Farhad Humayun is the founder and drummer of Overload. He is perhaps one of the most talented music producers in Pakistan. I spoke to him about what kind of technology he uses in his work.
Q: Who is Farhad Humayun?
A: Primarily, I’m a drummer, and now also a singer for my band, Overload. I produce music for myself, Overload, and other bands, and also direct videos.
I don’t keep myself limited to a particular thing, and keep exploring new facets. I don’t usually step into the limelight, and due to the nature of the instrument I play, I’ve been mostly behind the drums, and playing the drums for almost 20 years now. Coming to the forefront as a singer is a very recent development for me.
Q: How did you get into music?
A: Music has intrigued me since childhood. I had a natural affinity for it, and I was more into listening to music rather than watching cartoons. I got into playing music when I reached the eighth grade, and made friends who were like-minded. One of them was Faisal Baig, a fellow DJ with us on Pepsi Smash. He had an electric guitar, and that made him the coolest boy in school. We started exploring music together – discovered heavy metal music, and moved on to performing. I used to play the guitar, until someone advised me to try playing the drums. And when I did, I got to know that this was the instrument for me.
Even before I got my hands on a real drum kit, I used to imitate drumming on different objects using sticks and pencils, as if I were playing a real drum kit.
I did not start off as a professional musician at first. I was into event management, and did that for several years. I provided the back-end support (audio, lighting, staging, etcetera) in events for some of the biggest companies, as I was trained in visual arts.
As Riot Productions, we organised some standalone events as well. But since I had the technical expertise and the equipment, I used to be at the back-end for every project. Although I went to London to study Audio Engineering, I’ve learned the basics of music mostly by watching musicians; observing and understanding how they play, and most importantly, by practicing.
Overall, I’m blessed since my parents supported me in my decision to get into the music industry, and that enabled me to work using my natural born talent. Quite recently, I tried my hand at production as well, and worked on Pepsi Smash. So the point is, music is a bankable career, and it will be consumed, no matter what.
Q: What kind of equipment do you use?
A: I use a Pearl drum kit, which is more of a collectors’ item, there are only six such drum kits in the world and they are used by renowned drummers.
I use analogue and hybrid guitar amps, have a Yamaha Motif 7 keyboard and a Kurzweil keyboard. In a sense, I have pretty good instruments at the source. In terms of software, I don’t like to use a lot of plug-ins.
I like to keep it real, keeping post processing to a minimum. The signal coming from the source should be recorded so perfectly, that only minor tweaking should be required afterwards. I like to combine analogue and digital. I use a custom-built PC, with a Mark Of The Unicorn (MOTU) sound card, but I’m looking forward to upgrading to Apogee or Universal Audio.
Apart from that, I also have a Mac Pro as well. When it comes to using Mac or PC, I’m good with both, and neither has bothered me ever. Production of a single song makes use of both platforms. The entire tracking of Pepsi Smash was done on PC, while plug-ins were applied on the Mac.
Q: Speaking of PC, you recently did a campaign with Dell for their line-up of Ultrabooks. What is your view of this machine, from a music artist’s perspective?
A: I don’t usually do campaigns, but this one seemed to fit my profile and public image. Dell probably chose the right person for the task as I suited their target audience. On top of that, I really liked the product.
It’s a good machine, and I personally use it when I’m on the go. I can record music and edit videos on it, and that’s a testament of its power and capability. It’s easy to carry, and I’ve been travelling everywhere with it, recording music on it using the Firewire port, and using it for just about everything. In the studio, I have my dedicated machines, but when they’re not in my reach, the Ultrabook is my best companion, and gets my work done.
Q: Do you run into any issues or challenges in music production?
A: Workforce is one of the major problems. There aren’t enough sound technicians. Who would you consult if you had an earthing problem in your studio and the speakers gave out a constant hum or buzz? Most people can’t even diagnose the problem.
A radio channel’s office is situated next to my studio building, and whenever I turn on my guitar amp, it picks up the radio signals causing disturbance while playing or recording. The only way to tackle this issue is to apply shielding around the studio, which is quite a large space.
Other than that, there’s the problem that most of us face – power cuts. I had to invest in a very expensive backup power supply just to avoid the 12-second gap during the time when the power goes out and the generator kicks in. So ultimately, the costs of production are automatically increased. But this is what I have done; there are others who are fine with it.
Also, I’ve observed that our music industry doesn’t pay attention to detail. There’s a lot that can be done to ensure high quality production, but they don’t do it because producing world-standard music isn’t the priority in most cases.
Q: What is your view on the YouTube ban?
A: In one word - its irrelevant. There’s a lot of useful information available on YouTube, it is a very good resource for learning just about anything.
As an artist, it is a marketing avenue for music. We don’t have enough record labels, funding or endorsement options, and YouTube is the only way to do so. The educational sector is already suffering in our country, and now with YouTube blocked, students no longer have access to a global library of knowledge. But despite the blockage, people are still able to access it through proxies, so what’s the point of the ban?
An alternative way out could’ve been devised. Just like load shedding isn’t the solution to electricity problems, blocking YouTube isn’t the solution. YouTube is a platform for artists like us, and the blockage is seriously affecting the music industry.
Q: What is the future of technology in Pakistan?
A: We need to catch up with the rest of the world. They’ve moved on to 4G and beyond, while we are still trying to get 3G implemented. Progress is really important. It will take a long time for us to reach the level where the rest of the world is in tech right now. The government needs to invest more in tech.
Q: What about the future of Overload?
A: The future is quite bright. Overload is bigger and more successful than ever, compared to when we started. The ‘dhol, drum, and instrumental’ combo genre was initially appraised, but it didn’t remain so special after a while. So we introduced vocals, and whatever we did was just spontaneous. We are open to ideas, and we’re continuously evolving. We plan to do many albums in the future, and every album will be different from the other.
Overload is a band which is here to stay – it doesn’t follow any rules of audio, video, genre, or jump on a bandwagon of what’s trending. The band is a representation of what we’re influenced by. We have to keep progressing, regardless of everything else, and that keeps Overload moving forward!
Farhad Humayun: www.facebook.com/farhadhumayun Overload: www.facebook.com/overload.riot