When I sat down to interview Peter Hook, I felt a nervous sense of intimidation because of the magnitude of his contribution to music. In the end, he ended up being easy to talk to and we connected easily. When I prepared to interview Imaad Wasif, I looked forward to talking to someone who’d made a great record (The Voidist) but didn’t feel an ounce of trepidation. However, after talking for merely five minutes I realized that I was in the presence of an aritst that was incredibly complex and had sense of his inner self (I passed on the Eastern Philosophy classes in college. Shame on me!) that I could barely comprehend. Afterwards, I went back and listened to the album again. Where many artists write lyrics with no depth and music with little true emotion, Imaad creates soundscapes that truly cleanse the soul. A beautiful and powerful record that gains depth upon repeated listening. I can only hope that this interview adds to the mystique of the record.
Below is the transcript of our conversation, in which I barely stay above water while trying to skim the surface of this great musician.
TDOA: Can you talk about the central lyrical themes of this record?
IW: It’s really a continuation of my obsession with the ideas of faith and love.
TDOA: Do you consider yourself to be a religious person or do you mean faith in a non-secular way?
IW: It doesn’t denote a specific religion and I don’t subscribe to a specific dogma. The connection I feel to music is similar to ideas of mystical and esoteric literature, even dating back to the time of ancient Egypt.
TDOA: Most of the music in the alternative scene is often lyrically shallow. Do you find it challenging to get people to listen to your message and how important is that to you?
IW: I’ve come to realize I don’t have any real control over that. There’s no right or wrong way to connect to music and performing live, songs frequently mutate into other things in my mind and forms of energy that are channeled through me in the performance. I think I can set forth ideas, even through primal energy. Ultimately the idea of making records is important to me so that I can put these ideas down and let them gestate. You can’t control how people interpret your music, but it’s amazing when I meet someone who’s connected with my music is some way. Like being able to talk to someone about shifting dark energy within themselves and move towards the light.
TDOA: When you go to write an album that’s got such an emotional feel to it, how long does it take you to complete that project?
IW: Every song is really different. Ultimately you have to balance the desire you have to push things. I find if I try to control my vision, then I find that I’m forcing things in a direction that I may not like.
TDOA: On you last solo record, you wrote a song called Isolation. Lyrically it has themes of fragility and I wonder if these songs are autobiographical or are you talking in the 3rd person. And I assume you’re familiar with the Joy Division song.
IW: Of course I know Joy Division! Everything’s really connected to me, but the ideas are shared universally. I don’t think I’m a special case, but I’m so absorbed by trying to understand these ideas. A lot of times I do feel ravaged by the ideas in the song and tortured until there is resolution in the song.
TDOA: You’ve done records with Kill Rock Stars, Tee Pee Records and you’ve worked with “alternative rock” bands, but I feel like this record is much broader in it’s appeal. Was that something that you were conscious of while writing the new record.
IW: I listen to a lot of East Indian classical music from the 1940 to 1970, which was a period of music that I really find amazing. I don’t find myself aligned with any one type of music. People have talked to me about the idea of mystics and it’s something that I felt from a very age. I think most people have that feeling of being strange and disconnected up until a certain age. That has really never left me. Rather than let it destroy me, I’ve dedicated myself to not going down the path of Ian Curtis. Ultimately, you can give so much to the world by dedicating yourself completely to this idea of serving the world with humility and keeping that as your focus. Then all these other ideas that could poison your life, you can keep at bay.
TDOA: You’ve worked with Yeah Yeah Yeah’s, you’re touring with Dead Weather and you used to be on Kill Rock Stars. Your message is pretty deep. Do you think labels like your new one, Tee Pee Records understand that and aren’t trying to get you to make glitzy videos and generally understand where you’re coming from?
IW: Tee Pee has been incredible. I’ve been working on a video for Redeemer with an LA based artist named Jess Holzworth. We had this conversation early on regarding film and its relationship with music. There’s beautiful things by people like Kenneth Anger and people who made that connection before it became a commodity. I don’t have any interest in doing anything that doesn’t feel like it’s coming from my emotional center.
There is an undisclosed, underlying and perhaps cryptic series of fragments and codes, love notes and small death notes throughout the new record and I think anyone who can hear the record will understand it. Not listening to it as background music, but spending time with it. It’s my hope that they’ll have a connection to it.
TDOA: You’ve mentioned feeling really centered. In some interviews you’ve talked about being very comfortable when playing on stage with Yeah Yeah Yeah’s. Some people would find it really daunting. Is it really your experience that rather feeling that sense of teenage euphoria, you just feel happy and calm and enjoying the moment?
IW: I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I’m calm. I have a lot of nervous energy and at some point in my life I realized that was destructive to myself and I had to find a way to channel it. Music is a great way of being able to do that. It’s a great honor to be able to go out and play music with people I respect. I don’t know if I ever felt that teenage angst. When I was a teenager, I always felt like I was 80 years old. I feel like I’ve lived a series of lives and at this point in this life, things are finally coming into sync. I sense it with people that I meet and people I work with. It’s a really strange sensation because it feels like going from a pinpoint of light to really opening up to a full sun.
TDOA: One of the last questions I usually ask an artist is where you’d like to be a year from now. Many people answer with tangible descriptions of what size arena they’d like to be playing and how big they’d like their bank account to be. I suspect I’m going to get a different answer from you.
IW: (laughs) What I practice is going back to the 60′s “be here now” concept that really has been forgotten. Really focusing on this moment is the greatest overlooked idea and is the thing that I really feel is important to focus on. But I will say that I want to go to India because I haven’t been there since I was 5 and I feel a real pull there. Now, if that means I go there and start studying with a mystic… we’ll just have to see.
The Voidist will be released on October 13th by Tee Pee Records. To pre-order click here:
To learn more about him, visit his myspace page here.