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Palayan interview

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Palayan is the solo project of Sandeep Sequeira. I know Sandeep from my time in Dubai where he was part of a metal band, Beneath the Remains. The band featured the Ampulance compilation that I helped to put together. Last month, Sandeep released his first album as Palayan, Metanoia. The album is a mix of post rock and electronica, a big departure from the metal sound. 

I spoke to Sandeep about the origins of Palayan, the album and the possibility of  performing live.

Picture by Ahmed Carter

 

Your recently released your first album as Palayan, Metanoia. How does it feel now that the album has been released?

Just sitting with the mastered tracks in my AirBnB rented room in Chiswick was a feeling of pride. I was proud that I didn’t settle on any aspect of the album and that it was the album I was always dreamed to make but didn’t think I was capable of years ago. When I was in that room I thought, even if I don’t get to release this properly I wouldn’t be upset, because I had done something for myself. I took moments of sadness, grief, pain, anger, betrayal, confusion and made something that made me feel none of those things. Anything I write is self therapy, so far. Releasing the album and people listening to it and messaging me about the songs is a bonus for me and a testament to my team’s dedication and patience.

From those who are unfamiliar with Palayan. How did you start the project?

Back in 2012, I kind of left my music dreams in a bin. The trauma of the drama and failure from my first metal band, left me frustrated and sick of chasing the dream. After not doing any music at all in 2012, my dream was re-ignited. Collaborating with Hesham Abdul Wahab here in Dubai in our time in university inspired me and gave me confidence to explore what I was ridiculed for before. People told me I can’t sing and that I wasn’t really capable of making anything other than metal. Which was strange because even in those metal days I wrote the same way as I write now, the same sense of melodies, chords, etc. I just present it differently now. So working with Hesham was an eye opening experience. I owe the start of Palayan to him. I started out making electronic and post rock instrumentals filled with elements of fusion. I started singing in 2014 and the way I write changed after that, I found another instrument to use.

From a guitarist in a metal band to a singer-songwriter. How did you make the transition?

I always wanted to sing but the people around me at the time never gave me the confidence and I guess I allowed them to put me down. I always wrote anyway, writing songs and recording was always happening. There are albums worth of material lying in hard drives. All the songs I wrote in the metal days and now always start on the acoustic guitar. So in that sense I still write and compose the same way. Having the confidence to sing and seeing people’s amazing reaction to my first vocal recording in 2014 was enough for me to make the transition to a singer-songwriter.

The inspiration behind Metanoia is a relationship that you went through. How did you go about the songwriting process for the album?

The songwriting didn’t happen intentionally. My friends joke about my writing volume. Sometimes I feel I have the opposite of writer’s block. My phone and computer is filled with music written from 2005. There are thousands of pieces scattered and I haven’t even listened to 5% of them. These songs on the record were phone recordings found on my phone from December 2015 to October 2016. Each song is an incident or a moment. And every track is in the order it was written. I only intended to release Chapter 1 as an EP because that was already recorded before I recorded the rest. Luckily, I found some more phone recordings and I started finding all the notes in my phone and in my books. I made a list thinking, ‘Maybe this can be an album.’ That idea marinated in my head for a couple of months before I knew I had to do it. And it was a journey of sorts.

The album features Indian musical instruments like the tabla. How did they become a part of your sound?

I have always had an interest in Indian classical instruments. From the earlier days of listening to Mohammed Rafi and Kishore Kumar and all those other greats, it was a sound that became a part of me. In fact any traditional instrument is something that I am a sucker for. If you remember Sting’s Desert Rose , it has the middle eastern vocals and percussion in it, but the track is not middle eastern, neither can it be classified as fusion. That is one example of how I like to fuse traditional instruments in my songs. Discovering fusion rock band Advaita helped opened this idea further. The way they use the tabla, sparingly and effectively, and over western arrangements, is something that I have always wanted to listen to.

You have released a music video for the track Empty Seed . How relevant do you think music videos are in the age of Youtube and Vimeo?

I don’t really know how relevant it is to be honest. I barely watch music videos, I like lyric videos more. I’ve had this vision of creating visual pieces for all the songs and I wanted to collaborate with all my friends, half of them being filmmakers. Most of my friends love watching music videos so making videos caters to that crowd as well.

What have you been listening to lately? Are there any acts that have inspired you of late?

These days I’m listening to Alice In Chains, Sepultura, PVRIS, Metallica and Nickelback to name a few. I guess you can say London Grammar has been an inspiration over the last few years. Their less is more approach is something I adore. The lyrics, melodies, chords and beats are next level.

What are your plans for the coming year? Do you have any plans to play live ?

Some of the plans are that I have to release music videos for every song on the album. So far I have 8 out of the 15 tracks. The others in planning and pre-production stages. I also want to record some live studio sessions and release some alternate studio versions of some songs. I really do want to play but that will have to be another project on its own. Pooling musicians together to play my song my way is quite tough. But I can see it happening.

Thanks for answering all my questions. Do you have any final words?

It is my pleasure to do this with you. I always wanted to be featured by Trendcrusher back in the metal days. So this is really great to do with you after all these years. Thank you for the opportunity.

Listen to Metanoia below

Written by trendcrusher

November 28, 2017 at 11:00 am

Interview with Agent Whiskers

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Agent Whiskers is the moniker of Essam Ghamadi an electronica artist from Saudi Arabia. I have reviewed his first album “Abstract forms of Solace” and third album “A Perfect State of Disarray”. Essam released his 4th album “A Method of Symmetry” last week.
Find out more about the album, his recording set up and also his plans to go live in my interview with him below

Tell us a bit about your new album, “A Method of Symmetry”

“A Method of Symmetry” is my 4th full-length album under the stage name Agent Whiskers. After my last album which was, in a way, a spiritual successor to the album before it, I wanted to go in a completely different direction and sort of challenge myself. What can I do different? How can I keep things fresh without resorting to gimmickry and repetition? I’m very happy with how diverse the 10 tracks are and it’s by far my most focused album yet. It’s also my longest album yet, coming in at just over 45 minutes.

How does it compare to your previous 3 albums?

It takes more from my debut album “Abstract Forms of Solace” than the other two. The vibe is more atmospheric and less confrontational. I used some new recording techniques and software that I’ve picked up during my downtime between albums. I think you’ll agree that it’s a step up in production quality.

What was your songwriting process this time around?

It’s funny. This is the first album I’ve done that I scrutinized and reworked to perfection. My previous 3 albums were written in the order you see them, with the exception of a track or two. With this album, I reworked the song order about 3 times until I was finally satisfied with the pacing and the balance. I guess it’s a more mature approach to songwriting than in my previous albums. Since the album shifts through different styles, it was a challenge keeping it fresh and interesting. I’m very happy with how it came out in the end and I would do it no differently if granted a do-over.

What equipment/software do you use for recording?

This album was recorded on my beat-up 2009 MacBook Pro using Logic Pro. Software VSTs used were Native Instruments ‘Massive’ and Lennar Digital’s ‘Sylenth1’. Some of them were presets I found online and some were sounds I worked on from the ground up using both those VSTs. Drum sounds (kick, snare, cymbals, and FX) are samples found in any Vengeance sample pack.

You have released 4 albums in the past year. How did you manage to get the time?

Lots of free time and caffeine! I’ve always stressed that this is what I want to be doing for a living and I’m trying my hardest to make it a reality. The challenge of being a musician in Saudi Arabia is one I’ll have to overcome on my own if I plan to keep doing what I’m doing. Music just comes naturally to me regardless of genre. I’ve played and written music for many bands and genres but to get to express myself my own way is a luxury you cannot get when playing in a band.

How has the response to your music been so far?

Extremely overwhelming. I’m in awe at some of the responses the latest album managed to get out of listeners. It’s very rewarding to work hard on something for months and find people who are appreciative of your work. It’s one of the main reasons why I’m still doing this.

How/when did you get into electronica?

I started writing electronic music when I first opened up GarageBand and realized I had an entire music suite on my laptop. This was sometime in 2010. I don’t typically listen to the genre much but it gives me so much freedom to express myself musically that it gives me a deep appreciation for it.

You have mentioned that Radiohead are a big influence on your music, who are other artists that have influenced you?

There’s a lot of Radiohead and early Muse prevalent in my style. There was also this game called “Shatter” that had an incredible soundtrack by an amazing artist named Module which came out a few years back. That soundtrack flipped a switch that sort of made me say “hey, I can do this too”. The layering of the tracks and the production was something similar to what I wanted to achieve that I can’t help but thank him for giving me that drive to commit to this new project.

Are you aware of any other electronica artists in Saudi Arabia?

There’s plenty of guys out there that are just like me who have played in bands but do electronic stuff on the side. I’ve been encouraging them to try and get official releases out there so we can have a decent Saudi electro scene going.

What are your plans for rest of the year? Another album or single?

Whatever influences me next! I’m going to be focusing on making a live set based on my previous 4 albums and a few singles. I want to take Agent Whiskers on the road and try to get myself as much exposure as I can.

Any Final words?

Head over to my Bandcamp page and if you like what you hear, let me know on Twitter (@AgentWhiskers)! Peter, you were an early supporter and we go way back a bit so I want to thank you for your support. And I’d especially like to thank everyone who’s taking part in making my dream a reality. Couldn’t do it without them. Thanks for the interview!

Written by trendcrusher

August 13, 2012 at 10:00 am

Agent Whiskers – A Perfect State of Disarray Review

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Imagine the post-apocalyptic world, death and destruction all around you. Lost and confused, away from your friends and family you are trying to figure out what happened to them and others. I am sure at least some of you have had a dream/nightmare like this or have watched the Hollywood movie, 2012. The latest album by Agent Whiskers, “A Perfect State of Disarray” is the soundtrack to it.

For those who have not read my previous post about Agent Whiskers, he is an electronic musician from Saudi Arabia. After releasing a couple of remixes, he is back with another album (the 3rd in 6 months for those keeping count). Unlike his peers in the Middle East, Agent Whiskers does not make electronic music to be played in clubs. It is for this reason I am writing about him on  my blog which mainly covers Rock/Metal artists.

This album has much darker themes than the previous two albums. With 7 tracks at 31 minutes, it is like a juicy beefburger with no fat (if i may use the analogy). My favorite tracks from the album are “New Dawn (The World Is Ours)” and “Deliverance (No Rest For the Wicked)”.  I feel this is the best release by Agent Whiskers so far. The production is a lot better especially the drums which I had an issue with in the earlier album.

If the past six months are any indication, expect at least a couple more album from Agent Whiskers this year. I hope this music reaches the ears of video game developers etc. , more attention needs to directed towards this new sound coming from Saudi Arabia.

Name your price and Download “A Perfect State of Disarrayhere 

Written by trendcrusher

February 19, 2012 at 9:25 pm

Agent Whiskers – “Abstract forms of Solace” Review

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Essam Ghamadi aka Agent Whiskers has been part of the Saudi music scene for a while now. I’ve been following his band, Creative Waste (  the only grindcore band from Saudi Arabia) for a few years. The debut album by Creative Waste has been scheduled to be released for the past year (even longer I think) hence I was surprised when Essam released a solo album a couple months ago under the moniker “Agent Whiskers”.

Agent Whiskers  is very different musically from Creative Waste. The best way I could describe it is “Ambient electronica“, the kinda music you would hear in the soundtrack of a video game and maybe even in a movie.

Abstract forms of Solace” is a short listen, clocking in at less than 30 minutes. It starts off with the “The Great Beyond (Secret Window)“, a piano driven track. My favorite tracks on the album are “Almost Home” and “Virtual Cleansing“. “Almost Home” reminds me of the how the journey home feels even longer after a exceptionally long day at work.  Essam described the album by saying,”At its core, the record evokes hope, despair, harmony and eventually solace”. I don’t I could describe it better.

Each song on the album is story in itself. The descriptive song titles make up for the lack of lyrics. The production is minimal and really suits the music, however better drum samples could have been used. Check out a couple of tracks from the album along with unreleased tracks here.  Download “Abstract of Solace” from itunes  here and from bandcamp here .

There are few similar artists in the Arabian Gulf region that I am aware of, stay tuned for more music from Agent Whiskers to be released before the end of the year.

 

Written by trendcrusher

September 8, 2011 at 4:53 pm