ISLAMABAD: Over a decade ago, gifted musician, Farhad Humayun formed the band Overload, bringing together a unique mix of musicians and engravings. Today, he’s as elevated as he steps out of his comfort zone to experiment with different genres and sounds with his first ever solo album Mera Naam, which consists of ten-tracks.
One catches up with the musical maestro in Islamabad, where he’s collaborating with record producer Sarmad Ghafoor on chronicling his unparalleled and unescorted voyage.
He tells me doesn’t quite believe in living life on the surface, hence, he unabashedly explores the layers of every subject and feels that to make his music last, he’s stayed away from becoming a Bollywood one-hit-wonder, despite a number of tempting offers, of course.
Finding time in between Humayun’s gruelling schedule and plans of shooting music videos for each track on his album in his own studio in Lahore, The Express Tribune manages to sit down on a plodding afternoon at a quiet restaurant to heat things up. Excerpts for our conversation follow:
ET: You’re currently working on your solo album, Mera Naam here in Islamabad. What can you tell us about it?
Farhad Humayun (FH): I just felt I had a lot of compositions sitting with me for the last five years maybe, and I just wanted to do something aside from Overload. Even though some songs might share a resemblance to Overload in terms of power and texture since I do have a signature style as a composer, I’m uber satisfied with how the album has turned out.
It’s unfortunate how nobody is doing albums in Pakistan anymore; doing an album is like visiting an art exhibition, you might like one painting but you can’t decide if you like the artist or not. And to present or see a body of work, you have different stories at different points in life. At this age, my story is very different from what it used to be when I was a 20-year-old. And we still need to tell stories, this way artists document their lives. Paul McCartney has about fifty albums in total and you just get a better insight into the kind of person he was.
ET: With the introduction of digital platforms worldwide, do you think you can still pursue music as a professional career?
FH: You can – you probably can’t make as much money as you used to, but there’re many ways to do it. People want more of you, and the more you give them, the more they should be pleased with you. An album is an amalgamation of various genres, so there’s something in it for everyone. Bands like Coldplay or The Killers are still doing albums; they release a single with its video from the album only. And when the release of an album is followed by a tour, hundreds of millions are generated.
For bands like U2, I attended one of their shows in Istanbul and they did their own ticketing, lighting, booking of the venue, the merchandise – literally everything on their own and made all that money for themselves. Then, you also now have YouTube monetisation; somebody doing bottle flips can make a lot of money. New technology and ideas are inevitable to come, one just has to adapt to them accordingly.
ET: You’re making your solo debut with the album, but it’s surprising to see Overload stronger than ever. How do you think the band’s risen above its insecurities?
FH: Band members and the record industry in Pakistan have a long way to go; people need to understand the synergy of working with one another. They don’t know how to manage business and relationships. This is a very immature stage in the evolution of music in Pakistan, as an industry and I think people need to look beyond their own self. I’ve had experiences within my band a number of times with dhol players, session artists, Meesha Shafi and her husband (Mahmood Rahman).
We‘ve had altercations, but Overload is an act that still sells. And I absolutely love playing with Overload; I enjoy the rhythm and the drums, and I plan on continue doing that, I just won’t be doing albums for the time being; the reason being, our former session player, Shiraz’s retirement from music altogether. He and I were the composers and investors, so if it was only me, why not do a solo album at this point? You know the money that’s generated is equally divided into the band members, but if they don’t have any input in the composition, I feel cheated.
ET: Even from the glimpses of your album we’ve seen, you’ve stayed true to your enigmatic self. Do you think you’re the same person off-screen and backstage?
FH: Absolutely, this is who I am. When I go on stage, you see another side of me which you wouldn’t see here because this is not the place for it. My father was a cricket commentator and people would often come up to him very randomly and ask him to commentate, but you can’t do that unless there’re two teams playing and you’re in an actual stadium. Mine and my band-members, including the different dhol walay we play with, our persona is true. Salman Albert and Hassan Umer of Symt are also very honest to themselves. That’s what a real rock-star is, you’re not asked to act.
ET: It’s been almost 15-years since you first stepped foot in the industry with the formation of Overload. Do you think the zeal with which you set out still exists?
FH: I still love to play music, but now my temperament as a person and focus has shifted more to compositions. We’re constantly evolving. I still feel very strongly about music, and how it’s my way of communicating and resonating with the rest of the world. We’re all born from the same energy, we are meant to interact and everybody at the end of the day, seeks love. The kind of love we get when we go up on stage cannot be put into words, they relate to us and that gives us a sense of higher purpose. Music is the medium that helps me do that.
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