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Ilyas Ahmed interview


How did you start making music?

I started out playing trombone in 5th grade concert band. I quickly degenerated to drums, and then guitar.

What are your main influences? Which artists and maybe which genre?

Keiji Haino and my girlfriend.

You were born in Karachi, Pakistan, but moved to New Jersey, then Minnesota at a young age. Now,  you're based in Portland, Oregon. Your first self-released album is called Between Two Skies. It was released in 2005. I heard you recorded the songs surrounded by nothing more than the trees? Can you tell me more? What does the cover art represent and how many copies did you release.

Besides trees, there was grass and fields, and my then-girlfriend and my now deceased dog Winston. I  needed to tune in ,turn on, and drop out for awhile and a small house in rural Minnesota fit the bill perfectly.  The initial run of the self-release was 50 copies.

To You Soon/Silence The High is a track that I love the most. Can you tell me a bit more about it? What does represent for you?

It was an attempt to make manifest some of the turmoil in my head at the time. I'm very glad you like it.

In 2005 you also released Towards The Night. What can you tell me about that release?

Towards the Night  was made right after I finished Between Two Skies while still living on the farm in Minnesota. After spending so much time working on layering sounds on  BTW , it was kind of a way to relax, have a beer or two,stare out the window and just play guitar.  It's music that I imagined a friend of mine who died would have liked to listen to.

Then in 2006 you released another album called Speaking of Shadows following Yahan Dur Wahan and Naqi. This are all self-released albums, right? Again I would be glad to hear the story behind those releases.

Those are all self-released albums. I had, and still have, a lot of music inside I needed to get out.  Yahan Aur Wahan was made right after Century of Moonlight while still living in Minnesota and the other two were made after moving to Portland.


Century of Moonlight is the fourth album you did in 2006. It's the first one released on label called Time-Lag Records. Share a story about how did you record this album.

Century of Moonlight was dealing with more drawn out extended forms that sort of began on Between Two Skies.  As I remember, the repetition on some the songs was inspired by the repeated modes of behavior I was noticing, politically/socially, etc. I remember thinking wanting the song Red Spring  to be a cross between Leonard Cohen and AMM.   There is also a theme of sleep running through the songs.

In two 2008 you released EP called Arroyo and The Vertigo of Dawn album. Vertigo of Dawn has an amazing cover art. Tell me what does represent? In my opinion this is my favorite album from you. Can you share few words about this releases?

The Vertigo of Dawn was made under the influence of war, and is essentially a tribute to my family and heritage, and wanting to put forth sounds/thoughts that reinforced that.

In year 2009 you released album called Goner on Root Strata records. This release is more bluesy, then the rest. What did inspire you to change a style a bit?

I started listening a lot to early Fleetwood Mac and and Sticky Fingers, and I've always loved Clear Spot-era Captian Beefheart.  I remember just not denying myself any impulses that I might have earlier.  I think in relation to Naqi the progression makes more sense. 

Live at On Land 2009 is your latest release. What can we expect in the future?

Live at On Land documents a period when I was burned out on playing solo gigs, and was really lucky to have Honey Owens and Jed Bindeman play with me. Honey's records as Valet are some of my favorite music of recent years...hell, some of my favorite jams ever. 
I have a new record done and just figuring out the tricky business of how & when it's going to come out.  I think it's the closest 

I've gotten to capturing all the impulses in my head.

Also have a  12" coming out soon on the Social Music Record club (part of Yeti Magazine) that's a document of Visitor, which is the duo of myself and my friend Liz Harris.

Many thanks for your time and effort, Ilyas. Would you like to share anything else about yourself, that I didn't ask?

Thanks a lot for your interest and time Klemen.


Interview made by Klemen Breznikar / 2011
© Copyright 2011

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