Welcome to a new feature for the website!
Inspired by the Albums Unleashed episodes of the Decibel Geek Podcast, we introduce Track 2 Track where we ask musicians to discuss their albums in depth.
Starting with the fantastic debut album by Shumaun, I discussed the making of the record with vocalist and lead guitarist/songwriter Farhad “Zink” Hossain.
Farhad Hossain on Shumaun
I began by asking Zink what he remembered of the recording sessions for the album and whether he had any stories about the recording or any anecdotes he could share with our readers.
“Thank you for having me again on Decibel Geek.
As far as the recording sessions go, a majority of the album was tracked in my personal recording studio called Zinkferd Studio. We had so many issues that slowed down the recording process for the whole record, and even one that changed the musical direction of the band when our original keyboardist left. I’ve done several interviews that discussed all of the hurdles we faced during the recording of this last record so I won’t go into much detail again, but as you can tell we had three drummers on this record so that just hints at one of the biggest we faced!
Having three drummers on this record was a challenge from a production standpoint, but Brett Caldas-Lima at Tower Studio did a tremendous job with the mix. He was able to make the whole record sound consistent and coherent, even with the drums being tracked in three separate studios with three completely different rooms.
We made sure that the recording of the album was as organic as possible by using real instruments and real amps in the studio. It really was a pleasure working with Brett. There were times where he’d flat out tell me that I played a guitar part horribly, sang certain parts without emotion, or even out of key. I can’t thank him enough for that level of dedication and attention to detail. I would say that in doing so he also played the role of a producer at times. The record would not be what it is today without his commitment and hard work, that’s a fact.”
1. A New Revolution
Storming start to the album! How did you decide that this would be the lead song? What is the song referring to? Why the reference to “the citizens are divine“?
“Thank you! The album’s track order was very difficult for us to decide on and we argued about it for days. Tyler Kim came up with the order that we all finally agreed on. I think it’s a great opening track just because it comes in full force and really gives the audience a good idea of what we are all about. It’s got an abnormal song structure but the catchy chorus line really brings the song together.
I’m not too comfortable talking about my lyrics or certain lines within a song in depth just because of its personal nature, but I can definitely give you some insight on some of the lyrics and overall meanings as it relates to me for each song.
“A New Revolution” is about the moment of impact when you suddenly change the way you feel about any given experience in your life, or how you view the world around you. Essentially it’s about the moment of enlightenment that comes from within. A revolution of the mind as such that has the ability to change the world around you just by a shift in perception. There is a metaphysical pain that we all feel from time to time, and it’s this exact feeling that’s sacred to mystics. We breathe a divine breath that separates us from the physical world while at the same time giving us life to keep us in it. The line “citizens are divine” literally refers to that divine nature in all of us.”
2. Miracles Of Yesterday
This has a heavier sound than much of the album. Which bands inspired this sound? Why the reference to miracles of yesterday rather than today or tomorrow? Is it about memory?
“The intro riff of the song is definitely one of the heavier ones on the album, but once the verse kicks in there is a shift in the direction of the song. It has some progressive, metal, and world music influences in it but ended up sounding like a pop song in ways. The song was musically inspired by Muse and believe it or not, No Doubt as well… The first being more noticeable than the latter.”
The song is about breaking away from all of the boundaries the physical world has in place for us, and experiencing enlightenment through meditation, self-discovery, and the abandonment of the ego to reach a higher state of consciousness. It’s about experiencing a place where time is not linear, so the word “yesterday” has no implication to what has past or what is behind us. The “miracle” is referring to the concept that everything in this universe is connected and a part of a single source. I relate my understanding of these concepts to how we can interact with our physical world beyond the limitations of the tangible nature of our bodies.”
3. You and I Will Change The World
The drumming is immense on this track. Is this Travis Orbin (formerly of Periphery)? How did he come to drum on the album? Is there a Rush influence I hear?
“’You and I Will Change the World’ actually had Mark Zonder on drums. Mark pretty much copied Tanvir Tomal’s original drum parts for this one per my request. I really grew attached to the parts and felt that they shouldn’t be changed much. We were going through our crisis at the time of recording the album and, because we were without a drummer, I reached out to Travis Orbin and Mark Zonder, both of whom are amazing drummers. I am honored and humbled to have them on this record.
It’s funny, there are times when a certain song or artist will inspire me to write, and the end result might showcase those influences. At other times, a band can inspire a song or a passage and the final product sounds nothing at all like what initially inspired it. ‘Miracles of Yesterday’ is just one of those examples, as it was inspired by No Doubt, but sounds nothing like them at all. ‘You and I Will Change the World’ was written when I was going through a Coheed and Cambria phase. The Rush influence is definitely there as well, more notably in the big guitar chords during the pre-chorus.“
4. Keep It Together
The bass playing is great across the album (good job Jose Mora), but it is exceptional on this tune. How did he get such a great tone?
“I really love the bass line on the verse myself. When I initially made the demo for the song I had no idea what the bass would do on the verses. When Jose came back with the bass line, I was super excited with how it elevated the simplistic nature of the verses.
Out of all the tones on the album, the bass tone is what took the most time to finalize. You can thank Brett at Tower Studio once again for this. I am sure there were times when he wanted to strangle me. I would always say things like…Make the bass sound a bit more (oomphy, present, clear, etc.), I want it to have the punch of Geddy Lee’s tone. I was more fixated with the bass sound on the record than anything else. Luckily, we were thousands of miles apart so no one got hurt haha! I kid, Brett was amazing to work with and we became friends in the process.”
What revolution is referred to here?
“The song is about a deteriorating relationship where neither party really wants to leave but has to due to external conflicts. The “revolution” in this song is referring to the desire to have any kind of change in the dynamic of the relationship that might change the course of the said relationship where separation is not an option.“
Your guitar playing is great with Tyler Kim. Do I hear some Steve Rothery coming through?
“Tyler and I are playing different inversions of the chords in the chorus to make the part really drive and sound huge. As far as the Steve Rothery influence, if there is one on this track I wasn’t aware of it, but his work on all of the early Marillion albums definitely shaped me as a guitarist so it’s quite possible.”
5. We Always Disappear
I love the dual singing with Dove. What is this song about – is this about why do dreamers or idealists not get taken seriously?
“As soon as I started writing the vocal melody to the song I had Dove Davis’ voice in mind to double with. Dove and I are good friends that sung in an acoustic music project we started a while back. That’s when we realized that our voices really complimented each others. She really has a vulnerable and sensitive voice that really lends itself to the track given the context of the song.
Your interpretation of the lyrics is definitely valid. The story behind the song is rather silly. It’s about a person who is living a double life, one based in reality and one in a dream state. He falls for a woman in a reoccurring dream that continues to take shape with every night’s sleep, just as we do in reality with every sunrise. As much as he wants to sustain this relationship, she obviously “always disappears” when he wakes up, so he continually tries to tap into this dream state throughout the day in order to continually feel that feeling of safety and warmth as one does when in love.“
6. When It’s Our Turn
“There certainly might be a Peter Gabriel influence, only because he has been such a huge inspiration for me. However, I was listening to lots of Keane and Anathema when I wrote this. This is one of those times where I think it really shows. Lyrically, the song was initially inspired by the loss of a friend to suicide, however, as always there are multiple elements of my life I’ve taken inspiration from that I reference in the lyrics.“
7. The Drop
A favorite of mine. What is the song about?
“Thank you, I am really glad to hear that. There are several elements that I touch on in the lyrics of this song that I’ve taken from personal experiences as well as from my overall feelings on certain subjects. Essentially it’s about the hypocrisy that’s so prevalent in many institutions that hide behind the confines of any given religion. Throughout history we see individuals and institutions using religion for personal gain, or to further divide us by calling for and justifying murder, hate, injustice, and inequality. My problems do not lie with religion at all, on the contrary, it’s only with those individuals that use it as a tool to justify horrible things. We are all on different spiritual paths and our differences are what makes us so great as a whole. Religion can be very dangerous when spirituality and individuality is stripped away from it. In a nutshell, the song is about finding a spiritual path that directly connects the heart to the divine.“
““Ambrosia” is the heaviest song on the record. Lyrically the song is about the internal conflict of the self… The battle of the id, ego, and super-ego. It’s about trying to make sense of a spiritual path by eliminating all aspects of human innovation that tend obscure those paths. However the path does not have to be spiritual in nature, it’s all up to interpretation.
In ancient Greek mythology “ambrosia” is referred to as the drink of the gods that provided immortality to those who drank it. Its Sanskrit equivalent is “amrita,” which translates to “immortality.” I use the concept of this drink as a metaphor for spiritual enlightenment that we sometimes try to attain, especially at times when we find ourselves at our lowest, when everything around us is falling apart. Rebirth refers to the awakening of one’s true self.”
Great song about emotions. What are the additional instruments you play on this tune? Was this based upon any personal experiences or is it about others?
“Thank you! In addition to guitar and vocals, I also played keyboards throughout the album. All of my lyrics have ties to personal experiences in one way or another. I wrote a majority of the lyrics for this song on a plane way above the Atlantic Ocean.
The song is about taking personal experiences, whatever they may be, and using words and the power of writing to exorcise those emotions in a productive way. The fear of falling in love (again) being the subject in this particular song.“
10. Sunrise At Midnight
What was the inspiration for this song? If it were a soundtrack, which film would it be for?
“Funny story about “Sunrise at Midnight”… So, Iris Divine (Zink‘s previous band) tracked vocals, lead guitars, and bass with me at Zinkferd studio (my recording studio), for their last record Karma Sown. There is an instrumental on that record called “In Spirals”. When I heard the track I thought to myself, “hmm, maybe the Shumaun record should have an instrumental as well.” Navid Rashid and company don’t know this, but it’s because of that Iris Divine song that “Sunrise at Midnight” even exists.
I knew that I wanted to do something completely different by incorporating more melody and keeping the song trim and fit. My goal was to come up with an instrumental that didn’t drag that could be enjoyed by the non-musician. I used Rush’s “YYZ” as inspiration, due to its memorable melodies and overall track length. The eastern feel just came out naturally so I just went with it. As far as what movie it would be used for… I haven’t the slightest clue! I don’t get out to see movies much, so I am not too sure. Is there a movie that has a chase scene in a Middle Eastern desert?”
11. The Dream Of The Sleeper
“I used the story of “The Seven Sleepers” found in the Bible and Quran as the foundation and inspiration for the lyrics behind the song, only I twisted it around completely to come up with my own story. Essentially it’s about lost love with spiritual overtones. In the song, the protagonist wakes up after 300 years of sleep only to find that his love is no longer by his side. The song takes the listener on a journey as he tries to cope with the heartache up until the point where he finds his peace through spiritual enlightenment and environmental awareness. I never thought that the song would end up as long as it did. I just kept writing and let the song take me on my own journey… Nothing was forced.“
Is this about survivors of war or were you also thinking about something like Hurricane Katrina? Who does the voice over? Sorry if it is someone obvious, but I am not familiar with the voices.
“The lyrical portion of the song is exactly about that… The innocent survivors of war. The crisis in Syria is what inspired this portion of the song. “Syria” was actually the song’s working title. Overall the song is about how people of conscious can make substantial changes in our world just by getting together for a common cause, essentially having power in numbers. Off the top of my head the voiceover clips came from John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, and Mahatma Gandhi. They were gracious enough to lend me their voices without a fee haha. The song starts with simple guitar harmonics and keeps building up with layers and layers of instrumentation until the climax. Essentially mimicking how the spark of an idea can grow until it becomes a massive movement.”
“Thanks again for having me here…this was somewhat cathartic.”
And that is, my friends, the story of the Shumaun self-titled debut. A huge thank you to a true gentleman and fantastic talent, Mr. Farhad “Zink” Hossain! The album is immense and is a must for all you prog rockers and fans of great quality music…
Look out for more Shumaun later in 2016/17, when they release their next opus, which will be reviewed (perhaps another Track 2 Track) on Decibel Geek.