A truly wonderful cover of the Clash’s version of the classic “I Fought The Law” is the new release from celebrated Manchester musician and guitar virtuoso Aziz Ibrahim along with musical sparring partner Dalbir Singh Rattan…. fusing that eastern heritage with their Rock’n’Roll chops they’ve come up with one of the freshest and cleverest takes on the song best remembered as being covered by the Clash you’ll probably ever hear.
Packing a punch from the off with its Asian break-beat like intro capturing that same spirit as the “call to the arms” intro of the original, to its lucid/psychedelic tinged vocals in the versus, its a sound that inspired Paul Weller to call them the “White Stripes from Bombay” which neatly describes the magical crossover the two musicians create when they come together; though the eastern sound and style you hear on this is created purely by acoustic guitars and Tabla resulting in something totally original on a tune we all know so well – and you just know its the type of cover the Clash themselves would of loved.
Its just one gem from his up-coming album – here Aziz talks to LWT about how he’s put it all together…
‘I Fought The Law’ (Released 5th Jan) iTunes Album – Rusholme Rock (Rel April 1st via Indus Records)
LTW: Really like what you’ve done with “I Fought the Law”…
Aziz Ibrahim: Thanks, I recorded it a while back and it’s taken me quite a while to get the whole album done, for numerous reasons. I’m always writing and doing other things and some times never give my music priority, but more importantly I needed the right band. I tried Andy Rourke and Mike Joyce in the early days but I needed something different and closer to me so I brought in Dalbir Singh Rattan on tabla.
With the art work, I wanted to have some kind of continuity to everything that I’ve been doing. I’ve been working with a brilliant Manchester artist, Si Scott who’s internationally known, he came up with the logo and the art work for ‘Rusholme Rock’.
But its the timing of it all, it felt right to release the single as I spent a lot of last year battling the US embassy for an 02 work Visa, it sort of sums the last few months up fighting the US consulate policies that go all the way to the US administration – its been quite frustrating.
Basically I was planning to play the US this year guesting with Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree), all bands and artists have to get a petition first if they want to apply for a Visa and the treatment started there. When I got the petition, all the names were correct but guess whose wasn’t? They omitted my Surname from the petition so not only did I have to wait for it to be amended (took ages) I also did not get the Visa 2 months after that so the band had to replace me for the first leg of the US and Canadian tour 2011.
It all just felt like sabotage because the name on the petition didn’t match the one on the Passport so therefore I couldn’t get an interview like everybody else, its just an uncanny series of events, plus the band got cold feet in 2012 and didn’t really have the balls to stick it through for the tour US tour in April/May 2012. We agreed to wait until Jan 2012 but from their point of view they were just thinking that they needed to act now. So they did, in December 2011.
I suppose I can’t blame them, not everybody is an ‘Ian Brown’ or a ‘Paul Weller’.
LTW: That style you have, you’ve brought to a song we all know which is pretty cool, down to the eastern-style intro, which is great…
AI: Dal and I just wanted to play it in an interesting but yet ‘Rusholme’ interpretation of a classic song. I wanted my music to be like curry”Â¦ the national dish!
I built on The Clash version of this Sunny Curtis (The Crickets) song but in our own way, like the pseudo bass slapping on acoustic at the intro or Dals mega tabla interpretation on drums and a real psychedelic guitar middle 8. It’s a studio song so I did overdub some sounds. Most of the time we sound the same live as we do on recording, a pretty big sound for two guys. No electric guitars just acoustic, if it sort of sounds like a Sitar it’s only because my hand muting makes the acoustic guitar sound like it. My step kids Jamie, Rebecca and my wife Joanne did the hand claps.
LTW: The way you mix the many styles you play is really the profile of the classic MCR artist isn’t it, as the city is home to many different sounds and cultures, how do you see your own style…
AI: I think it is a Manc trait but I’ve worked hard on my style but not necessarily to make everything eastern sounding. Manchester has so many different styles of music that we all absorb, especially in the early days from the Reggae and the Lovers and Northern Soul, the House, the Acid scene and all that you know and its just absorbed into my way of thinking before playing coupled with the fact growing up at home in Longsight I’ve had a very traditional Pakistani life. Outside it’s just the same as any body else, bar the drugs, the drinking and smoking!
But yeah, I like an all manor of music, quite a diverse take than most I suppose, I listen to traditional Chinese and Vietnamese, Korean Japanese music as well but then on other days it’s South American, Indian, African, Pantera, JS Bach, Prince or some thing!
I listen to the whole world lets say but I wouldn’t class everything as World Music. There’s good songs and shit songs.
Manchester’s got such a variety of “World Music” as they call it. All in one pot- but it’s the way we naturally take to it that interests me, how it influences you and your songs, but not to use a sample that relates to a certain country; that’s my intention. I just play the guitar and it relates, you know, it’s just natural but really I’m just interested in writing good songs.
LTW: Are there other songs that we’ll recognise off the album…?
AI: Well this album has probably taken me about 10 years to actually put together. The two songs you will probably know are a cover of ‘I Fought the Law’ and one of my co-writes with Ian Brown ‘My Star’. The oldest song on the album is ‘Murassi’.
Some people know the other songs from support slots with Ian Brown, Paul Weller, The Corel and Richard Ashcroft at the Old Trafford cricket ground. We also play to the audiences of Marillion, Asian classical functions, drum and bass nights, anything. It’s the fact we cross over so many genres of music that makes me happy.
One day we play art centres then another we’ll play a Pub in Ireland then, on to tours of Syria and Libya. Also the usual places like in Camden or where ever, its right across the board.
For me its that thing of music being the universal language, it really does seem to ring true and that’s what I’ve always wanted to do, write music that unites people, I’m about making friends me, not enemies, positivity in music, and not wasting your time. I want to enjoy creating music and for other people to enjoy it too.
LTW: Is the album just you and Dalbir or have you had others musicians come in and play on it…
AI: Well I released an EP a long time ago with Paul Weller, Steve White, Mani and Inder Goldfinger but the songs were never the way I wanted but they have evolved through touring with Dal..
When I did my first album “Lahore to Longsight” I never even released that album, this is the strange thing about me and my music; I never released it but the album was choca with players, Manchester players and London players like Mani, Reni, Steve White, Inder Goldfinger, Denise Johnson and Paul Weller. Andy Rourke and Mike Joyce were the rhythm section of the band but I never released it.
The E.P “Middle Road and Kills Me” are on this album but now it’s closer to how I want the music, Dalbir Singh Rattan is the tabla player and only other musician on this album because we are a band of two. The chemistry and vibe really works, it’s like telepathy!
It was great with Andy and Mike but it wasn’t the definitive band for me because I wanted to take it further afield to music that they probably wouldn’t listen to. The Asian side of it and the different selections of it really require a foot in many cultures. I’ve probably put it across in a more punky manner but I wanted it to work with some one who would find it second nature, like when I’d go off on a mad tangent hoping they could keep up, if not lead the way and Dal is an artist who can do just that. He’s the ‘punk rocker’ of Tabla!
I’ve also done a version of “My Star” on this album, it’s an acoustic version because there’s songs I’ve done in the past that I’ve always wanted to interpret myself. No managers singing backing vocals!
So when I did “I Fought the Law” which was a cheeky thing to do but I just wanted people to hear what we could do with it, take a song and make it our own.
My Star musically was my own but again I wanted to do some thing with it in our band style. I’ve gone and done exactly that except I’ve got ‘marching band’ tables on it. That’s a first!
There’s an old song on there that Melody Maker had on these compilation ‘Ape’ cassettes they used to do. It’s been like an anthem for me, it’s an instrumental called “Murassi” and you can actually hear part of it on the beginning of “Cant See Me” where you hear like an Indian Sitar but its electric guitar. It’s been used in various places on the 2nd Ian Brown album as well on Golden Greats, just before “Getting High”. We took the whole of the Chinese guitar middle 8 of Murassi and put it on there. This old track does mean a lot to me and has been through a lot, sampled on two Ian Brown albums, released on front covers of magazines, sampled by Nimrod Levin (Israeli Pop Star) and given away free.
So, I wanted to do some thing with it acoustically with Dal. We played the prestigious ‘BBC Maida Vale Sessions’, no overdubs, completely live which is just the definitive Murassi version I put on the album warts n’ all!
LTW: And finally Aziz what’s your thoughts on The Stone Roses reunion and them getting back together again…
AI: Well my initial thoughts were “every body entitled to change their mind” and I always knew it would happen!
Your talking about a bunch of guys who were best mates who had a fall out and regardless of who was to blame, when friends fall out its always about who’s going to apologise first – it was all a matter of time when people would get together and who would be the first to say some thing.
So once that’s all out the way, who said what and who’s to blame and so on, when that’s all out the window you remember the friendship you had, its interesting as well that they’ve all been playing and progressing through the years being older so its going to be interesting!
Personally, playing with that band showed me so much, I was a bit of a snobby musician in a lot of respects and thought I knew it all and they showed me I didn’t.
John Squire showed me, musically, about song writing and guitar playing from a completely different perspective through learning the songs and learning his parts. It showed me new influences, lyrical depth, tones of guitars. To be handed a 1959 Gibson Les Paul to play on stage, all these things, to hear them, to play them, to feel them and to smell them it just made me realise about the songs and writing of the music, the chord’s and the sound of these instruments through the amps John used to use, every aspect of it was teaching me and I was progressing and its made the musician I am now , the song writer I am now and saving me from ending up a muso who only plays music for other musicians, it gave me a perspective and freshness that I now have.
I share music now with people around the world… thanks to him and Ian, Mani, Robbie and Nigel and everybody who’s connected that Roses camp, especially the fans and the friends, everybody.