What inspired you to first start making music? And how did you come to be in your current incarnation? Or if you prefer, a brief bio about you.
I started playing guitar when I was about 15. There were a couple of old acoustics in a wardrobe that my parents had acquired at some point (but never played), so I strung one up, got one of those “how to play guitar” books (complete with CD) and went from there. I think I was writing my own songs not long after that.
Ever since, guitar has always been my main passion, but around about my early twenties I became frustrated when various band projects never led to anything concrete, so I took matters into my own hands and began recording and mixing my own music, mostly on a BOSS BR-900 8-track. But I was still a bit of a purist, thinking that anything I recorded had to be reproducible live, which puts severe limits on creativity! Most of the guitar-heavy noise that resulted was posted on the likes of MySpace (remember that?), then SoundCloud – I never really felt any of it was ready for general release.
It wasn’t until 2016 that I finally produced an “official” release, which was also the first few tracks I put together using a slightly more professional home studio set up (it’s still pretty basic, but it beats working with an 8-track). By that time I was using a far wider range of instruments than just guitars – I think my 21-year-old self would cringe at some of the sounds I’m listening to now and taking inspiration from! But, with age comes wisdom. Sometimes.
Provide us with some info about your latest release…
Progress, my second EP, has been about a year in the making. There’s a range of different influences, with grungy alt-rock bands like Pearl Jam evident in some places, while French electro-pop (think Air) is to the fore in others. There are common elements to all tracks on the records (guitars are prominent on most and I also like a good solid bassline), but each is pretty unique and stands on its own.
Which ones would you consider your main influences both music-wise & non-music-wise?
I’ve already mentioned Pearl Jam, who, certainly over the last 15 – 20 years, I’ve probably listened to more than anyone else, along with Foo Fighters, Soundgarden, Stone Temple Pilots, Alice in Chains, etc. – I was a big fan of the Seattle grunge scene. But, I honestly can’t say I listen to any one artist religiously nowadays.
I think if I were to pick one single major influence, I’d have to go back to when I first started playing, trying to emulate other guitarists. Hendrix (another Seattle native) definitely springs to mind, along with Clapton and Jimmy Page. But at the time, Britpop was big, and songs from the likes of Oasis and The Verve were among the first I learned to play. But, in terms of guitarists I really admired at the time, I think Steve Cradock of Ocean Colour Scene and the The Stone Roses’ John Squire probably topped the list.
I also have to give a mention to a very good friend I met about five years ago, who is a fantastically talented (yet extremely modest) musician – I’ve learned so much from her. We’ll be putting out a record hopefully at some point over the next six months or so.
In terms of non-musical influences, I’m a scientist when I’m not making music and my interest in space and all matters astronomical is definitely evident on the third track on Progress, “Cosmos”, something of a tribute to Carl Sagan. I also love a good Richard Feynman quote. For example:
“The ultimate test of your knowledge is your ability to convey it to another.”
In what way does your sound differ from the rest genre-related artists/bands and why should we listen to your music? In other words, how would you describe your sound?
One of the problems with publishing music is the need to select specific genres in which to place it. It may sound like a cliché, but this is something I really struggle with. For example, my latest release is an eclectic mix of progressive, alternative rock, spacey synth pop and orchestral soundtracks, so I don’t really know how I would go about selecting other artists to compare directly to. All I can say is, if you think a mix of Pearl Jam, Daft Punk, Air and Pink Floyd, with a little bit of Mogwai, sounds appealing, then maybe give my music a listen.
Please name your 3 desert islands albums, movies & books…
Oh wow, that’s hard – I think the answer to this will probably change tomorrow!
Stone Temple Pilots – Core
The Doors – The Doors
Ocean Colour Scene – Moseley Shoals
The Big Lebowski
No Country For Old Men
I’m not a big reader of books I’m afraid. It’s not something I’m terribly proud of, it’s just that I have the attention span of a retarded goldfish. I do keep a poetry book handy. It’s from my school days and I still dip into it every now and again.
If I really think about it, most of the books I read are probably travel books, so maybe I’d take Lonely Planet’s “The World”. Finally, if someone could print off Wikipedia and bind it for me, I think that would keep me busy for a while.
Do you prefer studio or performing live and why?
It’s difficult to compare really. A lot of my present work doesn’t really lend itself to live performance, so it’s very much studio-specific. I’ve been focusing on studio recording a lot lately – it allows me to be selfish and self-indulgent, producing something exactly as I want it, without compromising to suit someone else. But, working on your own all the time is a sure way to end up in a rut – you need to work with others in order to learn from them.
I am involved in another acoustic project which has involved some live promotional gigs and that’s something I have enjoyed. Playing live is a very different challenge to producing something in a studio and I don’t think you can truly call yourself a musician if you don’t get up on a stage once in a while and showcase your talents.
Is there any funny-unique story you would like to share with us, always in relation to your music ‘career’?
I think this qualifies more as “tragic” rather than “funny”, but anyway…
A few years ago, I came across what looked like an extremely professionally-run “acoustic night” in London. The promoters claimed all performances were recorded (audio and video) and shared with the performers afterwards. I’ve already mentioned the acoustic duo with which I am also involved – well, we thought this would be a great opportunity to try out some new material and get recordings while we were at it, which we could critique afterwards. So, I contacted the promotor (who shall remain nameless), who confirmed everything I had read online, so I went ahead and booked us a slot. Surely this was all too good to be true?
Yes, it was. When we arrived, we found ourselves in a dingy student bar with virtually no gear – I remember they only had one mic stand, but no mic holder, so they had to tape the mic onto the stand. We weren’t due to go on until about 10, but showed up at 7 to catch the other acts. Except that there were none – nobody else had bothered to show up. But the promoter (who was a condescending dickhead) still insisted that we had to wait until 10 before we could go on – so we just left. On the plus side, the bar in question has since closed down.
Word to the wise: take anything a London music promotor says with a hefty dose of salt.
Which track of your own would you point out as the most unique and why?
I think Cosmos, which I’ve already mentioned, is a track I’m really happy with, mainly because it was somewhat unexpected in how it panned out. Most tracks I write, I have a pretty good idea of how I want them to sound at the outset, so I record a sort of skeleton track and then flesh it out. But Cosmos was different. That started out as a different track entirely, which didn’t really go anywhere. But, I really liked the bass hook. So I started building something entirely different around that, without really having a clear idea of what I was doing. When I had finished all the instrumentals, I thought it was still lacking something, but wasn’t sure what. Then I realised it had a really great spacey vibe to it, somewhat reminiscent of 70s sci-fi, and having recently watched the movie “The Farthest”, about the Voyager space program, it all came together – I need to put samples of Carl Sagan’s voice over this!
Would you like to share with our readers your future plans?
I’m probably going to take a break from recording Drab Habit tracks for a little bit to focus on other projects, but I expect I’ll be back, possibly next year, with a new single, possibly a collaboration. There will then be a full-length album at some point after that, but I don’t want to put a time scale on it!
Free question!!! (Ask yourself a question) you wish to answer and haven’t been given the opportunity…
Is now a good time to be a musician?
In some ways, it’s never been a better time. It’s never been easier or more affordable to produce your own music and have it distributed worldwide via streaming services. However, that also means there have never been more people producing music and distributing music than there are today, which makes it a whole lot more difficult for any one artist to get “discovered”.
Then there’s the fact that music sales are plummeting. One of my new tracks has been picked up by Spotify’s curation team and added to one of their editorial playlists (see here: https://open.spotify.com/user/spotify/playlist/37i9dQZF1DXcvmeS1jhCQv). It’s clocking up a decent number of plays as a result and I can see a number of listeners are saving it to their personal collections. But none of this is translating into sales. And the revenue I get form those streams is going to be minimal.
So I’m somewhat conflicted. It’s great that I can easily and affordably get my music out into the big wide world and it’s great that people are listening to it and enjoying it. It’s not so great that none of them are seemingly prepared to pay for it!
Photo credits: Zara Qadir
Curated by: Christos Doukakis
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