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Spotlight: Ahmed Ali Butt

Veena Malik Interview QuestionsThe much-loved parody band, Rubber Band, and their (impending) return... plus a sneak preview of their upcoming music video.

What are your influences in music and how have they changed over time?
Ahmed Ali Butt:
I received formal training in eastern classical music at the age of nine at home. Then I developed an interest in rock music during my teens, dabbled with rap and pop in my later years and lately developed a taste for more mature forms of music.

My song for Rubber Band’s upcoming debut album, Aaj Kuch Na Kaho, is styled on the works of Indian composer R.D. Burman whom both Salman (Albert) and I greatly admire.

Abid Khan: On my visit to England in the early 1990s, I was exposed to a variety of music, but mainly heavy rock such as Guns ‘n’ Roses, Metallica, Anthrax, Megadeth, Slayer, Sepultura, etc. These bands were not your typical commercial bands that were playing at the time. Their aggression got me going and I decided I wanted to play music just like them. With time things changed but never in my whole life would I have believed that I would start listening to R.D. Burman. The man was a genius...a true composer with a pure heart and soul. So yeah, my influences vary from heavy rock to Bollywood classics of the ’70s.

Salman Albert: I grew up watching my dad and uncles play various instruments and sing ghazals and stuff. I was also inspired by church choirs and joined the school choir at eight. My brother Farhan Albert and I formed a band in 1988 called Eastern Boyz. My teens also introduced me to rock music and I am still inclined towards it somewhat, but my roots have always remained deeply embedded in eastern (music).

Waqar Khan: I was a regular music listener mostly into pop boy bands until I came to Lahore and found out that there is a regular live rock music scene here. And co-incidentally Xulfikar Jabbar Khan was my classmate in Fuuast. We initially became study friends, until I was introduced to the Yamaha drum kit in his garage, which they used for jamming. Since that day, my mind has been on a single track — to be a great drummer. The aggression and energy involved in beating up a drum kit is my main motivation.

Veena Malik Interview QuestionsA year later Fawad Khan, Hasan Khan and Sajjad Ali Khan got enrolled in the same university and we started off with college shows and small performances. Back then I had heavy rock/metal influences such as System of a Down, Sepultura, Godsmack. It stayed in me until Jan 2007 when I decided to quit Call.

That’s when I had to look around and learn styles other than rock. It’s been a good year so far and I have managed to work with several different bands with different styles. I have worked with Caramel, a club party band mostly targeting upbeat dance and jumpy numbers; with the Mekaal Hasan Band I play on his progressive rock fusion stuff; with Symt on a lot of Naseebo Lal rearrangements such as Pyar Di Ganderi.

Rubber Band possesses several different styles such as rock, pop, rap, hip hop and a little bit of classical. I have gotten hold of several drumming styles such as shuffle, swing, rock ‘n’ roll, swing (blues), dance/club and a few others. Mekaal Hasan made me respect all genres and eventually see that it’s how you present it and perceive it.

How did your music evolve into the ‘parody’ style that we see today?
Rubber Band is not a comedy/parody band. Having said that, we like to keep things light-hearted. Basically we do whatever we feel like doing. We even don’t care what the public wants. That’s how it differs from Entity or EP even. They were one-dimensional (rock music). In this (Rubber Band) now we can freely mould our songs according to our state of mind.

AK: Rubber Band is totally different to what I’ve done in the past. It has a lot of flavour to its music; it stretches like rubber. Each member of the band brings in his own taste that makes us unique, whereas in Entity and Coven we were more underground and very metal. I miss those days but the present looks great because we are experimenting with our sound and playing different kinds of music.

SA: I’ve played various kinds of music, be it Pakistani, Indian, Punjabi, western, reggae, blues, disco, country, R&B, rap and all kinds of rock. I can never be sure about my natural style or the style I play today. You can say that I have different masks and I wear them accordingly.

WK: Rubber Band has been around for quite a while, but now what the band is about to offer is completely different. Ahmed Ali Butt with his background in comic acting has been the main driving force for the band. Initially, the band launched several comic videos which I personally think was a great effort. However, this time round, the band is about to throw in one serious mainstream album in the market.

There is no specific genre that has been followed since the band itself is composed of people with a variety of interests. Rock/alternative rock/pop/ rap/hip hop and a bit of classical — basically all genres have been covered so it has a little something for everyone.

Your first video was very entertaining. Have you made any more?
Yes, we have made two. Both are directed by me and produced without any external help.

AK: With lots more yet to come.

Veena Malik Interview QuestionsSA: The album is a blend of fun and serious stuff as our life is designed that way. So you can never guess what’s coming next from Rubber Band.

WK: The new videos which are coming out soon do not include comic entertainment. Especially the lead track of the album Chal, which is a solid melodic rock song and will be on TV soon.

(At this point I am shown two fresh videos of Rubber Band that, according to Ahmed, are nearly a year old. My comments after viewing them: Chal is a hardcore metal song with shades of the Road to Guantanamo film. Nauman Ejaz fits his role as an ‘establishment’ figure like the proverbial glove; Kyun is a commercial pop song set round farms and with added support from actress Resham.)

Did you receive any formal training in video direction/production (to Ahmad) and instrument playing/sound production (to other band members)?
AAB: No. One is always self-taught here. I had to teach myself how to direct/produce and act.

AK: Self-taught as well and I have no formal training on sound production.

SA: I just explored it on my own.

WK: There are no music schools here in Pakistan which is sad. Except for a few musicians who were able to study music abroad, the rest have all been self-taught. I really admire this fact, that even without the presence of any learning facility there have been so many world-class musicians in this country.

Is there an album in the works? How is the rest of the album different from what we have already heard from Rubber Band?
The album has been ready for about seven months now. The future plan is to release it if the (music) labels fork out some dough. All they give is zero cash and a video with a few promos on their (own) music channels. As I said, the album is just a collection of what we (Rubber Band) want to do, so it is spread along many music styles. Each song is different from the other.

(Two more fresh songs are played on Ahmed’s home-studio setup. My comments: Feedback is a true hip hop-style song in English, most of it at least. When asked the obvious “Have you done a rap song too?” Ahmed commented: “How can I not?” and had me listen to Aaj Kuch Na Kaho.)

Any plans other than Rubber Band?
Under the banner of UnKut Productions I am producing two sitcoms at the moment with a third still in the pipeline.

AK: Plan to go into media network and discover new talent in music, promote it and crop out the rawness in our youth.

SA: I really, really want to promote animal rights and protection laws in Pakistan, and set up animal shelters and pet graveyards. Rubber Band might be the practical start of this project as through it I will be able to communicate with people regarding this issue.

WK: I plan to continue with my session work along with working full-time in Rubber Band. I have a lot planned for the drummers of this country. At a recent show at Peeru’s Café, Gumby and I did a drum battle, which was great. I plan to work more in this direction. There are so many drum fest, drum battles and solo work abroad.

Veena Malik Interview QuestionsWe don’t have even a single drum school or a music school here. If we really want to bring up the level of musicianship in this country then we need to do something about it.

I have several plans lined up for this which require cash inflow for practical implementation. Let’s see how it turns out.

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