Photo Courtesy: Arul Kacker, Shot by Parizad D
We had a chat with Kumail Hamid about his sonic process, the journey so far and his latest album, ‘Yasmin.’
From your Album release in 2016 at Magfields to now, how do you think things have changed since then?
Basically, I have achieved everything I’ve wanted to with my production work. I thought I was a good producer and that I could use software well. But, I started to realize slowly, that what was limiting me was that my music theory was terrible. I didn’t really know my way around a keyboard and that was limiting me so much and around the same time, I was listening to a lot of soul music, R&B and jazz and through this was when I was like – holy shit, I can’t play anything like this. So, I kind of dedicated this time to learning the keys and just studying different records and artists. I think what’s different now is that I have more knowledge on the subject. My vocabulary with the piano has improved and in turn, my sound/music has changed.
How would you say, sonically, your music has changed? For example, if I was to look at your 2019 release, where do you consider that sound?
I think it’s an entirely different genre for me. I think this falls under more R&B and soul and my earlier music was just, some form of electronic music that I didn’t know how to describe. But here, I have a clearer picture of what I think it should be called which I think at the end of the day is soul & R&B.
An artist you would love to collaborate with?
I would have definitely collaborated with someone on the Stones Throw Roster, you know? I would say, maybe, MNDSGN, MF DOOM.
You mentioned the label. Can you mention a little bit about how it all came together?
Let me go back a little bit. I’d been sending my music to labels for a long time and I’ve had no response or no success. Arul (Kacker, manager) took the reins and sent out 100-200 emails, at least, out of which we got four responses that were positive. Bastard Jazz was the most interested. They wanted to invest in the project and they wanted to, you know, make my project global. They were really keen. Others were kind of like “Ok, this is what we’re willing to offer. Take it or leave it.” Bastard Jazz was such a pleasure to work with, so enthusiastic and happy to have us onboard. Yeah, that’s how it happened.
Do you record from home?
I record from home.
Can you take me a little bit through your process? How do you exactly go about it? Are you consistent?
I am very consistent. Even if I make a song or not, I sit down and make it a point to work everyday. Most days aren’t really productive. But still, you know, the more you try, the more likely something will happen. I usually make small, short beats and then I call my bassist Nathan Thomas who plays on my music and also plays in my band. I call him over and we record some parts together. I call another guitarist over and we record some parts. And, then sort of having all these parts in place, take the track from there and then like, expand it. That’s what my process is now, usually! Even ‘Yasmin’ started off as a beat tape. It wasn’t supposed to be full songs and it’s after I did what I did with these musicians, that they became full songs.
Creating music sometimes can be a fairly alienating or a confusing process. What would you say the highs and lows are for you in your journey?
I think the lows are definitely the inconsistencies. You’re never secure financially. There are some months that are great and some months that are horrible. The first half of the year is horrible and you make up for it in the second half. So, I think that’s the hardest. And also, just doubting your work! If a single does bad! There’s a lot of self-doubt/introspection. And sometimes not too good. And also staying cooped up in the house, I guess is not the best thing.
How do you circumvent it?
I don’t think I do! I’m a very stay at home kind of guy. But yeah, I go through the negatives. Mainly the financial security. It’s not a consistent job and its hard to tell where you’re going to be a year from now or three months from now. The highs for me I guess would just be releasing this music, playing shows, getting positive responses and making people happy. That’s what keeps me going!
Are there any gigs, in your recent memory that have stood out?
I played a DJ set recently. It was an opening for Parra For Cuvva at Famous Studios. That was wild! It was dark so I couldn’t really see anything. But, when I saw videos of the whole thing, the people that were there, were dancing to my set, I was shocked! That’s the most recent one that I had a blast at! And, another one at Khar Social I did which was again, incredible. It was a DJ set three months ago. That was fun! We haven’t done many live shows. We’re trying to start kicking off the live shows early next year instead of doing them right when the album releases so people familiarize themselves with the songs.
Why don’t you tell us a little bit about the album!
Sure. I was going through some sort of weird anxiety related issues that I still haven’t really figured out what they were. I was having issues sleeping and you know, because of which I was up all night and through that I’d just sit and make beats to kill time and just distract myself from being not so good. That’s how the album came together. Just like, sitting up at night and just driving these little beats one at a time. Inviting musicians the next day saying - hey! Can you play on this? If you read the lyrics, it’ll probably sound like love songs of sorts or songs about relationships or something but it’s about sleep and anxiousness.
You’re also part of this collective called Dasta. I wanted to know, how has that helped you in your journey as a musician?
I think, just having that support system of this close-knit group of people. We’re all very close friends and even though we’re not active as Dasta outside, we have a little group on Whatsapp. We do occasional hangouts where we just like talk about ourselves and share our problems. That way, it’s been so great! Everyone is looking out for one another and yeah, also the residency we did kind of opened my mind to collaborations. I was never one to work with other people. I kind of preferred working on my own pace and doing things on my own. After the residency, I started exploring collaborations and that’s probably why this album is so collaborative.
Do you feel a general sense of hesitation in the community regarding collaborations or is it quite free flowing in that sense?
It’s a lot more free-flowing of late. There are so many labels and so many collectives, of late. Everyone’s pushing for the same thing. Growing the community, I guess. I think there’s still a lot of hesitation but a lot less than there used to be.
Why the name Yasmin? Am I saying it right?
Yeah, you’re saying it right. It’s actually named after the building I stay in. It’s a bedroom-produced album and I just thought it was fitting to name it after the house.
Yeah, that makes sense and it’s funny because everyone is ascribing meaning to it like - “Oh, must be the name of a beautiful girl”
Are there any particular songs on the album you find yourself connected to? More than the others, perhaps!
I think ‘3 AM’ and ‘Ease up’ are definitely my favorites.
Is there any upcoming work we can look forward to?
I’m not sure but I think I’ve started working on my next EP. I have been working on a few things but, I don’t know if they’re going to make it into this next piece that I make or not. It’s too early to tell because we just put this out. But maybe, a few beats, bootlegs, remixes – things like that! I’ve been getting into that a lot, too. So probably some sort of stuff like that!
What’s the weirdest feedback you’ve got from your music?
I don’t even know this persons name. It’s a lot of cussing though. Is that fine?
Yeah. It’s fine. Go ahead!
I put up a song on Soundcloud and one guy commented on my Facebook post saying “Bhenchod, kya chutiyapa tha ye! Poora gaana Ek loop hai!” or some shit. He was so angry That’s definitely stood out for me.
I bet! How do you respond to that?
I didn’t respond to that! I don’t like responding on the Internet.
Now that you’ve signed to Bastard Jazz and you’re pretty familiar with their roster of artists, is there any artist on there that you want to collaborate with?
I think Illa J! I really want to work with rappers but they’re not so accessible. I mean there are a fair few over here but they’re not what I’m going for, you know? Hopefully this collaboration with Bastard Jazz opens doors.
There’s no one in India you think you can do something with?
There are a lot of rappers. Divines and Prabhdeeps etc. I’m not hating but it’s not what I’m going for. I want to go for a more global sound.
Thank you, Kumail.
Words by Alina Gufran
Kumail also put together a playlist of all the songs he's used as inspiration for his latest project 'Yasmin'. Follow us on Spotify for curated playlists by New Artists every week.