Meet And Greet: Imaad Wasif Goes Into The Voidist
Contrary to what ProTools fanatics might tell you, visionaries are hard to come by these days. During an era in which it’s incumbent upon artists to market and promote themselves. During an era in which selling out has become something of a moot point.
The thing about Imaad Wasif is, he doesn’t even seem of this era. As if life were but a dream, the musician appears to have transcended time and space. But in reality, as it were, he’s paying much more heed to the present moment than you or I.
“I’ve lived in my head for so long,” he told me late last year. “I’ve been reading a lot about this concept of building fortresses of solitude around yourself. If I’m working very intensely on music, I’m very closed off, but I have no problem entering the world when I need to. … I keep defined spaces between the time that I work, so that it’s not really tainted by anything else. A lot of things I focus on involve space and keeping an awareness of the present moment.”
For a glimpse into the Los Angeles musician’s complex mind, look no further than his trance-inducting junior record, The Voidist, which came out a few months ago on Tee Pee. Hypnotic from start to finish, it’s a mystical journey with a through-line of haunting psychedelia and even some portions that might qualify as “pop” in a bizarro world.
And as intriguing as the music is the man behind it. Wasif is hooked on reading books about esoteric philosophy, and although he doesn’t subscribe to any particular dogma, he does seem particularly attuned to that school of thought. To him, the deeper he gets into esoterica (and sometimes occult works too), the clearer he comprehends “universal threads” that thinkers have been writing about for centuries – timeless strains of thought that can be reassuring to someone who worries his mind doesn’t work like anyone else’s.
“I was so confused growing up in terms of identity – probably even gender, to a certain degree,” revealed Wasif, who was born in Canada and also spent chunks of his childhood in California and India. “[I felt] an inability to connect to anyone – including my family, to a certain degree.
“I don’t think I was even aware of my own physical body until later in my childhood,” he continued, getting expansive once again, as is his wont. “I feel like I was operating on this almost spectral, emotional level. [I’ve] always been wondering why I felt like such an alien.”
Like any other kid who tries to forge friendships through music, Wasif took in some of the legendary “generator” parties Southern California’s Inland Empire has become famous for – some of the same ones Josh Homme went to.
“I didn’t really have a connection to any of those musicians beyond the music, really,” Wasif stipulated. “I was going to see bands like Kyuss and Dwarves at this place called the Nudist Colony. [But] it was a completely amazing time for me, discovering that music … getting my first taste of punk rock and Minutemen and Dinosaur Jr.”
Before lighting the fire of his solo career with 2006’s Imaad Wasif, he found camaraderie with his bandmates in noisy combo lowercase and indie-rockers alaska! Also in the early ’00s, Lou Barlow – who has sung a thing or two about loneliness in Dino Jr. and Sebadoh – picked up on Wasif’s scent and tagged him to be part of his New Folk Implosion gang. They’ve teamed together regularly ever since.
From there, Wasif found himself caught in an even brighter limelight, when Yeah Yeah Yeahs welcomed him into their fold. Wasif’s plate stayed full last year, as he participated on YYY’s It’s Blitz!, Barlow’s Goodnight Unknown and the “Where the Wild Things Are” soundtrack, an indie-all-star release that also found members of Deerhunter, Liars and the Raconteurs rubbing elbows.
Which brings us to The Voidist, Wasif’s third solo outing – although it isn’t a purely solo record. On the effort, he’s supported by Melvin Dale Crover, Greg Burns of Red Sparowes note and others.
“The chemistry is what I feed off,” he said, “energy that can really just sustain you and then also completely change your perspective on things. That’s what I feel like the essence of a true musician is: to have that connection.”
Even with all those alliances, though, Wasif still finds himself battling “a great fear of falling into ego. … It’s not about me projecting what I want on people … and [controlling] the universe. The idea with music is stripping it all away. … It’s about connecting to raw, pure idea – energy, emotion – and making that be a sort of primal gut instinct, and to have that be the underlying essence of music.”
For someone as cerebral as Wasif, music can not only be a solution to ego-centrism but also an antidote to the forces of darkness themselves. As you’ve no doubt noticed by now, he does think in terms as grand as those.
“[There’s] a natural human tendency to let darkness cast over the light,” he said. “And ultimately, you have to strive to reach the light.”
Bad Penny MP3 download: “Priestess”