The News Tribe (TNT): What is your inspiration?
Umer: I don’t know if it’s inspiration or just a sense of one’s own mortality and mediocrity that goads one into doing any of the things that one does. Perhaps inspiration is just that: a fancy word to describe the envy and shame we feel when we see, hear, or read something we wish we could have done or produced. Perhaps my outlook is fundamentally negative. Perhaps…I am a jealous and petty individual.
I find “inspiration” in the work of many, many artists, including my own band mates, who are all uniquely talented and in dire need of psychological help. I also find inspiration in words, phrases, sentences, and just language generally. Dreams, nightmares, movies, stress, anxiety, depression and happiness are also inspiring. Of course, nothing I have ever written or sung has ever been as lofty and worthwhile as my answer to your question would seem to imply. I have produced no great works of art. Merely scribbles. It is as if I was inspired by a mountain, but managed only a child’s sketchy approximation of it. But that is alright. For the moment at least, that will do. I should probably mention that more than ninety percent of the times, I sit down and force myself to write or make music or sing. I do not wait for inspiration. I don’t have the patience for that
TNT: What message does your music mainly reflect?
Umer: My music does not have any message per se. Sometimes it does not even make much sense. I have two musical projects. One is ‘Poor Rich Boy’, which is a band of musicians that I joined last year and with whom I am currently working on an album, ‘Old Money’, which will hopefully be released sometime this year. The other project is my solo project that goes by the name of ‘Duck’. That has been something I’ve been involved with for over ten years now. My band does not care much for messages, and neither do I. Actually I’m not too sure about that. But either way, I feel we communicate particular moods or nothing at all. As far as ‘Duck’ is concerned, I know that all I do is make a bunch of nonsense because I think it sounds nice. Truth is there is nothing left to say. We all know what we should be doing and what we aren’t. We all know how to live whether we want to or not.
TNT: If given a chance, you would like to perform with whom and why?
Umer: I would love to perform with anybody with whom performing would be a worthwhile and learning experience musically and otherwise. Personally, I am not a skilled guitarist, or much of a singer. So perhaps the question shouldn’t be who I would want to perform with, rather who would want to put up with my incompetence and perform with me. In either case, I am not very good ‘live’. I have an insurmountable fear of audiences. But the band, as a whole, does phenomenally well live.
TNT: How do you define good music?
Umer: In order to define good music I would have to define music. And that is something I know I cannot do. I have seen my band mates ‘jam’ to the sound of a noisy generator outside a building…after that I am not even sure what noise is. I suppose any sound that works at any given moment. I don’t know. Sorry.
TNT: What is success for a musician according to you in terms of money or fame?
Umer: I think, though I have no way of knowing this, but I think that success for a musician would be to attain that level of fame and financial independence which would allow him or her to continue to make the music that he or she genuinely wants to without worrying about the basic necessities of life. Basic necessities, like food, shelter and bills getting paid on time etc. anything beyond that is great. But success begins at freedom to do what you want to.
TNT: In such a competitive music environment, what acts as your niche?
Umer: I don’t think that the music scene in Pakistan is competitive. There are only a handful of bands that actually perform. Perhaps because there is no certainty involved in this business and the threats of obscurity and poverty and defeat are too great. What helps me, and a lot of other musicians in dealing with this sort of life are side job. Most of us do multiple jobs. I teach at a university.
TNT: What are three things that you dislike and three things that you like about music industry? And how do you manage music industry politics?
Umer: As a solo artist and as a band member, I have almost no contact with the industry. I am not even entirely sure that there is a music industry at all to begin with. So I can’t really say much about the industry. The sort of music that my band and I have chosen to make is not backed by corporate sponsors. So we have to do it on our own. In the long run, it might turn out to be a foolish decision. But at the moment, we’re fine with being ignored.
TNT: Say a few lines on future of music in Pakistan.
Umer: I think Pakistan has a great future – musically speaking. There are a lot of great musicians in Karachi, Islamabad and Lahore, and I hope that they’ll somehow manage to come together and eventually start a culture of music festivals that will encourage others who wish to make music to do so, and it will establish a means for musicians to survive as musicians.
TNT: What would you suggest to infant musicians? Music shall be taken as a hobby or as a career?
Umer: I would say it’s up to them. Choose the best answer.
What is your message?
Umer: I have no message as such.