What's Next, Led?
Led made his first appearance to the public eye by closing the Katti Hivvaru Festival of 2015 with a set that was nothing short of stellar. Electrifying the audience with unmistakable groove, he left the stage only after casting a spell of esurience on the entirety of the crowd. Zaan Riyaz, the mind and heart of Led, after composing the set for Katti Hivvaru Fest, realized the strong undeniable connection between each song. Soon after, Pyramids, his first album made its debut in 2016.
‘I like to think everything I make follows this weird story line, where at the center there’s this kid called Felix.’
When I ask Zaan about his connection to Felix, he calmly sips on his earl grey, and ponders. “I think I made Felix up, because I could change his storyline to whatever I wanted to. I could make him happy even if I wasn’t necessarily feeling that way.” Felix comes alive in Pyramids, in varied synths and beats, and a story emerges, paralleled to Zaan’s own, as he makes sense of his life and his music. Static is his latest album, following Pyramids. It was an attempt to stray from his usual storyline, into something different. ‘It’s a fresher take, I like to do things in different chapters.’
When it comes to mixing or production, Zaan leaves it to none other but himself. “Maybe it's because I’m a control freak,’ he jokes. ‘I’ve tried it before, upon suggestion, but it ended up sounding like something I wouldn’t do myself.’ Fully committed to his distinctive sound, Zaan is adamant on maintaining his style and authenticity.
‘Led is my baby.’
Recently graduating from university with a degree in theoretical physics, he confesses to thinking as a physicist while making music. He claims both disciplines help each other. ‘Physics inspires music, music inspires physics,’ he says, echoing the strong sentiment of the fraternity between the arts and sciences. ‘But at the same time, music is the only avenue I have where I can express myself. My other passions, they don’t exactly allow for the same. Like, I can’t write an equation and say that’s how I’m feeling. I can’t do that.’
Amidst the grinding of the coffee machine, and the clamour of the coffee house, the conversation shifts to other matters. Like many artists, Zaan has also had his share of frustrations in recent years with not being able to produce or write anything that he was completely content with. He recounts how inspiration struck in the form of The Beatles. ‘That was when I really started to appreciate the three dimensionality of music. They use techniques that you’d usually hear in classical music, chord modulations, key changes, stuff like that. I found myself thinking, hey, why don’t I try that too?’
As he grows, he is more curious about experimenting with differing sounds, and reveals that he’s been working on songs with regular instruments, at the same time staying true to the sonic sound of electronic music. Zaan divulges that sometimes he finds himself thinking that he wouldn’t have tried these new things a few years ago, or even months ago. ‘That’s where it gets to me, I’m young, this is when I should be doing those things, and taking risks with my music,’ he concludes, a daring glint disappearing from his stare as quickly as it appeared.
After his graduation, a momentary feeling of unease gripped Zaan which he could not fully explicate. He recalls being in his room with friends that night, lying on the bed and suddenly beginning to conjuring up a daydream. He paints his vision with Dali-esque surrealism, with blue birds, and roses strewn across the grounds, grapefruits and oranges in the sky. ‘I wasn’t tripping,’ he laughs. Designing his own reverie struck him, the thought itself spurred a creative spark. ‘It’s funny, but I stopped writing, afraid I might run out of ideas,’ he mentions, only to continue writing after finding a bottle of lavender on his shelf. ‘Lavender helps you relax, I thought maybe I could bring it into a song, and then came the song, Made of Lavender.’
‘It’s funny because I implied on Instagram that Felix fell. It’s a hint. Felix fell asleep, since lavender helps you sleep, see, it’s all connected,’ Zaan reveals excitedly. ‘All I want to say for now is that, Lavender is Felix’s venture to come back to the real world, he’s somewhere else right now.’
As we wrap up, Zaan speaks of being bothered by different interpretations of his music when he was younger. But as he grows older, it touches him to realize that people are making sense of their lives through his songs. It is a reason that urges him to share his own music. And when I finally ask on why he writes, Zaan’s answer is simple, yet deeply humane and inspiring.
‘I feel like my life is one big competition with my own self to understand things better. That’s why I got into physics, to understand the world. And music, to understand myself.’
Photo credits: Mohamed Anas.