Farhad Hossain On Shumaun: "If We Can Help Fans That Don’t Usually Listen To Metal Find Their Way Into That Community Then That’s Great.."
"Bridging the gap"....these words aren't usually associated with your typical straight up metal act. However, when it comes to genre defying acts like Northern Virginia's Shumaun those words ring true. With a style that lies between Rush, Symphony X and Tears for Fears - and all points in between - composer/guitarist/vocalist Farhad Hossain is out to win the hearts of pure music fans.
On November 13th, Shumaun issues a self-titled and self-funded release and one that hopes to grasp the attention of more than those just rooted in the metal scene. The band seeks to capture a whole new audience that simply loves good music and good song writing, bringing it back to intelligent hooks, fundamental principles and above all sophisticated musicianship.
CROMCarl: On your band’s Facebook page, you describe the music of Shumaun as “hard rock for people who love the sounds of intricate rhythm sections, progressive inspired guitars, colorful synths and melodic vocals.” After listening to the album, this description pretty much nailed it for me. It is easy to label anything uncategorized as “progressive” – but you guys chose to identify with the hard rock base. With so many subgenres in this day and age, is it challenging to convey what the band is all about to new listeners when so many people seem to turn a blind eye on the mere mention of certain terms?
Farhad: Even within the “progressive” realm, there are a myriad of sub-genres, and it just gets way too complicated and confusing for me. While our music shares many traits that are synonymous with “prog rock,” I view us more as a hard rock band with progressive elements. There are elements in our sound that’s very poppy at times that can have more in common with Green Day than let’s say Dream Theater. I’m sure that might turn away some people, but it doesn’t really faze us because at the end of the day it’s all about writing songs that are honest and meaningful to us. We’re not too worried about what genre we might get classified as; we embrace them all. As far as the challenge to convey what the band is all about to new listeners, what I usually say is that we kind of sound like Rush. They seem to be the band that always gets mentioned when describing us. To have Shumaun mentioned in the same sentence as Rush is an honor in itself since they are such an inspiration to me.
CROMCarl: When I hear songs like “Miracles of Yesterday,” “You and I Will Change the World” and “Keep It Together” – I can hear so many hard rock, metal, progressive and pop music influences going on at once – from Rush to Dream Theater to Kings X to Queen to Symphony X to Tears for Fears to Van Halen and a little pop punk like Green Day. At the end of the day, when you put it all in the grinder and write - is it all about the song writing and memorability?
Farhad: That’s exactly it! When I write I never plan to write something with the intention of it sounding prog, metal, pop, or whatever. It’s usually dictated by what I am listening to around that time; that can range from Tool, Rush, and Megadeth one day to Tears for Fears, Peter Gabriel, and Genesis the next. I just let the song dictate what it may or may not need. That being said, there are definitely times when I feel a song can really benefit from a technical passage, or a guitar solo, but I always want it to serve the song. The odd meters and technical bits that are scattered throughout the album are just a byproduct of our influences.
CROMCarl: Do you aspire to appeal to a greater musical audience rather than cater to just the metal/rock crowd?
Farhad: I don’t think we’re really trying to cater to any one particular audience. I feel that we’ll generally attract a metal/rock crowd and that’s totally fine because it’s where we’re all rooted. It would be great if we could attract an audience that doesn’t identify or relate to metal, hard rock, or progressive rock because I think we’re the perfect gateway band for fans to discover this kind of music. If we can help fans that don’t usually listen to metal find their way into that community then that’s great. Metal fans are some of the most loyal in the world, and they’ve embraced us way before any other community has. That’s just a testament to how open-minded metal fans really are.
CROMCarl: Now I know the name Shuman is Native American for “rattlesnake handler” and I know the name Shaman is a derivative of the Tungus word “saman,” but where does the word Shumaun come from and what is its meaning?
Farhad: We tend to get Shaman a lot when people pronounce our name. Shumaun is actually an Indian name derived from the Sanskrit word “Sumon” or “Suman.” It’s also written as “Shumon” and roughly translates to calm or peaceful mind. Shumaun is pronounced Shoe-mawn. The spelling is a bit unorthodox but it comes from my middle name.
CROMCarl: Where do you draw your greatest amount of lyrical inspiration – is it personal, world events? Are you trying to convey stories or inspiring messages to the listener?
Farhad: I can get my lyrical inspiration from just about anything really. My lyrics generally tend to base around relationships. That can range from our relationship with the metaphysical world, meditational experiences and spirituality, to personal relationships with people and places. World events also tend to play a big role. I generally don’t like talking about what specific lines mean or what certain songs are about in detail because they tend to be very personal and I’m not a very open person in that regard.
CROMCarl: What happened with you and Iris Divine that led to the split/separation? Musically Shumaun and Iris Divine have so many musical differences, did it have to do with that?
Farhad: I can’t really pinpoint it to any one thing when it comes to why I left Iris Divine a few years ago. There were several factors at play. It was something I was thinking about for the majority of that year. The decision to leave wasn’t very easy. Navid Rashid and I were a great writing team and I am very proud of the music we wrote up until the point I left. I just started to feel very detached from the band for reasons both internally and externally and it just wasn’t fun anymore. I wanted to do something different musically. Certain dynamics in the band shifted over time making it feel like a business deal to be together, and it got to the point where I felt I was just going through the motions. I didn’t think that was fair to the rest of the guys, or to myself, so I left. There are no hard feelings. That being said, they are doing incredible without me, and sound better than ever, so I know I made the right choice. We are all still good friends. Iris recorded a good amount of their last record “Karma Sown” with me in my studio. We do plan on sharing the stage in the upcoming year. It will be fun since half or that era of Iris Divine are now in Shumaun.
CROMCarl: With the departure of Tanvir (who eventually returned), you hooked up with Travis Orbin and Mark Zonder for part of the album’s drum recordings. How did you hook up with those two and which songs do they appear?
Farhad: That was pretty much our Spinal Tap moment. We had so many drummers come in and out. When Tanvir had to leave for professional obligations I didn’t want to waste any more time tracking the album so I put an ad out immediately. I knew about Travis Orbin for quite a while since he used to play in Periphery. As massive as they are now, once upon a time they were just another local band in the DC area. I always thought he was just one of the sickest drummers out there, so I shot him a message and sent him a few demos to see if he’d be interested in playing on the record. He really dug the material but unfortunately Darkest Hour was getting ready to head out on tour so he couldn’t commit much time. Luckily, he was able to block out enough time to track two of the songs. Those being the two singles we’ve released so far “Ambrosia,” and “Miracles of Yesterday.”
I’ve always been a fan of Fates Warning and Mark Zonder’s drumming so I reached out to him through his web site. He has a drum service now, so I sent him MP3s of the material to see if he could contribute. He tracked the remainder of the drums on the record minus the three songs that were tracked by Tanvir’s replacement at the time Waqar Khan, who tracked “When It’s Our Turn,” “The Drop,” and “The Dream of the Sleeper.” So we have three drummers on this record! After all the tracking was done Waqar had to leave for professional reasons as well, but luckily Tanvir moved back almost exactly at the same time and has returned to the band.
CROMCarl: Does the band plan on releasing any music videos for the album?
Farhad: At the moment we are not sure if we are releasing a proper music video just yet. We do have a lyric video floating around for our first single “Ambrosia.” We are definitely open to the idea of a music video, but we have to work out the logistics and funds in order to make it happen.
CROMCarl: With Shumaun as a full time band, what has/will become of Encompass? It’s been a long while since the 2006 demo, but is the band still kicking?
Farhad: Wow, that’s really digging into my musical past, I’m impressed! When Navid (Rashid) and I got together to start Iris Divine, both his band and Encompass just broke up. We needed a rhythm section, and I knew Tanvir (Tomal) and Brian (Dobbs) of Encompass were available so we just got them to come along for the ride. Iris Divine really just consisted of members of Encompass without our keyboard player Mike Farmer, with Navid and I sharing guitar and vocal duties.
I kind of see Shumaun continuing what Encompass started. I feel like we sound like what a modern Encompass would have sounded like if we remained together, sans the full time keyboardist. Tanvir and Jose were also a part of Encompass. Jose was the original bassist who played on the 2006 demo before being replaced by Brian. It’s a very incestuous circle. So it turns out that ¾ of Shumaun were also in Encompass. It’s very rewarding to play with people you are already good friends with. Encompass pretty much laid the groundwork for both Iris Divine and Shumaun.
CROMCarl: I imagine you must be dying to get out on the road! I know you have a couple of local shows coming up in November - including the NoVA Family Reunion with my pals in A Sound of Thunder, but are there any tours planned or currently in the works?
Farhad: We definitely have the itch to go out and hit the road! We’ve played a handful of shows so far in the DC/MD/VA area. The upcoming NoVA Family Reunion show will be our second with A Sound of Thunder who we are all good friends with. We do want to start planning some short tours in 2016, but at the moment we are just trying to make our rounds locally. We are a live band and that’s where we get most of our satisfaction from.
CROMCarl: Thanks so much for your time! Best of luck with the album!
Farhad: Thank you so much! These were great questions that I really enjoyed answering. Hope to see you at a show sometime soon.
For information regarding Shumaun and to order the new album, head on over to the band's Facebook Page.
From the early to mid-90's, Carl published his own fanzine called C.R.O.M. In 1997, he released a compilation entitled "CROM: The Resurrection of True Metal," which featured songs from bands from around the world, including the first U.S. release of any kind for bands like Italy's Rhapsody (n/k/a Rhapsody of Fire) and Brazil's Angra. Follow Carl on Facebook and Twitter: @CROMCarl.
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