Instep Today

Understanding the philosophy of Takatak

Instep Today
By Maheen Sabeeh
Mon, 01, 20

Takatak, a metal band that headlined the Lahore Music Meet in one of its earlier editions, surprisingly received rave reviews. Last year the band spent two weeks at Umair Dar’s A for Aleph facility in Karachi and recorded their upcoming album in two weeks, co-produced by Takatak and Umair Dar.

Speaking to Takatak’s original member Zain Peerzada, Instep discusses why the revamped line-up was necessary, new music and whether metal music has an audience at home.

Enter Sandman

As Takatak has evolved, the band now consists of Luke Azariah (guitars, synths), Zain Peerzada (guitars), Isa Najam (bass), Yusuf Ramay (drums on ‘Fault Lines’, ‘The Whale’, ‘Phantom’), Daud Ramay (drums on ‘Volition’, ‘Voyager’, ‘Flash Your Bones’), Ali Suhail (vocals), Altamash Sever (vocals) with additional programming/ synths by Keshav Dhar, synths on ‘Voyager’ and ‘Phantom’ by Gentle Robot and additional harsh vocals by Luke Azariah on ‘Fault Lines’ (feat. Keshav Dhar and Shamsher Rana) who feature on the upcoming LP.

If you follow independent music closely, a lot of names will jump up from the aforementioned, such as Shamsher Rana, Ali Suhail, Altamash Sever, Gentle Robot, Ramay brothers; in short the upcoming Takatak record is the result of indie musicians coming together to produce what is a quality album, even for those who don’t consider themselves metal enthusiasts.

Neon Knights

“Around the time we headlined Lahore Music Meet (2018), Gentle Robot had already left the band because he was very busy with his job. But he agreed to help us do that show. The show happened and we wanted to write an album,” begins Zain.

As Zain remembers, Takatak had written two songs specifically for their performance at LMM set and Zain – along with a few others – was touring with Umair Jaswal as well. Ali Suhail is also a part of Jaswal’s line-up. “We were always together and he’s such a great producer and a prolific singer-songwriter so we were like ‘help us write vocals for our record’ and Ali’s not a metal guy. He goes into rock territory but he’s not known for metal.”

At first Ali Suhail was simply helping Takatak write some songs. “But the songs morphed into Ali’s voice in such a way that we realized he was a great singer for the kind of music we were aiming for.”

Zain laughs as he reveals, “Slowly, we trapped him that Ali only you can do this and he went with it and a lot of credit goes to him for breathing a lot of life into this band. We never had a proper vocalist and here we had this guy who is a singer and singers aren’t usually people who are producers. I would send him something and he would totally transform it. The relationship with Ali Suhail became very productive.”

Because the upcoming album is a metal record, as Zain notes, there were parts that were extremely heavy and required harsh vocals. “Altamash Sever from Keeray Makoray was inducted into the unit. He has been an old friend, and Keeray Makoray is a sister/brother band to Takatak,” Zain says, “He had always shown interest so we literally put both vocalists – Ali Suhail and Altamash Sever – under a lot of pressure. Because both of them are doing things they’ve never done before.”

Zain confesses the absence of Gentle Robot had an effect. “I was stuck in a rut. I did the last record alone; I wrote it by myself and it included Isa Najam as well as Ramay brothers but I felt it lacked another guitar player. And Luke plays in Keeray Makoray; he’s an amazing guitar player. Luke and Ali took us out of the rut; I got married and Yusuf got married and the coming-of-age scene was also happening. I learned so much from them so these new guys have upped our game.”

For this album, Takatak embraced technology and 80 per cent of the album was pre-produced by embracing software(s) and even WhatsApp.

Breaking the mould

“Where we are right now is the strongest we’ve ever been,” reflects Zain Peerzada.

The co-producer Umair Dar also plays a significant role, says Zain. “If Umair Dar hadn’t been there, we wouldn’t have made this record but something else. I’m forgetting our first meeting but he saw us perform and Aleph was done, almost and he said you have to record. And I was thinking I can’t afford it and I said no three times. We are a metal band that no one even listens to.”

Metal grinds

Our understanding of metal extends to Metallica or Black Sabbath and for a lot of people it doesn’t go beyond that. Even purely guitar-based bands are becoming archaic with electronic and EDM rising along with indie.

Zain agrees, “Absolutely, that’s true. A lot of my peers in the music and indie-scene snicker at us that you’re still doing this… metal is seen as a phase that ‘oh they’re kids’ but we enjoy it and this is what we like to do and we are good at.

”We’ve been cultivating an audience in Pakistan and they follow us rabidly; there are kids who are into this kind of music but the numbers are low. It’s been a whole decade in August of us being a band and (now) I’ve realised we are really aiming for a global release because there is a market abroad. So, we are networking and what not. But to tour a lot of money is put behind such bands – the opportunities I would say will be presenting themselves but it’s also a matter of how we collect capital to do this and push it globally. We’ve spent money on this record in a lot of ways, so globally is the only way to sustain this band. I don’t see a scene here for a metal band.”

Here we go now

But Zain knows they have a following at home and abroad. Another important influence is an Indian band called Skyharbor and they are big in the progressive metal scene. Following the band as a fan for years, Zain ended up having a progressive relationship with Skyharbor’s Keshav Dhar, who offered to mix the album, having heard their music. “That blew our minds; he is a very accomplished person.”

To that end, on January 22, Takatak is dropping the first single from their new album with a music video accompanying it. The single is called ‘Fault Lines’ and it features Keshav and Shamsher Rana from Wisdom Salad as Zain says, with a laugh, “Guitar-wise, it might be the coolest thing to happen to Pakistan.”

Zain Peerzada continues to give credit to his band members, co-producer, engineering experts, mixing and mastering expert as the bigger talents whose involvement has made their album, Acrophase something extraordinary. With the album scheduled to release this year, Takatak just might reinvent the indie music scene sound.