This time, PHASER Music Team took an exclusive interview of Xulfi, who is rarely known as Zulfiqar Jabbar Khan, is a Pakistani singer-songwriter and music producer. Starting his career in 1994, Xulfi has established himself as one of the most prolific artists in the Pakistan music industry, and is the recipient of multiple awards in Pakistan, including the ARY Music Award and the Indus Music Award.
And many more insighs of are interesting so to get to know about the journey of his music career, so for the full scoop, here you go!
- How did you get started with playing – and creating – music?
On a toy piano. That’s how I started. Whenever there was music on tv, I used to try and play the melody on it. I didn’t have any training so the fact that I was able to play correctly along to music surprised my family. My brother then got me a bigger piano keyboard. I hadn’t stopped since then. There’s a very interesting story about how I transitioned seriously into music creation. I was sitting in my room in my old house. The room had a lot of windows and they were all open. So I could hear the birds, the wind and the trees. Now I had made something on the keyboard and I decided to record it on a tape recorder. Once I played it back after recording, I realised I mistakenly had recorded it on slower speed. But with everything slowed down, I felt I was listening to an ambient and atmospheric music passage with the slowed down sounds of nature giving it depth. I concluded that I haven’t made anything better ever. So that beautiful mistake told me that music is nature and nature is music and I can connect to it if I honestly want to. I was 13 and this experience of creating music evolved me as a person and a musician
- How would you describe your current sound?
It’s edgy and ever evolving and it’s based in pure and honest rock. There comes a time with every musician, with every band when they finally land on to what exactly they are meant to do. That discovery then defines the sound. I believe I’m crossing that beautiful bridge at the moment and trust me, it’s the best journey. One thing though, as far as a concert or a performance is concerned, the sound is a part of a bigger spectrum that also includes lights, visuals and acts. That spectrum is the “experience” and that is what artists and bands need to create to own the stage and give the audience an unforgettable experience. That’s where my journey is evolving to.
- Let’s talk a bit about your songwriting process. How does a song usually develop – do you first start with the lyrics, melody, chord progression, or something else?
I don’t have a set songwriting process. It happens the way it has to happen naturally. Though the common thread for me here is an idea that’s magical and inspiring enough. Once the inspiration happens, the magic continues. Sometimes the words appear first in the process in the mind and sometimes it’s the melody, and sometimes it’s a chord progression. There isn’t a rule to this thankfully. And very importantly, I’ve discovered that evolution has to be collaborative. Hence I also involve my team of musicians and my band in the songwriting process so that the song has diverse energies at the end. One advice to all young songwriters though. If you’re writing about something that’s been written before, you have to think deep into how you can make it sound your own. How to make it look like your own. That’s when you make a difference and set a benchmark. Don’t reinvent an ordinary wheel and always remember there’s a huge difference between ordinary and simple.
- What do you find most inspires you to write a song?
A moment from my own life. My own experiences, my feelings and my thoughts. Hence I’m not afraid of being sensitive because you only feel intensely when you’re sensitive. And without feeling intensely about something, you can’t get inspired and therefore you can’t be creatively brilliant and original. So I make sure my journey of self-discovery, my journey of sensitivity, my journey of evolution, collaborative and personal, never stops.
- Do you have favorite places or times where you like to write?
The last song I wrote it was raining and I was sitting with Ammi watching it rain. And an idea struck me. The idea that then paved a way for a song. I grabbed my guitar and probably in an hour, I knew I was onto something. That idea was “Pakistan Zindabad”, the song, the prayer, the emotion. I hope you all have heard it. It just released recently. I let myself be sensitive and sometimes a bit vulnerable to moments. And a moment can happen at any time and at any place. So my favorite moment is this life and my favorite place is this world.
- How long does it usually take you to write a song?
Sometimes hours and sometimes days and sometimes months. I don’t force it. And if I’m on a deadline, then I have to fast track my sensitivity to a creative phase in order to write and compose honestly. I can’t compromise on that and I cannot be dishonest with my effort, my journey and my music. Music is my mission and I respect that thoroughly.
- What do you think is the relationship between lyrics & poetry?
Both are expressions. Lyrics can be poetry and poetry can be lyrics. Depends on what we are wanting to express and in what way are we trying to convey our emotions. Usually, song lyrics tend to move into a direction which is more easily understood by the audience. Simpler words. But again, that’s the beauty of music. There’s never a hard and fast rule. So the lyrics can move into a poetic dimension and in fact we’ve so many bands and artists using poetry as their song lyrics and these songs have been really popular as well. So that proves that the only thing that matters is an honest representation of your ideas through music and words. The magic will happen itself.
- What instruments do you play, and which ones do you compose songs with?
I play the guitar, keys, drums, the lap steel, mandolin and the ukulele. There’s an Epiphone Masterbilt all solid wood acoustic guitar that I have and nowadays I usually compose on that or I just plug my guitar in my pedal board and my Fender amp and jam with other musicians to collaborate and build on ideas. I think that’s the best part of being a musician. You get to jam with other musicians. That’s how stories, characters and personalities unite to create something unique and special. I love it!
- Got any favorite gear you’d like to tell us about?
Oh, don’t ask me that. This one answer might become the whole interview. I’ll try to be less excited in my answer though. There’s a guitar effect pedal that Eventide, one of the world’s best fx pedal and gear company, sent me their H9 pedal. My god, I can’t explain how beautiful it sounds with my guitar. I can guarantee you’ll listen to it and you’ll wonder where time went. It’s basically one pedal to rule them all. All my delays, reverbs, modulations come from the H9 in all my recent songs and live performances. I haven’t heard anything even close to it ever. And I control the expression of these effects with a Source Audio Reflex Expression pedal. So I can control control any effect parameter with it. And yes while I’m at it, I should also tell you that I control the stage lights expression with the same expression pedal as well. I’m a software engineer and very nerdy when it comes to gear. These two are my favourite music gear. Besides that, I have a purple Revelation and a white Westfield guitar in my guitar collection and those are my dearest guitars. Lastly, there’s this Broadhurst Gardens DAV BG1 mic preamp that I use in a lot of my recordings. It’s a beautiful sounding mic pre. I got it when I found out David Gilmour from Pink Floyd has 40 of these in his studio. I realised I’ve to get one. And it’s been one of my best gear decisions. You’ll have to stop me yourself otherwise this interview isn’t ending any time soon.
“I don’t have a set songwriting process. It happens the way it has to happen naturally. Though the common thread for me here is an idea that’s magical and inspiring enough.”
“Music is my mission and I respect that thoroughly.”
“You get to jam with other musicians. That’s how stories, characters and personalities unite to create something unique and special.”