We never planned an interview but then it just happened. We spoke of the freedom of the moment and the responsibilities that come with it, approached some differences of being guitarist or vocalist, the essence of traveling, and discussed that an amazing live performace is not necessarily a replication of the studio version. Asim also gave some insights into the overlapp of singing and voice acting in order to achieve a new level.
Dark River Festival 2022. For quite some time I have been waiting to meet Asim Searah again. All his new projects since he parted with Wintersun made me curious. Saturday afternoon. We drop on the couch in the festival back office accidentally at the time and within seconds find ourselves in vivid conversation. Asim obviously felt the urge to tell many a tales as the stream of his thoughts hardly stopped.
Asim has a busy job on the Dark River Festival 2022. Not only he opened the festival with his acoustic set on Thursday evening but also he is host and moderator on the Kaaos Stage on the remaining days or more precisely nights.
Enjoying the moment to the moment
“So how the DRF 2022 been for you so far?”
“I mean on Thursday, I played the show”, he begins thoughtful, “yeah, the acoustic set, I opened the festival.” I nod to confirm that I attended the gig. “You watched it?! That’s good. It was fun. Certainly being alone on that kind of stage and open up the festival as well is not the easiest of the job.” I nod again. Honestly one person all alone on such a festival stage, that’s a lot of space to fill. Additionally, opening a festival is a big honour but no less a big responsibility. Perhaps mentally people are still be occupied with day job topics or their arrival at the festival. On top of all, the DRF never before began on a Thursday already. Many might yet not have arrived at all. Breaking that ice, activating and winning those people all adds to a substantial challenge from my point of view.
“It was incredible. Incredible because the motivation was still here, for the people to make this festival happen on Thursday as well; you know which has not been done before. I felt honoured, you know, to surpass this feeling and contribute to that. So right afterwards I felt just at ease; enjoying the moment to the moment. Not thinking about work. Even though today I got a couple of work emails. I was like: ‘Ah-ah’” shaking his head in a denying manner. “Forget about it. Not gonna happen. – Work meaning of course, because next week I am finishing up The Circle albums’ recordings.”
“Ok.” – “So, The Circle album is done. There are just some little recordings needed to be done. And we have an amazing guest appearance happening as well which I can’t disclose yet. But very good friend of mine is gonna be there as well.”
Now that I am not anymore part of Wintersun it gives me more time to concentrate and be able to think what I really want to do and want to push forward
With not half a second of break he switches to the next band and album project going on: “Then Damnation’s [Plan] stuff is: all the leads are done. All the lead vocals are done. Just the backing vocals are left which I tend to do by the end of this month. So this all the kind of work-related stuff. Two albums and really focused on getting done them this year. It took a little bit of long time for me to do the Damnation’s album, and that is a lot to do on me. Because, you know, there is a lot going on in my life that I had to kind of take control of the reigns of my life, so to speak. Tough times. A lot of mental pressure, mental stress. Depression played a bit of role into it. A bit of family ties breaking up and so on. So there was a lot going on in these years. And beside of course in the beginning after even releasing the Damnations album I was quite busy with touring with Wintersun’s. So that did affect a little bit. But every chance I got I tried to do at least a little bit and contribute to Damnation Plan and making Damnation Plan finished. Now that I am not anymore part of Wintersun it gives me more time to concentrate and be able to think what I really want to do and want to push forward.”
It is quite a package he reveals here that might slip our notice due to Asim’s eloquence and easy-to-follow intonation. That however should not divert from the mental and emotional challenges he mentions as sif it were nothing.
“May I ask if you still have any additional day job?” – “No, I don’t.”
Fighting to live the one dream
“So you can really focus on the music?” – “I really want to do that. I mean, of course, the moment I joined Wintersun, I actually left my family business of leather garments and textile in order to be able to concentrate fully on music.”- “Yes.” – “And I think, no matter what, if I give up that notion, and I give up that dream, and just go back doing business, or start taking a day job, my focus would change.”
“Of course, it would as the day job will take time”, I agree. Then again it is a two-bladed sword. If you rely on paying your rent from music you will face the pressure of producing what sells which might not be the music you really want to do. Asim, however, leaves no moment to ponder on this but dives deeper: “And not just that. It also takes energy. It takes your creative juice away. And funny enough creativity comes for … for some people it comes from boredom. For some people it comes from chaos. It has so many different ways of coming to you, right? The Circle album, that I wrote, meaning as particularly The Circle band is that I am fully focused on the vocal production, lyrics, recording of the vocals, everything regarding as a singer is what I do in The Circle. And we have a very, very amazing concept for the album, and it deteriorated me a lot. It’s quite depressive in certain places, so I had to change my character to adopt the character that I want represent according to the concept of the album. So you can’t achieve that once you’re working in the day time and in the evening you’re doing something else. You really have to become like …,” he really pauses to word his thoughts. “ It’s like you know when the movie actors talk about when they take a character as their own, make it their own daily life as a character. So that I tried to do with The Circle. And it kind of disrupted me quite much. I would not have been able to do it if I were to be doing any other day job or had any other stresses around me.”
“I think it quite a challenge already to fulfil different roles at the same time.” – “Yes.”
The surprising side effects of voice acting
What I mean and explain is the different roles each of us plays in the normal life: being partner, parent, friend, co-worker or superior or whatever. Each role will show a different part of your character. “If then you want to make such a band or album concept something living and breathing.“
“Exactly. And there are certain things that I did on The Circle album now which I have never done before. And I do it remember, I was going on a vacation to the United States, and the exact night before, I finished the first recording of the first song. And in the early morning I had the flight and certain things that I were doing, I literally threw up as well which I have never done before. I forced myself to achieve, to be able to be that character with that certain aggression or pain or arrogance that I was supposed to build that character on. And as it was specifically the first song, not me as a personality, I had to become one, and that was kind of horrifying and horrible at the same time. But with the voices that I chose I was able to record. I did throw up a couple of times. That was horrible. And then I had the flight to go to the States and actually I edited the vocals on the flight as well. And when I landed in New York – ahm, I was flown in by Cradle Of Flith to come exactly after seven hours to other corner of the States, from the East coast to the West coast to see them in Seattle. And I remember at the back stage of the Cradle Of Filth show, I sent all the tracks with the wifi to the guys. Woa, that was horrible: four nights of not sleeping, and being living in that character – that was hard! This is something that I have not done with Damnation.”
“Just let me sum up to see if I got you right: Mostly the stage persona of a vocalists is like over representing a certain part of his or her personality, pushing this part in to the focus and the others more in to the background. But you did switch into an entirely different person like an actor into his or her role. Someone who is not you or no more than tiny little parts.” – “Yah. Specifically towards the end of the album I would say, yes. A pretty amazing journey through a human mind in that five-songs album that we are doing. It’ll be so relatable to all cultures, all human beings.”
Semantic dimensions of The Circle lyrics
“Now you got me really curious.” Asim continues: “I hope so at least” more in connection to his previous statements than in reply of mine. “I do achieve that in a simplistic form. Because, first album that I did when I wrote the lyrics, they were more metaphorical as of course, the album’s name was ‘Metamorphises’. So it was so magnificent in that sense that I had to words very epically and you know extravagant words which in order to represent certain ideologies. But here I did the same thing but rather in an easier tone which kind of like reflects each one of us that nobody has to overthink things but rather be able to relate themselves to the whole situation.”
“How much of the current events all around us, all around you reflected into the songs?” – “Oh? Uff? Ahm?” – “Like, the big things going on.”– “No, I think it became more personal this time. It was not about the world as particularly or I don’t think the world problems are something that tend to I write about for The Circle. But with Damnation Plan we have that. We represent different ideologies with the world and that. You know we can all sit down and talk about the world problems as if we were capable of solving them all by ourselves. But unfortunately we have to start from within ourselves first.”
If we can’t self-reflect first, I don’t think, we can change anything
“That’s the point.” – “I think if we can’t self-reflect first, I don’t think, we can change anything. The change literally changes from within. But we live in a society we just tend to unfortunately nowadays, planning to change the others or cancel others in a split second than to be able to reflect on themselves as well: ‘Oh shit, we’re talking about somebody who did something 20 years ago. And we just want to cancel them now?! Because we notice something…’ – ‘So what the hell did you do 20 years ago? You did the same damn shit worse maybe even unconsciously? Something that you’re done or said which was not appropriate.’ – I have done that. Everybody has done that! Every single human being has done that while the way was. As we grow, as we learn different cultures, we travel in order to observe different cultures while we get to know our things different.”
“That brings me to a really interesting question: How much, do you think, does travelling help not only to understand other cultures but also to understand oneself and learn to self-reflect?”
“I say: this is a myth! Many times that we have heard that traveling is the best key to be able to – you know – learn about ourselves. Bullshit! Ahm, depending on which traveling we talk about. If you’re just traveling to playing a festival as a musician, you come back and you don’t learn much even though you travelled across the whole globe.“ He pauses.
“But yet again if you observe or absorb traveling in a certain different fashion which means that you really are ready to experience the culture that you’re setting in or being in. For instance, if you go to Japan and you’re hungry, and then you enter McDonald’s”, he breaks for one second, “that’s the most bullshit thing you can do – in my opinion. You’re not learning anything new.”