Liverpudlian Tarek Musa is probably best known for his work with the now sadly broken up indie-punk rockers Spring King. With stints supporting Kasabian, Courtney Barnett and Kaiser Chiefs, Spring King Tarek released a number of singles as well as two albums — and then the band announced that they were calling it a day, fans everywhere were inconsolable. No more music from Tarek Musa?
Thankfully Tarek Musa is back with an explosive new EP under the name Dead Nature, and he we managed to have a chat with him about Taking My Shadow:
Hey Tarek! Thanks so much for answering these, means a lot. Love the EP by the way! So, let’s dive in. How are you and how’s life been treating you since Spring King?
I’m keeping busy! I’m in a balancing act between producing bands and artists that come to my studio, whilst focusing on Dead Nature and writing music for myself. It’s been a bit of a journey to get my head into gear with new music but totally worth it. I feel excited about the future and performing again!
“I feel excited about the future and performing again!”
We would love to put ourselves in the head of Tarek Musa, would you mind talking us through the creation of one of your songs and how much Joe Wills was involved in the creation of Taking My Shadow?
This set of songs comes from around October/November last year when I started writing demos. I had all these iPhone recordings that I spent December sifting through, and eventually selected these to focus on first. Working on your own can be really weird sometimes, but equally it can be a freeing experience to jump around from instrument to instrument, trying ideas that are in your head really quickly and on the fly. At the time of recording this, I was pretty heavily involved with working with other bands, so I had to find time to set aside to work on my own stuff. I set a couple weeks aside in February, and began recording the four songs!
Towards the end of the process I asked my good friend Joe Wills if he wanted to do any additional production on the tracks. When I felt I couldn’t go any further, totally out of ideas and confident the tracks were complete, I sent it to Joe for a second set of ears and gave him a deadline of a day per track in which he could add anything he wanted. He came up with some incredibly cool ideas, there’s some big synth moments, pedal steel guitars, and some really powerful backing vocals. It was a total surprise and I didn’t know what to expect but it turned out so well.
So, the EP Taking My Shadow is out, can you talk us through how the title represents the 4 tracks?
The title sums up the experience of moving on. All the songs are about the past and moving forward. That moment when you have completely faced all your past thoughts and you’re now ready to move forwards, and are happy to take every bit of baggage with you with a new sense of ownership. Nothing is left behind, whether bad or good, you just see it all for what it truly was. Even your shadow comes along for the ride, because it’s part of you.
“Nothing is left behind, whether bad or good, you just see it all for what it truly was. Even your shadow comes along for the ride, because it’s part of you.”
Which song did you feel pushed you most as a songwriter and for what reason?
Writing ‘Rookwood’ was tough, I really had to dig in deep for that track, but I feel so happy for having written it and gone to the end with it. It pushed me most because it’s a softer song, something I’m not used to writing as much. It put my vocals out there on the line.
You’ve mentioned that the inspiration for Pride (Wake Them Up) stems from Marcus Aurelius, can you tell us about this inspiration?
I’ve read that book so many times, and I always seem to revisit it with a new understanding. For me, Pride (Wake Them Up) tackles this idea that sometimes pride can be deceptive, it can skew your judgement of a situation and push you over the line into narrow mindedness if you’re not careful of your actions. The idea that someone can be so proud of something, that they aren’t willing to accept it may be flawed by a heightened ego, etc.
So what does Dead Nature mean to you in terms of releasing music as Dead Nature and not Tarek Musa?
“Dead Nature represents my artistic side as a songwriter.”
Dead Nature just felt so right. In some ways, my name represents me in a different way – perhaps as a producer for other artists, Dead Nature represents my artistic side as a songwriter. Never really thought about it.
Often bands head to the studio and record a number of songs, sometimes leaving some unreleased or leaving then for a future release; what’s still left on tape but unreleased and will it ever see the light of day?
There are so many songs to come, I have a lot of music that I want to release but it’s just about finding the time. It’s going to happen, and some of my favourite songs ever are still to come!
“Some of my favourite songs are still to come!’”
Can we talk about Dead Nature as a live act, how do you envisage that taking shape? When do you plan on hitting the road?
The live show is 100% going to happen, and i’m working on it! Before it does I want to put out more music, it would be awesome to give listeners more tunes to sing along to at shows first. There is some stuff going on behind the scenes to sort the live show, but this will come soon!
What are some of you most played artists at the moment? Can you give us an emerging act that’s really caught your attention?
Most played artists include Nilufer Yanya, Big Thief, Sharon Van Etten, Father John Misty and Andy Shauf right now. It’s always changing, and in terms of new acts that have caught my attention Calva Louise have been blowing me away recently, as well as Neon Waltz.
Finally, what message would you like listeners to take away from Taking My Shadow?
I hope listeners enjoy the record and hopefully it’s brings out feelings of nostalgia and self reflection. Equally I want listeners to put it on full blast and jump around!
“I want listeners to put it on full blast and jump around!”
Thanks so much for taking the time to answer some these questions and more importantly bringing out one of the stand out EP’s of the year!
Words: James O’ Sullivan @jsully2510