JAL : THE BAND OF BOYS 'EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW SPECIAL
Four years ago, Jal debuted on the music scene with the single 'Aadat'. It became a monster hit and the two band members split it up instantly afterwards. Atif Aslam went solo and Gohar Mumtaz brought in Farhan Butt on vocals and Shazi on bass. The trio were pitched against Atif Aslam again and again but they never gave up. And now they are back with Boondh - their second and most solid effort as a unit.
Slightly overwhelmed and a tad bored, understandably, by the media parade - cameramen followed them around everywhere - surrounding them, Jal revealed all - from going to India and teaming up with Amrita Rao for the new single, 'Chalte Chalte' and what lies ahead in the coming days for the band and for fans…
q: Your album Boondh is out. But the situation in the country has been tense. Has that affected sales?
Gohar Mumtaz: Not really. The delay in the album release was not due to the situation in the country. Mainly everything was sort of haywire from the very beginning. Our album sales have thankfully not been affected by the tension in the country, but our gigs have suffered. We've been trying to organize a tour in Pakistan but haven't been able to because of security issues.
Farhan Butt: We feel bad for the people who don't have the opportunity to go to India or other countries. We've sustained because of the business India has been giving us. We have been performing there regularly since nothing has been happening in Pakistan this past year or so. But many bands don't have the option of going across the border and we feel bad for them. They have lost out on a lot of work and revenue since the situation had deteriorated in Pakistan and everything had come to a stand still.
q: I'm sure you know Atif is doing roaring business these days. Your take on the comparisons made between you and Atif?
GM: You see, there are two ways we could have gone about it. We could have either gotten demotivated or we could've pushed up our game. We chose to do the latter and thankfully our commitment and hardwork has paid off. We did not get demotivated by his success and anything he does doesn't affect us at all. We can't keep going back and forth seeing what Atif is doing. Our album had twelve tracks and people liked every single one of them. That says enough in itself.
FB: Not that I am boasting but we were at a concert in India and a man came up to us and said that 'Jal is a great band and I love it, but if Atif was still a part of your band, it would have been even better. The spark is just not there without him'. That remark kind of put me off. I went to Gohar and told him about it. I was really upset. He told me to ignore it and said we have to give it our best shot. We gave an excellent performance that night and the same guy came up to us after the concert and said that we were brilliant! That was a great high for us. We just concentrate on our work and that is the key to our success.
q: We've noticed Shazi doesn't say much. He also remains in the background in all your videos etc. Why is that?
Shazi: (Still maintaining his silence. Wearing dark glasses and looking somberly into his cell phone)
GM: (Laughing) You see, he is a true rock star!
q: You guys worked with Bilal Lashari for the first time on 'Sajni'. How was the experience?
GM: It was great. We met Bilal back in the summer through a mutual friend. We saw clips of some of his work and decided to work with him. Once we saw his vision, we wanted to work with him because we know he was bringing something very different to the table. And we were very pleased with the end product.
FB: It was good fun and we were very relaxed with Bilal. He was just so friendly and we felt very comfortable with him the moment we met him. We wanted something new and fresh in our new video. Initially when we saw clips from his videos, we though they were too dark for Pakistani audiences. But he convinced us and told us he knew exactly what we wanted. Besides the DOP he works from is from Hollywood so that was just icing on the cake for us.
q: Tell us about your latest video 'Chalte Chalte'. The song is not on your album; Amrita Rao is featured in the video and there is a commercial running. What is the deal behind it?
GM: We made the song after the album released and it caters to the corporate sector. Walls sponsored it and they wanted somebody from Pakistan and India featured in it. So we chose to work with Amrita who was great fun to work with. You'll be surprised to know that there are a lot of actors in India who don't want to work with Pakistani people. Amrita was one who had no issues working with a Pakistani band. In India, image matters a lot. If you don't have a good image its difficult finding people to work with. We thankfully have a decent image in India and have been performing there regularly.
FB: Amrita was a lot of fun. She is a brilliant actor and used to get her shot right in the very first take. Watching her work so professionally and skillfully sort of intimidated us and since we're not actors it was tough for us to get the shots right. We will also be touring Pakistan with Amrita around in early May. It hasn't been finalized yet but we're hoping that it'll happen.
q: You guys go to India regularly. How has their industry changed compared to ours in the last few years?
GM: I can say proudly that India's pop artists don't even come close to Pakistani pop singers. We have an excellent and thriving pop industry whereas bands in India are heavily influenced by Bollywood. They find our music very fresh and original.
FB: We have the X factor working there for us. The fact that we are coming from Pakistan intrigues them. Pakistanis have a good reputation there and we draw huge crowds to our gigs. Indian bands basically cater to the Bollywood driven club scene. People actually listen to our music; Indian bands on the other hand make music which primarily people dance to. On every Indian channel, you will just see Bollywood songs being shown, whereas in Pakistan, most of what we see on television is pop bands and songs. Our music is original and theirs is basically more commercial and filmy.
q: What about the level of professionalism in India?
GM: Actually there are a lot of venues there to perform at. It's a huge country and every single city has a huge capacity and population. For example, in Lahore if we perform once a month it's more then enough whereas in India, every city has so many colleges and universities who have regular festivals etc, we can keep going back and the demand will still be there. There is an insatiable appetite and capacity there which we keep going back to satisfy.
FB: We've performed at a lot of festivals in India and thousands of people have been turning up for each event. The professionalism Indians bring is enormous. Where ever you go, there are stages you can only dream of having in Pakistan. The sounds, the lights, everything as a matter of fact is on another level altogether. They don't compromise on anything.
q: As a live act, what problems do you face in Pakistan?
GM: Honestly, a lot of problems. The sound is always a problem. The marketing is always a problem. There are money problems, organizers come up to us before the gig and tell us that they don't have the full amount to pay us. If we walk off and don't go ahead and perform, it will be our reputation that will get tainted and not theirs. Therefore we have no option but to play. The promoters here are unprofessional and don't do their jobs well. They actually hardly know how to do their jobs let alone do it well.
FB: We face similar problems in the US, Canada etc as well. The people showing up are so few, the sound is usually terrible and the venues organizers arrange there for Pakistani artists is actually embarrassing. It's just a whole mindset that needs to change for Pakistanis living within and out of Pakistan.
q: You worked with Gumby and Mekaal Hasan on your latest album. How was it working with them?
GM: It was great working with them and they have done a brilliant job. Gumby absolutely blew us away with his drumming in 'Dhamaal' and 'Kia Say Kia'.
Mekaal is a very professional person and before we worked with him people warned us that he is not easy to work with. We however, did not have a single problem with him. If you come prepared and do your work well, the producer has no reason to blow it.
FB: Gumby thoroughly enjoyed working with us on the album and congratulated us on the work well done. Working with Mekaal was also a splendid experience for us. He was very encouraging. He was so good with us and told us that we were the first band he worked with and didn't have a fight! That, I think, was a total high for us and speaks volumes of the kind of work we do and how seriously we take it.
q: What's you take on award shows?
GM: The more the merrier but as long as they are neutral. We need to set a certain standard which everyone should follow. It is a very encouraging endeavour as long as the awards, any and all, are fair and there are no biases involved.
FB: We need independent music award shows which are neutral. If an award show is being sponsored by a particular channel or record company, they will definitely have a tendency to tilt towards their artists.
q: You guys performed at the soft launch of Pakistan Idol. What are your expectations from Pakistan Idol?
GM: I must say it is a BIG and brilliant move which will hopefully have a huge impact on our local industry. We don't have enough heroes in our country and this is one way a star will actually come shining through. India has kingmakers. We need to pick up talented people and make them stars. It's a wonderful idea and we wish the organizers all the best.
FB: The format of the show is a hit globally. It will be a great platform for the youth of our country and for once we will have the opportunity to make stars of our people. The people will have good music to listen to, they will be entertained and at the end of the day some lucky soul will also get the opportunity to get noticed, enjoy fame and make money.
Whether its music, cricket, films or anything, our industries need to be treated with respect and stars need to be brought out. Take India for an example, be it film stars or cricketers, they always back their own people and treat them with respect. The highest bid for the IPL was for Dhoni and by no means is he the best cricketer in the world right now! But he's Indian, and his people will always back him. Pakistan Idol will help us tap into local talent and bring out stars.
q: What about venturing into Bollywood again? You must have got some offers considering you spend a lot of time in India…
GM: If we get a good solid offer we will definitely consider it. So far we have got two offers. One of them involved us acting in a film. We didn't want to do it because we didn't see us fitting the role too well. Besides, right now we are doing enough music to keep us on our toes.
q: So what's next for you boys?
GM: We have launch shows in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad. We are releasing our album in India and are pretty busy with that. Hopefully you will also get to see two new videos soon.
FB: We're also planning a tour of Bangladesh, India and Canada this year so you see, we do have our plates absolutely full!
COURTESY INTERVIEW : THE NEWS
Edited by sahera - 11 April 2008 at 3:18pm