Pakistani music is dying, that’s no secret. The internet, lack of originality and the diminishing fan base of local musicians, and lack of shows are all contributing towards this demise of our local music.

In spite of that, there is a counter culture to the mainstream industry that is being spearheaded by Sheraz Ahmed and it's thriving. Sheraz plays in multiple underground bands and refuses to identify himself with a single music genre.

His versatility and adaptability makes him one of the best guitarists in Pakistan. From progressive rock to Death Metal, Sheraz has played it all, all the while garnering international support and acclaim.

Signed with multiple international labels based in Sweden to India, yet no one speaks about his feats - feats made more admirable by one single fact- all of his music is recorded in his room.

Here am I in conversation with the man himself.

When did you start playing the guitar?

SA: I started in 2008 and I played my first gig in 2010.

What inspired you to pick up the guitar?

SA: I discovered music in about grade 5. I listened to everything from qawalis to ghazals. Then a couple of friends suggested forming a band in school so I picked up the guitar and started learning.

What artists inspired you to start on this incredible musical journey?

SA: Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden etc etc., initially. But my biggest inspiration has always been creating my own music. I just wanted to have one record put out by me.

Your room has been the most consistent output of underground music in Pakistan. And you have managed to not constrict yourself to one genre; how did that happen?

SA: Most people running studios in Pakistan, have no idea about what they are doing. They do not have any knowledge about music in general, they just want to make money, soullessly. You can’t do that with music. The rampant belief amongst these so called producers is that buying expensive gear can automatically turn you into an audio engineer. Production is a skill.

Your versatility is quite impressive. You play everything from Doom Metal to Prog rock. How did that happen? Most musicians stick to a single genre all their lives.

SA: Basically it comes down from listening to a plethora of bands at the same time. My music collection has everything from jazz and soul music to goth/ post punk, from prog/psychedelic rock to grindcore and hardcore punk. And I listen to whatever I feel like all the time and some days I feel excited by a doom/death record like Asphyx's Last One On Earth. And the other day I'd be listening to Dire Straits or Genesis and feeling the same rush. And I always play what I listen to so the inspiration and the diversity comes from there I guess.

You along with Hassan Amin, have been the driving force between all underground gigs in Lahore. What made you guys hold gigs on your own, without relying on a sponsor?

SA: Live shows are the only real tool needed for the music scene to thrive anywhere in the world. Unfortunately we don't have enough opportunities to play shows in Lahore so we try to do our best to organize as much shows as possible whenever we get the chance. We've got a cool venue near Azadi Chowk that's called O Positive Studios and we have put up two shows over there till now and the third one is happening on October 15th.

Your bands have been signed by many international labels. How did that happen?

SA: I had a 'humble goal' of making my own album and put it out on a physical format [laughs]. To be honest I never had the dream of playing big shows with big lights and shit. I just wanted to make some music I could myself listen to after 10 years or something and the best way to preserve your music is to put it out on physical format (because no one is going to listen to a SoundCloud link after 20 years while they can still play a CD, tape or an vinyl if they have it) so we put the our first album which was Dionysus' Hymn to the dying out for free download and spread it on every blog and magazine that was related to Black/Doom Metal and somewhere along the this guy from Salute records, a Sweden based DIY label, got in touch with us and he asked us if we would allow him to print some copies of our EP. So it started like that and later the copies went to India somehow and Kunal Choksi from Transcending Obscurity heard it, he got in touch with us and he released the other Dionysus release and also reissued my grind band Multinational Corporations EP as well. Multicorp has had releases from several grind labels from Europe, USA, Russia, Thailand etc. Moontone records from Thailand also released FLAW's forgotten and lost EP. I think if you spread your music in the right audience the record label owners, reviewers etc discover your band themselves. You just need to have the right kind of music and aesthetic (they play a huge role).

There's been a lot of clamour by numerous artists about not enough music shows. What do you have to say about that?

SA: It's true. What can I say about it? [laughs]. But they can try to organize some DIY shows at smaller venues and try to make it a regular thing instead of doing bigger shows once a year.

Do you have any plans of making a move to the mainstream?

SA: Hell no. In words of Bill Bruford, "The only thing we don't concern ourselves with is the audience.". Mainstream music is for people who want 5 minutes of fame. I am playing music for myself and it's not something that can be played on radio.

You don’t want people listening to you music?

SA: I want them to listen to the music but it’s not made for them, there is a difference. If they like it then it's cool but in case they don't then it’s even better because anything that's not accepted by a majority is mostly better.

But there have been amazing musicians who are loved by the masses. So you're saying that the audience doesn't matter but how you feel about it does?

SA: Yeah but if you take Pink Floyd, for example, they always made music for themselves and never stuck to a single formula just to appease the masses. And they've sold more records than most of the popular bands after them. If people like it then it’s okay, but it shouldn't be made with the 'people' in mind.

Are Nescafé Basement and Coke Studio good for the music industry?

SA: No music movement in the history of the world started by musicians playing shows sponsored by 'multinational corporations'. Be it Pepsi, Coke or Cornetto whatever. It's sad that something that doesn't have any significance on the global spectrum is upheld so highly by Pakistani musicians.

Do you think Pakistanis need to change their attitudes towards new music?

SA: I think it’s better if people listen to music more passionately before they decide to play music. You need to be a good listener in order to be a good musician. And I don't see a lot of music enthusiasts in the music scene. So basically, I am just apathetic about the local scene.

How have you managed to make so many records in such a short period of time?

SA: I am just, really, passionate about music and I don't think I'd ever be able to say that I have made enough records. There is always something more I want to do!

Is there any hope for new artists in Pakistan who want to play original music?

SA: There is always some hope if you do it from the heart.

Thank you for your time, Sheraz. It’s been a pleasure.

SA: No worries, the pleasure was all mine.