Torched is honored today to introduce everyone to Ali Jafri as he premieres his debut solo video for ‘Dive (Texarkanada) off the recently released Bloodlines EP. This is Ali’s debut solo EP as well. He is a highly talented vocalist and multi-instrumentalist (guitar, bass, synth, percussion & sitar) and is an extended Pigface family member. He’s also had the opportunity to travel and play with Bauhaus bassist David J for a string of ‘living room style’ shows along with sharing the stage at Convergence 23 Festival in Dallas, TX. He is the former frontman of the band ARIEL and current partner in multimedia electro-operatic, celtic, eastern world fusion duo SAINTFIELD. His eclectic style spans from post-punk, shoegaze, industrial to world music. His vocals are noted for its deep and resonant and emotional quality. Ali shares his story as he answers a few questions in regards to his debut video for ‘Dive (Texarkanda)’, working with Pigface and David J along with SAINTFIELD.. and more.. Please visit Ali’s website for further information and a detailed account of his adventures.. https://www.jafrimusic.com
What was your inspiration behind the visuals for your new video ‘Dive (Texarkanada)’?
There were many. We used a drone, my good friend and artist Christopher Lewis piloted the drone and we got some good overhead shots which plays into the idea of diving, from above. Possibly falling. The video ends with a rising shot which I like. I also incorporated footage from Texas as I used to commute down there for work in a past life. I used to be a corporate creative marketing guy. I’ve developed some friendships down there and a love for the place as a result. This song developed while I was dividing my time between Texas and Toronto.
The video also features a masked character, an aspect of my persona I guess. I call it “Socket”. I’ve appeared as Socket before in makeup on stage, and others have appeared as Socket along with me like in this video (featuring my teenage child behind the mask in some shots) for past short video vignettes. Socket is about connecting or interfacing, with a “power source”. Socket is the “female” as opposed to the “male” in a connection, the female is the one connected to power source. “Dive” is ultimately about identity, be it racial or gender etc, and Socket represents the feminine, which is in all of us whether you are non-binary or not, there is a spectrum. The feminine is directly connected to source. Socket could represent the core of my identity as an artist.
What was your process in creating this video for ‘Dive (Texarkanada)’?
It took a couple of years, I’m a video artist, I’m often shooting and thinking I’ll use the stills or video for something. I shot all of this footage with this song in mind over time. I tweaked the song and finalized it when I released it on my “Bloodlines” EP. I’m sitting on a collection of footage spanning over the years. Putting it together has been interesting I love editing, especially for my own material. As a visual artist this has been very fulfilling.
What was your inspiration behind your song lyrics for ‘Dive (Texarkanada)’?
It stemmed from the end of relationship a number of years ago with someone who had a unique name. She didn’t have a clear answer on how to pronounce it, she chose to say it one way, meanwhile her parents chose to pronounce it another way. Without getting into the gory details as things fell apart I realized I didn’t really know this person, nor did they know me. And from there I went into the bigger picture of identity and people’s struggle to find themselves and how they present themselves and the charades that people end up playing. Myself included. You have to dive, or dig in the dirt as they say. It’s work and it can be scary. I was also thinking about what actually is in a name. How is it pronounced, how that all informs our identity. Back to Socket and identity and “fathers” and patriarchy and the death of fathers and the psychological toll that has on who we are or think we are, or are told who we are. It shapes our perceptions and our sense of reality. It stays in your head. My father is dead, and I know others who’ve lost their fathers specifically, and what that relationship meant and how it shaped our identities and our mental and emotional development. A father being dead could be a metaphor for the downfall of patriarchy, or the loss of one aspect or player in your own origin story. Depends on how you want to look at it. I don’t like saying too much as people’s interpretations of these types of things are personal and I want them to have that too without my stuff getting in the way. If they connect with it with their own meaning, that’s great.
Ali Jafri with Pigface (photo by MXV Photography)
You are an extended Pigface family member? What has your role been in the past with Pigface? Are there plans for future collaborations? What has your experience been like working with Martin Atkins?
Yes! It’s a dream come true to be honest. I’ve been a fan for decades. Now I’m an extended Canadian family member. My path to Pigface has many branches and is an interesting story. Not sure where to start. I’ll start with Ruby. I’ve opened for Lesley Rankine/Ruby twice, 1st time was solo in 2016 (https://nowtoronto.com/events/ruby-ali-jafri-hidden-hierarchies/), the 2nd time with my other project Saintfield in 2018 (https://www.blogto.com/events/ruby-saintfield-toronto/). We’ve become friends along the way, we have teenage kids and Lesley likes to come over to Toronto to hang out (with youngling in tow on one trip) and we do hang out whenever we can. Lesley is so funny and so much fun! She’s a good friend. That kind of lead to Gaelynn Lea, another esteemed Pigface family member as Martin was looking for someone in Toronto to help organize her first show up here. A mutual friend of mine and Martin’s named Don put me in touch with Martin to get the ball rolling, my friendship with Lesley helped with building trust I guess. I did a solo set as local support/opener and promoted the event through Small World Music Society in 2018. It was a great experience. I did a lot of corresponding with Martin regarding that show as we were co-presenters too. I became friends with Gaelynn and Paul (her husband) along the way too, and we still keep in touch. Those two are so nice to know, lovely people. (http://smallworldmusic.com/shows/gaelynn-lea/).
Ali Jafri with Lesley Rankine and Ciara Adams, after Saintfield’s RUX performance Dec. 7, 2019
But before Gaelynn, we can go to David J. I was asked to join him on sitar for his appearance at Convergence 23 in Dallas Texas, (i was still working as a drone pilot down there regularly). It was May 2017. I became good friends with DJ Joe Virus on my trips down, who was incidentally part of the organizing committee, and happened to be overseeing our venue “The Curtain Club” in Deep Ellum for C23. I was faced with a problem though, 45 was doing funny things at the border with “exotic” instruments. Under his watch, I knew of more than one travelling artist who had their instrument destroyed while being “screened”. I wasn’t bringing my sitar down there. Not as a brown man with such a delicate instrument. I did the most natural thing one would do when trying to arrange for a sitar in Texas. I reached out to Nivek Ogre. Haha. True story. I was desperate and was trying anything. Ogre came through and hooked me up with Bob Catlin via Curse Mackey and Sanford Allen (Evil Mothers bandmates, which also links to Bradley Bills of Pigface). At the time I was just recently drooling over Bob’s electric sitar from the footage on YouTube re: the Pigface anniversary show in 2016. Now, by some miracle I was holding that very sitar on stage behind David J as a Vagabond Vigilante! That sitar travelled from San Antonio, to Austin, to Dallas. All on the generosity of this great network of Pigface family who are not kidding when it comes to being a family. Bob barely knew me but they all trusted me. I’ll never forget that. I’m grateful to all of them. It was really and truly a moment of “convergence”. With all that that happened, when Pigface rolled into town it seemed pretty natural that I would join my friends Lesley, Martin, Curse, Bob and eventually Gaelynn at the finale in Chicago. I’m so happy to have lived this experience. Martin is great. He’s a bit bonkers, but that’s what makes him brilliant! He’s super supportive, encouraging and generous! Knowing I would be playing with Pigface inspired me to get my EP together. It’s been a huge shot in the arm for me as an artist. As for collaborations, I think the door is open, it’s up to Martin and the core really. It would be great to be back on stage with them at some point in the future and I’ve made some great connections with various members in the band. There is the possibility of future collaborations with certain individuals. I love all of them.
Ali Jafri with Martin Atkins (photo by Lesley Rankine)
Ali Jafri with Pigface (photo by Bobby Talamine)
You’ve had the opportunity to play a live ‘living room show’ with David J from Bauhaus.. What was this experience like?
I’ve done 3 living room shows with David J. (plus 1 concert at Convergence 23 as mentioned, and a small club show in Toronto at Cherry Cola’s). These weren’t your typical living rooms though. One was a church converted into a home in Massachusetts. It was amazing, it belongs to Boon and Caro Sheridan. The other was a super stacked system and great backyard concert experience in a rural part of Ontario, a town called Campbellville, and the other was a loft belonging to Warren Defever of ‘His Name Is Alive’ in Detroit. We spent the night at the “church” and at Ian Whalley’s and Michelle Casarin’s in Campbellville. It was great to have these up close experiences in intimate settings and getting to know all of these wonderful people, playing, hanging out and making connections. Our hosts were very sweet. It was special. I’m grateful for the exposure to the magic of living room shows. David also taught me how “quiet is the new loud”. I spent a lot of quality time with David. He stayed at my house for 3 days to prepare for our road trip in my home studio he’s dubbed “Das Bunker” for its low ceilings. We shared stories, meals, laughs (his sense of humour is fantastic), made music, watched a Persian horror film called “Under the Shadow”, came up with nicknames and “in jokes”. We took turns driving and had listening sessions on the drive, we were gifted a CD from Yatra Arts (shout out to Praveer B) featuring Icelandic ambient electronic music. Dave introduced me to some incredible Ethiopian jazz on a long dark night drive to the “church” in Massachusetts.
David J and Ali as a duo perfoming ‘Bela Lugosi’s Dead’, Cherry Cola’s Toronto 2017
Ali practicing in ‘Das Bunker’ (photo by David J)
David J and Ali play at a former church converted into a home, Holyoke, Mass. 2017
Again it was a dream come true to be doing this as a duo as I’ve been a fan since I saw L&R with The Cure in 1989, the very night I decided I needed to pursue a life of music. It literally changed my life. It was a trip to be playing with him. We did selections not only from David J’s solo songbook, but also choice numbers from the Bauhaus and Love & Rockets songbook too.
The songs we did together were:
Holiday on the Moon
No New Tale To Tell
Waiting For The Flood
Rock and Roll Babylon
Feel Like Robert Johnson
The Day That David Bowie Died
Bela Lugosi’s Dead
We did an encore at our first stop (Toronto) and David told me were going to do ‘Bela’, but we hadn’t rehearsed it as a duo (we did a very different version in Dallas as a 4pc with Darwin Meiners and Mike Berg as The Vagabond Vigilantes. Another pair of solid human beings!). He’s full of surprises! We pulled it off though, a sitarified rendition and I got to sing some of it too. We did it again in Campbellville on the song’s 38th anniversary night complete with bats (since we were outside). By the time we got to Detroit around Halloween I had prepared a Bossa Nova beat backing track on my laptop (the only time I used it with him) and brought along some strobes. I threw in some Bela Lugosi sound bites “Listen to them, children of the night, what music they make”. It was a lot of fun. The great Warren Defever joined us on it. Warren also did a great version “Ship of Fools” by John Cale with us. He has a super cool Mellotron in this groovy Detroit loft. Earlier on, David posted a version of he and I doing “Ship of Fools” on his Patreon. It was a rough recording but I love it. One more thing, he’s a true Englishman as he can handle real Indian/Pakistani food with real heat made by my mom!
It’s been great to see David J collaborating with Pigface’s Curse Mackey and Sine’s Rona Rougeheart. If I recall correctly, David met them at Convergence 23 as Curse was playing the same stage as us. It is great to see what that has lead to. It’s a wonderful community of likeminded artists. I’ve learned a lot from David J, a gentleman and consummate artist with a depth of character rarely seen. He’s a good man and friend.
David J and Ali on the road 2017
Is there anything else that I may have missed that you would like to share?
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Saintfield. I’m currently finishing up an EP with my partner Ciara Adams, she’s also my life partner. I’m excited to release what we’ve got cooking up, we’re planning a few releases. We’re a “multimedia duo”, a fusion of music from middle eastern and celtic flavor, blended with elements of post-punk, post-rock, alternative, world music, opera (she’s classically trained) and elements of jazz at times. Ciara studied theatre at Guildhall in London England and was a co-artistic director with bluemouth inc, long time specialists in creating immersive, site specific experimental performance art and theatre. Together we blend our musical styles, performance styles and inspirations supported by projections, and dramatic lighting. We are creating a touring immersive multimedia music show exploring different themes, concepts and stories created by us. With our diverse backgrounds and disciplines, (she’s Irish and I’m South Asian) we’ve recently explored themes of partition from India and Pakistan to Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland called RUX.
As an artist I’m very much interested in connecting with the audience. I see them not as “fans” but rather as friends. We are linked together, we spend time making music and shows, they spend time taking it in and interacting with it. This exchange is special.
We’re in a difficult time with this pandemic and it’s caused me to ponder on what actually matters. Community and relationships matter. Our relationship to each other, and with the earth. What we do with the time we have. Money comes and goes, but time just goes. As we’re all relegated to our homes in isolation we can still build community through sharing via all of the digital outlets we have available. We’re seeing some real craziness from those in power positions but our community recognizes each other as outside of that. It stems from a certain type of music and an aesthetic that might find its roots in punk. It questions authority. It questions everything. A search for meaning or just observing the chaos and absurdity. Accidental semioticians. We hang on to each other through all of this, from a distance with a spirit of closeness. At least I do.
I hope my solo work, with Saintfield, or Pigface or anyone else resonates with the many likeminded people I’ve met or have yet to meet along the way. We need to stay safe and to stay home and connected. Much love to you all. Thank you Judy, for your time. I look forward to meeting you in person someday!
All images courtesy of Ali Jafri
Keep up with Ali Jafri