Sunday January 27, 2013
New look Faizal Tahir looking for new direction
Faizal Tahir is aiming for a heart-on-sleeve record that recaptures his irrefutable songwriting ability.
Popular rock singer Faizal Tahir admits he took a three-year hiatus just to sit back and decide on his next course of music direction. For someone who is always in the limelight for his songs, gimmicks, daring stunts and thought-provoking comments, one could only assume that Faizal has a new strategy up his sleeve.
He has a lot to get off his chest as a more serious-looking Faizal noted that this was his first interview for this year. Looking much slimmer, the singer now has a new look – a manly sculptured moustache with a fashionable evocative mop top hairstyle and a bouffant-layered fringe covering his forehead.
His rather low-key persona makes one wonder if he is the Faizal Tahir. Just a few years ago, he was the bold singer whose gimmicks landed him in much controversy. Who could forget the 2008 act, where he ripped off his T-shirt to reveal his chest with ‘S’ for Superman on live television? For that, Faizal was banned for three months from performing in front of live audiences.
Remember the daring video shoot of Sampai Syurga, where he struggled for breath while filming an underwater scene? This aqua phobic singer almost drowned. Then there was the ‘fire show’ stunt, at the Anugerah Juara Lagu 26, which prompted the TV producers to have fire extinguishers on standby.
Well, those are old stories. This year is going to be different, according to Faizal.
“I want a clean slate. I kept a lower profile than the usual to give myself some space and a breather,” he said.
“I’ve still been busy with a lot of other things. I can understand that some people might have wondered where I went off to and assumed I was hibernating.”
Faizal has not recorded anything major since his second album Adrenalin was released three years ago. If anything else, last year’s Dutch Lady Malaysia anthem Go Malaysia Go!, specially recorded for London 2012, kept Faizal in the news.
“I can honestly say I’ve been very busy finishing up the new album which will be out real soon and also spending more time with my family. I think the family deserves the attention after such a hectic period (when the first two albums were released). But now I’m back with the music for the fans,” added the 34-year-old singer who shot to stardom after he came in second in the One In A Million song competition in 2006.
On stage, Faizal is a star to thousands of fans. At home, he strives to be a great father to his four children – Ahmad Mikaeel Zidane, eight, Siti Raudhah Nur Iman, six, Ahmad Rifa’ie Zidane, four, and Siti Rawdha Nur Jannah, two. His love for Spanish football club Real Madrid reflects in his sons named after French midfield superstar Zinedine Zidane.
“I just needed to do something for myself – a new look, new single, new aspiration and a new course of music definitely.”
On the topic of new music, Faizal has a new single titled Biar under Monkey Bone Records.
The melancholic Biar is Faizal’s latest offering with new songwriter Omar K, who used to write songs for popular singers Alyah, Anuar Zain and Sabhi Sadhi.
Forget expensive videos, a stripped down version of the tune on YouTube shows Faizal allowing an inevitably gorgeous and truthful song to simply take care of itself.
“Most people expect me to do a single with (producer) Audi Mok. In fact it was Audi who encouraged me to do something different with Omar K and see how far it goes. I wrote the lyrics to Biar. The lyrics are simple but meaningful. It tells of a person who does thing differently like for instance, when you see someone crying, instead of asking her to stop, you just allow her to cry.
“Let her get the pain out,” said the singer who has been defined by pivotal hits like Bencinta, Sampai Syurga and Maharya Cinta.
Faizal’s new 10-song album will follow suit after Biar. It is scheduled for release in the second half of the year.
In terms of music progression, he feels Biar will have a different impact.
Faizal, who is known for his extravagant antics on stage, said he is prepared to lose his ardent fans with the release of the new material.
“I’m not saying I don’t mind losing my fans but I am prepared for it. I say this due to the musical changes I have made for this album. Yes, it is still rock as the basis.
“But there is no such thing as rock music being the same. I just like to move on from what I’ve done before and evolve. There will always be a risk when you create something new. And I have always been one to be willing to take risks. You can’t really expect much when you’re not willing to take risks, can you?”
Faizal hinted that the new album will also have a contemporary electronic edge to complement the rock energy. Much like Coldplay’s career reinvention on Mylo Xyloto or how U2 straddled contemporary currents on the game-changing album Achtung Baby, Faizal isn’t afraid to take in new elements to drive his music forward.
Much as he is known to be a singer and performer, it his secret wish to be known as a songwriter and producer eventually.
“I’ve always wanted to be more involved in songwriting and producing. But my job doesn’t really give me the luxury of time to be able to do that. I have written quite a lot of material for other singers. But the problem with a songwriter who is also a singer himself is that he will tend to like the songs he writes (for other singers) and in the end decide to keep them.”
In the last few years, many in the local scene would agree that Faizal Tahir was a spark that brought some excitement to the music industry. There has been a lack of personalities in recent times and the cookie-cutter batch of reality TV artistes haven’t exactly ignited the scene.
Faizal remains diplomatic about things in the homegrown music scene. But he recognises the shortcomings and hopes things improve for musicians here.
“The music industry is an ever-changing scenario – music-wise, marketing-wise, technology-wise. Everything is so subjective. I won’t play safe and say we’re doing great. Yes, we have some amazing talent. I’m a huge fan of Yuna, Aizat, Bunkface, Meet Uncle Hussein, Hujan, Amir Jahari, Bo Amir Iqram, Malique to name a few. The quality is there.
“But it doesn’t really help that much when the local music lovers don’t really recognise the potential of our local talents and acknowledge them. I would never point my finger and blame it on a single person or party. Everyone plays a role.”
Faizal also mentions that the local music market will never be as huge as many actually want it to be.
“I’m just going to be honest and say there’s still a lot to do despite the new generation of talents surfacing. But I think that one of the best things that’s ever happened to the music industry in the past few years is the open-mindedness of the listeners who are wise enough to go for quality above anything else. That has actually helped shape the music scene and will continue to do so. So as long as there is strong support from every side, then we’re headed in the right direction,” he added.
According to Faizal, the change of his own music direction was something inevitable. He has been in the music scene for eight years.
“It would be obvious to say that I love rock music. But I have my own guilty pleasures. Of course, if I want to talk about influences and inspirations, it will always go down to Queen and The Beatles. I grew up with their music. And then there’s the glam rock stuff from Bon Jovi to Motley Crew to Guns ‘n’ Roses and the musician stuff from Sting to Toto to Dave Matthews. But I can still put on Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, Taylor Swift and One Direction and appreciate it. I also love U2, Incubus, John Mayer, Muse, Radiohead and Rihanna.”
The man, to say the least, has an appetite for music and knows what sounds are making the headlines.
“Yes, I said I love Rihanna – a lot. But as for now, my favourite band of is Coldplay. I listen to them a lot. Basically, I believe that it’s always good to have a big music catalogue. It helps you a lot as a musician.
“So if you want a straight answer from me, I just love good music. And good music is music that reaches you and inspires you to react in any certain way,” said Faizal.
Faizal also feels his music career requires him to have great balance, whether or not he is doing it for himself or his fans.
“To be honest, I sing for my own pleasure and (to appease) my fans. It’s always going to be both. My job needs balance. Well, basically every other job you do is the same. But maybe mine is a bit more difficult to balance as I am constantly in the public eye where I am exposed and can easily be judged and criticised.
“So whatever I do within the context of my musical work, it will always have a good balance between doing it for the people and for myself. It’s always been that way and it’s only right to be that way. The first thing I think of, whether it be, when I pick up a guitar to write a song or when I go up on stage to perform, will always be to have fun and enjoy myself and also ultimately to make sure I get my message across to the listeners. Because at the end of the day, you want people to feel what you are feeling from writing or singing a song and you want them to have a connection with you. And to me, that is an achievement on its own,” he concluded.