Your Ad Here

Interview: Aunty Disco Project's Omar Bilal Akhtar on the future of Pakistan & music

"I've always been optimistic about Pakistan. Our people have been through so much, but they keep bouncing back. That's got to mean something!"

– Aunty Disco Project's front man, Omar Bilal Akhtar, speaks on the future of Pakistan, music, and how the video of 'Nazar' marks the rebirth of ADP

Maheen Sabeeh, Karachi

Aunty Disco Project aka ADP have been around for sometime now. Hailing from Karachi, the band consists of Omar Bilal Akhtar (Vocals/ Guitar/Bass), Omar "OK" Khalid (Drums/Guitar) and Yasir Qureshi (Darbuka/ Percussion). With two videos ('Sultanat' and 'Iss Tanhai Koi') out and a consistent web presence via Facebook and MySpace, the band has developed a cult following with rock fans. And now with their third video, 'Nazar', ADP have re-launched themselves in the public stratosphere.

'Nazar' is, many ways, a breaking off of the ADP image. The song is primarily a soft ballad and unlike any tune the band has ever done. Even the video is more than a DIY effort. With Umer Adil in the director's seat, the video is simply put, beautiful. It spins around fantasy and costumes that are borrowed from fairy tales; put together brilliantly, the video demands attention. And it works on many levels. For fans of soft rock, this one will be worth remembering.

In this interview with Instep Today, Omar Bilal, ADP front man speaks on the new video, upcoming album and his stint as music director for the hit musical Chicago.

Instep Today: 'Nazar' is a change of sound for ADP. Was it a conscious effort to turn the sound around?

Omar Bilal: You could say that. The song is my most personal song on the album and it was always a favourite of ours, even though we all weren't playing on it. When it came to choosing the song for the next video, we could have either gone with 'Shehar Kay Aansoo' or 'Nazar'. We decided to go with the mellow acoustic number just so that we could show a different side of ourselves. We're hoping 'Nazar' will introduce us to people who aren't really our core audience and we can avoid being pigeon-holed as a hard rock band.

Instep Today: How did this video come about?

Omar Bilal: All the credit goes to the director Umer Adil and his wife/set designer Beenish Waiz. We didn't really want to give them any suggestions because we wanted to see what they could come up with on their own after listening to the song. The only guidelines I gave them were that we didn't want it to be obviously romantic (like the song), slow or too serious. We also suggested that maybe the video could have some dark humor in it, (kind of like Take That's video for 'How Deep Is your Love').

Umer and Beenish then came up with the fairytale-esque setting and the period costumes and we got to pick our individual characters. I have to admit, we were a little apprehensive about the whole costume thing because we're supposed to be this dirty hardcore rock band and here we are dressed up like we're in Legends of The Fall! But in the end, I'm glad we did because it was so much fun, and Umer and Beenish got it just right.

Instep Today: Is Imran Lodhi - bass guitartist - still a part of ADP after leaving for Canada or has Ganda Banda Ali Alam replaced him permanently?

Omar Bilal: Well, Imran is in Canada and we're here, so as with most relationships, the long-distance thing wasn't working. So we parted amicably and we wish him all the best for his solo efforts.

Ali is long-term fan of ours and a good friend, so initially he stepped in to help us fulfill our live show commitments. But as far as him being a fulltime permanent member of ADP, he's still undecided. I can tell you we love playing with him and he's definitely part of our live line-up. Officially, we're down to being a trio.

Instep Today: What is happening with the album?

Omar Bilal: The ADP album Aunty Disco Project has technically already been released, we did everything ourselves, from writing, recording, producing, printing and distributing. We only sold the CDs at our shows and some select cafes in Karachi. There was and still is an opportunity for us to release it officially through a record label but personally I feel that those songs just don't represent us anymore, and for us to go back and release stuff that's already been around for two years would be kind of stale. I'm much more excited about the new material we're writing and the plan is to record a brand new album, with proper production and a record label release. The songs we've already released are available for download on the web so people can still get a hold of them. What we're also doing is launching a proper website that will have all our songs and live recordings available for download and I think that's the best way for us to get the music to our fans.

Instep Today: Internet is becoming a huge medium in the urban centers of Pakistan. But to make a big splash, the physical copy of the album is important in the market. Do you agree?

Omar Bilal: You know the physical act of releasing a CD, with an album cover, press conference and the whole shebang is probably more important than just having a CD out in the market. What record labels do for us is generate publicity so that people can associate us as an act that has some credibility. So yes, in that sense it's important to have a record label support you so that people know who you are. But having a CD itself is not that important anymore because everyone gets music off the net anyway. We're pretty keen on making our website the one-stop shop for all things ADP and we feel that will be more effective than CD sales.

Instep Today: How hopeful are you about the country's future with the new government in place?

Omar Bilal: You know, I've always been one of those people who is optimistic about Pakistan. The way I look at it, our people have been though so much, but they keep bouncing back, so thats got to mean something. I believe in the resilience of the people, and I believe that the government is irrelevant.

Instep Today: You also performed with Chicago, the musical. Tell us about your experience with this musical.

Omar Bilal: The director Nida Butt originally wanted me to act and sing in the show but I had commitments with ADP so I took on a smaller speaking role and also took on the responsibility of music director. It was a personal goal of mine to work in a musical and I saw it as a great opportunity to expand my musical genre experience. I composed the score for the musical (the bits that weren't already part of the original) and that was personally very rewarding because it was very different from the rock music I usually do. The cast was an amazing bunch of people and working with them gave me a huge confidence boost.

Instep Today: What is next for ADP?

Omar Bilal: A new album! We've written brand new tracks which we're going to be previewing at our upcoming gigs. We're really excited about them, they're much better than anything we've written, its much more heavy and edgy, so I cannot wait to go back into the studio. 'Nazar' is kind of a re-launch for us into public consciousness so we intend to take advantage of that and focus on getting more people to see us, that includes finally performing in Lahore and Islamabad. That's our top priority right now.

link: The News International - No. 1 English Newspaper from Pakistan