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Farhad Hossain – Keyboards/Guitars/Vocals from Shumaun


Date: 10/22/15
Interviewed By: Jack Mangan

 

1. Thank you so much for taking the time to do this Q&A interview for Metal Asylum. Congratulations on the impressive debut album. I greatly enjoyed it!

Thank you for having me on Metal Asylum, I’m really glad you dug the record. It’s a pleasure to answer any questions you might have!

2. So I understand that this had begun as a Farhad Hossain solo album. What led to the decision to pull in other musicians and turn it into a band project?

FARHAD: This is correct. It was about three or four years ago when I decided to record a solo record on my own. I initially wanted to do something that didn’t touch on hard rock or metal. At the time I was already in a progressive metal band (Iris Divine), so I felt the need to explore my other musical influences from a creative standpoint just because I was so burnt out writing that style of music, and at the same time I had a horrible case of writer’s block in trying to do so. The new music I was writing was a mixture of “indie rock,” (and I must say that I absolutely hate that name as it relates to a genre of music) and pop. I had written just about an album’s worth of material and wanted to play live so I invited a few friends to join me in order to do so, but just as we were ready to play out, our keyboardist left to pursue music in Los Angeles. We spent the next year looking for a replacement since the keys played a dominant role in the music to no luck at all. My frustration grew so deep that I decided to abandon the whole project completely and start over from scratch. By this time I had already left Iris Divine for several months so the door that I once shut that opened to a room of hard rock and heavy metal influences started to crack open again. I then spent the next several months in my studio writing all new material, and since enough time had passed since leaving Iris Divine I noticed that the music started reflecting some of those hard rock and metal influences again so I just went along for the ride and what came out was this debut record from Shumaun. I do have to add that since then we have become a fully collaborative band and album number 2 will surely reflect that.

3. Between Tanvir Tomal, Waqar Khan, Travis Orbin, and Mark Zonder, you had a rotation of drummers during the recording worthy of Spinal Tap. . . yet the drum sound is seamless. Were there any other unique challenges or frustrations during the album production?

FARHAD: Luckily none of the drummer spontaneously combusted during the making of the album! So as you can see it has been an enormously frustrating process to finally get to where we are now. I stated before that just as we were ready to play live and record during that first incarnation of the band the rug was suddenly pulled from beneath us when our keyboardist left. The same thing happened a year later when we booked our first show and started recording with this current lineup. Tanvir had to move out of state for professional reasons, so yet again we had to cancel our shows and delay recording. We had already started tracking the drums for the album and were about three songs in when we got the news that he had to leave. I didn’t hesitate to put the drum ad out, but I also didn’t want to waste any more time so I went directly to Travis Orbin and asked if he’d be interested in the project. He really took a liking to the demos, but the timing just wasn’t right since he was getting ready to head off to tour with Darkest Hour. However, he was gracious enough to squeeze in enough time to track two of the twelve songs, which just happens to be the two singles we have released so far. I’ve never heard a drummer do the things that he does on a drum set. His level of talent and skill is just incomprehensible to me.

I am a huge Fates Warning fan and Mark Zonder was always on my list of favorite drummers, so it only made sense that I would reach out to him next to track the remainder of the album. I love his stick work and how he combines a sense of jazz and groove to the songs that he plays on. He is another one of those super talented drummers that has a style of his own. If you were to tell me 10 years ago that he’d be on my record I would have soiled myself.br />
During the period in which Mark was tracking the remainder of the songs, we finally found a replacement for Tanvir in Waqar Khan. It just happened to be that he conveniently worked right across the street from me and was a killer drummer who learned quickly, and this was very important to us. Since we made him an official member right in the middle of the recording process, we decided to give him all of the songs Mark didn’t get a chance to track up until that point, which happened to just be three songs. However, bad luck struck again soon after we finished tracking the drums. To our dismay Waqar also had to leave for professional reasons, so we only got to play one show with him before he moved away. This would be the third time something like this happened to the band… Luckily, Tanvir moved back to the area just as this happened and rejoined the band. We are hoping that the curse is finally lifted!

4. Can you tell us a bit about each of the band members, and their contributions/roles for Shumaun?

FARHAD: Definitely! On bass we have Jose Mora, who I’ve been in bands with since we were kids. He is one of the most melodic bassists I’ve ever had the pleasure to play with. He’s also a great guitarist and songwriter. He’s the joker of jokers in this band, and while he appears very introverted, he’s the kind of guy that will have you cracking up once you get to know him. His songwriting will definitely be reflected on our second album, which we have just started writing for.

Tyler Kim is on rhythm guitar, and we’ve also known each other for ages. We played in a band together in the 9th grade very briefly. He’s always been around every band I have been in since then so it was only a matter of time that he would eventually play in another one with me. Tyler can play a mean classical guitar. Tanvir Tomal is on drums, and he also played in my last two bands Encompass, and Iris Divine, the latter still continuing today with an updated lineup. Tanvir is another one of those drummers that can amaze you with his technicality and ability to split his brain to play ridiculous polyrhythms. We were amazed that he was able to pull of some of those drum parts on the record, while at the same time making them his own.

5. The album features a diverse array of styles, sometimes even in the same song, switching deftly from prog to pop to New Age to Metal to funk. Was there a conscious decision to mix it up and explore a lot of different territories for this project? Or were those just the songs that came out?

FARHAD: The songs just kind of came out that way. I listen to all kinds of music and can never sustain myself to write one style. There are times where I consciously choose a certain direction, while at other times I let the music just kind of take me on a journey while I write. Sometimes it works and sometimes it’s horribly bad. I definitely pick up a lot of influences from those genres you’ve mentioned. The great thing about this band is that I feel we can touch on any genre and somehow have it coincide with our “sound,” and I love that freedom.

6. That's probably a good lead-in to *The Influences Game*. . . Basically, it's a twist on the standard "Who are your major influences?" interview question. I'll throw out a bunch of artist names that came across to me as a listener; you admit, deny, acknowledge, comment, etc…

-Rush:

FARHAD: One of my all time favorites! I love every era of the band. Rush is the kind of band that always puts the songs first and somehow manages to fit in all the crazy time signatures and intricacies that have become synonymous to their music. I see no weakness in this band and am sad that their touring days will soon be very limited and/or practically over. I’ve seen them live on every tour since Test for Echo. They were my first real concert.

-Queensryche:

FARHAD: Queensryche was one of those bands that really influenced me in the early days. I loved the dual guitar work of DeGarmo/Wilton, and Geoff Tate is one of my biggest vocal inspirations of all time. “Operation Mindcrime” pretty much changed my life and what I expected from music. I love every album up until “Hear in the Now Frontier.” I am one of the very few that thinks that album was still brilliant. The songwriting was still on point on that record even though it was stripped down. I just can’t get into their catalog from “Q2K” on. However the last two records with Todd La Torre are pretty amazing in my opinion, and I am glad that the band is firing on all cylinders again.

-Joe Satriani:

FARHAD: Joe Satriani is an amazing guitarist, however I am not too familiar with his catalog. I do love everything that I have heard from him. While I can’t say that his music has infiltrated into my own style, I can’t deny that he’s influenced many of the guitarists that are my biggest influences because he changed the way people view and play the instrument, therefore I am sure he is a big indirect influence of mine.

-Tool:

FARHAD: Tool is another band that I am in love with and is also a band favorite. The mystique behind the band and Maynard’s ability to tell stories is amazing. The great thing about Tool is that the sum of all parts is what makes them so special as opposed to the individual players, who are prodigies in their own right. That is one of the biggest things I take from Tool. There are a few bands that will ever be as cool as Tool. Hey that rhymes!

-Nusret Fateh Ali Khan:

FARHAD: Wow, yes he is AMAZING! There is no one like him that can do what he did. If I had an ounce of his talent I would be happy.

-Stabbing Westward:

FARHAD: Honestly, the only song that I have heard of theirs is “Save Yourself,” which I do like quite a bit. I should probably buy their records.

-311:

Never was a big fan of the band, but I definitely give them mad respect for doing something different. I’d love to hear what parts struck out to you that gave you that impression. I have friends that are diehard 311 fans that I’d love to be able to sell my music to!

-Opeth:

FARHAD: I will get crucified for saying this but I am more a fan of Opeth’s later material than their death metal stuff. While I do think that Mikael Akerfeldt has one of the best death metal voices of all time, I’m just not a big fan of that style of vocals. Musically all of their albums are amazing. However I will say that “Blackwater Park” was the perfect balance of death metal vocals mixed with melodic singing for me.

-Spock's Beard:

FARHAD: I’ve opened for Spock’s Beard before and it was an amazing experience. Nick D'Virgilio is one of my favorite drummers. I do prefer the Neil Morse era and admittedly lost track of the band after he left. “The Light” is my favorite album of theirs.

-Marky Mark & the Funky Bunch (just kidding about that one)

FARHAD: I can totally get down with Marky Mark, but maybe more so the Funky Bunch though…You feel it baby? I do!

7. What other artists or artworks - - of whatever medium - - would you cite as influences? Expected or unexpected.

FARHAD: I’d have the say that some of my favorite artists that were not mentioned earlier would be Genesis, Peter Gabriel, Tears for Fears, and Faith No More. There is also a slur of new age and world music artists that I love and take things from as well such as Nitin Sawhney, Afro Celt Sound System, and the late Ofra Haza, just to name a few. As far as art in the traditional sense, I actually got my degree in art and visual technology. I am a big fan of surrealism for the kind of thoughts and emotions that it evokes in me.

8. Back to the songs themselves for a minute - - the lyrics get into some deep meditations on life. Is there a central message or set of messages that you’re really trying to convey? Or am I misinterpreting, and these songs are all really about getting drunk with hos at the club?

FARHAD: Just because all of the singles released so far are about “hoes in da club” doesn’t mean that there isn’t anything else on the record that might be a little more substantial haha. There are definitely conceptual elements and themes in my lyrics that reappear throughout the album that derive from a spiritual/meditational place, but there are also elements in my lyrics that touch on the state of humanity, universal love, relationships etc. I seldom talk about what specific lyrics mean just because I prefer the listener to interpret them and make them their own. Actually, who am I kidding? The lyrics are indeed just metaphors for my gangsta lifestyle and the debauchery that entails from it.

9. Switching gears again - - I'm going to go there now. . . This band also brings cultural diversity in the members on stage, as well as the sound. Music fans are often color-blind, but humans can still be disappointing creatures, especially in large groups. Have you guys dealt with any negative reactions?

FARHAD: Oh no you dint! Actually we should have just as well called the band The Immigrants! So everyone in this band came to the US either by themselves or as a child with their families (Don’t worry Mr. Trump, we are all citizens). Our current political and social climate in the world around us is pretty volatile. As much as we are all here together as one human race with the same basic needs and desires for survival, we seem to be continually dividing ourselves into the smallest common denominator. The more we allow hate and ignorance to consume our hearts, the more we naturally continue to divide ourselves. United we stand, divided we fall right? Luckily for us we have not had to deal with any kind of racism or prejudice that we are aware of. There are definitely times when we get on stage where people might be curious to hear what we are about just because of the way we look, but it always lends itself to a positive experience for us and the audience.

10. What can you tell about the meaning of the band name?

FARHAD: Shumaun is an Indian name derived from the Sanskrit word “Sumon” or “Suman.” It’s also written as “Shumon” or “Shuman” and roughly translates to calm or peaceful mind. Our spelling is a bit unorthodox, but it comes from my middle name.

11. Life is busy, especially for a young band trying to establish their place in the world. Rehearsing, spending time with friends/family, paying the bills - - How do you balance all of the aspects of daily life?

FARHAD: This is definitely hard to balance from time to time. There are times where I don’t see friends for weeks at a time because I am busy with music, but I have been getting better about this. Luckily all of us have families and loved ones that are very understanding and supportive of our lives as musicians. It can be tough on them and we really appreciate their support. As far as paying the bills, we all have day jobs that support us. Tanvir and I work at call center somewhere in the Indian subcontinent, Jose is a drug lord in Central America, and Tyler is a brutal dictator in a company residing somewhere in North Korea. But all in all we’re just your average typical all American band.

12. OK, let's close out with what *you* like best about Shumaun's music. Please step back and tell us the parts of the album of which you're most proud, and the songs/moments that you can't wait for people to really hear. Separate answers for music aficionados and the casual listener are acceptable.

FARHAD: What I like best from a writer’s perspective about Shumaun is that we feel that we don’t have to isolate ourselves to any certain genre. We like all kinds of music and aren’t afraid to experiment with those influences. People can label it prog, pop, alternative, metal or anything they want. We’re good with it all.

As far as certain parts on the record that I am really proud of, I’d say that I really liked how “The Dream of the Sleeper” came out. It takes you through a journey on a roller coaster of emotions, partially because it comes in at over 13 minutes, but this was not a conscious decision. As far as the casual listener is concerned who could care less about the technicality of music, I’d say that there are a bunch of songs that could wet their whistle (giggidy). Some of the songs come across as down right pop with catchy hooks throughout so I feel this record has something for anyone that likes rock music.

13. Bonus question: What's the best Pink Floyd album?

FARHAD: This is too difficult for me to answer, but I’d have to go with The Wall for obvious reasons.

Official website: http://www.shumaun.com/home

 

 
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