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GETTING CREDIT

AN ALIEN

CALLED HARMONY

The London-based duo chat about their debut single 'After The Dance', being a part of last year's Future Bubblers program and their wide-ranging musical influences.

How did it feel to release your debut single last year and how has the reaction been?

 

MettaShiba: It was satisfying to release a complete piece that we were fully happy to put out into the world, especially because we had lots of demos sitting there waiting to see the world outside of our hard drive! The reaction has been beautiful. It was inspiring to receive personal messages from people and to know that others resonated with what we were expressing.


What were the main inspirations for ‘After The Dance?’

 

MettaShiba: The song was written at a time when Nadeem and I were together experiencing a rupture, but from different standpoints. We were shocked by a situation in different ways, but merged our voices to create a unified and more general reflection song about those moments you’re questioning your past perceptions that used to inform your world. 


For me, 'After the Dance' was inspired by a betrayal in my personal relationship, which also gave me a potent reminder of a more general insight, emphasized by many wise people: the absolute uncertainty of life and fallibility of our perceptions. As I watched the betrayal unfold, I was reminded of just how unreliable one’s perceptions can be of a person, or of anything for that matter, and how uncertainty is an eternal truth in life. Your world can be flipped on its head at any moment. 


The resolution at the end of the song is: life throws at you lots of reasons to close your heart, but you can’t because it’s actually the best guide we’ve got. Our mind chats a lot of nonsense, and our perceptions tell a lot of lies. People you trust may betray you. Uncertainty is an eternal truth. But that’s all the more reason we have to be led by the heart because the heart is not interested in the nonsense. It’s interested in beauty, truth, sublimeness...its inspirations are more powerful and eternal than the nonsense.


Nadeem: Closure. The lyrics I perform in the song were written almost two-three years ago, before I met Momoko. They are from a poem I wrote, reflecting on a relationship I was in and the blindness that led to that situation and questioning my motivations for entering into that relationship. The words became reanimated after the ending of a friendship and a band which happened simultaneously. The whole situation unfolded as if it were an ancient proverb or myth, I suppose one lesson to learn from any situation and most definitely an eruptive one is, don’t miss the tremors and the warning signs. Evacuate before the volcano erupts.


What was the inspiration behind using the artwork you chose for the single?

Nadeem: The anatomical oddness of baseball! We were thinking about sports and all the pageantry and the facade that goes into it. Then looking at moments when the baseness of life enters sport and all the facade fades away. You are left looking at something that can be both dangerous and comical. Looking at the image of baseball players fighting, some holding each other back, some ready to start engaging in more back and forth is quite silly isn’t it? For a game? and 'After The Dance' is a reflection on that silliness that we can engage in as humans, getting caught up in the facade and pageantry only to realise after the dance, things are not as pretty as they once seemed. 

"It helps that we are similar in intention and outlook but bring very different skill sets."

How did you guys first come together and how has it been intersecting both of your varying skills with one another?

MettaShiba: We met one fateful night...at a distant time...on distant coordinates...in South East London...we chatted about Carpenters and mused about odd things going on in the room and Nadeem suggested we jam out musical ideas for his solo project, which we are currently also working on alongside AACH. 

Nadeem is an ideal collaborator for me because he’s conceptually minded and earnestly interested in things being more beautiful and harmonious in the world, good at his craft, and crucially, has a sense of humour. It helps that we are similar in intention and outlook but bring very different skill sets. I think I was definitely seeking someone who is more adept with words than with music, and I wanted to bring the music to harmonise with them, though I’ve been writing more lyrics too.


Nadeem: I was looking for musicians for my solo project and wanted a drummer that was not a drummer. It’s been super easy working with MettaShiba because she thinks about music not in rigid terms, but with regard to concept and meaning, not just of what notes are being played but why are you even playing and or speaking/singing. Which for me is often primary in beginning to create work, working with people that are explorative, expansive and ambitious.

 

MettaShiba: Shots fired at drummers!!

 

What is your process like when creating and how has it evolved from when you first started creating together?

Nadeem: It’s fun and silly, serious at times. It’s evolved to be more collaborative, so first songs we didn’t write them in the same space and were more of a collage and then these next songs we are working on for an E.P. have been mainly written and composed in the same room with a concise and coherent understanding of what we want the body of work to sound, feel and look like.

MettaShiba: Yeah, we are moving towards a more fully co-creational approach where we are in the same room throughout the writing process. We always start by figuring out what feels important to communicate, drawing from lots of past conversations, then select a theme/story to turn into a song. We are often riled up, perplexed, or having a massive laugh about absurdities of this world...especially the unharmonious and inequitable phenomena, but also plain absurdities and fun oddities. We often start by walking into a room feeling perplexed about stuff...
 

What can we expect from a future project?

Nadeem: Attachments & Aversions! An Alien concept piece, two siblings come to the planet earth and see or don’t...see. 

"I think most of my influence, or maybe inspiration is a better word, comes from non-artistic things."

How was it to be selected for the Future Bubblers and how was working on the compilation album?


MettaShiba: I actually applied to Future Bubblers as a solo artist, but was already starting to develop the idea of AACH at the time and knew that I wanted to focus on it over the course of my time as a Bubbler. They really helped us nurture the project in its early stages. The compilation track was really fun to work on, quite long and ambitious in a way, with a lot of little arrangement detail. It was only the second song by AACH to be recorded with live instruments, and it’s still early days for me in terms of having so many roles to play, and the responsibility that comes with it, so there were stresses too. Nadeem and I actually arranged/directed together some of the ending sax + flute bits which was really fun. I’d love to do more of that and to have more opportunity/space to make spontaneous decisions about live instrument parts in the studio.

What were the main themes you wanted to explore with ‘N.H.H’?

 

Nadeem: Watlessness! To be watless is to have no idea what you are doing, to be ignorant to the reality surrounding you, run over the danger signs and claim no one told you that it was 20 mph whilst driving 70 mph. It’s a non-violent, samba-diss song, a warning to heed.

 

MettaShiba: Pretty much. Also, you lose all the most important things in life when you’re like that. It’s a shame...and people often realise too late that they’ve been chasing shadows...Delusion is tragic and quite sad. It can often look like someone fiercely building a sand castle thinking it’s made of gold and then the tide comes in and washes it all away...And nobody wants to hang around a manic sandcastle builder...so you end up with no castle and no friends. It really is to be avoided...This cheerfully cautionary song is a reminder of that.

 

"A lot of the creation process is not linear, nor conscious so often you are not considering how to bring something together. You are thinking about how to evoke this feeling or sentiment ..."

How do you go about bringing together your wide ranging influences in order to make something authentic?


Nadeem: Concept, having a core purpose when we create songs. A lot of the creation process is not linear, nor conscious so often you are not considering how to bring something together. You are thinking about how to evoke this feeling or sentiment and after that’s done I think the music speaks for itself.


MettaShiba: Yeah. I think the process and final aesthetic could vary quite a lot, but as long as our intention & purpose are clear and unified, and we care for each step of the process (which you naturally would, when your intention & purpose are clear,) we can always trust in the outcome.

Do you take influence from artistic mediums other than music e.g. film/fashion etc.

 

MettaShiba: I think most of my influence, or maybe inspiration is a better word, comes from non-artistic things. Nature, human qualities, and stories unfolding around me and around the world at any point in time. Like Nadeem, I’m a very visual and concept-driven person, though, so a lot of my creative process starts with images, concepts, stories.


In any artistic medium, I’m always bound to connect with, and feel inspired by, anything expressing truths, or the ineffable things that make life really juicy and worthwhile.

 

Nadeem: In my writing, comedy plays a large role, not necessarily always overtly but it’s definitely present! My visual artistry plays a role but I would be lying if I said I could define everything that can and should be used as an influence, just got to have the right filters! There’s a Conficius quote that sums up my approach, though I wouldn’t say I’m there yet.

 

“Even when walking in the company of two other men, I am bound to be able to learn from them. The good points of the one I copy, the bad points of the other I correct in myself.”


 

 

 



As part of a thriving underground scene in London, are there any fellow upcoming musicians you would recommend?

Nadeem: I’m going to limit it to one person, Wonky Logic.


MettaShiba: I also love Wonky Logic’s work—his overall musicality, intuitiveness and sound choices. He lives music. I’d also recommend Xvngo as a holistic musical being. As well as musical skill he has a bright, determined mind and a bright heart, and wants to channel those to create positive changes...so I’ll always be interested in what he gets up to. I was really glad to get them two on our compilation track.


The group I would love to see live is Balimaya Project. I think it’s the group I know I’ll enjoy live.

Inês Loubet—there is always beauty and truth in her voice. It’s a gift to the world!


I’ve been enjoying Rarelyalways’s production style recently. I loved his bass playing from before.

Which artists first inspired you to get into music and who is inspiring you today?

Nadeem: I didn’t actually want to get into music in any performance capacity, I began by having radio shows on various stations and wasn’t inspired by one artist, it was just music that was the inspiration. To be able to share music and contribute to a conversation about music also inspired my approach to djing early on.

 

Seminal albums that changed and influenced me alot are; Marvin Gaye’s, What’s Going On, Black Star, Mos Def & Talib Kweli are Black Star, Buju Banton’s, Till Shiloh, Joni Mitchell’s Blue, Nick Drake’s Pink Moon, Animal Collectives’ Merriweather Post Pavilion and Strawberry Jam, Sufjan Stevens’, Age of Adz, 2Pac’s Me Against The World, TV on The Radio’s, Return To Cookie Mountain, Albert Ayler’s Spiritual Unity and John Coltrane's, A Love Supreme. There’s probably a lot more but 12 is enough! Oh and Count Ossie, Mystic Revelation of Rastafari. Lucky 13 :)


In a performance capacity and as a writer, my inspirations are not singular, the desire to share and add to a conversation which is what I feel we should be doing when performing, making music. The conversationalists and the sharers are my inspirations. If we are to be specific, the writers in no order that have been inspiring me recently are Quelle Chris, Jean Grae, Earl Sweatshirt, Chip, Brother Portrait, Billy Woods, Joni Mitchell, Junie Morrison & Raphael Saadiq


MettaShiba: 'What’s Going On' was a very strong early influence on me, too...A Love Supreme and Black Star as well, a bit later.


Before I list more artists, I should say that I also didn’t have a straightforward path in terms of ‘getting into music.’ The best way I would describe how I’ve ended up here, with music at the core of what I do with myself, is that it’s one of the only things that truly stayed with me. Wait! It’s not as unromantic as it sounds.


I moved a lot growing up, within and between countries, and across a variety of cultural spaces. Playing drums was something I did in a lot of those contexts, and playing instruments, and playing music with others had an inexplicable significance to me. Listening to music had a definite significance all of my life. But when you’re a bit of a nomadic culture chameleon, it can firstly take extra long to figure out what you’re doing here....on this planet. You’re a relativist to your own detriment. You have a nauseatingly broad sense of what you could do and how you could be...You’ve also spent lots of time observing your surroundings for the purpose of skillful adaptation, so you feel like the observer, not the expressor, speaker, storyteller. That was my experience, anyway. I think I thought I would inevitably end up in an observing, then commentating, type path...an academic or journalist or something. That was never gonna work...I tried, a bit. I didn’t know exactly why not...until I admitted that I was inexplicably in love with music…!


 I feel like I’ve observed and absorbed so much in my life and it’s now time to squeeze the sponge and let the story juices flow out of me too.


Now, some more names...Many artists who inspire me most are the ones I’ve come back to often over the years. Inspiration is actually a delicate and important word so let me stay true to that word, even if these selections all might all be for very different reasons...maybe one song never leaves me or their whole discography enamours me...in no order: Ray Charles, Wayne Shorter, Hibari Misora, MF Doom, Aretha Franklin, Mos Def, Fela Kuti, Steely Dan, Sam Cooke, Clave y Guaguanco, Yusef Lateef, Lauryn Hill, Sonny Clark, Shafiq Husayn, Oumou Sangare, Sun Ra, Kendrick Lamar, Marvin Gaye, Sayuri Ishikawa, Fats Waller, Earth Wind & Fire, Ahmad Jamal, A Tribe Called Quest, Gang Starr, Charles Mingus, Stevie Wonder...I don’t want to make the list too long! 

If you guys had to recommend five artists to your listeners, who would they be?
 

Nadeem: I always find these questions hard, given that art and certain elements of life are so subjective, knowing who the listener is would change who I select! Plus my music listening habits change depending on what place I’m in and recently I haven’t been listening to music the same way I was, when I wasn’t making it.. I’ll give some artists who’s discography is vast and wide, has recurring themes and can always be tapped into, even if I haven’t listened to them for long periods of time.

 

Midnite/Akae Beka (same lead singer Vaughn Benjamin, different bands).

Georgia Anne Muldrow

Sufjan Stevens


MettaShiba: It is really hard, for all those reasons mentioned...I’m about to be antisocial by appearing to still be answering the previous question. I’m going to pick 5 Youtube moments of musical artists that are inspiring to me in some way. A lot of us are at home a lot these days and it’s good to get a bit of inspiration from the screen when you can, and I recommend that!


Starting with the most recent find, Minyo Crusaders and Frente Cumbiero performing Tora Joe

I think I thought this was going to be a fusion of elements I love that don’t quite work together, but I was wrong because it’s a huge vibe, and most of all I was captivated by one of the Minyo lead singers Fredy Tsukamoto. I think I’ve always wanted to hear Japanese folk style singing recontextualized into a rhythmically exciting context, and here it is, rolling into my life when I least expect it. 


MF DOOM’ s GUV’NOR music video:


This is basically what I would want playing on repeat all day on a giant projector in my room to drive myself a bit crazy but in a happy, satisfied, ‘lockdown’s actually alright’ way. When he throws the chairs to the sides in the beginning, happy feelings are already flooding my body.


Byron Wallen playing shells:


I just can’t really express how great this is; you just have to watch it.


Pedrito Martinez Group performing La Luna in New York: 

This must be just a great room to be in. The joyousness, the togetherness of the group, the small, intimate setup, mesmerizing percussion hands. 

 

What’s coming up for the rest of 2021?

 

Nadeem: Finishing Recording the EP! 


MettaShiba: Yeah! And also start working on the second body of work. We’ve already got a concept in mind...I think it will be a fruitful year for us in terms of recording and sharing music.

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