Editor’s Note: The interview was taken on the 8th of July when the site was down due to glitches and renovation, it is finally being published now (19/09/2014), on behalf of the team, I deeply apologize to Owned and our audiences for not being able to put it up earlier.
Owned has been on the roll in the underground music scenario ever since 2007. On its seven years of journey, the band has delivered five remarkable singles and gained a prodigious reputation for their powerful live performances. On the 21st of June 2014, Owned had launched its full-length album, ONE, which has already been proclaimed as one of the best albums released this year. A.K. Samee (drums) and Fasihuddin Ahmed (guitars) shared some inside scoops on the album and the band over a little chit-chat.
Q. How does Owned feel about their debut album, ONE, finally being released?
Samee: It’s like a baby coming out, finally.
Fasih: And hence the baby.
Samee: It has been about two weeks and I still can’t digest the fact that the album is out.
Fasih: We’ve been working on the album for two years and promised to have it done and out by 2013, which of course, we didn’t. We couldn’t because we had to face all these problems. But it’s finally out and I still am not sure of how I feel. We weren’t sure about our feelings even the day before the album release.
Samee: The day before the album launch, I asked Ratul (vocals, bass) how he was feeling. He was pretty calm, well, he is like that, and said, “Bhaloi” (imitating Ratul’s ever so calm and unimpressed tone). The album launch was at 5 the next day and Ratul woke up at 4, whereas the others couldn’t get a sleep at all.
Releasing the album, it feels good. It feels great! It’s like a burden had just lifted off my shoulders. Burden in a sense that the people started to expect a lot, like A LOT from us, which scared me. People used to knock me and say stuff like, “Bhaia, can’t wait for the album. Waiting for a masterpiece.” But what if we don’t deliver? That was my biggest fear. Their expectations grew up to be a burden, a nightmare to me.
People were hoping for something totally out-of-the-box. Thankfully, we did not just meet their expectations, we went far beyond that. Of course, most people would say all good stuff about the album to me. But judging from the general response, it was pretty much a success.
Fasih: And we owe it to ourselves. I mean, the album is like the final thing. And ours we are proud of.
Q. Owned has had its ups and downs in its 7 years of journey (2007-2014). With its struggle for a proper line-up, five singles were released. Other than that, it was basically just live shows. At what point did you think that Owned was ready for a full-length album?
Samee: It was after our 3rd single, Scissorhands.
Our 1st single was a disaster. We weren’t happy with the song, neither band-wise, nor sound-wise. That just did not sound like us. Then came our 2nd single, which was less disastrous, but still did not provide the sound we were looking for. But on our 3rd single, we got the sound that we wanted to work with. Though the album sounds nothing like Scissorhands, that is where it all started from.
Scissorhands was released on 2011. After that, we listened to a lot of different music. I was listening to this one thing, he (Fasih) was listening to this completely different thing and Ratul, well, he just listened to everything.
Fasih: I’ve been friends with him since childhood and I still can’t tell what sort of music he likes.
Samee: He listens to Miley Cyrus. He loves that chick for some reason. He just listens to everything. And that helped the band a lot.
After that, we went on a break. We didn’t do anything for the next 7-8 months because of the line-up changes. At that time, we just randomly jammed without the pressure of coming up with a song. During these random jamming over the year when we were inactive, we came up with a couple of rough songs that we wanted to work with. It had a lot to do with Ratul, honestly. The entire sound of the band changed with the change of the vocal.
We were always listening to different stuff, even before the break. But, I guess, we didn’t really give each other the space we needed to ourselves to get our individual sounds. The whole break thing really helped.
First, it was just the three of us (Samee, Ratul and Fasih). Then came along Pritom (guitars) and Samiul (keys). Our individual sounds and influences were completely different from each other. But when we play together, it all just blends in. Another important thing is, we know our limits. We would never push ourselves to do something beyond that limit. We played the stuff that suited us, individually.
Q. Not even two weeks since the album launched and ONE has already made it to the heart of the people. What made that possible?
Samee: The response has been overwhelming, we are absolutely ecstatic. I think it’s the positive word of mouth which made it possible to reach a wider range of audience. Let’s be honest here, free download always helps and this is exactly what we wanted and was hoping for. Glad it turned out that way and more.
We weren’t expecting such a massive response. Our sound, it wasn’t for everybody to take. It was just for a very niche audience. We thought it would reach out to a very limited group of people. They’d give it a listen, jump on about it for a couple of days and then it would all pass. But surprisingly and thankfully, it got accepted my quite a lot of people, and got accepted pretty well.
I have to give it up to this one particular song that played a major role in the spreading of our songs among the people. It’s the song “Bhabantor”. I guess it’s the simplicity of the lyrics that did the trick. I didn’t use any alien vocabs that would make you go, “Wait, what is that word? I need to get my dictionary”. When you hear the song, you can understand that it’s about frustration, like you’ve had enough and can’t take it anymore, a bad phase that we all have to go through in life.
Fasih: To me, it’s about fish. I just can’t stand them.
Samee: What happened the night of the album launch really surprised me. The songs were up on our official website for free downloads. We had a limit of a thousand downloads for the month. But the website crashed within a few hours after the album went up for download. We hit over a thousand downloads in just a couple of hours. We never thought we would get a thousand downloads over a month but we got that overnight.
After the site went down, this random guy knocked Ratul on facebook and said that he wanted to help us with the situation. He said he could put the songs up in his own site till we got ours fixed. People could get the songs downloaded from his server till we got ours back. Ratul said that he would be running a risk. He said it’d be okay and it’d be an honour for him to have our songs up in his site.
We were very surprised. I mean, the album had spread out and touched such a wide range of people touched them to such a level that they’d come up and offer to help us. We were grateful to him. So we said we’d pack a CD, a sticker, a poster and a t-shirt and have it sent over to him. He said he wouldn’t accept that. He’d buy them from us and he’d buy them with double the price than have them free. We were touched by what he did for us. It’s overwhelming to see such things happen and it happened because of the album.
Q. ONE shows the gradual changes that the band had to adapt in the years of its making, musically speaking. How would you define these changes and the maturity that Owned has reached along the way?
Samee: It has a lot to do with our individual inputs. We have been listening to a lot of different type of music, be it electronic, pop, grunge, rock etc. The influences pretty much come from there, hence the somewhat new sound. We jam and experiment a lot and it’s just a very fun way to go about things.
The album sounds nothing like the sound we primarily had. When Ratul took up vocals, we had to change our entire sound.
We’re basically experimental rock, a mixture of different sub-genres of rock. You cannot say that we sound very alternative or very grunge. I’m probably saying too much when I say this, but you can name it a whole new genre. (haha)
We sound very different. I haven’t heard anything like this before, at least not in Bangladesh. That was a little too much, again. (haha)
I’m very proud of the album. This is what we wanted and this is exactly what we got. There isn’t a single song I would re-do or change even if I had the chance to. I’m completely satisfied.
Fasih: If there was any song to be changed or unsatisfactory, it wouldn’t have made it to the album. And if there was even a single thing that needed polishing, the album wouldn’t have been out. Ratul wouldn’t have let that happen. He’s Mr. Perfection.
Samee: That is why the album took this long to be out. We had planned to have it released last year but there were things that I wasn’t completely satisfied with, or things that the others weren’t satisfied with. We worked on it till each and every one of us was happy with it. That made us fall behind a few months for the album release but at least we got what we wanted.
About one and a half year ago, Ratul said that our album would be one of the best sounding albums. We all laughed at him back then. Turns out he was right. It has been proclaimed as one of the best sounding albums of the year.
Q. ONE has been made accessible to all through free online downloads. This is a clear slap-in-the-face of piracy. What other ways can you suggest to stop piracy?
Samee: Well, free downloads is one way to do it. People have been fighting for almost about ten years against piracy. It hasn’t helped much, sadly. There isn’t much we can do about it. I mean, who would listen to us if we put up white flags and say “Stop piracy”?
Fasih: Unless Brad Pitt comes up and says, “Hey, don’t do piracy,” with this sexy look. Only then it would work. (haha)
Q. Has ONE helped build up new Owned listeners?
Samee: It certainly did, we came across a lot of people who never even heard of the band. It’s a great feeling when you find out new listeners are discovering your music and appreciating your effort. That’s what we always wanted and definitely One has helped us doing just that.
A couple of days back, we were walking and this random guy just walks up to us and says, “Bhaiya, joss album!” That felt great, I tell you.
The album was made for a very limited, very niche audience. But turns out it reached out to a lot more people than we ever expected.
Q. What would Owned suggest the upcoming bands in the music industry regarding the making and production of a debut album?
Samee: Don’t try to be the next Nemesis, Cryptic Fate or Arbovirus, there’s no point. They are already there and there for a reason.
The album is like THE FINAL THING for any band. It reflects the originality of the band that helps it to stand out of the crowd, specially the first album. It’s like a make-or-break deal. If it doesn’t work, the band cannot expect to take off. Doesn’t matter how many hit singles you’ve got, it’s the album that has to click.
Don’t come up with something that’ll make people say, “Dude, I’ve heard this before. It sounds good, but I’ve heard this before.” Nobody wants to listen to the stuff they’ve already heard. They all expect you to come up with something new, something original. Try to come up with your own sound and listen to a lot of music. Practice hard, don’t get frustrated, and stay true to your art. Good things will happen eventually.
Q.What does Owned have in store for the future?
Samee: A lot of shows. Live gigs, radio shows, music videos and at least 2 to 3 new songs, which we will be releasing online. You can expect a very different sound. It’ll be like a whole 180 degree rotation from the sound you heard in the album. We’re still working on that.
Fasih: People often ask me when they’ll get to see us on TV.
Samee: Probably never. We won’t be doing any TV shows because our sound does not go with the TV sound. We had touring in mind, but that has been kept aside for the moment. We are currently focusing on live shows and the upcoming singles.
Q.Shout out to the fans!
Samee: Don’t expect much of us because we won’t be give you what you want. (haha)
We are coming with a whole new sound in the singles that we are planning to release this year. We won’t sound anything like the album, so that’ll be a surprise.
And thank you all for being so supportive. Keep spreading the love and we promise we won’t disappoint you.