TEE M – Thinking earthiotic

Tariq Mirza

Tariq Mirza

Tariq Mirza, nicknamed TEE-M, is a very talented musician. He is a songwriter, composer, singer and now an RJ. Tee-M grew up in Karachi, hearing rock/pop on the short wave radio. TEE-M recently completed his first album Earthiotic co-produced with Geoff Tyson which got a huge hype and response. TEE-M had four successful tours of Pakistan, the highlight being three concerts at the sold out Royal Rodale Auditorium Karachi. In Los Angeles TEE-M has just released his second video “Disappeared” which is the fastest rising video on YouTube.
TEE-M’s first video “Aao Aao Aao”(Suji ka halwa) has generated positive feedback from around the globe. He has also been selected Music Connection Magazine’s 100 Hottest Unsigned Artists 5 years in a row.

Asad: Tell us about your education and how did you get into music?
TEE-M: I live in Los Angeles but I grew up in Karachi, and did my schooling and college at St. Patricks. A wonderful time, even though I didn’t like studies that much. But I remember one of the classes we had there. In the singing class, we’d all go and the teacher would play the piano and all the singing stuff. Then I came to America, did a semester in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and had to run away from there in a hurry because it was just too cold, especially after having lived in hot and humid Karachi. Then moved to Texas where I stabilized and went to a college in a small town called Corsicana. The home of the world famous fruit cake of Collin Street Bakery…so now you know where to get a great fruit cake if you ever need one, (sorry they don’t make suji ka halwa, at least not yet).
Music always intrigued me, now we have the CDs but then we had the 45 singles and lps (albums). I still feel the record industry should not have done away with the 45 single, the singles were the coolest thing, A and B side. When they announced the end of the 45, I thought to myself this could be the beginning of the demise of the record industry. Anyway in those days it was hard to get records, I think there was only one record shop in Bhori bazaar so we’d borrow from friends and cousins. One of the albums that a cousin of mine gave me was “With The Beatles” which was their second album and I used to listen to that a lot. It had songs like “All My Loving,” “Please Mr. Postman” and a song that I really liked a lot, called “Don’t Bother Me” which was the first song that George Harrison wrote that appeared on a Beatles album. In fact a few years back I recorded that song as my tribute to George after he passed away. Around the same time that my cousin gave me the Beatles record, another cousin left behind his guitar for me and that really kick started my musical journey.

Asad: Since how long you have been doing music and do you have any musical training?
TEE-M: I think I started playing the guitar around the time when I was ten or eleven so that’s a good chunk of my life and no I never had any musical training. Once I got the guitar I just learnt it on my own. I always liked artists and musicians who were self taught because that’s where the magic lies for me. I think people like Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix and a whole lot of others are self taught, and when I found out about the Beatles that was it, I said no way I’m going to go to any school to learn this stuff. I never liked schooling anyway so this was a good excuse and after all it’s only rock ‘n roll, let it come naturally. I’m a very basic rhythm guitar player, somewhere a cross between John Lennon, Hank Williams and Lou Reed. Used to practice a lot and listen to a lot of music. One of my pass times was listening to short-wave radio and the local radio Pakistan which used to have half an hour of pop music on a daily basis. Unlike today where you have so many radio stations and TV channels 24/7.

Asad: What is your genre of music and what is your music all about?
TEE-M: I think if you have to categorize my music it would be pop/rock n roll with sub-continent influence. I’m a very diverse songwriter; I write about different things and subjects, I’m very lucky to have experienced living in the East and the West. So over all I would like to think that my music is building a bridge between the two very different worlds.

Asad: Who is your inspiration in music both locally and internationally?
TEE-M: Well, at the start the Beatles really inspired and sealed the deal for me. There were two instrumental bands, The Shadows from England whose guitar player Hank Marvin had a very cool guitar sound and The Ventures from America who I used to enjoy listening to. I used to play instrumental songs and then slowly I started to sing. Elvis, James Brown, Bob Dylan, Bob Marley, Hank Williams and some blues people like Howlin’ Wolf, Bo Diddley have all inspired me at different stages. Locally I was very much inspired by the street musicians, this even before I started playing the guitar. Because these guys used to go by my window at night strumming away their Sindhi instruments which sounded so cool and mysterious. Then there were the filmy songs of Rafi, Kishore Kumar, Ahmed Rushdie, Talat Mahmood that were always there on the radio. I always liked qawali music when I was growing up but in the 90’s Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan really brought it out internationally. What a great voice and performer, I saw him perform here in Los Angeles and loved it.

Asad: What difficulties did you face when you started your career?
TEE-M: I was lucky in the sense that my parents were supportive of my music. They didn?t discourage me, which was a big encouragement especially in those days and in Pakistan. They could have easily said no, but they didn’t and for that I’ll always be very grateful. When I started music it was basically as a pass time and to this day I think it’s the greatest pass time there is in life. Once I got into it I knew it was not going to be easy especially starting in Pakistan, not your basic backyard for rock ‘n roll, then I thought I should come to the place where it all started, the mighty USA.

Asad: Tell us about your first song Aao, Suji Ka Halwa?
TEE-M: “Aao, Suji Ka Halwa” is a song that was inspired by my mother’s cooking. She used to make some great halwas and suji was one of them. So one day in 1986 here in Los Angeles I had a dream, I was smelling the halwa and my mother?s voice was trying to wake me up to have the nashta (breakfast). So I did wake up and quickly went and picked up my guitar and started singing aao aao aao, suji ka halwa khao, figured out the chords and I think within an hour I finished the song. That same year came back to Pakistan after a long break, I had a concert there and sang “Aao” for the first time, my mother was there and I surprised her. I think she was quite delighted with that. My mother has long since passed away but recently it occurred to me that the bigger picture of “Aao” as a song is the everlasting connect between a child and the mother. The song was first recorded in 2003 as part of a four song sampler which eventually ended up on the album EARTHIOTIC… and released in 2005. The song was recorded with Geoff Tyson, co-producer of Tariq

Asad: So far you have released two videos “Aao” and “Disappeared” which one do you like the most and why?
TEE-M: They are two different songs; I was surprised by both of the videos. How effective they both are. Whereas ‘Aao’ looks on face to be very simple but if you notice at the start when I’m explaining what the song is all about, the audience, who by the way are all independent artists here in Los Angeles are kind of confused but by the end of the song, they have seen the light, they have felt the sugar rush of the halwa and everybody is happy. Even though the song is mostly in Urdu but any non-speaking Urdu audience can understand the song and enjoy it. So as far as I’m concerned it served its purpose perfectly. On the other hand Disappeared?s imagery in HD is so awesome with the beach, the sun, the snow, and a beautiful girl. What more could I have asked for…

Asad: How was the response of your first album EARTHIOTIC…?
TEE-M: In May it’ll be the fourth anniversary of EARTHIOTIC… and I feel like it’s just starting around the world. I haven’t had the chance to take it to Europe yet, since I’m an independent artist I have my own pace but I feel it can do a lot more damage once people know the album exists. The fact that after four years we’re still talking about it, is a great sign, I’m very happy with the response of the people who have heard the album. I had great help from my co-producer and guitar man Geoff Tyson. When I first met him, I said to him that we want to try and make a timeless album, it’s easier said than done, but Geoff understood what I was going for and we were able to put it all together. EARTHIOTIC… is an album that one must listen.

Asad: Tell us about your second video “Disappeared” where it is shot and what is its theme and concept?
TEE-M: Video of ?Disappeared? came about around the time I came back from one of the tours in Pakistan and had gone to a club here in LA, where I came across Chris Jean (Director) I had met Chris a year or so before that, but that evening we started talking about the video and very soon after that he had put the great Disappeared team together and we were off and running. The team consisted of Brittany Shaw (girl that disappears) Kelly Jones, director of photography, Ray Van Ness, producer, Brian and Will editors Suzan Jones, still photography, Chris Sauer with Andrea as production associates.

Asad: Why did you name your album EARTHIOTIC…and what does it mean?
TEE-M: I was hearing the word patriotic a little too much and how politicians and some people use it in the wrong way to create guilt for the masses to go against other human beings. I saw it first hand here in the US in the first half of this decade and we know how much damage it has done around the world. So to counter that and to better it in my mind I came up with the word EARTHIOTIC as oppose to patriotic. Because we are all human beings and we have to think bigger than ourselves…once we think earthiotic then everything comes under that. Anyway that’s the idea and a dream, I hope they start putting the word earthiotic in dictionaries so at least kids and people can think about it and start a dialogue if nothing else.

Asad: As you live in US and do music there, according to you what is the difference between Pakistani and American music industry?
TEE-M: Not much and I’m disgusted with both…, I’m happy being an Independent artist. This doesn’t mean that there are not good people out there, in general the music industry is out of whack.

Asad: Are you planning any collaboration with any Pakistani artist?
TEE-M: At this time no…But since this is showbiz anything can happen any given moment.

Asad: Tell us about your upcoming video and who is directing it?
TEE-M: The next video for the album is in pipe-line with Chris Jean at Decipher Pictures. Chris directed the video “Disappeared,” and we’ve been talking about doing both “Last Night” and “Quiet Night by the Ocean.” Chris is a big fan of doing character work, lots of close-ups on the face and parts of the face-in order to create a connection to the viewer that goes beyond simply looking in the camera and singing the song. Because Quiet Night By The Ocean” is an instrumental track, it’s a great opportunity to tell a story with no words or lyrics whatsoever, a pure character work video.

Asad: What are your upcoming projects?
TEE-M: Recently I had a good burst of creative energy and I wrote four songs in about five days. This has never happened before…which is good news for me as the drought, the dry period is finally over after a long time. I’m excited about the songs so somewhere down the road I’d like to record these songs and put them out for the world maybe as a 4 song EP.

Asad: Tell us about your local and international concerts?
Well, I just returned from Pakistan a couple of month?s back, where I did quite a number of shows in Karachi. Appeared on a lot of TV shows. Also did some radio interviews at FM89 and FM 101. And while I was still in Karachi, Wojtek Gwiazda of Radio Canada International interviewed me from Montreal for his show “Masala Canada.? I also gave an interview to Carol Hills of BBC/WGBH Boston, “The World” along with an interview to Ahmed Raza of BBC World Service Urdu. Some concerts are being talked about, nothing concrete yet. I performed with Wayne Kramer of the legendary American band MC5 few years back.

Asad: Most classical musicians say that fashion and glamour has destroyed the Music industry, what do you say?
TEE-M: I can see and feel the frustration of the classical musicians, but the music industry does not need any help from fashion and glamour. The music industry is fully capable of destroying itself.

Asad: What advice will you give to upcoming artists or people who want to come in this industry?
TEE-M: Get ready for the wildest ride of your life, nothing less will do. If you think you can handle that then by all means join the party. You have to understand the business, the more you know the better off you will be. Do not depend on the industry, do what you have to do on your own, if somebody wants to help, accept it but don’t lose your soul. These days the internet is a big help to spread your word, join facebook, myspace, Youtube etc. Above all of that, please write good songs, if you’re not happy with the song, do not throw it out to the world, just because it’s easy to put it out on Youtube. If need be go to a music school and learn the technology. Listen to all kinds of music, find your rhythm, you will appreciate that later in life. The important thing is to give it your best and have fun while doing all of this.

Asad: What message would you like to give to your fans?
TEE-M: First of all I’d like to thank you and all the fans for enjoying the TEE-M music. Keep supporting your local independent artists and bands. It’s very easy to connect with me; my site you can go there and watch all the videos and check out the interviews.

Source : The Nation

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