's adopted almost as policy.

1) Write a setlist.

This might sound like a no-brainer but there are so many bands out there that just have the song list in their head and then forget it when they're on stage. The result is that you have a bunch of dudes on stage scratching their heads to collectively agree on what the next song is. Write out a setlist with a big marker and make individual copies for each band member so that everyone on stage knows whats coming next and launch right into it. This ties in with my next tip...

2) Don't waste time in between songs.
Ugh, this one really gets me. So you've just played a rocking song, the crowd is sweaty and delirious from the sonic pounding they've received. And then the guitarist starts fiddling with his amp/ 15 pedals. The singer starts looking for lyrics sheets for the next song. The drummer starts playing irritating fills because drummers are like that and wont shut up. The bassist takes out his cell phone and checks for messages. End result = you lose the crowd and allow them to focus elsewehere. Now every time you start a new song you have to win them over again.

Concerts for me are like a big ball of energy thats being tossed back and forth between the band and the crowd. Everytime someone catches that ball of energy it grows bigger. But when you waste time, it's like you've dropped the energy ball, and now you have to start again to build it up to where it was.

So all you aspiring guitar heroes out there, keep your guitar effects to a minimum of three pedals that you can handle, know your amp setting stone cold before you go on stage. Singers, stop being pussies and learn the lyrics, no one ever looked cool holding up a sheet of A4 size paper in front of their face(although I have been guilty of doing this myself at acoustic shows) If you forget lyrcs, make something up, it's still better. Drummers, (this is a universal plea) please shut the fuck up when you're not playing a song.

And if you don't love rock'n'roll enough to turn your damn cell phone off when you're on stage you should quit music and kill yourself.

3) Guitarists, always use an amp and mic it wherever possible.

Most sound guys in Pakistan will discourage you from miking your amp. Don't listen to them. They're all choots. A guitar amp will always always always sound better than directly plugging in through a pedal or a amp-simulator. Sound techs in Pakistan just dont know how to handle miking. So ask them to give you a microphone and set it about 6 inches away from the amp speaker cabinet and point the mic at a 45 degree angle to the speaker cone. You'll get a rich, warm tone and you'll be able to hear yourself better on stage.

4) Don't be a choot during the soundcheck.

While sometimes its ok to tell the sound guy that he's full of shit, most of the time, you need to keep him happy. Go up to the sound tech an introduce yourself, and tell him the set-up your band needs so that he's prepared well ahead of time. For sound check, don't yell orders and complain the moment you hear the sound at the mic. It takes time to set the sound and nobody has the time to put up with snotty little kids yelling that their guitar isnt loud enough. Here' s the order in which you sound check.

- Drums. Starting from the bass to snare to toms.
- Bass.
- Keyboards
- Guitars
- Additional Percussion
- Vocals.

Do everything one by one till each member is satisfied with their individual sound and monitors. The for sound check PLAY A COMPLETE SONG. Don't just dick around for a jam. We usually do "Sultanat" or some Beatles song to check all our levels. Play at full energy and volume. And then stop. Ask everyone if they're happy. Whoever isn't, fix their levels individually while the rest of the band shuts up.

5) Don't criticize the crowd.

Look we all know crowds can be shitty, sometimes they can be just boring and apathetic and even downright hostile. You're not going to win them over by shouting "This is the most pathetic crowd I've ever seen"...or taunting them with "What are you guys dead or something?". Remember these people paid to see you, or at least a show. If they're not in the mood, its up to you to get them into it.

6) Don't acknowledge mistakes on stage.

Of course we fuck up. Everyone does. Its going to happen. In ADP, I remember when we first started, our personal philosophy was "Turn it up and play it loud, they won't hear the mistakes", so energy and performance will always come before playing a note perfect show. Heck, Omar Khalid's made it a point to drop the sticks at every show we do, and sometimes i'll jump and land on the wrong foot, and smash the wrong chord. Sometimes Yasirs Darbuka solo will just be completely out of sync with the rest of us. But you suck it up, put on a smile and act like its all part of the show, there's nothing worse than some prima donna singer in the band turning around and glaring at a drummer who missed a beat or a guitarist who started the solo in the wrong key. Some singers like to have a condescending smile for the person who screws up, (theres a singer in a popular cover band here who consistently does this and makes me want to punch his face). The bands a team, and when you're out there, you support each other.

7) Enjoy the show.

This is hardly a tip worth mentioning but in the end, thats what a show should be, pure exhiliration. It's ok to show that you're happy about playing music. I know Nirvana seemed cool when they were pissed off at the world and Radiohead probably never smile on days ending in "y", but its always better to look like you're enjoying it. If you're into it, the crowd will be into it to. I know i get criticized in the press because it looks like I'm faking my enthusiasm but to me its the best feeling in the world, being up there with my band and just rocking out. I cant imagine why people would want to get on stage and stare at their shoes. So go out there and smile, jump around, make eye contact with the audience, sing into each others mics and move your body to the beat.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Is Ali Zafar reading my blog for ideas?

So after two articles talked about how Ali Noor and Ali Zafar are Pakistani celebrity bloggers, I decided to check out their blogs. Please note that these articles also included me, so WOOHOO I am a CELEBRITY, GIRLS WHO IGNORED ME IN SCHOOL CAN SUCK IT.

Anyway, so I was a little tickled to find that Ali Zafar had a blog post titled "My First Meeting With Celebs: Encounters". Sound familiar? You will recall that a while back I had written a post called “My Celebrity Encounters” where I talked about meeting famous people in the industry. Which leads me to hypothesize that Ali Zafar is reading my blog and hungrily waiting for my next blog post idea to steal. Aha! Caught you Ali Zafar! Now I shall blackmail you. Or at least start ridiculous rumours about you.

Here's a few.

  1. Ali Zafar once performed at the annual Horse and Cattle Show in Lahore. He was not singing.

  2. Ali Zafar was once arrested for drunkenly showing up at a McDonalds and loudly declaring that he was “not lovin' it”.

  3. Ali Zafar has tiny Telenor logos on his chuddees.

  4. Ali Zafar had a passionate affair with Meera but she broke it off after she realized that she had confused him with Arif Lohar. Needless to say she was looking for the wrong “chimta”.

  5. Ali Zafar has four different kinds of herpes.

  6. All the girls in the “Sajania” video have dicks.

Anyway...jokes aside, Ali Zafar if you're reading this, REVEAL YOURSELF on my blog. And let the games begin.

Truth be told, I can appreciate Ali's blog. It's down to earth and informative. I'm sure it must be a thrill for his legions of fans. So I'm not going to be petty and take shots at his writing, or his poetry, although...dude, this poem for Benazir that he wrote made me cringe. Other than that. Good show Ali Zafar. You have my approval. I declare a ceasefire on the next silly Telenor commercials you do.

Ali Noor is blogging too. Being a bonafide Noori fan, I really enjoyed reading his blog, and I love how honest he is. It's a real insight into his head and his way of thinking. Definitely a good read.

Compared to these guys, I feel a little silly. Here we have Ali Noor blogging about the birth of his child (congratulations brother!) and Ali Zafar praying for the world. And on the other hand you have me, devoting an entire post on how to say “goat-fucker”.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Happy New Year !

Happy New Year my loyal blog followers (all three of you). I sincerely hope 2009 is going to be a great one for all of us. I know I've got big things planned for ADP this year. To be precise, this is the year I really want us to make it. I think it'll be my last chance at success and if we're still stuck at the same level we are now at the end of 2009, I don't think I'll have the energy to continue.

Not that this should be a pessimistic note, I just feel I have to set goals. I'm also aware that being really successful takes time and while it may seem like it, nobody with lasting success becomes an overnight sensation. I don't want us to be another Raeth where we just kinda arrive really quickly and fizzle out. I want to prove to the music industry that ROCK BANDS, not one-hit video performers or pop artists can make it here and still sell something without compromising their art. I also want to send out a message to other young rock bands out there that there are no shortcuts. You have to build a following, not just hope that one video will get you acclaim. Nothing ever worth having came easy. So I'm grateful to finally accept and enjoy the struggle.

I'm grateful for a lot of things. I know Aunty Disco Project isn't there yet. But I'm proud of the things we've achieved. I'm proud that we're still trying. I'm proud of being an entertainer. But most of all I'm proud to be on the stage with the other guys on the band. I know that even if we'll never make it big, for me it'll always be about playing in a room with the guys.

I know that some journalists might think that my stage act is exactly that, an act, but if they ever saw us practice, they would know I get just as worked up and excited in rehearsals. It doesn't matter how many times we've played, how big or small the audience or the venue, I still get a tingle in my spine when OK crashes the cymbals and launches the intro to "Sultanat" with a mighty boom on the bass drum.

Anyway, just to put things in perspective, here's a recap of the best and worst moments for ADP in 2008.

Worst Moments:

1) Imran leaving. We lost our founding member and brother. There was a huge hole in our lineup and we really had no idea where we were going to go from there.

2) Playing the "World Music Festival" at the Arts Council in June. As the headlining act we went on last after 12 bands. Except everything got delayed. We took the stage at 11:30 pm. Nobody stayed to watch except a handful of die hard fans. The drum kit we rented broke its front skin. And we were pissed off and moody. Never again.

3) Being shoved aside by the chootia Play TV camera crew to make way because fucking Shehzad Roy was making his way to the stage after we had played.

4) My leather pants ripping from the crotch as I bent down to put my shoes on, moments before the Forum show. They are irreparable. And so is my heart.

5) The PACC show opening for Munchkins. Horrible sound. Bad vibes. Semi-hostile partisan crowd. We tried our best, but we still ended up being being below our usual. I felt mortified after the show.

6) Television interview on AAG TV's show "3 to 5". Yasir and I were bored out of our minds with this mind numbingly stupid show. It's almost embarassing to watch the footage because I look very clearly not interested in answering any of the inane questions.

Best Moments:

1) Making the video for "Nazar". One of the most fun things we've ever done. And watching people's reaction after we launched the video felt like a re-birth for ADP. Finally a video we could be proud of. The outpouring of love and support from our fans who had been waiting for us to put out something awesome was humbling and worth every bit of work we've ever done.

2) Our first show with Ali Alam. We played a tiny show at Indus Valley. The crowd was a small group, but we played out of our skins and put on an amazing performance that was the best thing that could have happened to me at a personally low moment.

3) Us getting our first proper drumkit. After a year of playing on a worn out beaten up kit that sounded like complete shit, and an additional 2 years of playing on a kit that we stole from somebody, and renting a kit for 5000 bucks for every show, OK finally saved up enough money to get an awesome sounding, shiny new TAMA kit. We're a real band now!

4) Playing an impromptu ADP show for OK's engagement party. Yes OK got engaged. Sorry girls :) (Separate post later).

5) Playing at PMC, for Play TV, in the middle of Park Towers mall. A huge and enthusiastic crowd saw us perform, even though it was an acoustic set, it was one of the most loud and raucous shows we did. I'll never forget the feeling of performing "Nazar' and not being able to hear myself because the audience was singing along so loud.

6) Playing the Forum show with Zeb and Haniya. we got to share the stage with our favorite artists and friends and put on a killer show, our first one since I got back from Hong Kong after 2 months. We also debuted our brand new song "Mujhey Sahara Do" and the crowd loved it.

Anyway. I'll try not to be as soppy in my next post. In the mean time, much love to everyone who stuck by us in 2008. We hope we'll deliver on your expectations in 2009 :)