Planet Bollywood
Getting up close with TAZ - The creative force of Stereo Nation
- Samir Dave           Let us know what you think about this feature article

Taz has just dropped the new Stereo Nation album, JAWANI – ON THE ROCKS on the Tips music label capping off an illustrious career as a fusion pioneer on the South Asian music scene. Bollywood fans will recognize him for the recent hit song, Mujh Pe Jadoo from the blockbuster film, RACE. Club kidz will recognize him for his smash hit Stereo Nation albums, Hit the Deck, Jambo and his solo record Nasha. Having tasted success in England and India, Taz is now all set to conquer the rest of the world with his latest album. On the eve of his latest release, Planet Bollywood had a chance to sit down and talk with this multi faceted and very talented artist. Prepare to get up close to TAZ, the creative force of Stereo Nation in a free for all interview that discusses the man’s dreams, achievements and hopes for the future…

Thanks Taz, for agreeing to this interview with Planet Bollywood. The new Stereo Nation album JAWANI – ON THE ROCKS ” shows that you and your group Stereo Nation still have what it takes to bring the house down! What inspired you to call the album Jawani on the Rocks and after so many albums is it harder to get inspired to come up with new melodies?

First of all many thanks for the complement, the album was titled JAWANI – ON THE ROCKS because I believe that every human being has been given a life to be celebrated and is forever young at heart. Therefore ONE is never too old to ROCK YOUR SOCKS OFF!!! And have a good time. Music is the food of love and the songs on the album reflect this, in their many different shades and colors.

Being a writer and composer I find that as time goes on, ones worldly experiences and generally everyday life inspires you. Songs are melodies that are absorbed in many moods and emotions, which touch people’s hearts in different ways and this is what any composer thrives to achieve when writing. Creating evergreen songs that will stand the test of time is always a challenge and fortunately I have been blessed by the almighty and by my fans.

How do you keep up with the latest music trends.....would we find you frequenting many clubs in Britain and India?

I have a great deal of pride when I listen to today’s music be it in India or UK. Having been the creator and pioneer of the pop fusion sound it is nice to see that 20 years on from Hindi-Pop artists to Bollywood have embraced my sound. I do go out clubbing because I feel it is highly important to understand what tickles people’s fancy, especially on the dance floor.

Glad to see that you are with the TIPS label now, is this your "home" for the foreseeable future?

I am a Tips artist now and proud to be on their banner. It is always hard to find a good stable; I believe that Tips and myself will certainly make some great music together.

I have to ask.....were you inspired by the Bee Gee's Staying Alive a bit for your track Hilgaya? Especially when you are repeating the word “Hilgaya’ over and over? I think that creatively it's hard not to be subconsciously affected by the music we hear all around us.... unless we lock ourselves away. How do you keep yourself from merely falling into the familiar rhythms of existing music?

Having been inspired by so many different genres of artists, I think naturally one’s influences do play a role in one’s creative process. It is always important to zoom into a melody that captures people’s attention because it is this infectiousness that you will forever remember. I would like to think that it is my originality in my melodies that sets me aside from all others.

How do you feel when Bollywood music directors like Nadeem Shravan and Jatin Lalit totally copy your tunes (like I've Been Waiting)? Have you ever had a chance to confront them, or do you consider it a form of flattery that they are copying your original track?

It is the greatest form of flattery and adulation, I can’t complain as this was a great springboard into India for me back in the day and built me a fantastic foundation.

What is your favorite track from your latest album? How did you come up with it...and what feelings does it bring out when you listen to it?

This is always the most difficult question to answer, because (for) any writer every song has memories attached to it and they are close to one’s heart. I must say however that the title track Jawani and Pyar Da Peg do stand out to me. The lead track JawaniI because that was where the album’s story began and Pyar Da Pegbecause it is one track that just rocks on the dance floor. I also love Hogeyeh Sharabi because that was written and dedicated to my Boyz in Australia and always reminds me of the CRAZY sessions we had.

What do you think about this whole downloading music scene. Can you share how it hurts the artist when people don't buy the album and instead download the tracks?

It is fair to say that the Internet and file sharing has totally and solely destroyed the music and film industry as far as sales are concerned. Sadly this affects the Record companies who become very wary when it comes to signing new artists and giving new talent a chance. Due to lack of sales this has a knock on effect on what risks any label is prepared to take and budget constraints limit and inhibit Industry progression.

There is a flip side to this madness, and that is artists whom never had a chance are now able to display their music to people via the Internet to a worldwide audience.

We are living in the Digital age, and I hope that more and more consumers realize that by purchasing their favorite artists songs via download puts a little bit of money back in the artists pockets and helps the artists to continue making the music they do for their fans.

My prediction for the future is that I believe soon the time will come when artists will sell their music directly to their fans rather than signing to labels. This is already happening with the likes of my hero PRINCE.

I read that in the liner notes that you have two daughters....what do they think of your music? Would you want them to go into music as you have (perhaps Stereo Nation the next generation)?

I am a proud father of two beauties. My eldest daughter through her own choice has been playing piano since the age of 7, and shows a great deal of interest in music. She has already started composing her own songs and compositions. I would never force music upon them, as I believe that it has to come from the soul, and should they decide for themselves that it is something they want and show a passion for it, I will encourage and give my full support. My youngest is just a rebel MC and does her own thing…. I say she is like a very young version of Hema Malini.

If I were to be trapped on a desert island and could only take one Stereo Nation album with me, which one do you think I should take to listen to over and over and over again?

I think you should take JAWANI as it has every possible flavor / mast masala you would need to last a lifetime.

Here's a pretty standard question...which you must have answered millions of times already.......your musical influences? Also, how has your musical style changed over the years in your opinion?

My musical influences are so vast and come from a very wide spectrum, spreading across many different genres of music. I have been influenced predominantly by MOTOWN – Rhythm And Blues artists such as Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Prince, Smokey Robinson, The Stylistics, Slave, Earth Wind & Fire, The Supremes, The Temptations, The Drifters, James Brown, George Washington, and The Isley Brothers.

Other artists include The Eagles, Elvis, The Carpenters, Tina Turner, Bob Marley, Sade, Aerosmith and Pink Floyd, Khaled.

My Indian influences are the likes of Gurdass Maan, RD Burman, Mohammed Rafi, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Jagmohan Kaur, Mohammad Sadiq, Kuldip Manak, Yamla Jat, Shaukat Ali Khan, Narinder Biba and many more. I admire singers like Sukhvinder Singh and Sonu Nigam.

Naturally one’s music evolves over time and this is primarily because of life’s many different experiences coupled with the knowledge and wisdom you gain, as you grow older. Life is a roller coaster ride and should be enjoyed every step of the way. I believe that as a composer it is paramount that you should listen to a variety of music…music is a universal language and I think it is with this ethos and strategy that I have been able to progress.

I have to say, that when I discovered your music, I was proud of you.....and it made me happy that one of our own had made it in what I believe probably is a hard scene to break into in England. Would you share one of your biggest struggles.... in getting your music out to everyone?

I have to say that I was one of the very lucky ones and pretty much an over night phenomenon for British Music Lovers. My debut album into the industry was named Hit The Deck and remained at number 1 for 39 weeks. Generally speaking this is a very difficult industry to break and certainly the most challenging. I think the attraction to anyone wanting to come into this business is the fame, glory and riches. The true test is to be able to sustain your success once you have cracked it; especially when for every release the expectations are flying high. This is a constant pressure and something that can make you loose sleep, no matter how confident you are.

How did you break into the British scene......and what led you to the Indian Subcontinent....?

I was spotted by a famous British pop star by the name of Neville Staples of the Two Tone Band ‘The Specials’ & ‘Fun Boy Three’ whilst working in my fathers shop. I used to have a habit and tendency of singing to the radio and practicing my vocal techniques. Neville just happened to be listening to me from outside the shop and I guess I still count my lucky stars today. He liked what he heard and invited me to the recording studio to record some demos. Before I knew it we were recording my first album and the rest is history.

It was the plagiarism of my hit song I’ve Been Waiting (Don’t Break My Heart) into the Bollywood hit movie Mohabbat that gave me a springboard into India and the sub continent.

You are one of the few Indian artists who has broken into both Eastern and Western worlds........how does that make you feel?

To be able to do what I do for a living is amazing and a blessing from god. It gives me a great deal of self satisfaction, a sense of achievement, pride and joy in being gifted with such talent and to be able to share this with people from all over the world. When I look back at my accolades I must admit that the fans have certainly placed me on a pedestal that I never thought was possible. This teaches you humbleness and gives you reason for making the music that I do.

Your track,Mujh Pe Jadoo from RACE is a super hit. You've credited Pritam with composing the track, but it sounds just like a Stereo Nation song. How much input did you have into the song?

Pritam had come up with a scratch version / idea for the song and we both stripped the idea down and I sewed in the Stereo Nation USP into the fabric. It was a 50/50 joint collaboration and Pritam was an absolute joy to work with.

Sunidhi Chauhan is one of the best female playback singers in India, when you recorded the track from RACE did you get a chance to share the studio mic with her.... if so, how was that experience?

Unfortunately Sunidhi had already recorded her parts prior, so this never happened. I’ve been told that she is not only a brilliant singer but also a very nice person.

I've read on your site that you have a few upcoming Bollywood item numbers that you'll be composing the music for? If so, any hints on what those are and when we can expect to hear you again?

I am currently working on a number of movie sound tracks and will keep you posted when the moment is right.

What kind of musical training have you had? Instruments? Vocal classes?

I am a bathroom singer and have not had any kind of training as such. I play keyboards enough to be able to compose and I am purely soul driven when it comes to performing on stage.

Any chance that you might compose an entire soundtrack for a Bollywood film?

Life is about reaching for opportunities and grabbing them with both hands when they do knock on your doorstep. I have recently been offered a very big film by a very big Bollywood Director, so lets see what future has in store for me.

Compare the Taz of I've Been Waiting to the Taz of Jawani.....how have you grown as a person, vocalist, musician?

I have certainly matured as a person/artist and I feel that as much as the journey has had many ups and downs, I have come out the other end as a very strong human being and my conviction has sustained me. I don’t think that there has ever been a time when I haven’t felt like every album I have released is my first, therefore this stigma has kept me on my toes and kept me away from becoming complacent or cocky.

As a vocalist my voice has matured and I am now able to be a lot more versatile with the kinds of styles, tones and textures etc that I can sing in. My range has expanded together with my confidence level, which reassures me and gives me my comfort zone.

What do you feel you've accomplished and what do you feel you still have to accomplish? Being the very ambitious person that I am, as an artist there are still no end of things I would love to achieve. My accomplishments to date are the fact that practically every song I have released has been a super hit with my fans and with a career now expanding nearly two decades I feel that is a huge achievement, given how difficult it is to sustain that length of time as an artist.

The readers of Planet Bollywood are certainly fans of yours....but fan is short for fanatic.....have you ever had any crazy fans just drive you up the wall? If so, how?

I send my salaam to all your readers and to my fans. Fans are people whom admire you and love what we do, to me that is the ultimate respect. I have had many crazy fans over the years and I must say I am a very cool and calm person and have learnt how to address them. What is most annoying for me is when I get disturbed whilst in a restaurant dining. We are normal people and like everyone we need our space as well. There have been many a time when you don’t even get a chance to eat your food and that gets a bit too much.

You compose music in a genre that is typically considered to be party music, club music, or just getting down with your gal music. Do you see yourself ever trying to compose/sing different kinds of music?

It is true that Stereo Nation is known for our peppy and upbeat party sound and feel good factor music. For those that have listened to all of my music there is a lot of jazz influenced and lounge style of songs that I have recorded also. I would like to do an album full of ballads perhaps in time to come as well as a purely reggae lovers rock album that is currently in production.

Do you think the kind of music you are composing now, will still be relevant and listened to years down the line (considering how quickly the club scene changes)?

I believe in making evergreen songs that will stand the test of time. As long as the melody of your song and lyric is strong you can dress up the song in any way you want. The pure strength of the catchy hooks and melodies makes the song into a classic. For example whether the song is dressed with club style of beats, or done on an acoustic guitar or piano, it doesn’t matter so long as the composition is solid in the first place.

It is true that the club music trends differ day to day however a great song is always a great song. People will only ever remember what they can hum or sing along to.

Finally, after all these deep and thought provoking questions, your favorite Bollywood site will be Planet Bollywood, right?

ABSOLUTELY !!!!!!!!!!!

PEACE AND LOVE

Thanks for your time and I have to say.....I really am proud of your achievements and love your music. I have every album (bought.... not downloaded).....and will continue to be a fan for many years to come.

THANK YOU FOR YOUR KIND WORDS AND BLESSINGS.


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