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MANINAONEROOMPALACE"Rock n Roll shouldn't be business as usual." cautions the liner notes of TEE-M's debut CD EARTHIOTIC:SONGSFROMAONEROOMPALACE. Almost everyone can agree that rock n roll should be about making love instead of war, but we're living in a world where rock n roll has nothing to do with rocking and rolling and everything to do with demographics, percentages, and sponsorship. TEE-M (Pakistani born singer-songwriter, TARIQ MIRZA) has been popping up here and there in Los Angeles and making a name for himself as one of the towns most charismatic and acclaimed independent recording artists and ROCKWIRED definitely feels a kinship to this fellow (TEE-M is the host of the Internet radio TEE-M's UNSIGNED MUSIC SHOW on WPMD.COM)
SINGER-SONGWRITER TEE-M TALKS TO ROCKWIRED
HIS LATEST CD, AND GROWING UP WITH A WIRELESS RADIO
INTERVIEWED BY BRIAN LUSH
EARTHIOTIC: SONGSFROMAONEROOMPALACE is beatlesque pop-rock of the GEORGE HARRISON variety as opposed to the more standard LENNON/McCARTNEY influence. Inspired and heartfelt, this CD is a collection of 16 pop gems that will stay in your head weeks after the initial listen. Songs like the reflective DISAPPEARED, the joyous AAO, AAO, AAO, and the melancholic MAN WITHOUT A COUNTRY are the standout tracks, but the remainder of the album ain't exactly filler - a tough feat for a CD with 16 songs. It's a trip! Shelve it in your CD collection somewhere between THE BEATLES' HELP and ELVIS COSTELLO's GET HAPPY.
Rock n roll is the name of TEE-M's game and he has come out on top. It ain't exactly "old time rock n roll" and it ain't no "rock n roll suicide". This is music that can bring people together. Funny how music does that more so than those bilateral peace talks you hear so much about.
ROCKWIRED spoke to TEE-M over the phone. Here is how it went:
It's kind of weird that I'm interviewing someone else who hosts an Internet radio show.
Yes, it is very funny.
Maybe next you can interview me!
Our show, what we do is we get a performing artist or a band. It's kind of fun that way.
So you have live performances on your show than?
Oh yeah, yeah yeah. Every show, I usually have two artists for a two hour show. What I do is in the first hour we play the recorded CD music and the next hour is the live performance. It's a lot of fun.
Makes my little show seem pretty sad.
You usually feature one artist, right?
Yeah won artist for the entire show.
That's pretty awesome.
How did you come across my show?
DJ MONKEY is one of the bands that i've been playing for a longtime and JOEY ALKES put me on the bands mailing list and I got the one about your interview and I thought "This is interesting".
It's good to know that we've got good bands in common.
I've got a segment called BLINDED BY THE SPOTLIGHT where I play three tracks from a record and I've had DJ MONKEY on that segment.
I see, and you broadcast through WPMD.ORG?
Yes. It comes out of CERRITOS COLLEGE. MIKE STARK is the man. He's the guy who hosts MIKE STARK's ROCK 50. MIKE STARK is also the author of BLACK SABBATH: AN ORAL HISTORY and one of the guests that he gets every month is BILL WARD from BLACK SABBATH. He gets me once a month as well. I knew MIKE in the nineties, and then we had lost touch for a while then he came across this short film that I was in with SPRINGSTEEN, and ICE-T and all these people and we reconnected through that. He got a hold of me and said "Hey, man I've got this show and I'd like for you to come in so I can interview you and see what you're up to. " I went a couple of times and the second time I brought some music by some unsigned artists that I had come across. I played a coup;le of songs and he asked if I'd like to do this on a regular basis and I said "Yeah." That's how it started and it's been going on for about two years now. It's been quite a thrill to do this. There are so many great bands that don't have the chance to be exposed, given the way that the music industry is now. Every little bit helps.
You got back in touch with MIKE STARK through the film THE ULTIMATE SONG. What was that film about?
THE ULTIMATE SONG was a short film about boundaries and how musicians can bridge that. This was about five years ago. At that time I had written this song about the guys who was shot about 40 or 50 times in New York. I had just done the demo and I had no money to record it. I was sitting in front of the TV one day and there was this big hoopla about SPRINGSTEEN who had written a song called 41 SHOTS about the same situation. I didn't get a chance to put my song out and here's SPRINGSTEEN. I knew LEE BALLINGER he's the west coast editor of ROCK N RAP CONFIDENTIAL and he asked me if I was performing anywhere, because the people who took two or three years for the people to get this film together and then 9/11 happened. I was honored to be in the film really with people like SPRINGSTEEN, ICE-T and TOM MORELLO and they had other unsigned independent artists. That was how that came about.
The filmmaker LISA SCOTT is making a film about you?
She had kept in touch with me after THE ULTIMATE SONG and became a supporter of my music. When she heard EARTHIOTIC she said, "I have to do a documentary on you." I thought that would be great . She started working on that and got a lot of footage - about six or seven months worth of footage. The project is on the shelf at the moment. She's still trying to find a distributor and all that I don't know if it'll come out or not but she did shoot a lot of footage and I got a video out of it for the song AAO, AAO, AAO and it's on YOUTUBE.COM
Excellent! I'm addicted to YOUTUBE.COM.
Th thing with my computer right now is I don't have sound. MIKE STARK did this YOUTUBE thing for me.
Is EARTHIOTIC your first CD proper?
Yes. I did singles and EP's but never a full-fledged album. When you're unsigned you hope that a record deal comes through but I gave up on that. I might be dead before I get a record deal so I might as well do this on my own. That's what inspired me to do it and I came across GEOFF TYSON who I was thrilled to be working with for this CD. He's got a studio and he's a very passionate musician. He and I connected musically. I was getting ready to do my album then GEORGE HARRISON passed away and I had to do a song for GEORGE HARRISON because THE BEATLES really spoke to me when I was growing up in PAKISTAN. I had gone to PAKISTAN in 2001reading about GEORGE on the way back bringing back all of these memories. When I got back to Los Angeles I told GEOFF I was going to do my album.
Is the one room palace the living room the CD was recorded in?
No, GEOFF moved his studio around three times. The one room palace is actually my apartment
I read in you bio that growing up in Pakistan you listened to a lot of rock music through short wave radio. I think that's interesting because when I was a kid I listened to a lot of rock music through a transistor radio that my grandfather gave me.
Transistor radios were a big thing. I was in tune with all of the programs like BBC WORLD SERVICE, RADIO INDIA and VOICE OF AMERICA. They were 30 minute programs and they played top 40 or whatever. That was my introduction to pop music with all of the static. I think I developed my listening because of the static. I'm a self taught musician. I was never trained to do any of this. Short wave was the thing for me. It was hard to get records at that time in PAKISTAN.
It wasn't like here or England. You had to borrow from your friends whose families traveled abroad. A friend of mine who just passed away. We were teenagers running around in Karachi and one day, he came up to me and said "My brother just brought this album from England and it says ARE YOU EXPERIENCED?" I said "Who's the artist?" My friend told me..."This guy from America, but he's getting started in England. His name is JIMI HENDRIX."My friend turned me on to some great music.
Is EARTHIOTIC a collection of songs written over the years, or were they written specifically for this release?
No. These are songs that I have been writing and saving. EARTHIOTIC to me, kind of flows. I was thinking of EARTHIOTIC as opposed to patriotic. There is too much patriotism going on in the world.We get into a lot more problems when you start thinking that way. EARTHIOTIC is a word I made up and once you're EARTHIOTIC
everything falls under that. I think it should be a word. I think it should be in the dictionary.
The song AAO AAO AAO, kind of jumps out at the listener. What does it mean?
AAO mean "Come". The song was inspired by my mother's cooking. I was here in Los Angeles and I was in this half dream half awake state that you get it and I was hearing the voice of my mother and I was smelling the aroma of this thing she used to make called SUGIKA HALWA. Its a kind of dessert.
So when I woke up I picked up my guitar and started writing the song and it just flowed. I like it because it used both English and Urdu. It's a big song in Pakistan right now on 89.9 FM in Karachi, and all over Pakistan. Actually I just returned from Pakistan.
Oh really? When?
I was there in January and then I was called back in June, and that time I was there for about two months.
Right now, they've really opened up for music and entertainment. TV is taking off and I was really thrilled to be back there. I was taping a lot of TV shows being interviewed for a lot of radio stations. I'm getting ready to go back again actually.
Was the song NEW ORLEANS before Katrina?
Yes it was before.
The track has this playfulness that people don't associate with New Orleans anymore.
The album came out in May of 2005 but i had written the song a few years back. MIKE STARK did a New Orleans tribute on his show and he kicked it off with my NEW ORLEANS. That was great honor for me. I loved that city when I was there. It's one of the very few cities that ever inspired me to write a song.
There 's another track on this CD MAN WITHOUT A COUNTRY. You wanna talk about it?
MAN WITHOUT A COUNTRY. I was having breakfast one morning and reading the LA TIMES and i came across this story and the title was MAN IN AIRPORT FOR SIX YEARS. I read the story and I couldn't believe it. This was around 1995 or so and I said "This is amazing!" Two or three days after that I was sitting with the guitar and the song just came out. Six years earlier this man went to Paris and the whole thing becomes a nightmare from there. None of the countries involved were not owning him and that was the inspiration. Then in 2003 I read that Spielberg and TOM HANKS are working on a movie called TERMINAL and I said "Oh, God I recorded this!!!" I had a few copies of the song and I thought that I'd send it to these guys (DREAMWORKS). I finally got a hold of them and told them about this song I had and they told me to go get a lawyer and then send it through. I debated with them at first but I had this friend who was a lawyer who agreed to send it to them. I did everything that these guys told me to do. After a week or so, DREAMWORKS sent the CD back to the lawyer and the lawyer called me back. So I called DREAMWORKS, they said they opened the package and forwarded it tot he business office and the business office looked at it and determined that the material was unsolicited. I couldn't believe it.
Even thought you had a lawyer submit it on you behalf, it was unsolicited?
Exactly. This is how Hollywood does things. I had a friend from MUSIC CONNECTION who knew someone in DREAMWORKS, who would get them to listen to the recording but by then, the movie was already in post-production. In the end I was just happy that the song was written about this story ten years before Hollywood did anything about it.
The movie probably stunk anyway.
There was this stewardess from England who know my music and knows the story behind MAN WITHOUT A COUNTRY and she said that she saw the film knowing about my song and what I went thought "...and it sucked!" They should've put my song in there. i never saw the movie.
What do you want someone to walk away with after hearing you music?
In the same sens that I listen to these great rock n roll musicians and songs, there was some kind of inspiration because these guys inspired me a lot. I'm a self-taught rock musician from Pakistan. If it can inspire anyone to pick up a guitar and get into songwriting, that's a great feeling. I've ready had people back in Pakistan connect with me after hearing AAO AAO AAO on the radio. I'd like to bridge the gap between east and west.