Ahmed Ali Butt, rap/vocals
Zulfiqar Jabbar Khan (Xulfi), lead guitar and composer
Fawad Afzal Khan, vocals
Asad Ali Khan, keyboards
Sajjad Ali Khan, bass guitar
Hassaan Khalid, rhythm guitars
Salman Albert, drums and backing vocals
Waqar Ahmed, drums
The Punjab is well known for its 'bhangra' influenced music making skills. So while an Abrar or a Jawad regularly do their land proud with "Nach Majajan" and "Dholna," a radical EP (formerly known as Entity/Paradigm), hailing from the same land, is rising on the scene and promising to add a new dimension to mainstream music. Mixing and fixing the elements of hip-hop and metal is a brand new concept in Pakistan, and this band of eight is confident of doing it and getting away with it. Wrecking havoc at concerts across Lahore the lads are actually breaking stuff. "There was this one incident when I dropped some water on the stage and Xufli happened to hit that spot. The result, a broken guitar!" said Ahmed, who being the vocalist, comes across as the most vocal of all the members.
Having dominated the Lahore underground for a couple of years now (Entity from 1994 and Paradigm from 2000), EP is being touted as a serious contender for the throne of the best band in the new breed category. The diversity that they aim to attain in their music could be traced in some of their numbers specially "Hamesha" and the bold "Kahan hai Tu." The band reminds one of Linkin Park because of the two vocalists and the touch of keyboards in some of their tracks. This touch is most evident in "Hamesha." Other influences that come to mind, while going through their music, are Ultraspank, Tool and even Limp Bizkit. The band while strives to maintain its own distinct flavour, carries a touch of all these influences.
EP came into being literally on the sets of the TV sitcom "Jutt and Bond." As Ahmed explains, "Fawad and I were working in that serial together. I had a band called Entity and he was with Paradigm. Our influences were poles apart. I was a big Limp Bizkit fan and he was influenced by Tool. The producer of the show wanted us to do a theme song for the show. He suggested that the two of us get together. We did "Humain Aazma" for the show. It worked out well. From that point on we started jamming together and transformed into one band," explained Ahmed. The band was initially called Entity/Paradigm. The name later got changed to EP.
When the Battle of the Bands contest was announced last year Xulfi insisted that the band give it a try. They sent a song and got selected. "Before getting to Karachi I thought it would be like going there one day and come back the next. But after checking out some of the bands we were sure that we stood a fair chance of making it. And we did!" said Ahmed. EP was the eventual runners up at that event. EP performed in Karachi at the Jeemfest concert recently and though it was one of their few performances in Karachi, the band wouldn't want to rejoice. EP is quite bitter about the experience and has even gone to the extent of declaring it as their "worst showing so far." "It would've been better if we didn't have any sound problems as you know," Ahmed states. "We had difficulties with the sound engineer who couldn't understand or didn't want to understand the sound we wanted. It's utterly wrong to call us a group of unprofessionals. We've been doing our own sound check for the past few years and anyone who was present at the M-Live gig the day after the concert will bear witness that we know what we are doing." Justifying his nasty slip of the tongue on stage about the sound system that night, Ahmed reasons, "It was a big disappointment for us as we were all expecting a good showing here. The sound really let us down."
EP is known for making statements fearlessly. It bluntly made one at the Jeemfest peace concert. None of the bands performing in the so-called peace concert uttered a word about the Iraq war. EP was the only one to voice their opinion. "We've been told not to voice our opinion on the current situation but I must say that the situation is pathetic. It shouldn't be happening," Ahmed said on stage and got away with it.
As to what sound EP hopes to procreate on their up-coming disc, Xulfi said that to label it anything other than experimental would be wrong. "We have tried lots of different sounds and effects on the album. What the album hopes to capture will be the evolution of EP from our starting days with "Hamein Aazma" to more experimental stuff like "Hamesha." It remains to be seen what we come up with as we go along. All in all, we would like to keep it unconventional. The drum sound that we hope to achieve will be Tool like. Hopefully we can get that right." Ahmed did, however, say that he's got a different role to play on a song, "On one song the guys actually got to sing instead of rap!" says Ahmed "sounds like a regular George Michael in the making!" injected Waqar. "What we want is an album that will make a lasting impression as we don't plan on making albums every six months," Ahmed added.
So far the songs available range from power ballads like "Rahguzar," "Waqt," to heavy bludgeoning numbers like "Kahan Hai Tu." Mostly the band members themselves have written the lyrics with "Waqt" penned by Danish, Xulfi's brother. The album is tentatively slated for a June release. "The main problem is that most of us are at University so we don't get a lot of time to jam. That is why the album has taken that long. The album will be followed up by a video although we have yet to decide which song we should make a video of. The most votes on our site go to 'Hamesha'," Says Xulfi. So far six songs are complete and four other tracks waiting for vocals to be added. "We are shopping around trying to get ourselves a label to put out our disc. That is why June would be an appropriate estimation," said Ahmed.
Having emerged from Lahore underground scene, the band is not very excited about Karachi's scenario. "In Karachi, egos come before music, In Lahore it's lot more mature and happening. When we had the rockfest in Lahore a few months back, we got very friendly vibes from Karachi underground bands. Waqar was the stickman for three bands and Xulfi helped out some of the bands with their guitars and helped set up their sound too. Working together for a greater good doesn't seem like a bad idea." EP however, excludes Northern Alliance from its list of non-favourites. "They are brave enough to be doing what they want. Babar Sheikh is a man with vision. I sincerely hope that he reaps the fruits of his labour," wishes Ahmed
EP believes that music scene is buzzing like never before in Pakistan. "This is the time when bands are branching out and doing what they want to instead of sticking to the same formula based music. Bands like Noori, Aaroh, Fuzon and their likes have come up and reflect what the next generation of music will be like."
The channel boom, according to Xulfi, is doing music a lot of good. "Thanks to these channels we are getting the exposure that will do us good. The competition will only get stiffer as more bands, that can actually hold an audience's attention during a live performance, will be popping out of the woodwork. Music is surely heading towards an explosive and open-minded direction."
Though like many of its contemporaries, the band is optimistic about the music scene, they nevertheless feel that hypocrisy is as rampant in this field as in any other field. "We want to educate and to eradicate the hypocrisy involved in this line of work. Music to us is about reaching out and touching people," Ahmed asserts. And in case you thought this is mere talk, Ahmed assures that they mean what they aim, "Xulfi teaches people the guitar and Waqar helps people better understand the battering machine i.e. drums."
Emerging on the scene at a time, when new bands are being embraced, EP seems to be at the right place at the right time. Their music appeals to some and to others it's just another band making noise. The real test will be when their record hits the local stores. Will they spin and spiral out of control or will they be able to secure a foothold remains to be seen come June and the release of their album.Zubair Haider