Earlier in June, Insomniac Events played host to the third (annual) EDMBiz conference in Las Vegas. More than 1000 EDM professionals convened to discuss the sound known to the world simply as EDM — electronic dance music. The two-day affair is significant because it points to the growing global interest in electronic music and its entrance into the mainstream: Calvin Harris, Skrillex, Swedish House Mafia have opened the door to what is often described as the sound of the millenials. John Boyle, the CFO of Insomniac, speaking on a panel titled The 6.2 Billion Dollar Business made key observations: “This isn’t disco. This is hip-hop with a lot more legs. There’s a fundamental difference between EDM and other music cycles, technology.”
Here lies the link between Pakistan and the world: technology. In garages and living rooms, bedrooms and drawing rooms, on laptops and personal computers, with amplifiers and synthesisers and samples from everyday life, it’s the manipulation of noise into something beautiful. And no one here understands technology better than Karachi’s homegrown music producers.
One of them is Tollcrane, a 20-something musician who has merged his flair for music (noise, reverb, jazz, and on it goes) with technology and has consistently delivered eclectic, wildly addictive music.
Karachi’s Talha Asim Wynne, aka electronic artist Tollcrane, talks to Images on Sunday about going to the Red Bull Music Academy in Tokyo
Tollcrane is Talha Asim Wynne (TAW), who also plays in a brilliant music band called //orangenoise with Faizan Riedinger, Daniel Arthur Panjawaneey and Danial Hyatt. This year Talha Asim is the first and only artist from Pakistan to have been selected to participate in Red Bull Music Academy’s new session … in Tokyo. Since its inception in 1998, RBMA has seen just two other musicians from Pakistan make the list: Dalt Wisney (Sheryar Hyatt) in 2006 and Smax (Amman Mushtaq) in 2013. In 2014, Tollcrane has joined his friends in what is, in my opinion, an illustrious list. So, here, then, is a word with Talha …
What were you thinking when you decided to apply to Red Bull Music Academy (RBMA) this year?
I had applied once before in 2012 and didn’t get in, and since I skipped the application last year, I thought it would be a good time to apply this year.
“A lot of the producers/musicians in Karachi are mostly making their mark online, through websites like Soundcloud and videos sharing on social networks. There needs to be a regular live music scene for the music to evolve somewhere. It is a very slow process right now.”
What was your initial reaction after learning that you made the cut for RBMA Tokyo and were the only one from Pakistan to do this year?
Complete disbelief at first followed by an ocean of humility.
You’re just the third person from Pakistan to have been accepted this year and among 59 other applicants to have been short-listed from around the world. You also know Pakistan’s (only) other past RBMA graduates — Smax (2013) and Dalt Wisney (2006). How much did their individual and collective experience influence your decision?
We’re all really good friends, and seeing these guys go up to the RBMA really motivates one to give it a shot as well because you’ve seen your friends make it and all of a sudden it all seems so possible.
|Homeless EP cover by Talha Asim Wynne|
What inspires you to produce the tracks that you do as an electronic artist?
Boredom and the need to kill it, mostly.
As Tollcrane, you have released five EPs (Dances, Bebo, Pink Passport, The Last Days of Lo-Fi and Homeless). That’s a lot of output…
Yeah I guess, when I’ve made a certain body of work I have a sudden compulsion to put it up on the Internet.
All your albums are accompanied by arresting artwork. It’s become the hallmark of the burgeoning underground scene from Karachi in particular. Tell me about the album covers of your five EPs …
The first three covers were done in collaboration with magician/illustrator Samya Arif. The later two (Lo-Fi and Homeless) were my own work. I am also a graphic designer by profession and that bug is always kicking in there somewhere.
What do you make of the rest of the scene in the country such as Pakistan DJ Network, DJ Butt at political rallies and how do you see it evolving?
PDN is doing what it does and I guess there has been an increase in the number of shows locally as of recent. I don’t know what DJ Butt has to do with the scene so I can’t really comment on that. A lot of the producers/musicians in Karachi are mostly making their mark online, through websites like Soundcloud and videos sharing on social networks. There needs to be a regular live music scene for the music to evolve somewhere. It is a very slow process right now.
You’ve done a few shows, what’s it like playing live shows in “one of the world’s most dangerous cities.”
Quite underwhelming, unless the crowd really wants it that day.
How is it like working with homegrown net labels like FXS (Forever South) and Mooshy Moo?
Exactly like what working with friends should be like. We all support each other in various scenarios and I’m just really glad we’re all there for each other.
You also a member of //orangenoise. How would you describe your evolving sound as a band — from Veracious to Journey to the Heart of Matter?
We used to be a bit lost initially with the kind of sound we wanted to make, but towards Journey we kind of found a direction. We’re kind of lost again nowadays but looking for a new direction.
You moved to Lahore, Faizan Riedinger moved to Berlin. Is //orangenoise over? Is the band reuniting this year, be it for shows or another record or two?
Yeah, we’ve really been wanting to get into the habit of jamming again, there definitely is a need to do it.
How psyched are you to get polio shots before leaving since it is compulsory?
I don’t think they’d even check to be honest.
RBMA Tokyo will take place in Tokyo from October 12 to November 14, 2014
Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, August 17th, 2014