If there’s a extra acquainted form of profession arc you can come throughout in Indian musicians now, the likes of Mumbai-bred, New York-based composer and multi-instrumentalist Atif Afzal stand testomony to resilience. Originally in metallic band Nemesis as a guitarist, he moved right into a safer company job however by 2013, he had helmed music for considered one of his first movie initiatives, a Hindi thriller referred to as Prague. He says over the telephone from New York. “The moment I stepped into this [music composing] in 2009 or so… obviously it makes no sense to step into something if you cannot dream, or dream big.”
After a number of visits to community and attain out to the movie music world within the U.S. by way of festivals and occasions, Afzal moved to New York in early 2018, on the again of interviewing for heavyweight composer Hans Zimmer. The alternative to help Zimmer on a rating was a near-miss for the Indian composer on account of work allow points, however he does depend it as a lift to attempt more durable and get his foot within the door. With about eight years of working in composing, Afzal’s credit embody 2013 Bollywood movie Monsoon Shootout, a German movie referred to as The Gift (2019) and in 2020 alone, items for long-running motion T.V. present NCIS: Los Angeles and the net sequence iteration of sci-fi present The Twilight Zone. “It just feels… it’s a very surreal feeling, man,” Afzal says about his ongoing initiatives.
In an interview with Rolling Stone India, the composer talks about whether or not his rock and metallic roots inform his tastes as a composer, the present state of affairs within the composing world and World Music Hub, a man-made intelligence-based web site that may assist music supervisors. Excerpts:
When did you shift to New York?
I believe February of 2018 however the entire course of began method earlier. It began off in 2013-14 the place I’d come to the U.S. to discover markets, I interviewed with Hans Zimmer to help him, that occurred, however then I misplaced out on some stuff due to a piece allow. It’s very troublesome right here, you can’t work with out a allow. You should be legally allowed to work right here.
How laborious has the pandemic hit the movie trade in addition to the music trade? What is it like proper now to be a composer in New York?
It’s [laughs].. that’s a very good query as a result of normally, it’s in fact, testing instances for everybody. Quite a lot of manufacturing had stopped, particularly loads of commercials have stopped. But fortunately for me, consider it or not, this occurred proper on the brink of the pandemic – The NCIS: Los Angeles [project] occurred simply between the pandemic, after which as soon as that occurred, The Twilight Zone occurred proper after that, so me personally, I believe I simply bought fortunate in the course of the pandemic. Although, yeah, total issues are barely troublesome and difficult, however yeah, TV sequence don’t cease and stuff is happening all through.
What is it like getting your foot within the door with regards to being seen in a really crowded music trade that they’ve within the U.S.?
It simply feels actually cool. I don’t know if you understand about my background, however I used to be with a heavy metallic band referred to as Nemesis, 15 years again. Back then, you’re like, ‘Wow this is amazing!’ however then will you ever have the ability to make a life out of it. The second I stepped into this [film music composing] in 2009-2010, I actually didn’t know the journey it could result in, out right here [in New York] and stuff. I used to be fairly completely happy doing all my Bollywood movies and no matter initiatives in India. But to return to your query, yeah it’s surreal. Being acknowledged by America’s prime community like CBS after which getting one other mission after that was much more rewarding as a result of they actually liked your work, so it’s simply superb.
You had been a part of Nemesis and in addition a earlier band referred to as Deus Ex Machina. How did this maybe form what you do with scores?
A couple of folks knew about Nemesis. Nemesis was a giant band again then, however nobody knew about different bands, so I actually admire you asking about it.
It’s like a journey, proper? To… the place you evolve as a musician. Like immediately, I play devices just like the saaz, oud, African drums, djembe, what not, nevertheless it all begins someplace. I began off with the mouth organ and a few country-style enjoying in addition to simply exploring that and loads of guitars. When I bought to enjoying guitar, again then, rock was actually large.
That time we didn’t have any dubstep or glitch-hop, and many others. So rock was one thing actually widespread in faculty. I bought into bands, performed for a number of bands. Nemesis was one notable band out of all of them, I used to be on lead guitars, in addition to vocals.
But yeah, there was no acutely aware effort that I wish to get into rock music once I’m doing movie, as a result of I’ve achieved loads of thrillers, lot of motion, so I needed to be ready to be doing any form of composing, so that’s the form of problem. Rock does play a giant half in my profession as a result of that’s the place I began off, however sure, I needed to evolve, study extra stuff, not as a result of it was required however I like music, I like experimenting.
Listen to “Din Kabhi” from the Hindi film ‘Prague’ beneath.
What was your gateway to American music area? Did you tackle any music programs within the U.S.?
I by no means studied music in America. Before coming to America, I’d achieved a ton of research. I’m not speaking about my Indian music. I’ve studied classical piano, orchestration, arranging quartets and quintets, and many others, opera, Western voice modulation from Royal College of Music [London]. Quite a lot of this has gone on earlier than I got here right here. After I got here right here, it was not a lot of doing any course since you don’t have.. you’re similar to between loads of work. But I can preserve finding out. No Conservatory or Berklee or something of right here as such. I believe Hans Zimmer’s interview was my largest course I’d say, as a result of that’s what’s led me right here finally.
When was that?
Well, it’s been happening as a result of it began off in 2014, once I simply went to [Zimmer’s film score company] Remote Control Productions and I mentioned, ‘I’ve come from India.’ They had been like, ‘Hey, it’s not the way in which it really works right here within the U.S.. You must arrange an appointment.’ But I didn’t care.
I used to be in Santa Monica, I’d get monetary savings, come right here, meet folks, producers, composers, and many others. And then he interviewed once more in mid-2018 or round then and it wasn’t going to be only for an assistantship. That was the motivating issue for me as a result of I’m like, ‘Man, I’m dropping an assistant gig with Hans Zimmer!’ I believe that point he was engaged on Interstellar or what I don’t keep in mind. I needed to determine it out. That’s what led to me working this complete factor out.
You talked about Santa Monica. Were you already within the U.S. at that time to your day job?
Oh no. That time I didn’t have a piece allow. So I’d make two journeys in a 12 months to the U.S. and attend the AFI Festival or in the course of the Golden Globes screening, then I bought to fulfill sure key folks, programming folks from Golden Globes. It led someplace, I met some essential producers who launched me to different folks. It could be a 3 week journey, one week in New York, two weeks in L.A., as a result of these are the 2 locations the place work’s occurring. I saved constructing a community and yeah, that’s how… When CBS occurred, I didn’t attain out to CBS. One of the music supervisors knew that I do that kinda music, and so they reached to me and related me to CBS, after which CBS employed me. That’s a giant a part of the sport, it’s important to preserve assembly, it’s important to preserve showcasing your expertise.
As somebody engaged on an AI-based mission like World Music Hub, I needed to get your ideas on what you consider algorithms and AI doing among the work that musicians do. Do you are feeling prefer it’s changing some human side of this?
[Laughs] That’s a scare lots of people have, however that’s by no means going to occur, in line with me. It can occur on some small degree. You won’t ever ever see a rating for a movie ever being composed by AI. That’s my opinion.
Now so.. that is referred to as World Music Hub, it’s an AI-based neumorphism styled web site and it mainly helps music supervisors to get the precise form of observe that they want, however not solely the observe, it additionally form of stitches the whole lot. The music library is created by me.
It simply actually offers them a special perspective the place they’re seeing ready-made scores for his or her movie. It additionally tosses different choices primarily based on their inputs that they’ve entered, the parameters.
I believe the whole lot retains evolving. 10 years again, we didn’t have smartphones, we couldn’t document this manner, and many others. If I’ve studied engineering, and I’m an electronics engineer, then I’m a musician. So if I can mix each my experience right into a factor that may evolve or take this complete factor to the following degree, I’m actually excited.