Music’s wonder boy
Singer-songwriter Ali Suhail talks to Instep about his thrilling new album, Pursuit of Irrelevance, the things he’s hoping to convey as an artist and where his head is, musically speaking.
2017 is proving to be a sensational year for music, especially indie music. Patari Tabeer gave us six incredible songs that had us from the very first listen. Artists like Bell, Mooroo, East Side Story, Bakhshi Brothers, Sikandar Ka Mandar & Natasha Noorani have contributed to the soundtrack of the upcoming film, Chalay Thay Saath while E-Sharp is also gearing up to release their second album, 600 Saal, later this year.
But while we wait on the latter to release, we must bring our collective attention to Ali Suhail, a singer-songwriter from Karachi whose contribution to the indie music scene, both as a solo artist and as a collaborator (with other acts), cannot be diminished. His latest includes an album called Pursuit of Irrelevance that is an astonishing production; a complex and compelling landscape of music that goes to show how far Suhail has come as an artist. The album, released at the end of last month, contains ten thrilling songs – each as remarkable as the next – and can be found on Patari. Having put out four solo EPs (Defragment, Desolve, Words From Boxes and Journal Entries) in the past few years, Suhail is back with what is his strongest effort yet. In this interview with Instep, he talks about his new record, where his head is at musically and what are some of the things he’s hoping to convey as an artist through his music…
Instep: What’s the philosophy behind your music in general and Pursuit of Irrelevance in particular?
Ali Suhail: I’m not sure if there is a general philosophy behind Ali Suhail as a project. Some of my other projects have much clearer cut philosophies and mission statements and what not. I think initially the entire idea was to make it as approachable as possible. So everyone who comes into contact with the music sees how simple the whole process is and wants to make their own music and art. Art to encourage more art was the idea at some point I think. Now, I’m not so sure. I just wanted to write songs that are fun to play live. Hopefully, some retrospect deep meaning will eventually unlock itself for me to be able to use it to sound cool in future interviews.
Instep: Where is your head at musically right now?
Ali Suhail: Musically, my head’s all over the place. It’s exciting but it’s also terrifying. There’s a huge “EVERYTHING MUST GO” sign right at the door. As far as genres are concerned, I’m pretty heavily into neo soul and djent these days. My daily mixes on Spotify are kind of confused. I wrote this record while dealing with a lot of “what’s the point” type remnants of a nihilistic phase that I don’t want to have much to do with anymore. I was hoping that this would put those things to rest but I guess there’s still a lot more that needs to be done.
Instep: How do you work on the texture of your pieces?
Ali Suhail: I don’t particularly have any predisposed shape in mind for my music. Things normally just happen between when I hit record and when I hit render. I do my best to let the song guide me rather than the other way around. It’s a lot of on the spot experimentation, whatever works and sounds nice, sticks. Whatever doesn’t, doesn’t.
Instep: When you think about your career, where do you want it to go?
Ali Suhail: Objectively speaking, I want it to go to a place with lots of money, haha. But I like where I am musically. I just want to be able to do more; more of my own music, more people that I want to work with, more varied kinds of music is explored, get involved in more musical things, however I can. I just want to make music and help with the conception and propagation of more art.
Instep: There’s a cohesive sound to the album. Was there any kind of unifying concept that you had in mind when you were putting it together?
Ali Suhail: I guess I’m the unifying concept behind all of my music? I don’t know. I don’t particularly have unifying concepts for other people who listen to it; I’d prefer if they came up with their own ideas behind it. I think that’d be more inspiring for me. But every album I’ve written is whatever I’m feeling and listening to at the time. So I guess since it’s coming from this place of compartmentalized feelings and things that need to be dealt with, it ends up sounding like it’s cohesive. Don’t get fooled. It’s a trap!
Instep: What are the things that you’re hoping to convey as an artist and as a man and to your fan-base and to people at large?
Ali Suhail: Make art! Make art for art and for yourself. Don’t make it to prove a point because that doesn’t seem to work here. Don’t make it to show how amazing you are, because while I’m sure you’re amazing, your art might suffer from a vitamin D deficiency since it’s hidden from the sun under the shadow of your ego. Make art for art and all of these arbitrary things will just follow I guess.