LAHORE-Shahi Hassan is a brilliant guitarist and composer, whose talent has given us many memorable songs and performances.

Co-founding the pop and rock band, Vital Signs, with keyboardist Rohail Hyatt in 1986, he has earned recognition of playing bass guitar and as an original member of Vital Signs. In Season 03 of Pepsi Battle of the Bands this year, he has shifted roles and is working as the music producer of the show and one of the mentors.

In an exclusive interview with The Nation he talks about Pepsi (BOB) and his journey in Pakistan’s music industry. Following are the excerpts of the interview. 

How did you get started in the music and entertainment industry?

We Vital signs, had vast experience in studio by producing our own albums. It gave us enough sense of creating the kind of sound some of the good international artistes were making since me and Rohail used to get down to the last shred of engineering sound and understanding instruments and equipment.

And in the mid 90s, between touring and recording our own albums, we used to get plenty of free time, so our local artists being familiar with our sound both live and studio would approach me and wanted me to record their albums.

I initially started with producing Awaaz, Strings, Rahat Fateh Ali khan, Junoon etc. and then started producing Television commercials, Film scoring and various artistes later on.

With new musical reality shows coming up every year, do you think it has had an impact on playback singing?

Yes, it has a very positive impact on playback singing. Pepsi Battle of The Bands invites all sorts of new talent so naturally it’s bringing forth new artistes and playback singers.

How important is independent music today? The scenario in Pakistan has always been people listening more to conventional movie songs rather than independent music. With reality show like Pepsi battle of bands, how has it impacted the singers and the music enthusiasts?

I think the reality shows, in particular Pepsi Battle of the Bands, is giving a chance to new talent and the platform which they previously didn’t have to showcase their work. Thanks to Pepsi BOB that scenario has changed now and the kind of response the new artists are getting from the music enthusiasts is overwhelming.

I personally believe that people enjoy new music more than the repeatedly done covers and movie songs. Since the demise of bands culture in the early 2000s in Pakistan there hardly has been any original music coming out of Pakistan, other than few new individual singers once in a while. I think Pepsi Battle of The Bands will definitely revive original music and fill in that void.

What do you feel are the other elements an artiste needs to have as part of their product to go out there and pitch it?

Besides great music and looks, their music needs to come from the heart and the lyrics should be well thought out and should tell a story.

How did you get involved in Pepsi Battle of the bands?

I’ve been part of Pepsi BOB since day one. As me and my band mate Rohail, initiated the first Pepsi Battle Of The Bands in 2002.

Since then I guess it’s been my destiny to be part of Pepsi BOB one way or another. But this time around my role is more vital as I’m the producer and the mentor for Season 3 of Pepsi BOB.

Outside of the time crunch, what’s challenging about working with music band contestants?

Basically they are new artistes and they are completely unfamiliar with playing on stage and having that kind of pressure while playing live. So sometimes we have to start from tuning their guitars to correcting their arrangements making them play in time. Jamming together as a band or just having fun and performing live on a stage for audience and keeping them engaged and entertained are two different things.  You can say that as a mentor I get to take them forward from just being a band to a band in a battle of great music.

What’s the craziest fan encounter you’ve ever had?

Well there are way too many to name just one. As part of Vital Signs all three of us saw a different kind of high and exposure in the absence of social media. It was a different time for fandom. Mostly people will just show up at our houses and sometimes it would get out of control. I used to grow my hair long and hide my face with a cap going out in public.  Internet age and social media interaction has definitely tone down that kind of craze thankfully.

Share your experience working with Fawad Khan and Meesha Shafi?

Both are thorough professionals, soft spoken, respectful and extremely talented. I have recorded Meesha before and I have watched Fawad play on First Pepsi Battle of the Bands stage. But this time I got to see them giving guidelines to new younger artists and they both are great as judges.

Would you like to tell us about your upcoming projects?

I’m looking forward to playing live and recording a lot of new music, my own and in collaboration with other artists, and that’s all that I can reveal at this point.