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Interview RED HOT - TEE-M

The following is the interview TEE-M gave to Kenneth Hamlett, publisher,
UNSIGNED Magazine. The Largest Magazine Dedicated to Indie Music,
based out of Atlanta GA. It appeared in the Oct.'05 issue.

We find out from TEE-M what EARTHIOTIC means


Tariq Mirza, aka TEE-M, was born in Pakistan and as a child listened to
some of the classic rock and roll artists of the day. UNSIGNED spoke with
TEE-M about growing up in Karachi and how he made the transition from Pakistan's culture
to the U.S.A's. We also learned his inspiration behind New Orleans.

TEE-M is having a documentary made about his life and the indie music scene
by filmmaker Lisa Scott.
UNSIGNED's RED HOT artist for October is TEE-M. Based in California, TEE-M
is carving out a niche as a very solid singer/songwriter. TEE-M has been listed
as one of the hot 100 unsigned artists in Music Connection magazine
EARTHIOTIC...songsfromaoneroompalace is TEE-M's latest release and it is filled with wonderful rock and roll gems.

TEE-M - radio personality, highly skilled
singer/songwriter and earthiotic! Tariq Mirza,
otherwise known as TEE-M is one
of California's most beloved indie artists.
He has been on the Music Connection
Top 100 Unsigned Artists list five years in a
row and audiences and critics love his eclectic
musical style. He goes from from classic rock to
songs inspired by his native Pakistan. Whatever
songs he's singing, TEE-M delivers with soul,
inspiration and heart. His latest release,
EARTHIOTIC...songsfromaoneroompalace, is full
of great classic rock inspired songs. There is
one cut that you must listen to, New Orleans,
if you've been there, you'll know why you need to hear
this song, given the recent events in the southeast.
There's also Man Without A Country, inspired by the
real life story of Merhan Karimi Nassiri - a man stuck
in Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport for more than
sixteen years! TEE-M is a wonderful person and his
songs reflect his attitude about life and humanity.

What was it like growing up in Karachi and when did you make the move from Pakistan to the U.S.?
Karachi is the largest city in Pakistan, with a seaport (Arabian Sea) and an international airport, it's a very cosmopolitan city. At an early age I was exposed to a lotta different people and sounds from around the globe, I guess it prepared me good to tackle a city like
Los Angeles. :)
I moved to the U.S. early-mid seventies, Grand Rapids, Michigan was the first city I lived in,
too cold, so after my first semester I moved to Dallas, Texas, where I became a big fan of the Dallas Cowboys, and still am to this day.

As a child, what were some of your favorite songs?
My earliest memories of hearing rock 'n roll was listening to and really liking what my older brothers and cousins were playing, things like "Rock Around the Clock," "Shake, Rattle and Roll" by Bill Haley, "Sixteen Tons" Tennessee Ernie Ford, Elvis' "Jailhouse Rock" and then I started listening to The Shadows, they were an instrumental band from England, Hank B. Marvin was their guitar player, loved his playing and sound, songs like "Apache" that was the first tune I learnt on the guitar and "Savage."
The Shadows were also the back-up band for Cliff Richard whose "We Say Yeah," "Living Doll" and "The Next Time" were some of my favorites. The Ventures, "Walk Don't Run," "Pipe Line" and "Let's Go," then The Beatles came along and it was all over.

When did you decide that western music was what you wanted to perform?
It just so happened that a cousin of mine who played and owned a guitar had to leave
Karachi and went for some higher studies abroad, but he left his guitar behind for me.
Since then I just taught myself everything I could and would listen to a lot of pop music through
short-wave radio around the world. Gradually I started singing and joined my first band
The Hill-Toppers which eventually became The 21st Century...yes! we were thinking ahead.
Guitar is a very cool instrument, and girls love it, that was the biggest reason to play music :)

You are a very solid songwriter. What songwriters influenced your songwriting style?
Oh! thank you...I would say, Lennon-McCartney along with George Harrison, when I first learnt
that the Beatles were not trained musicians, I thought to myself, wow! that's magic, I'd like to get that someday and so here I am still trying to find that magic. Hank Williams, I was exposed to him in Texas, thanks to a professor of mine (not music), I learnt simplicity from Hank.
Bob Dylan, the only songwriter that scares the hell out of me, what a body of work...amazing!
The cousin that left his guitar for me back when I was a kid, once had a cut-out made of this guy with a funny shaped guitar, I asked him who is that? he said it's Bo Diddley, Bo's vodoo beat was reaching far and tell me Who Do You Luv?...Willie Dixon, some of the great blues songs are written by him. John Fogerty (CCR) I met him, a real cool cat, great rock voice and songs. James Brown, I once wrote a song "Thinkin' 'Bout James Brown" when he was slammed, he still keeps making news in that sense. Simon and Garfunkel, loved their harmonies and Paul's songs. Holland-Dozier-Holland, seemed like every Motown hit were written by them, it was such a pleasure meeting Lamont Dozier, and the late great Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, the qawali man from Pakistan, more for his voice and performances.

I really dig the title of your CD, EARTHIOTIC...songsfromaoneroompalace.
Where did you come up with that title?

Right on! :) Well, with everything that's going on, on our planet, and since I've been of age,
it seems like there have been all these conflicts that are never ending, and new ones keep croping up and lately there have been a lotta talk about patriotism. So I thought of earthiotic
as oppose to patriotic...because once we become an earthiotic person, than everything falls under that. Patriotic seems too small and selfish in this day and age, I feel, we as people are a lot bigger than that.
There's no such word as earthiotic, which is quite surprising, so I'm hoping that somewhere down the road Webster's and Oxford dictionaries would add earthiotic to our vocabulary. Let's give the kids one extra word to learn...this, coming from a guy who hated school. :)
Anyway, that's the big picture and now we come to the sub-title.
When I first moved in my current apartment, which is very close to the ocean
here in beautiful, sunny Santa Monica, California, I started calling it my one room palace, hence...songsfromaoneroompalace!!

I noticed you had a few songs on the record that were sung in your native language.
Was it difficult incorporating all the material together on the record?

Not we were getting close to finishing the 16 songs, I was already getting the sequencing in my head...Geoff Tyson who I co-produced the CD with, is a very passionate
musician, and other musician's like Albert Reyes the bass man, Mike Oristian who played the harmonium, Brandon Schott, accordion, Stefano Ashbridge drums on some tracks and Meena Makhijani who played the tablas, they all did a great job especially on the songs with the eastern touches and they made it their own. Btw the language is Urdu, which is spoken in Pakistan and India. Aao, Aao, Aao means come, come, come and is a song that was inspired by my mom's cooking and Yahrah means friend, pal.

Have you been fortunate enough to meet Merhan Karimi Nassiri? The inspiration behind Man Without a Country.
No, I wish I could, I would at least like to hand him the single, let him know that hey, somebody wrote a song for him in '95 long before Tom Hanks and Speilberg made that movie Terminal inspired by him in 2004. Merhan's "Alfred" story is one of the most bizarre ones out there. The guy has been sitting at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris for more than 16 years now.

The song New Orleans seems very fitting right now considering the events brought
on by hurricane Katrina. Does New Orleans have a special place in your heart?

Of all the cities that I've been to here in the U.S. New Orleans, has been the most inspiring,
and I was there for only two or three days, it wasn't even the Mardi Gras...the people and the spirit of that city was so cool, it was so genuine.
So it was really disheartening to see the havoc Katrina did and then the sorry response to that was most mind-boggling...I mean this is the United States Of America with all the resources and brain power in the world...Adversity is a true test of our strengths as individuals, as family, as nations and as people living on this planet...The Big Easy has to come back.

How did you get involved with WPMD? And tell us about your show.
I met Mike Stark host of "Rock 50" on WPMD in the early 90's here in L.A. through an organization called Music Alliance which was put together by Lee Ballinger, (Associate Editor of Rock and Rap Confidential), when I was doing a thing called TEE-M and a Drummer.
We hit it off right away, and since then Mike has been a big supporter of TEE-M music.
But in the mid 90's I dropped out of the music scene for a few years and Mike and I lost touch.
Then one day about a couple of years ago, Mike was watching this short-film, The Ultimate Song, that had people like Springsteen, Ice T, Tom Morello, Wayne Kramer and Steve Earle
and out popped TEE-M on the screen, and Mike went oh! where has this guy been, so he got in touch with me after that. He's had this show "Rock 50" live on out of Cerritos College since about three years. He invited me a couple of times over for an interview and live performance. The last time I was there in early 2004, I asked Mike if I could play some cd tracks of other unsigned bands, that I had taken along with me to the station. After the
second song he said to me, hey TEE-M do you wanna do this, like once a month. I said hell yeh! So that's how "TEE-M's UNsigned Music Show" was born and it's spreading worldwide.
We usually get a couple of live performers on every show besides the recorded music. Last April was the first anniversary of the show, we had fourteen performers, ending with an all-star
UNsigned finale of my song Aao, Aao, Aao. The party was a blast, some great performances!
If any of your unsigned readers wanna send their music, please go onto my site click on the UNsigned show, scroll to the bottom, the submission address is there. The show happens once a month live, but it replays 3 times daily, 7am, 3pm, and 11pm
(pst) on the alternative stream
Mike's show happens live every Sat.11am-1pm (pst) and just like he has me over once a month, he also gets Bill Ward drummer of Black Sabbath who does his thing, plays his favorites. (Btw Mike Stark is also the author of, Black Sabbath: An Oral History besides being the West Coast producer of the nationally syndicated Tom Joyner Morning Show). So please check it out.

You've made the Music Connections top 100 Unsigned Artists five years in a row.
What do you think it is about your sound that people dig?

Man! when I look back, five years in a row does seem like a long time now, and a lotta work.
I'm so thankful to the people at Music Connection for the I have respectfully asked MC to withdraw my name from the list this year on, and instead I would be very happy if they would give it to some artist or band that has never been selected. It's a great thrill to be on that list and believe me it's not easy to be on there. Besides I feel like Music Connection and
TEE-M have made their point, if the music industry does not wanna wake up, well than let them sleep, they're doing a great job at it. :)
I guess people are getting into the songs because they are about real people and places,
and the songs are easy to sing along too...I think they feel that I have a legitimate
rock 'n roll case. Lot of rock 'n roll stories have inspired me and I hope to do the same for a lotta people all over the world.

How well has the album been received?
This is an independent release without any advertising budget, so considering that,
it's doing quite well and the word of mouth is what really helps an indie release too.
It's getting rave reviews, one of the very well known beach bar and grill The Venice Whaler has put EARTHIOTIC...on two of it's jukeboxes, replacing a signed artist...not bad for an unsigned artist. I'm giving you an interview and you're in Atlanta, so this goes to show that the EARTHIOTIC...movement is spreading.
I wanna thank you guys for all of this, The Unsigned Magazine is a neat idea and you
guys are doing a great job, I feel a lot of passion from your end, and that's what music is all about.

What's on the horizon for TEE-M?
Well, the band just made it's debut at Music Connection showcase, now we are getting
ready to do more shows. I'm planning a tour and a visit to Pakistan in December-January,
take a few band members out their too. Possibily have a reunion show of my band
21st Century in Karachi, the members are spread out all over the globe. But we've been in touch and have located each other, some of them have charted accountant firms, some business authors, and some with business adventures all over. So I'm gonna see if I could get all of these guys to put their brain power and take TEE-M's EARTHIOTIC...songfromaoneroompalace to the rest of the pop loving households on the planet, in the real 21st Century :) Think big thoughts but enjoy small pleasures.
Filmmaker Lisa Scott is also making a documentary on TEE-M and the independent music scene called "You Go On" which is track 15 on my CD. Expected release spring 2006.

How can readers get in touch with you?

If you could tour any country in the world, what country would you tour?
It'll have to be England, after America that's the place, I can't believe how small it is
with so much pop music history. In a week one could tour the whole country.

Describe your music in three words or less.

Please visit CDbaby and pick up TEE-M's album'll be glad the day you did. Also,
check out his show on and hit up his
website too, he's a great guy and you'll love his music. available from anywhere on the globe

Photo's by: Bernard Baur


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