Is Fuzon on the verge of breaking up? investigates
When Fuzon released Saagar - their debut album – in 2002, it turned them into the music sensations of the new decade. With Shafqat Amanat Ali's sonorous classically trained voice, Shallum Xaviers' Goan roots and Immu's desire to fuse East and West into a harmonic melting pot, Fuzon went onto become one of the country's finest band. They even went across to India and great things were expected from them there, but they struck the deal with the wrong company (Virgin) and got no mileage across the border for the album that had Pakistan rocking.
So far, their debut album has so far been their only album, even though they keep on dabbling in various solo projects. The most prominent has been Shafqat with his forays to India resulting in the superhit song 'Mitwa' from Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna. Shallum and Immu have been playing with Alamgir in Pakistan and may even do an album with him. Of course, the three reunited for the Lux Style Awards, but before that, their last live concert was in May 2006. They haven't performed together since, barring the odd TV appearance.
Since late last year, there have been rumours circulating that their second album is due for release. But apparently, that has been put on hold. It has now been four years since Saagar and it is still unclear whether the new album will come out this year at all. Rumours about the trio breaking up have also kept the industry grapevine buzzing. With all three members having solo projects on the side, it is being said that a split is imminent.
Historically, bands in Pakistan tend to break up. Vital Signs, Awaz, Junoon – all have had enormous success but today, not one band (with the exception of Strings) has stuck together. To survive in our music industry is after all, not an easy task. In the west, bands concentrate on studio albums and gigs. But they have a manager and a proper legit record label backing them. Here, if a band wants to make it big, they have to do everything on their own. And when three band members think three different things, then a clash becomes inevitable.
Money is also an aspect to look at. Solo artists make a lot more money than a band. The reason is simple: a band always divides the payments (be it a record deal or a gig). Once a band is famous, it is easier for band members to separate and follow solo careers. Haroon and Faakhir and Ali Azmat and Salman Ahmed being prime examples.
Being in a band means different ideas coming together as one. It is a full-time job. It requires a level of commitment and the ability to compromise, if need be. Fuzon it seems is stuck in a middle ground. Even as the trio continues to promise that it is not over, the differences between them and the lack of communication, says a lot for them.
Immu goes so far as admitting that the current Fuzon line-up may not come out with a third album after all. However, as things go, chances are that as long as sponsors are willing to cough up money for Fuzon to perform, the band will do the gigs (in the grand tradition of Junoon), but things will never ever be what they once were.
Yes, it is true that Fuzon is no longer the band it used to be. These three incredibly talented musicians came on board as friends and decided to make a band. The band is still alive, even if somewhat in trouble, but the friendship it seems is gone. interviewed the individuals that make up Fuzon. Here's what they had to say…
Shafqat Amanat Ali Khan
Tell us about Fuzon - what has the band been doing?
Shafqat Amanat Ali: Fuzon is very much alive. Our new album is almost finished. We are talking to a number of record labels and as soon as the deal is finalized, our album will release.
Is it true that Fuzon is introducing a new band member?
Shafqat Amanat Ali: No. I have no knowledge of this fact. Me, Shallum and Immu form Fuzon. I was the one who called Immu and said, 'Let's make a band'. If a new member is introduced, it will not be Fuzon and I won't be a part of it.
Shallum said that a new member is being introduced. How is it that you don't know?
Shafqat Amanat Ali: He was probably talking about one of his solo projects. Because if a new member was being introduced, I would've been told. Fuzon is a three-man show. Without my consent, the other two cannot introduce a new guy. Otherwise, I'm out of it.
Fuzon's album Saagar came out in 2002. The second album was slated for a release earlier this year. Why the delay?
Shafqat Amanat Ali: Yes, three years is a huge gap. But we've been busy with touring. There is also the fear of rejection. The first album was a phenomenal success. There are many expectations from us and we do not want to disappoint anyone. So, we end up mixing and re-mixing our compositions. The material is all done but sometimes, the three of us are sitting and we're like, 'let's change that' or 'add that to this track'.
Another reason for the delay is record deal. Once that falls into place, our album will be out. I don't want to give out any date because at this point, we're not sure when the deal will be final. We're in talks, so let's see.
We heard that Gumby is being asked to play some new songs on the album. If the album was finalized, how did that happen? And if it were in fact true, wouldn't that lead to further delays?
Shafqat Amanat Ali: No, nothing of that sort is happening. No new songs are being added, not to my knowledge. We have finished with the song writing process. Some production details have to be taken care of but no new member or songs are on the plate. Shallum sometimes babbles. It's not always true!
There are rumours that you guys are over. Even with a new album coming out, things have changed between the three of you. True?
Shafqat Amanat Ali: Fuzon is one of the biggest bands in the country right now. We became very famous with just one album. When success comes at such a height, things do tend to change. Yes, my band members have changed but that does not mean that we are over.
There are reports that Fuzon is signing up with Milk Inc in India. The contract is yet to be signed but verbally, it is a confirmed deal. Is it true?
Shafqat Amanat Ali: The three of us meet a number of people. Sometimes, we do it individually. But nothing is confirmed as yet. Neither a deal with Milk or any other company for that matter. We will sit down and discuss and decide if it's the right thing to do or not.
Post 'Mitwa', there is a buzz that you are doing a number of projects in Bollywood. Can you elaborate on it?
Shafqat Amanat Ali: There are a bunch of projects that are lined up. Gaurav Issar (he produced Awakening by Shubha Mudgal) wants to do an album with me. It may or may not be for a film. Then I'm planning on working with Salim-Sulaiman. I think they are very talented and it would be an interesting merger. Someone also approached me from A.R.Rahman's office. They liked 'Mitwa' and want me to sing for them. But the deal is going to be at least 4 films. I've sent them an official letter and we're working on it.
With so many solo projects lined up – playback singing and possible music albums – how will Fuzon survive?
Shafqat Amanat Ali: When we came up with Fuzon, all three of us decided that we would pursue solo careers as well. But Fuzon was and still is our top priority. No matter how many musical projects we do on our own, Fuzon will always remain our ultimate music ship.
It seems that there is a communication gap between you three. We hear different reports from different members.
Shafqat Amanat Ali: We've had our differences; we've fought a lot. But we haven't disbanded and we are together.
What has Fuzon been upto?
Shallum Xavier: We recently performed in Calcutta. It was re-launching of Fuzon in India. We are coming back with a new album very soon. We've also signed up with Milk Inc in India. The contract will be signed soon but verbally, it is a confirmed deal. They will represent us in India.
What is taking so long. The album was slated for a release this year. What changed?
Shallum Xavier: When Saagar happened, we were new as a band. But now, we deserve to be paid. I don't want to sound materialistic but with no royalties being given to the band for any reason, the only way we can earn money is through a record deal and gigs. Our album was a huge hit and not just critically. People will buy the album when it comes out but we won't make a buck out of those sales. Therefore, a proper record deal was the only viable solution to us.
Is the album ready?
Shallum Xavier: It was but now we've decided to add some new tracks. Gumby will perform on drums on those tracks. We're also introducing a new member.
What will he be doing in the band?
Shallum Xavier: That's a secret. You see, when we started out, nobody was doing what we had done. But three years later, so many bands are doing 'fusion'. Pair eastern vocals with rock and you have a band. In order to survive, we have to experiment all the time. We don't want to disappoint our fans.
You also have a series of solo projects lined up. Can you elaborate on them?
Shallum Xavier: I'm doing a project with Aamir Zaki and Gumby. It's a nameless band. Gumby has his chemistry with Aamir, while I'm working with him for the first time. We've already done one concert together. It's going to be a musical project with concentration on instrumentals. We might bring in a vocalist; we may even do an album. But right now, it's about playing live. Then there is a project with the Norwegian band Fryd. It's a cultural exchange between Pakistan and Norwegian Consulate Institute. I will play with them. Fryd may fly down here and we may work on an album. Other than that, I'm doing a show on television and jamming with all sorts of musicians. It's live, it's experimentation and very exciting!
Where does Fuzon fit in this solo equation?
Shallum Xavier: The industry is still small. How many musicians are there anyway? If Strings ask me to play on their album, why shouldn't I? Music is about finding a sound, experimenting with it and having the ability to play it live. In an ideal world, our album should have been out. I don't want our fans to wait for so long either. But the world is not perfect. This is Pakistan. Things go awry here all the time. My solo projects have nothing to do with Fuzon. I was a session player and I still am. My band is my baby.
Imran aka Immu
Is Fuzon over?
Imran aka Immu: Fuzon will never be over. It is alive and will come back with a bigger bang.
Is the current line-up calling it quits?
Imran aka Immu: No, it's not. We're all together.
Then why is your album being delayed? And there rumours about you guys breaking up?
Imran aka Immu: I'll be honest with you. It's not like we're poor or anything but when you have a reputation, you need to do things on a larger scale. Saagar was a huge hit. It's a timeless piece of music. Record labels don't want to pay. Atif, Ali Zafar, Fuzon - all of us are going through the same trouble.
Why not sign up with EMI? They are legit?
Imran aka Immu: EMI can't pay us a huge payment at this point. I respect them but we're planning four back-to-back video releases. Asim Raza, Sohail Javed, Jami and Saqib Malik - all will do one video. That requires money; the deal will happen soon. The delay can also be attributed to Shafqat.
Why is Shafqat a reason?
Imran aka Immu: After Saagar released, Fuzon signed up with San Management. Erum, Nazia and Sania Saeed were managing our band. I respect Sania; she is a fabulous actress and a wonderful human being but she is not a manager. From day one, I made it clear to Shafqat that this is not a good idea. Sania was managing Shafqat more than the band. I'm a band guy. I am a producer and I work in my studio happily. Fuzon is my baby and I want it to reach new heights. Fuzon is not Shafqat and the boys. Ultimately, Sania's management was over, but by then there were differences between us.
Fuzon is not just a band, it's also a brand. We got a sponsorship offer to round off our album deal, but Shafqat signed up with a competitor brand without telling Shallum or me. As a result, the company backed off. Hypothetically speaking if I sign up with Coke, you think Pepsi will sign Fuzon? It's a conflict of interest. This was a Shafqat Amanat Ali deal.
The three of us are kings in the band. We're all equally famous. But if a vocalist signs up with someone else, any sponsor will think twice. We've lost gigs because Shafqat has been busy. The album has been on a hold for a year because of his commitments and work.
Did you confront him?
Imran aka Immu: What good would it do now? When you haven't released an album after four years, people will think the band is over. How should I defend it? My priority is Fuzon. Apart from Emmu-Mix, I'm concentrating on Fuzon.
What about a new member and Gumby playing some new tracks. True?
Imran aka Immu: I'm just as surprised as anyone else. No, it's not true. The three of us are together so no new member is needed. As far as new tracks are concerned, nothing of that sort is happening. 90 per cent of the album is final.
With so many different views, will this line-up survive for long?
Imran aka Immu: Fuzon will be there. As far as the line-up is concerned, we just might call it off after this album. I'm not saying it's over but we need to talk everything out.
Most people think that without Shafqat, Fuzon will not make it?
Imran aka Immu: No, I don't agree. Shafqat is a fantastic vocalist. As long as he's with us, there will be no new vocalist. But if he chooses to walk out, we'll get someone else. Do you know Shafqat is almost finished with his solo album? My priority is Fuzon. Shafqat might've changed his. I hope we stick together but again, it's something we need to talk about.
It seems you and Shallum are on one end and Shafqat on the other?
Imran aka Immu: Perhaps. We live in Karachi. Everything is here: media, sponsors, organizers. Shafqat is in Lahore. He has tons of projects. I have no problem with that. But if it takes precedence over Fuzon, then we have a problem. Shallum and I go back a long way. We think on similar lines. You have the story in front of you. After Sania came in the story - and I mean no offense here - Shallum and I distanced ourselves from Shafqat.
You're also working with Nabila?
Imran aka Immu: The idea is to turn raw talent into stars. I will do the music production and Nabila will provide image consultancy for the bands. The label is called Emmu Mix. We have two acts in mind. One is a vocalist, Sohail Haider and the other is Q-Base, a Quetta-based band. Hopefully, they'll turn into music sensations someday. That's the dream. Nabila is a lot of fun. She is an extremely creative, professional person. We share a great comfort zone.