Wednesday, September 05, 2012

“Ali Azmat is more than a brother” - Brian O’Connell

interview: music mix

Brian O’Connell remembers Junoon and reveals what he’s up to now

Brian O’Connell’s name is firmly entrenched in the history of the Pakistani music industry. As a member of Junoon, the bassist helped define the sound of one of the most successful groups the country has ever seen. And while the band members may have since parted ways and Brian gone back to the US, he has left a lasting imprint on both our hearts and our musical palettes. Instep got a chance to talk to the celebrated musician about his activities since leaving Pakistan, and his recent collaboration with Junaid Khan…

Instep Today: Your fans and the Pakistani music industry have felt your absence since you went back to the US. What have you been up to since you left Pakistan?
Brian O’Connell:
I miss my fans in Pakistan too. Since moving back to New York, I have been focused primarily on teaching. I teach guitar, bass guitar, and music theory. I prefer to teach privately as opposed to a classroom setting because I can give my students one on one attention and tailor the lesson to their specific needs. I find that I am much more effective as a teacher in this situation, as opposed to the traditional classroom setting.
Being back here in New York has also given me the wonderful opportunity to reconnect with family and friends. I continue to perform occasionally, but I live a relatively quiet life as compared to when Junoon was in its prime.

Instep Today: When you look back at your time with Junoon, how does that make you feel?
I feel truly blessed. Not many of us get the opportunity to live out a childhood fantasy by making a hobby and passion into a career. My journey with Junoon has provided the opportunity to convey a positive message of peace, faith, and love through an art form which we created as we went along, never realizing the extent of its audience.

Instep Today: Looking back, are you pleased with how things went? Would you have done anything differently?
I am more than pleased with how things went, until the end.
I would not have changed anything, except... allowing humility to be lost to the idea that the sum of Junoon’s parts could ever achieve what the whole did and can.

Instep Today: You’ve played bass on Junaid Khan’s new song ‘Keh Do’. How do you know Junaid? And how did you become involved in this project?
I played on this track to help a fellow artist and to give back in whatever small way I can to the people who have given so much to me. I honestly love the song and hope that I was able to bring some of my soul into it.
I came to know Junaid through a mutual friend. I was a bit familiar with Call’s music and respected them for bringing their art form to the music industry in Pakistan. However, I was not aware of Junaid’s ambition to create music on his own. Our friend QB passed the phone to me, saying “Here, talk to this guy. He wants you to record on his song.”

Instep Today: Junaid has mentioned that you needed a lot of convincing to get on board the project. Why were you reluctant at first? And what eventually made you change your mind?
I have been presented with this scenario often in the past and to be perfectly honest, I was rather reluctant to even take the phone. However, Junaid charmed me into it.

Instep Today: How does it feel to be working on a song with a Pakistani artist again?
Great. It feels like home!

Instep Today: Have you noticed any changes in the Pakistani music scene since you’ve been gone?
Indeed many more bands have come up and continue to inspire more artists to do the same. It is very unfortunate that the deteriorating political situation prevents these young artists from having the necessary platform needed to present themselves to an appreciating and desiring audience.

Instep Today: How does it feel to play with Ali Azmat when he tours the USA? Are you also in touch with Salman Ahmad?
I thoroughly enjoy myself on stage (and offstage) with Ali. Our relationship remains as it was since we both shared an apartment way back in the day. He is more than a brother. Salman and I go even further back where it all began for us, in our hometown Tappan, NY. Life’s journeys often resemble circles.

Instep Today: What do you miss the most about Pakistan?
My dear friends, the people, the culture, and cheap Dal Mash from dirty Garib Nawaz hotel in Gizri.

Instep Today: When was the last time you visited Pakistan? And is there anything that would bring you back to the country?
I was last there in 2007. And just about anything would bring me back.

Instep Today: Will we hear more music from you in the future?
As long as there is a song in my heart, my gift will be given.

Instep Today: Any message for your fans?
I thank you, miss you, and will surely meet many of you as our paths cross in this journey. May God bless each one of you! With my deepest love and gratitude, Brian.

- By Sameen Amer

Instep Today, The News - 5th September, 2012

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