The following is an Independent Spotlight exclusive interview with the rising recording artist, Haiqeem.
Haiqeem - Your forthcoming album is described as ‘hard rock’ and ‘postgrunge.’ How is this a departure from your previous work, work that has been described as within a ‘genre of its own?’
This upcoming record is a departure from the 'genre of its own' to something more secular, being that this time I actually relied on composing with a diatonic scale and avoided the dissonance and disharmonic sounds I was previously enthralled with. Needless to say, I drew inspiration from established genres I could I identify with rather then 'making it up as I go' as I had done before.
It’s intriguing that your debut effort was a ‘noise pop’ album. That’s a bold statement to make right out of the gate. What kind of music were you listening to that culminated in an effort like that?
At the time, I was listening to vintage pop, j-pop, grunge, and some nu-metal. Despite the normality of what I’d currently been listening to, I was then a member of a youth orchestra that brought the term “accidental” to mind - which is usually a stray note or a rest that does not fit into the key or time signature of the piece. Not surprisingly, I had the incandescent idea to make an album of ‘accidentals,’ breaking all of the rules. I was writing harmonies and melodies in different keys and attempt to mesh them together over a minor key dance beat composed by yours truly.
In February you debuted your angry alternative rock anthem, ‘Don’t Give A Damn.’ Talk about the inspiration for the new tune. It’s lyrically complex and defiant, certainly in a unique category of songwriting. Your accusatory words in the chorus, ‘Are you without sin?’ are poignant as well.
The inspiration for 'Don’t Give A Damn' came as a diary entry. Thus, I had recorded a demo a couple of years ago before pulling that one out of my brain last year. During the time when I wrote this track, I felt that my peers and co-workers, in my perspective, were floating through life as if they each were angels among the choir of a deity. The world was a perfect heaven where natural disasters, poverty, social conflict, etc, did not exist. Until the moment I arrived, representing the “Fallen,” so to speak. Regardless of where their biases may have originated, I came up with the self empowerment mantra, “Don’t Give A Damn,” because I feel that it’s harder to reach your goals when an individual is worried about ‘who doesn’t want to see them there.’ So, when I ask, “are you without sin,' I'm echoing a Christian saying (despite the fact that I’m not Christian) that Jesus says “he that is without sin among you, let him cast a stone at her.” Another interpretation is that when you are pointing one finger, three are pointing back at yourself.
We can expect ‘Without My Permission’ this summer, the EP that contains the new single. Is the subject matter of the project unified under this umbrella of rebellion and angst?
Indeed - quite unified. ‘Without my permission’ is actually a lyric from ‘Don’t Give A Damn.' “Without my permission, will you decide it’s over now?” This album, though slightly vintage sounding, is for the youth. The message I’m conveying here is that “nobody can do to you anything you won't allow them to.” Of course, the banter of the drums, distorted guitar, and scathing lyrics screams rebellion and angst. I project my opinion in a positive light to help the dissatisfied move toward a change.
‘Don’t Give A Damn’ has been described as a ‘song for a new generation of angry citizens looking for a voice to express their frustration and discontent.’ Is your music political in this regard? Do you have an agenda that fuels these powerful emotions or something you’d want addressed?
My agenda is not outright to be interpreted as political, but it can be if that’s what the service calls for. The agenda that fuels my emotions is the disconnection between human kind - be that racial discrimination, sexism, or ageism; I need to be the spark that sets fire to the gasoline of “disconnection” to power the vehicle of what I refer to personally as “mankind maturity”. At this time in human history, it's been quoted numerous times that this is ‘the best time to be alive,’ with our ‘world wide web’ and ‘cutting edge technology.’ Despite these willing servants, they are, in my opinion, part of the disconnection as human kind that we share as a whole. In 'Don’t Give A Damn,' after venting, “personally, I don’t give a damn about what you think I am,” I do move to pass the torch to the second party - the “you,” and ask, “will you decide it’s over now?” Since we in this universe are all connected, it’s only right for that person to imagine themselves in your shoes.
You’ve been based in Dallas, Texas throughout your career. You struggled to find bandmates there, though, and thus began your solo endeavors. Has the city been conducive to your creativity? Does it have an impact on your work?
Living here in Dallas has been a colorful experience from both spectrums. As easily as I can say I’ve had some of the best experiences of my life here, I can easily say I’ve had some of my worst. This town does have its share of history and clearly eclipses most American cities in that light. Here in Dallas, I get a high reception from the youth who are not professional musicians, and musicians that are slightly ahead of my generation. I am familiar with a few acts here in Dallas and we’ve brushed shoulders. However, in a town that’s trying to fiercely hold on to alternative country, ambient electro-[pop, and a waxing hip-hop scene; it’s hard for peers to want to exchange words with a musician who has grown up listening to world music, (j-pop/rock, Arabic pop, Nigerian pop) and rock from each spectrum of North America. I’m a trailblazer and not seeing eye to eye with my peers has been immensely conducive to my creativity, leaving me no choice other than to push the ticket.
Your music, while respected, hasn’t always been commercially viable. Is this something you want to change and adapt to, or do you not care? Or rather, don’t give a damn?
I 'don’t give a damn.' Hah! No, I’m kidding. Of course everyone in my field has bills and I simply am working right now to find the middle ground while maintaining my honesty and creativity with commercial viability. I am willing to compromise a little in the near future as currently my superiors and networks are inferring that I should go “harder,” so to speak, to push the ticket into actual “metal.” But for starters, I’d like to finish the full length on a 'poppier' note. I guess that depends how I feel once we’re recording again.
Talk about your future endeavors. Do you want to tour the new record or expand your work outside of Texas? Or perhaps you’re heading back into the studio or taking a breathing period?
At the moment we’re working to expand promo of 'Don’t Give A Damn' out of Texas. As we speak now, my hands are kind of tied at the moment because of ‘obligations.’ However, I’m due back in the studio shortly to finish the full length. So far, the rest of the world is tickled to hear it as they’ve been given samples, despite this single only being released in the United States. Keep your ears open and your eyes peeled, we should be announcing a tour soon.
The producer M. Yates assessed your abilities and helped this new record come to fruition. He’s Canadian, and the record was produced in Canada. What impact has international collaboration had on the sound of the EP? More so, how exactly did that process work if you’re in Texas?
I flew up to his studio and stayed in a Holiday Inn. M. Yates really brought me out, so to speak, with coaching and suggestions once I was in the front of the 'SV-7 Mic.' Having mostly recorded with the same people in the past, I was afraid that I might have been apprehensive, but he drew it right out of me, got to know me, and helped me deliver some of my best performances to date. I’m willing to work with him as long as he’s willing to work with me even though my personal list is ever expanding. It is the twenty-first century; there may be more then one way to skin a cat.
Finally, I love to ask this of all my interviewees on the Independent Spotlight. It’s always interesting to get insight into artists not only as content creators, but consumers as well. If we were to shuffle your iPod or Spotify, what five songs may show up?
Okay, shuffling Spotify now….
Behind These Hazel Eyes, Kelly Clarkson
Bitch, Better Have My Money, Rihanna
Plush, Stone Temple Pilots
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