Imaad Wasif: Interview (SXSW)

    Wearing dark sunglasses and a maroon winter coat, Imaad Wasif, the Canada-born, Califonia-raised Indian psych-garage-folk singer, stepped off the stage at the Palm Door yesterday in Austin, after a performance at this year’s SXSW festival. The musician — former member of alaska! and Lou Barlow’s Folk Implosion and recent collaborator of Karen O — talked with us about his new album, The Voidist, released last year on Tee Pee; this year’s incarnation of the world’s biggest music festival; and the passing of musician Alex Chilton.


    Are you from L.A. originally?

    I grew up in the desert, in the Coachella valley, I’ve been living in L.A. for about eight years. I was living in Berkley and playing in a band. Lou Barlow called me and asked me if I wanted to make the next Folk Implosion record. At the time I was looking for a new project, so I came down to L.A. to work on that with him. Everything branched out from there.


    You’ve got your hands in a lot of cookie jars.

    I love cookies. They’re my favorite food. I’ve been known to eat between 10 to 15 a day.


    That’s not healthy. Can I offer you an apple?

    I like apples, too. Thank you very much.


    Where and when did you pick up guitar?

    I got obsessed with the instrument when I was about 14. I really wanted it to be a sitar, but I couldn’t find one, so when I first started playing I was tuning my guitar to sound like a sitar.


    Who were some of your influences?

    A lot of Indian classical music, instrumental classical music from the ’40s and ’50s, a lot of ’60s bands. Definitely Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, those guys. Other Eastern players, too. There’s a lot of really cool Indian instruments, and I’m going to try to find a way to bridge the two.


    Are you planning on bringing this kind of instrumentation into the studio?

    Yeah, eventually. I write on a lot of different instruments: 12-string guitar, six-string guitar, banjo, organ, hammered dulcimer — that’s a new one.


    On your new record, you were joined by members of the Melvins and Weezer. Have you always been a fan of their music?

    Actually, the producer of the record worked on some Weezer records; no one from Weezer played on the record. But Dale Crover from the Melvins played on the record. He’s been a great friend for many years. I love the Melvins.


    Do you have plans to collaborate with more of these guys in the future? I know you worked with Karen O as one of “the Kids” in her band for Where the Wild Things Are

    It’s interesting because music has really taken me that way. Working on that soundtrack with Karen, it’s like there’s a chemistry that’s so magical. I’m in search of that in my life. There’s an amazing transformative power of music, and I love working with people who can open themselves up to that.


    Did you watch the movie? Did you find those qualities in the film?

    It was difficult for me to relate the music to the film because we had come about the music so organically. Seeing it edited to fit a film — a lot of the pieces weren’t writen for specific scenes. But I thought the song that I wrote with Karen called “Hideaway” is in a really beautiful scene, and the piece comes through thematically. That scene was my favorite.


    Any thoughts on SXSW this year?

    Really sad about Alex Chilton. Last time I was here I played with Big Star, actually. It’s just really, really sad.