Interview with Fareed Haque from Garaj Mahal

fareed haque
Fareed Haque

Interview by Scott Preston

Guitar virtuoso Fareed Haque enjoys a career that spans the spectrum of musical styles. Born in 1963 to a Pakistani father and a Chilean mother, extensive travels, especially long stays in Spain, France, Iran, Pakistan and Chile, exposed him to different musics from a very early age. This natural eclecticism has become the hallmark of Fareed’s music, and he has established himself as one of the most innovative composer/musicians currently on the international scene. In the jamworld his style and musicianship has expanded even further, and playing with Kai Eckhardt, Alan Hertz, and Eric Levy in Garaj Mahal, three masters of their respective instruments, there are truly no limits on how, what (and when!) he can compose and perform. Fareed Haque & Flat Earth Ensemble have also just released a brand new record on March 10 titled “Flat Planet”.

Cincy Groove: So I understand you have been in the studio recently?

Fareed Haque: Yes, we recently spent 8 days in the studio tracking analog, which was really exciting. There are so few records today that are recorded with actual tape. The sound is so much fatter and better. You really don’t have to do anything to the music, you just play. You know the experience where you hear a band play live and the sound just sounds huge and full? Then you hear the digital cd and it sounds kind of thin, its just different. Part of the digital experience is that it takes away a lot of the weight of the tone of the actual instrument. Back in the day we remember hearing those analog records that literally had a guitar, bass, and drums and the sound was huge. When we were in the studio we listened to one of the live takes, and really didn’t know if we had to do anything else to it. With digital you immediately think , okay lets double this up to make it fatter, to beef up the sound. We really were able to capture the essence of the band, just the 4 of us in a room. There were minimal overdubs, it really sounds fabulous.

Cincy Groove: I heard your were pretty excited to use the Moog guitar on this Garaj Mahal record.

Fareed Haque: Yeah, I used the Moog guitar almost exclusively on this record, except for a few songs. Its a very different kind of instrument. It has the Moog filters built into it, it has a great, clean tone, great distortion tone. All those qualities really make it versatile to the point where I really didn’t have to lay a wah wah guitar patch or a clean guitar tone or a distorted guitar tone. I could do it all in one pass, live. The filters in the instrument kind of create a wah wah-esq sound. They also had at the studio a beautiful period jazz guitar, from the Charlie Christian era with an old Charlie Christian pickup on it that I also used on the record. This is also the first Garaj Mahal record with Sean Rickman on it. He just played some amazing drums.

Cincy Groove: You seem to be a very busy man, you also just released on March 10 the new Fareed Haque & Flat Earth Ensemble cd “Flat Earth”.

Fareed Haque: Yeah just a few days ago. I guess Downbeat Magazine is going to put the cd in its Hotseat and it will get reviewed by all 4 of their critics. We are also headlining High Sierra Music Festival this summer. Its kind of an awkward band to work with because half the band lives in India. They are only here half of the year so that cuts down on the time I can play with them.

Cincy Groove: What would you attribute to you having such a wide range of musical influences?

Fareed Haque: Well having a classical background is really important. Obviously through my parents the exposure to all kinds of music from all over the world as a child. But the more I think about it the classical background is essential because classical musicians are encouraged to explore all kinds of music.

Cincy Groove: What advice would you have for a beginning singer/songwriter?

Fareed Haque: I also go back to something I have observed again and again – that the university musical system is somewhat antiquated and out of date. There are so many styles of music that depend on rhythmic subtlety, on rhythmic command, the ability to groove. Music schools aren’t able to test that. Its hard to tell a student that they played everything right on the guitar but it wasn’t funky. Then there’s the other student who played everything wrong but it was funky so they get an A. Out in the real world that’s how it works. Somebody will show up who doesn’t have a lot of technical skill but can rhythmically put the emotion in the right places and they are going get the gig. You see it happen again and again. It really has to be more about that than the competence to play the notes correctly. It really has changed the music industry and most music schools are 10 – 15 years behind that curve. I just want to try to keep people on the current tip of things and not let them hide behind academics. I want the kids to know that they got to groove, if they can’t groove, forget it (laughing).

Cincy Groove: What other projects are you working on?

Fareed Haque: I’m working on a project with Prudence Johnson. We are starting to work on some material for an album of folk songs written by and about women. Its going to be guitar and voice and will have more bluegrass oriented instrumentals. A lot of names are being talked about for collaborations because Prudence is pretty tight with a lot of bluegrass folks, but I don’t want to mention any names until we get commitments. I’m also working on a documentary on the history of the guitar with the Lucas Foundation. Its slowly moving forward. National Geographic is now interested in helping to co produce the project. These film projects are a long process.

Garaj Mahal:
Fareed Haque – Guitar, vocals
Kai Eckhardt- Bass, vocals
Eric Levy- Keyboards
Sean Rickman -Drums
Alan Hertz – Drums

Fareed Haque & Flat Earth Ensemble:
Fareed Haque: Guitar
Subrata Bhattacharya: Tabla, Percussion
Willerm Delisfort: Keys
Alex Austin: Bass
Jason Smart: Drums

Live at the Independent in San Francisco “Poodle Factory”

Fareed Haque Group – Helpless 4+20 Carry On, 7-5-03 HSMF

Garaj Mahal & Fareed Haque Group tour dates:
For show details visit
Mar 26 2009 Carnegie Mellon University Underground Cafe (Fareed Haque Group) Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Apr 16 2009 St Lawrence University Canton, New York
Apr 22 2009 Johnny D’s Somerville, Massachusetts
Apr 23 2009 Port City Music Hall Portland, Maine
Apr 24 2009 Middleburry College Middleburry, Vermont
Apr 25 2009 Keene State College Solarfest Keene, New Hampshire
Apr 29 2009 The 8*10 Baltimore, Maryland
Apr 30 2009 The State Theater Falls Church, Virginia
May 1 2009 The Blue Note New York, New York
May 2 2009 River Street Jazz Cafe Plains, Pennsylvania
May 3 2009 World Cafe Live Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
May 8 2009 The Green Mill Jazz Club (Fareed Haque Group) Chicago, Illinois
May 9 2009 The Green Mill Jazz Club (Fareed Haque Group) Chicago, Illinois
May 16 2009 The Jazz Kitchen (Fareed Haque Group) Indianapolis, Indiana
May 27 2009 Winston’s San Diego, California
May 28 2009 The Mint Los Angeles, California
May 29 2009 Cafe Du Nord San Francisco, California
May 30 2009 Bobolink Music Festival Belden, California
Jul 23 2009 10,000 Lakes Music Festival Detroit Lakes, Minnesota
Jul 24 2009 The Green Mill Jazz Club Chicago, Illinois
Jul 25 2009 Tabfest w/ Freekbass Mendon, Ohio
Sep 3 2009 Jazz In the Park Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Sep 26 2009 Hyde Park Jazz