Identity Crisis: Aliens, Beduins, and Leos

Identity Crisis: Aliens, Beduins, and Leos

This award-winning album features 38 San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles singers and musicians. The featured performers are as varied as the songs themselves, which fuse Rock, Funk, Jazz, World Music and Pop.

I realized songwriting was something I was interested in when, as a teenager, I accidentally discovered I was writing in rhyme without trying to...

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- Waël Kabbani

I got the name from "The Iambic Pentameter" which is a poetic term. I was looking for something that could allude to a poetic dream that began with words that rhymed, and something that abbreviated into I.D., because the songs contain parts of my identity.

Read Interview

- Waël Kabbani

I realized songwriting was something I was interested in when, as a teenager, I accidentally discovered I was writing in rhyme without trying to...

Read Interview

- Waël Kabbani

I got the name from "The Iambic Pentameter" which is a poetic term. I was looking for something that could allude to a poetic dream that began with words that rhymed, and something that abbreviated into I.D., because the songs contain parts of my identity.

Read Interview

- Waël Kabbani

Song Story

HERO WORSHIP

It's about having a secret crush on someone and coming to terms with it. I've had a few of those "secret" crushes (where you idolize someone like a hero) & I want to thank them all for inspiring the song. Also, I was a big fan of superheroes, especially the Super Friends, when I was growing up in the 70's, hence all the superhero imagery.

SWEET DESIRE #2

Inspired by someone I was dating. The chemistry between us was amazing & electric. (OOH LA LA!!!).

TORCH SONG

Gay/Straight or Straight/Gay unrequited love story. Written from a gay perspective but sung from a straight one. When I was a teenager, I fell in love with my best friend who's straight. It was a very difficult time for both of us, but he was extremely supportive. I wrote the song from a gay perspective but it's sung from a straight one, because the vocalist had been involved with a woman who had left him for another woman.

FLYING SOLO

Being alone is sometimes a great thing. Being single gets a really bad rap, but it's much better than being in a very dysfunctional relationship or forcing yourself to be with someone who isn't right for you, just so you won't be alone. This song is for the single people out there. It celebrates the joys & comforts of celibacy.

JULY ROSE

It's about a party girl! Partly inspired by a wild & daring girl a good friend told me about. My friend doesn't think that "July Rose" was her real name, but it's the name she used when they were teenagers in the Sixties.

THE BOYS OF THE BLVD.

Some teenagers who are kicked out & disowned by their parents, for being gay, end up on the streets. Growing up as a closeted gay teen in the early 80's, I lived in fear of being disowned by my family & ending up on the blvd, so I wrote a song about it. In reality, I came out when I was 23 and I was one of the lucky ones.

GEMINI

This Gemini was not the right one for me. It's break up time! I dated a Gemini who was really into astrology. We really liked each other, but he wasn't right for me. Breaking up wasn't easy but it had to be done. I put some Gemini imagery in there for good measure.

MISTAKEN IDENTITY

It's about mistaken identities & people assuming you're someone or something you're not. People who are high on drugs & alcohol assume you are (& they're not). I was visiting a good friend in Berkeley, CA, for the week-end. We came across a lot of people who assumed I was things or people I wasn't, such as a junky, a body guard (to a friend who's much bigger than me, go figure), straight, and drunk. Well, it made for an interesting song anyway.

I COULD BE FREE

It's about Dreams, Creativity, Freedom, and Civil Rights. I could pretend to remember the story behind this one, but I'd be lying.

ANGELINA

True story about a friend who died in a car accident. This one was written as a poem first & then turned into a song in memory of my friend Angelina.

INSOMNIACS DREAM (I.D.)

It's about how you've got to believe in & go after your dreams, no matter how many people, (including you, yourself), doubt you. The title was inspired by sleepless nights in L.A. spent writing a flood of ideas down. Creative energy wasn't letting me sleep & though I was doubting myself at times I wanted to turn something that could have become a negative situation into a positive one.

BLUE

It's about relationships that depress you & about depression in general. Just looked out at the Red Sea one day and the words came to me.

THE TRAILS OF NEPAL (TRAIL 1)

Sometimes you have to leave home or where you're from, (not always physically), to find yourself. It's as much about a spiritual journey as it is about a physical one. Inspired by friends' stories of treks in Nepal & the birth of my first niece.

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Lyrics

HERO WORSHIP

ALIENS, BEDUINS, AND LEOS WE’RE HANGING OUT AT CLEO’S LIKE SUPER HEROES JUST LIKE SUPER HEROES SOMETIMES I’M DARKER THAN BATMAN SO MUCH DARKER THAN BATMAN SO LIFT ME UP LIKE SUPERMAN SWIM ME DOWN WITH AQUAMAN SPIN ME ‘ROUND LIKE WONDER WOMAN WHATEVER YOU’RE DOIN’ JUST KEEP ON DOIN' DOIN’ IT TO ME, DOIN’ IT TO ME I CAN’T ESCAPE YOUR X-RAY VISION YOU SWIM WITH SHARKS ON TELEVISION YOUR LASSO BRINGS TRUTH TO SUBMISSION MY VAMPIRIC TENDENCIES ARE IN REMISSION SOMETIMES I’M DARKER THAN BATMAN SO MUCH DARKER THAN BATMAN SO LIFT ME UP LIKE SUPERMAN SWIM ME DOWN WITH AQUAMAN SPIN ME ‘ROUND LIKE WONDER WOMAN WHATEVER YOU’RE DOIN’ JUST KEEP ON DOIN' SOMETIMES MY LOVE IS LIKE A BARRACUDA TEETH SO SHARP, THEY CAN RIP RIGHT THROUGH YA SOMETIMES MY CRUSH FEELS DARK & LETHAL BUT YOU LIGHT IT UP LIKE BURNING DIESEL YOU’RE A SHARK WITH A DOLPHIN’S HEART AND I CAN TEAR IT APART BUT I WON’T 'CAUSE YOU LIFT ME UP LIKE SUPERMAN SWIM ME DOWN WITH AQUAMAN SPIN ME ‘ROUND LIKE WONDER WOMAN WHATEVER YOU’RE DOIN’ JUST KEEP ON DOIN' DOIN’ IT TO ME, DOIN’ IT TO ME WHATEVER YOU’RE DOIN’ JUST KEEP ON DOIN' YEAH, LIFT ME UP LIKE SUPERMAN SO LIFT ME UP LIKE SUPERMAN SWIM ME DOWN WITH AQUAMAN SWIM ME DOWN WITH AQUAMAN SPIN ME ‘ROUND LIKE WONDER WOMAN WHATEVER YOU’RE DOIN’ JUST KEEP ON DOIN’ WHATEVER YOU’RE DOIN’ JUST KEEP ON DOIN’… AND I WILL TELL THE TRUTH: HERO WORSHIP I WILL TELL THE TRUTH: HERO WORSHIP I WILL TELL THE TRUTH: HERO WORSHIP… Back to Top

SWEET DESIRE #2

SWEET DESIRE IN BLOOM SWEET DESIRE FILLS THIS ROOM SWEET DESIRE ON THE RISE TRIGGERS FLICKERS IN YOUR LOVELY EYES SWEET DESIRE, WHEN I TOUCH YOUR SKIN SWEET DESIRE IS MORE THAN SIN SWEET DESIRE, HEAR ME! COME ON IN WHEN I'M ON FIRE WE BOTH CAN WIN SWEET DESIRE LIKE THE WRITING ON THE WALL MORE SUBTLE THAN MANY A MATING CALL SWEET DESIRE IS LIKE A VOODOO SPELL MAD SCIENCE CHEMISTRY IN WHICH WE FELL RAP SWEET DESIRE x 2 SWEET DESIRE LIKE HONEY STRAIGHT FROM THE KILLER BEE SWEET DESIRE - THIS FEELIN'S ALMOST KILLIN' ME SWEET DESIRE - KILLIN' POOR PATHETIC ME POOR PATHETIC ME x 3 SWEET DESIRE, WHEN I TOUCH YOUR SKIN SWEET DESIRE, PLEASE LET ME IN SWEET DESIRE ON THE RISE TRIGGERS FLICKERS IN YOUR LOVELY EYES SWEET DESIRE IN BLOOM SWEET DESIRE FILLS THIS ROOM SWEET DESIRE ON THE RISE TRIGGERS FLICKERS IN YOUR LOVELY EYES Back to Top

TORCH SONG

I CARRIED THE TORCH FOR YOU IT WAS PAINFUL, BUT WHAT COULD I DO I CARRIED THE TORCH FOR YOU THE WORLD SAID IT WAS SHAMEFUL MANY A TIME, I THOUGHT IT WAS SHAMEFUL YES, I THOUGHT IT WAS SHAMEFUL, TOO STILL, I CARRIED THE TORCH FOR YOU WHAT A PRICE TO PAY FOR BEING THIS WAY WHAT A PRICE TO PAY FOR ONE IS STRAIGHT, THE OTHER'S GAY I CARRIED THE TORCH FOR YOU WHAT WAS HURTING ME WAS HURTING YOU I CARRIED THE TORCH FOR YOU YOU SAID THE FLAMES WERE BURNING MANY A TIME, I THOUGHT THEY WERE BURNING YES, I THOUGHT THEY WERE BURNING ME, TOO STILL I CARRIED THE TORCH FOR YOU WHAT A PRICE TO PAY FOR BEING THIS WAY WHAT A PRICE TO PAY FOR ONE IS STRAIGHT, THE OTHER'S GAY MY LIFE WAS BLACK AND BLUE A SYMBOL OF THE LACK OF YOU NO LOOKING BACK - NO FACING YOU NO LOOKING BACK OR ERASING YOU I CARRIED THE TORCH TOO LONG I CARRIED THE TORCH FOR YOU MY LIFE WAS BLACK AND BLUE STILL I CARRIED THE TORCH FOR YOU THE TORCH FOR YOU, THE TORCH FOR YOU YOU LOVED ME AND I LOVED YOU BOTH OUR DIFFERENT LOVES WERE TRUE I CARRIED THE TORCH FOR YOU THE WORLD SAID IT WAS SHAMEFUL MANY A TIME, I THOUGHT IT WAS SHAMEFUL YES, I THOUGHT IT WAS SHAMEFUL, TOO STILL I CARRIED THE TORCH FOR YOU WHAT A PRICE TO PAY FOR BEING THIS WAY WHAT A PRICE TO PAY FOR ONE IS STRAIGHT, THE OTHER'S GAY MY LIFE WAS BLACK AND BLUE A SYMBOL OF THE LACK OF YOU NO LOOKING BACK - NO FACING YOU NO LOOKING BACK OR ERASING YOU I CARRIED THE TORCH TOO LONG I CARRIED THE TORCH FOR YOU MY LIFE WAS BLACK AND BLUE STILL I CARRIED THE TORCH FOR YOU THE TORCH FOR YOU, THE TORCH FOR YOU Back to Top

FLYING SOLO

PLEASE DON'T TRY AND RESCUE ME I'M HAPPY WITH MY OWN COMPANY I'VE PERFECTED THE ART OF MONOLOGUE I DON'T DESIRE NO DIALOGUE I DON'T WANT NO ROMANTIC TETE A TETE YOU THINK I'M PATHETIC, I BET BUT THERE'S ONE THING YOU STILL DON'T GET: I LIKE FLYING SOLO I DON'T MIND BEING ALONE I LIKE FLYING SOLO SO PLEASE DON'T E-MAIL OR TELEPHONE YOU CALL ME AT LEAST SEVEN TIMES A WEEK ONLY TO GET MY VOICEMAIL TELL YOU I CAN'T SPEAK I COULD BE IN THE STUDIO OR TAKING A LEAK BABY, I CAN'T HELP IT IF MY BLADDER'S WEAK I DON'T WANT NO ROMANTIC TETE A TETE YOU THINK I'M PATHETIC, I BET BUT THERE'S ONE THING YOU STILL DON'T GET: I LIKE FLYING SOLO I DON'T MIND BEING ALONE I LIKE FLYING SOLO SO PLEASE DON'T E-MAIL OR TELEPHONE MY FRIENDS DON'T UNDERSTAND THEY SAY: "WHY DON'T YOU FIND YOURSELF A MAN?" "CAN WE INTRODUCE YOU TO DEL, DAVE, OR DAN?" BUT I JUST TELL THEM THAT: I LIKE FLYING SOLO I DON'T MIND BEING ALONE I LIKE FLYING SOLO SO PLEASE DON'T E-MAIL OR TELEPHONE I LIKE FLYING SOLO I DON'T MIND BEING ALONE I LIKE FLYING SOLO SO PLEASE DON'T E-MAIL OR TELEPHONE Back to Top

JULY ROSE

WE SAW JULY ROSE WITHOUT HER CLOTHES JULY ROSE: FULLY EXPOSED ORANGE HAIR & PAINTED TOES JULY ROSE THERE SHE GOES JULY ROSE JULY ROSE THE WAY SHE BLOWS INTO A ROOM WEDDING'S WRECKED 'CAUSE SHE STOLE THE GROOM WE HEARD JULY ROSE SINGING WITH THE CROWS WE ALL LOVE THAT ACROBATIC POSE SHE DOES WITH HER HEAD BEHIND HER TOES JULY ROSE THERE SHE GOES JULY ROSE JULY ROSE THE WAY SHE BLOWS INTO A ROOM WEDDING'S WRECKED 'CAUSE SHE STOLE THE GROOM THE WAY SHE JUMPS OUT FROM A CAKE CRASHING & LAUGHING AT EVERY WAKE SHE THINKS CIRCUMCISION IS A JOKE SHE COMES TO YOUR PARTIES STONED ON COKE JULY ROSE THERE SHE GOES JULY ROSE JULY ROSE THE WAY SHE BLOWS INTO A ROOM WEDDING'S WRECKED 'CAUSE SHE STOLE THE GROOM SHE KEEPS FLASHING EVERYONE IN SIGHT SHE LOOKS MORE DASHING IN HER MIND TONIGHT SHE'LL DO ANYTHING ON A DARE SHE'S GOT THE MOST AMAZING FLAIR JULY ROSE THERE SHE GOES JULY ROSE JULY ROSE THE WAY SHE BLOWS INTO A ROOM WEDDING'S WRECKED 'CAUSE SHE STOLE THE GROOM Back to Top

THE BOYS OF THE BLVD.

YOU WAKE UP ON THE STREET YOU'VE GOT NOTHIN' LEFT TO EAT SO YOU HIT THE BOULEVARD WAIT FOR A STRANGER'S CAR TO PICK YOU UP YOU'RE YOUNG BUT YOU'VE BEEN THROUGH TOO MUCH (YOU'RE) FEELIN' COLD AND OUT OF TOUCH THE BOYS OF THE BOULEVARD HALF NAKED AND WITH SCARS THE BOYS OF THE BOULEVARD GET INTO STRANGERS' CARS IF IT'S NOT THE CLIENTS, IT'S THE COPS END UP HIDIN' IN THE DIRTY SHOPS YOUR SOUL'S IN TATTERS AND NOTHIN' EVER MATTERS NEVER THINK YOU'RE GONNA LIVE ALWAYS THINK YOU'RE GONNA DIE FIRST YOU TAKE AND THEN YOU GIVE ANOTHER DAY WILL PASS YOU BY THE BOYS OF THE BOULEVARD HALF NAKED AND WITH SCARS THE BOYS OF THE BOULEVARD GET INTO STRANGERS' CARS IF IT'S NOT THE CLIENTS, IT'S THE COPS END UP HIDIN' IN THE DIRTY SHOPS DIRTY SHOPS MY FRIENDS 'RE DYIN' OF MURDER AND DISEASE WE'RE JUST TRYIN' TO LIVE AND PLEASE JUST LIVE AND PLEEEEEASE JUST LIVE AND PLEEEEEASE THE BOYS OF THE BOULEVARD HALF NAKED AND WITH SCARS THE BOYS OF THE BOULEVARD HANG OUT IN THE DIRTY BARS, DIRTY BARS THE BOYS! END UP HIDIN' IN THE DIRTY SHOPS YOUR PARENTS TURNED YOU AWAY WAS IT 'CAUSE YOU'RE GAY? NOW THEY TRY TO FIND YOU THOUGH THEY'D UNDERMINED YOU THE BOYS OF THE BOULEVARD HALF NAKED AND WITH SCARS THE BOYS OF THE BOULEVARD GET INTO STRANGERS' CARS IF IT'S NOT THE CLIENTS, IT'S THE COPS END UP HIDIN' IN THE DIRTY SHOPS DIRTY Back to Top

GEMINI

IT'S WHAT YOU WANTED, DEAR THAT'S WHY I'M NOT ALWAYS HERE I WANTED YOU. YOU WANTED ME, TOO I LED YOU THROUGH, BUT YOU LED ME FAR AWAY FROM YOU YOU'RE NOT THE ONE FOR ME IT'S CLEAR FROM YOUR HISTORY YOU'RE SELFISH AND ALOOF I DON'T NEED TO SEEK IT I'VE GOT THE LIVING PROOF HEY GEMINI FIND YOURSELF ANOTHER GUY GEMINI THE MORE YOU TRY THE MORE I WANNA SAY, SAY GOODBYE YOU'RE WAY OUT THERE LIKE MERCURY WITHOUT A CARE I KNOW YOUR LIES CUT DOWN TO SIZE I KNOW YOUR SCHEMES ARE MESSED UP DREAMS IN YOUR OWN MIND YOU'RE NOT THE ONE FOR ME IT'S CLEAR FROM YOUR HISTORY YOU'RE SELFISH AND ALOOF I DON'T NEED TO SEEK IT I'VE GOT THE LIVING PROOF GEMINI FIND YOURSELF ANOTHER GUY GEMINI THE MORE YOU TRY THE MORE I WANNA SAY GOODBYE GEMINI FIND YOURSELF ANOTHER GUY IT'S TOO LATE FOR ANOTHER TRY SO GEMINI JUST SAY GOODBYE YOU'RE ANGEL FACED, BUT DEVIL-LACED YOU'RE TWO FACED, AND SO DISGRACED YOU CAN'T GET UNDER MY SKIN THE GAMES YOU PLAY ARE WEARIN' THIN YOU KEEP TRYIN' AGAIN AND AGAIN BUT EITHER WAY YOU JUST CAN'T WIN HEY GEMINI FIND YOURSELF ANOTHER GUY GEMINI THE MORE YOU TRY THE MORE I WANNA SAY GOODBYE GEMINI FIND YOURSELF ANOTHER GUY IT'S TOO LATE FOR ANOTHER TRY SO GEMINI JUST SAY, SAY GOODBYE SAY GOODBYE TO YOU & I GEMINI FIND YOURSELF ANOTHER GUY AND SAY, SAY GOODBYE SAY GOODBYE GOODBYE GEMINI GOODBYE Back to Top

MISTAKEN IDENTITY

I WAS UP IN BERKELEY VISITIN' A FRIEND THE MINUTE THEY SAW ME IT WAS THE END ONE THOUGHT I WAS A FLUNKY THE OTHER THOUGHT I SCORED SHE THOUGHT I WAS A JUNKY AND ASKED ME: "ARE YOU STONED?" MISTAKEN IDENTITY ISN'T AFFECTING ME MISTAKEN IDENTITY NO ONE DEFENDING ME MISTAKEN IDENTITY ISN'T OFFENDING ME MISTAKEN IDENTITY IT DOESN'T BOTHER ME IF YOU'RE IN TOUCH WITH THE OTHER ME THE NON-EXISTENT ME MISTAKEN IDENTITY WE LEFT ONE BAR BEHIND US AND CAME TO ANOTHER ONE I WAS DRINKING IN A CORNER WHEN SOMEONE ASKED ME: "DO YOU CARRY A GUN?" WE WENT TO A MEAT MARKET TWO FRIENDS AND I THEY PICKED UP TWO CHICKS "IS HE A DRUGGIE?" I HEARD ONE CRY CHORUS I WENT TO THE MEN'S ROOM AMUSED BY THE ACCUSATION THEY GAVE ME A BROOM BUT I COULDN'T SWEEP CLEAN MY SITUATION A GIRL WAS WAITIN' OUTSIDE "DANCE IF YOU WILL" - I TRIED TOLD HER I WAS SOBER SHE THOUGHT I LIED CHORUS A MAN SELLIN' WEED OFFERED ME A JOINT I SHOOK MY HEAD AND HE SAID: "YOU'RE RIGHT, WHAT'S THE POINT?" THE GIRL CAME BACK AGAIN "YOUR BEER IS WARM," SHE SAID I SMILED, SHE WEPT HER NOSE WAS (POWDER) WHITE & BLOOD RED CHORUS REMEMBER ME DRESSED LIKE A HIPPIE MY BEST FRIEND WAS A STONER BUT I'M NOT WHAT YOU THINK YOU SEE 'CAUSE I'M THE OWNER OF A MISTAKEN IDENTITY MISTAKEN! YOU'RE MISTAKEN ABOUT MY IDENTITY MISTAKEN IDENTITY YOU KEEP ACCUSING ME OF THIS MISTAKEN IDENTITY… Back to Top

I COULD BE FREE

I COULD BE IN VOGUE EXTREMELY DESIRED OR ACT LIKE A ROGUE AND GET MYSELF FIRED I COULD LIE PRETEND I'M INSPIRED, OOH YEAH I COULD TRY BUT TRUTH MUST BE ACQUIRED, OOH YEAH I COULD FLY LIKE THE BIRDS OR EVEN HIGHER I COULD TRIP ON YOUR WORDS SHARP AS WIRE I COULD SAY GOODBYE BUT MY LOVE IS STILL IN FIRE, OOH YEAH SO TELL ME WHY YOUR LOVE HAS JUST EXPIRED, OOH YEAH I COULD BE FREE, BUT I'M NOT THESE WORDS ARE WORDS THAT CUT CUT ME DOWN TO SIZE I COULD BE FREE, BUT I'M NOT SOME DREAMS, SOME DREAMS THEY ROT TILL THEY'RE BARELY RECOGNIZED I COULD BE THE POPE THROW YOU IN FIRE I COULD BE ON DOPE NO BRAIN REQUIRED I COULD BE SO HIGH SICK & UNINSPIRED, OOH YEAH I COULD SIGH AND TELL YOU THAT I'M TIRED, OOH YEAH I COULD BE FREE, BUT I'M NOT THESE WORDS ARE WORDS THAT CUT CUT ME DOWN TO SIZE I COULD BE FREE, BUT I'M NOT SOME DREAMS, SOME DREAMS THEY ROT TILL THEY'RE BARELY RECOGNIZED I COULD BE THE POPE THROW YOU IN MIRE I COULD BE ON DOPE NO CLUE WHAT TRANSPIRED I COULD BE SO HIGH SICK & UNINSPIRED, OOH YEAH I COULD SIGH AND TELL YOU THAT I'M TIRED, OOH YEAH I COULD LIE AND TELL YOU THAT I'M WIRED, OOH YEAH I COULD DIE 'CAUSE THIS SONG HAS EXPIRED! Back to Top

ANGELINA

WHISPERS OF BLOOD, EYES OF WATER A CAR ACCIDENT, A LOST DAUGHTER GOODBYE, FRIEND. I STILL SEE YOUR FACE A DEAD END, A TWISTED PLACE LIFE WAS PRECIOUS BUT SHORT I'M A LAWYER IN THIS COURT GOD, THE JUDGE, YOUR SOUL HE CAUGHT DEATH UPON US BY HIM WAS BROUGHT I'M NOT A VICTIM – JUST A HYPOCRITE YOU'RE THE VISION THAT MY MIND WON'T QUIT I LONGED TO TELL YOU, I LONGED TO SAY I LONGED TO HOLD YOU FOR JUST ONE DAY ANGELINA ANGE LINA ANGELINA ANGE LINA ANGELINA HAVE YOU SEEN HER? ANGEL IN MY SKIES IS THIS WHAT IT FEELS LIKE WHEN A FRIEND OR LOVER DIES? I SPY HER PICTURE. MY MIND CHILLS I CAN'T DITCH HER. THE TRUTH KILLS FOR THE FUTURE TO LIVE WE MUST LOWER THE CURTAIN I CAN'T DETERMINE ANYTHING FOR CERTAIN A FAINT SMILE, INJURED PRIDE HAVOC AND PAIN ON OUR SIDE HOLD THE PAST, AND FIRM THE GRIP MEN WITH TEARY EYES THAT DRIP THIS LOSS INSIDE MAKES ME THINK LIFE WILL PASS YOU BY IF YOU STOP TO BLINK A VAGUE VOICE, BARELY HEARD SO SWEET THE SOUND OF A SINGLE WORD ANGELINA ANGE LINA ANGELINA ANGE LINA ANGELINA HAVE YOU SEEN HER? ANGEL IN MY SKIES IS THIS WHAT IT FEELS LIKE WHEN A FRIEND OR LOVER DIES? THE PAST CONNECTS US LIKE A CHAIN HOW SWEET IT IS TO HEAR YOUR NAME THIS MEMORY I HAVE OF YOU MAKES ME FEEL LIKE I'M THERE, TOO ANGELINA ANGE LINA ANGELINA ANGE LINA ANGELINA HAVE YOU SEEN HER? ANGEL IN MY SKIES Back to Top

INSOMNIACS DREAM (I.D.)

YOU THOUGHT I WAS GOING DOWN SAW ME NOWHERE BOUND SAID I WAS WASTING RHYMES DAYDREAMING ALL THE TIME YOU SAID I WAS THINKING UP BUT CRASHING DOWN FELT I WAS LIVING IT UP IN THIS ABANDONED TOWN I WAS LOST THEN FOUND MY OWN HOLY GROUND NOW, I NEVER SLEEP YOU MIGHT THINK THAT'S WEAK BUT I CAN ALWAYS DREAM LIKE INSOMNIACS DREAM YEAH, I CAN ALWAYS DREAM 'CAUSE INSOMNIACS DREAM DON'T THINK I'M HIDING UNDERGROUND JUST 'CAUSE I'M NOWHERE TO BE FOUND DON'T MESS WITH MY CREATIVE LINE 'CAUSE MY DREAMS ARE FINE (SO FINE) I WAS SAILING SLOW CLAIMING A UTOPIAN NATION IF YOU ONLY KNEW WHAT I KNOW YOU'D KNOW IT'S THE JOURNEY NOT THE FINAL DESTINATION I WAS LOST THEN FOUND MY OWN HOLY GROUND NOW, I NEVER SLEEP YOU MIGHT THINK THAT'S WEAK BUT I CAN ALWAYS DREAM LIKE INSOMNIACS DREAM YEAH, I CAN ALWAYS DREAM 'CAUSE INSOMNIACS DREAM I'M WRITING WORDS FLYING WITH THE BIRDS MAYBE A BIT NAIVE I BELIEVE I'M RIGHTING WRONGS WITH MY SILLY SONGS NOW, I NEVER SLEEP YOU MIGHT THINK THAT'S WEAK BUT I CAN ALWAYS DREAM LIKE INSOMNIACS DREAM YEAH, I CAN ALWAYS DREAM 'CAUSE INSOMNIACS DREAM [I CAN ALWAYS DREAM] SEE, I WASN'T WASTING TIME ['CAUSE INSOMNIACS DREAM] ('CAUSE) DREAMING IS NO CRIME [I CAN ALWAYS DREAM] DREAMING BLOWS MY MIND ['CAUSE INSOMNIACS DREAM] I WAS DREAMING OF ALIENS, BEDUINS, AND LEOS YEAH, DREAMING OF ALIENS, BEDUINS, AND LEOS ALIENS, BEDUINS, AND LEOS ALIENS, BEDUINS, AND LEOS Back to Top

BLUE

BLUE AS THE OCEAN BLUE LIKE YOUR EYES FAKIN' DEVOTION WITH ALL OF YOUR LIES BLUE AS THE SKY BLUE AS THE WATER YOU'RE TAKIN' THIS GUY LIKE A LAMB TO THE SLAUGHTER BLUE AS THE SEA BLUE AS YOUR VEINS THE WAY YOU TREAT ME MAKES ME INSANE BLUE IS MORE THAN JUST A COLOUR BLUE IS A FEELIN', BLUE IS MY LOVER, OH YEAH LIKE THE SKY SEEN THROUGH YOUR CEILIN' UNDER THE COVER YOU DISCOVER... BLUE BLUE LIKE YOUR HAIR BLUE LIKE YOUR TATTOO IT AIN'T FAIR WHAT YOU PUT ME THROUGH BLUE AS TODAY BLUE AS TOMORROW BLUE SKIES SO GREY BLUE AS YOUR SORROW BLUE IS MORE THAN JUST A COLOUR BLUE IS A FEELIN', BLUE IS MY LOVER, OH YEAH LIKE THE SKY SEEN THROUGH YOUR CEILIN' UNDER THE COVER YOU DISCOVER... BLUE, BLUE, BLUE, BLUE... BLUE AS MY GIRLFRIEND... BLUE AS MY BOYFRIEND... BLUE AS YOUR TOKEN LIES... BLUE AS Back to Top

THE TRAILS OF NEPAL (TRAIL 1)

I LEFT SAN FRANCISCO IN THE FALL FOR THE TRAILS, THE TRAILS OF NEPAL I LEFT MY FRIENDS & FAMILY I LEFT MY HOME & SANITY I LEFT MY MAKEUP & VANITY FOR THE TRAILS OF NEPAL I LEFT MY CITY DEPRESSION I LEFT MY EARTHLY POSSESSIONS I LEFT MY MORAL OBSESSIONS FOR THE TRAILS OF NEPAL CHANTING I LEFT MY FRIENDS & FAMILY I LEFT YOU BUT I SURE MISS YOUR COMPANY I LEFT MY MAKEUP AND VANITY FOR THE TRAILS OF NEPAL BASMA YA BASMA YA BASMA FAYNIK YA BASMA YA BASMA BASMA YA BASMA YA BASMA FAYN ROUHTEE YA BASMA YA BASMA I LEFT MY JUDGMENTS AT THE DOOR I LEFT THE RICH, I LEFT THE POOR I LEFT THE VOICES THAT IMPLORE I LEFT THE FEAR TO EXPLORE I LEFT MY EGO & MY ID I LEFT MY "YOU DID IT! NO, YOU DID!" I LEFT MY ADULT & MY KID PICK ME UP WHEN I FALL FOR THE TRAILS OF NEPAL SHUKRAN YA BASMA YA BASMA RIJATT AL BASMA YA BASMA SHUKRAN YA BASMA YA BASMA RIJATT AL BASMA YA BASMA Back to Top

Music Interview 1

Paul Calvert: Since the 2003 release of the Iambic Dream Project’s “Identity Crisis: Aliens, Beduins, and Leos” album, you have gone on to win numerous songwriting awards, including a Gold Disc Award for Best International Production. When did you realise that songwriting was something you were interested in?

Waël Kabbani: I realized songwriting was something I was interested in when, as a teenager, I accidentally discovered I was writing in rhyme without trying to, and when it became clear to me that writing my feelings and thoughts down made me feel good.

PC: I know how important keeping a dream diary was to releasing your 1st record but recently I see you’ve been writing a lot from a political perspective. What themes or stories are you looking to tell in song on the new album? And what will it be called?

WK: The next album will be called “Phoenix from the Ash”. Most of the songs will still be about relationships of one sort or another. There are a few songs that may be perceived as “political” but I don’t view them that way at all. I see them as personal observations. It’s hard for some people not to label you as “political” when you have an opinion about a country’s foreign policy and another country that’s been committing human rights violations since its inception. On that note, one song is titled “Who’s Driving This Suicide Car?” and it’s written from a young American Soldier’s perspective about the war his country has inflicted on Iraq and the lies & greed of the Bush administration. Another song is titled “Israel’s Got A Berlin Wall”.

PC: When I first met you, one of the first compositions I heard was your “Very Rough Demo”, as you call it, of the song “Please Don’t Let Me Go”. I enjoyed the emotional delivery of the vocal and the simplicity of the lyric. Will this feature on the new record? If so, I certainly will be excited to hear it.

WK: Thanks. I really like its rawness, too. It’s a very rough demo, because it was written on the spot in two minutes and nine seconds back in 2001. None of the music, lyrics, or vocal delivery were thought out or planned in advance. I just started playing the piano and sang whatever came out. I’m glad I had my little tape recorder on hand to capture the moment. The rough demo will first appear on my new web site (which will be launched later this year), and, later, it or a newer version of the song will be featured on the album “Phoenix from the Ash” (which is anticipated for a 2011/2012 release).

PC: The Iambic Dream Project has very much been a collaborative effort between you and your good friend Raz Kennedy. How did you come to meet and work together?

WK: We met through my friend Shana Morrison. Raz started out as my vocal coach and became a good friend & songwriting partner. The first time we collaborated on one of my songs it just felt very natural and organic. All our tunes for the first record were pretty much written that way. Fortunately, they came together quite quickly & smoothly.

PC: The first album’s sound really reaches towards all genres like that of funk, jazz, classic rock and acoustic material. “Flying Solo” which always makes me smile sounds like a swinging 50’s number inspired by Dean Martin, while the funkiness of “Insomniacs Dream (I.D.)” has a groove that even Maceo Parker would be proud of! How did you manage it and was it ever an intention to have so many styles on the record?

WK: I just Googled Maceo Parker whom I’d never heard of before, and listened to some of his great music. Thanks for the introduction, Paul. I can’t say that I’ve knowingly heard any of Dean Martin’s stuff, but I’ve always found swinging Jazz a lot of fun, and, for me, “Flying Solo” naturally lent itself to a mixture of Big Band Jazz & Swing with a rocking beat. It was always my intention to produce a record with a variety of musical genres, and Raz was very instrumental in helping me create a team of musicians, singers, and engineers who made this very eclectic album a reality.

PC: I was certainly impressed by how well the “Hero Worship” music video is coming along after seeing many of its 3D Animation scenes recently at a Pre-Pre-viewing party. Your characters look visually striking in their identities, but how long has this process of creating them and also putting together a music video taken you? I’d imagine there is much research needed and copyright issues too?

WK: I began this project about 5 years ago. I wrote the script & made 1 minute sketches of the ten main superheroes/characters, (called The Utopians’ Alliance), using a computer, because I can’t draw to save my life. After that, I did a lot of thinking and research about the characters, their outfits, background stories, etc. I then began working with my friend Michel Cavro who’s an amazing animator. We’re both very passionate about the characters and the story of the kid, (based on Wael’s childhood), who creates them from his vivid imagination. Like many of my projects, this was definitely a community effort that involved very talented animators, actors, dancers, filmmakers, and a lot of preparation. Many people that know me well know that I can often be a perfectionist, but that’s not the only reason it’s taken a very long time to finish the “Hero Worship” music video. For the most part, Michel and I have done the bulk of the work ourselves. Because he really believes in the project and knows I have a non-existent budget, he has been willing to do incredible work on it for hardly any money. We’re doing something that has the quality of a Disney or Pixar production without the army of animators and millions of dollars’ budget, so patience comes in very handy in these types of situations. I’ve applied for trademarks to protect my characters’ names and images. Securing a trademark can be a very lengthy but necessary process. It’s important, especially since I’m hoping to spin the characters off into comic books, cartoons, action figures, video games, etc., after their initial introduction via the music video.

PC: The cover of a record can be important in the way it reflects the artist’s vision for an album. The artwork in your CD Booklet has a definite resonance with the themes and stories throughout the record. How did you go about picking such photographs for the album sleeve, and was there anything particular you were looking for?

WK: Being very visual, I met with my friend photographer Susan Casentini after I’d decided which songs were definitely going to be featured on the first album. I went through many of her photographs and selected seven images that I felt reflected an aspect or several aspects of some of the song lyrics. My dear friend Michaela Bohem-Wung was kind enough to let me use a picture she had taken in Nepal for the song “The Trails of Nepal (Trail 1)”, and finally, my graphic designer Alicia Buelow, with some guidance from me, created the other background images, as well as the album cover. I wanted a very colourful yet faded look for all the images and Alicia did a great job bringing my vision to life.

PC: What sort of photographs can we expect to see for the new album or have you looked into that aspect yet?

WK: I decided, a long time ago, to use only black & white photographs for the new album, especially since I’d done the faded but very colourful look for the first CD. I’ve already picked a few amazing photos by an Iranian friend of mine called Spanda Moradmand. She’s a really talented photographer.

PC: I know you’ve mentioned a few times how writing lyrics (or poems as some might call them) can be very therapeutic. What do you read, watch or listen to that helps inspire the notion?

WK: Yes, writing in general, not just songs or poems, is very therapeutic for me personally, as well as being a great tool for self-discovery. I often think of songwriting as free therapy. I don’t read as much as I used to, but I’ve always related to literature about minority groups, the underdog, human rights, and about overcoming personal and social struggles. This applies to a lot of the films and music I enjoy watching and listening to. I listen to a lot of relatively unknown singer/songwriters as well as mainstream music in most genres. More importantly, I get most of my inspiration from life & human relationships; my life, and the lives & stories of friends, family, and people I know. All those stories inspire me much more than books, films, and other people’s music.

PC: The great Van Morrison seems to be quite a favourite among artists in your record collection. What is it about him that you love, and is there a particular record that has inspired you from his discography or one you would recommend readers of this interview to listen to?

WK: Yeah, Van the Man is amazing! I love a lot of his songwriting and the genuine rawness he brings to the table. His songwriting aside, I think he’s sometimes very underrated as a vocalist. It’s very hard to just pick one of his albums, but “No Guru, No Method, No Teacher” is a favourite of mine. I also encourage new comers to check out his “The Best of Van Morrison” & “The Best of Van Morrison Volume Two” to get a little taste of his brilliance.

PC: In songs such as “Blue” and “I Could Be Free” you often use similes to convey the message in song. What’s one of your favourite lyrics you’ve written that includes a simile? I know that there are quite a few similes used in one of the new songs you’ve written, which on first listen sounds like it could be one of the pop songs from the new album. What’s the song called and how did you write that one?

WK: “You’re as real as a plastic plant” is one of my favourite similes from the new song “Use Me Up”. It’s one of those songs that sort of wrote itself. I didn’t have to do much. The words just came out of me.

PC: Did you study music when you were younger or are you studying music now for that matter? If not, is it something you have any plans of doing in the foreseeable future?

WK: I tried taking guitar and piano lessons when I was in my twenties and thirties, but it was hopeless. I couldn’t deal with the confining structures expected of me. To this day, I don’t have the patience or desire to follow a book. I love improvising on the piano. Some of my friends swear that I can play, but I really make things up as I go along. I can never replay a song I’ve just come up with, so now that I’m forty, I’m thinking it’s time to take some piano lessons again, but this time I’ll do it on my own terms. Meaning, I’ll mainly focus on playing my own songs, do more to encourage my improvisational skills, and learn different ways to arrange my own music.

PC: When writing on the piano are you very precise on structure and rhythm, or do you tend to see where the music takes you by letting things flow?

WK: Again, you could say I subscribe to the Organic School of Songwriting. I like beginning from a very raw and naked place. For me, music is more about expressing genuine feelings and emotions and about telling a story. It’s not about precise notes & structure. When writing songs for the first album, I barely touched a piano. I focused on my lyrics and created very raw melodies that I sang a cappella/without music into a tape recorder. Raz & I then worked off those very rough demos to finish the music together.

PC: Thus far, “The Iambic Dream Project” has been released independently through your label (Iambic Dream Records). Though other than releasing your own music, do you see the possibility of releasing other artists’ music in the future? I guess, in a round about way, I’m asking you if you see yourself as an A&R man?

WK: One of my dreams has always been for Iambic Dream Records to release not only my albums but those of other artists I believe in as well. Unfortunately, this aspect of releasing other people’s projects has had to go on the backburner for now, because I’m barely able to fund the music video, my next album, and the superheroes I’ve created. I don’t really see myself as an A&R man, but more like someone who believes in creating and supporting a community of creative people.

PC: Now that you’ve released your first album “Identity Crisis: Aliens, Beduins, and Leos” and got much feedback, is there anything you would have done differently on the record? On this next record are you aiming to create something quite different?

WK: I honestly wouldn’t change anything. I wanted a very eclectic album, spanning an incredible variety of musical genres, and that’s exactly what I got. I was very lucky to work with so many talented singers and musicians, many of whom will be featured on the second album. The new record will have some variety but it won’t be as extreme as the first one. It’s going to be more cohesive musically. I’ve already demonstrated I can collaborate in many different genres of music, so I don’t need to do it again on my second album.

PC: Are there assets you’ve learned that you’ll be applying in the studio when recording the next album?

WK: Eight years ago, I learnt that, vocally, I wasn’t always where I wanted to be. At the time, it was very frustrating, but I kept reminding myself that I was working with people who had been singing for twenty, thirty, or forty years. Up to that point, I’d only taken almost two years’ worth of weekly vocal lessons, so I did the best that I could with the little experience that I had. I knew I wanted to be a songwriter but I wasn’t convinced that I wanted to be a singer. Singing was something I had to do when more technically savvy singers struggled to deliver one of my songs emotionally. I even took a four-year hiatus from singing after the album came out, but started training again in the beginning of 2008. I’m enjoying the vocal training process a lot more now and feel I’ve got more confidence to experiment with my three octave range on the new album. You may even hear me doing some of my own back up vocals on a song or two. So, I guess I’ve learnt that I want to be & will hopefully be more prepared vocally for the second album. That’s the main thing I’ll be applying. I know this extra preparation will help me a lot.

PC: What song or songs, if any, took longer than expected, or was there one or a few you found yourself going back to and making frequent changes to?

WK: “Hero Worship” & “The Boys of the Blvd.” were two of the songs that went through quite a few versions, musically. The vocals for a couple of the songs, including “The Boys of the Blvd.” & “Angelina”, had to be recorded again. The singer who first sang “The Boys of the Blvd.”, although extremely talented, was not able to capture the vibe Raz & I were after, so Raz suggested I sing that one. It’s an example of how a better singer is not always the best vocalist for the vibe of a particular song. On the other hand, “Angelina”, (about the death of Wael’s friend in a car accident), was very difficult for me to sing in the studio at the time, because the material was too close to home and because that song needed a more experienced vocalist. Brett Abramson did a beautiful job.

PC: I know the website is almost ready and, after seeing snippets of it, I’m sure you’re excited about it. How much time have you had to put into the website and what features will be available for those accessing it?

WK: I’ve been dreaming of an interactive Web Site for many years, but it’s only been possible to work on it for the past year or so. One part of the Web Site will deal with music and The Iambic Dream Project and the other part will deal with The Utopians’ Alliance/My Superheroes. Visitors will be able to access some free music, watch the music video, interact with the superheroes and change the colours of their outfits, follow 3D Comic Strips, etc.

PC: Where can we find the CD if we want to purchase it, and where can we read reviews of the album?

WK: You can buy a hard/physical copy directly from me by e-mailing me at wael@iambicdream.com or from CD Baby by going to http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/iambicdream where you can also read some great reviews. For one of my favourite reviews, you can go to: http://www.threemonkeysonline.com/identity-crisis-identity-crisis-aliens-beduins-and-leos-iambic-dream-project/ You can also buy on-line versions of the album and the individual songs by going to iTunes or 70 other online websites. Enter “The Iambic Dream Project” for the artist & “Identity Crisis: Aliens, Beduins, and Leos” for the title of the album.

PC: Finally, what attributes would you say a songwriter needs? Or for people wanting to try their hand at writing, what must they do that’s important?

WK: I think good songwriting requires genuine passion, patience, persistence, the ability to tell a story, some luck, and openness. I’ve been fortunate to guide some fledgling songwriters with their songwriting, especially when it comes to lyrics and melody ideas. I always emphasize the importance of writing freely and continuously whenever they have any ideas at all. I call this “Free Versing” and it involves putting all your ideas, feelings, and thoughts down on paper or into a recording device. It is crucial to do this without letting your Internal Critic or Editor interfere with the free flowing creativity. The Internal Critic or Editor comes in much later in my songwriting process. I feel very lucky that rhymes come out of me naturally, but I’ve noticed that it’s not a natural thing for everyone I work with, so I encourage those songwriters to study their favourite songs and ask themselves why they like those songs. Also, I urge them to experiment with different rhyme schemes, imagery, the use of similes, metaphors, and improvising on an instrument like the piano or the guitar, or experimenting vocally, etc. Any or all of these tools can be applied when writing a song, as long as they don’t compromise the story the songwriter is trying to tell.

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Music Interview 2

Between living in the Middle East where he was born, Europe where he kind of grew up and America where he currently lives, singer/songwriter Waël K. was influenced by diverse music. But Waël has created his own genre of music.His new album, Identity Crisis: Aliens, Beduins and Leos, was just released. And reflecting the diverse music influences in his life, this album is full of really cool songs. So cool, actually, that most songs are being played on radios all over the world. Being the product of a collaboration of more than fifty other people, this album is so off the hook. I met the musician at a party in San Francisco where we danced to his tracks. He is a very cool, down to earth kind of guy. We talked about our common interests in music. Later, I was honored when he agreed to let me interview him so that I could introduce him – and his music – to you. Afdhere Jama: Let’s start with your name. What does it mean? Waël K.: For the longest time, I was under the impression that “Waël” was one of those rare Arabic names that have no meaning, but about two years ago I had dinner at a cousin’s relative’s home. This man’s a linguistic scholar who’s very knowledgeable when it comes to old Arabic names, so when my cousin asked him what my name meant the guy told us that “it refers to someone who leaves the place he’s from, goes somewhere else, and survives.” Basically, according to this wise man, “Waël” means “Survivor.”

AJ: Very interesting name. You were born in Syria, though you grew up in Saudi Arabia. How come?

WK: Yes, I was born in Damascus, Syria, but grew up in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, because my parents lived there. They still do. My father was born in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, my mother, like me, was born in Damascus, and my brother was born in Vienna, Austria.

AJ: What was your early childhood experience like?

WK: For the most part, my childhood was a good one. I remember I wasn’t always very social and spent a lot of time listening to music, creating dream or imaginary worlds, and playing by myself. Don’t get me wrong, I had a lot of friends I played with, but I definitely appreciated and valued time alone. In fact, I still do.

AJ: How was music perceived in your family?

WK: My parents, brother, and I listened to all kinds of music. In our home, you could hear everything from Arabic music by Fairuz & Umm Kalthoum to African Music from Kenya and South Africa, and from French, Spanish, and Italian artists to Stevie Wonder & The Rolling Stones, Disco to Rock & Roll, Metal to Pop. You name it, and we probably listened to it.

AJ: Were you interested in music more than the rest of the family?

WK: We all loved music, but growing up, I was definitely the music addict in the family. It seemed like I always had my tapes and ghetto blaster or Walkman with me everywhere I went. I guess they were like my security blanket. I used to make a lot of mixed tapes of my favorite songs. To this day, when I get into my parents’ car they’re always expecting me to hand them a tape. I trained my parents well [laughs]. So, my parents love music but never thought it could be a serious career choice for one of their sons. None of us dreamed that one day I would be handing them a CD of my own songs.

AJ: That is most certainly a dream come true. How did the opportunity to go to Switzerland for boarding school come up?

WK: I went to a public school in Jeddah, where I did my studies in Arabic, until I was about 11 Years Old. I was then given the option of staying in Public School in Saudi or going to a boarding school in a small village in Switzerland. I jumped at the opportunity of being able to pursue my studies in English at the boarding school, because my English was better than my public school English teacher’s at the time, and I think I felt I needed more of a challenge. Also, I was beginning to feel like I needed a little more independence from my parents and I had a lot I needed to work out by myself. Besides, my brother and three of our childhood friends (who are all older than me) were waiting for me to join them. My father worked his ass off so he could afford to send my brother and I to Switzerland, and I will always be grateful to him for that. My mom also sacrificed a lot personally to let me go to Switzerland, and I love her for that.

AJ: What was your experience there like?

WK: I never really liked or cared about schools as institutions, per se, because I still believe self-education and the interactions & experiences you have with friends and fellow students teach you a lot more than the classroom ever could. That said, boarding school was an incredible experience, because I made friends for life. My friends in boarding school became my family. It wasn’t always easy, but I learned a lot about life, myself, and other people.

AJ: What did you study?

WK: For a long time, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my life, but I knew I loved words & different languages, so I got away with being the only student I know who took four languages and no other subjects his last year of high school. Because the school in Switzerland was very international and had students from all over the world, it was easy to pick up new words and practice with friends.

AJ: You started writing music as a teenager. Tell me about that.

WK: For a couple of summers, when I was in my late teens I had enjoyed working at a Safeway Supermarket in Jeddah, but I didn’t apply for a job there the summer I graduated from boarding school, because I was getting ready for college and my parents were taking my brother and I to the South of France. Anyway, because I didn’t have a summer job, that summer felt pretty long at times, even in the South of France, so one day I began writing in a notebook. I wrote anything that popped into my head, in other words, feelings, thoughts, emotions, and ideas. A few days later, I looked over what I had written and realized that 95% of it rhymed, even though I wasn’t trying to write poetry or songs. Pages and pages of mostly personal stuff came out rhyming, and I figured it was because I loved and listened to so much music as a kid. So, I didn’t actually write music, but I filled notebooks, napkins, scraps of paper, and anything else I could get my hands on with words that some consider musical. I discovered writing by accident, and find it very therapeutic. For many years, I hid what I was writing, even from my closest friends. A few of my friends would ask me what I was writing in my notebooks, but I would tell them it was nothing, because I felt it was very personal. It wasn’t until I realized I might have to make a living sharing my words and ideas with people that I allowed close friends to read some of my stuff.

AJ: Accident or not, you found something you love at a young age. That is something many would kill for. I know you went to college for English Literature. Was that in America?

WK: Wow! You’ve done your homework. Yes, I studied English Lit. at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California.

AJ: Your CD is by “The Iambic Dream Project.” What does that mean? Is that the name of a band?

WK: I got the name from “The Iambic Pentameter” which is a poetic term. I was looking for something that could allude to a poetic dream that began with words that rhymed, and something that abbreviated into I.D., because the songs contain parts of my identity. I didn’t want to use my name for the CD, because I wanted to show that, although it was originally my dream and vision, many people contributed their talents and skills to help make it happen. “The Iambic Dream Project” is a poetic dream I’ve subconsciously always had of creating a CD with an eclectic mix of songs, but thirty eight amazing singers and musicians, fourteen incredible recording and mixing engineers, an unbelievable mastering engineer, two gifted photographers, a great graphic designer, many loving friends and family members, and a brilliant producer/voice coach/vocalist/songwriting partner and friend named Raz Kennedy made it possible.

AJ: Raz Kennedy co-wrote the music and also co-produced the album. How did you two meet and how did your collaboration begin?

WK: I met Raz through my friend Shana Morrison who’s a great singer. I think Shana had worked with Raz once or twice, and she recommended him to me when I asked her about a good voice coach. I didn’t really want to sing, but fell into it, because in the past I had worked with a couple of very talented singers who loved my lyrics and asked if they could sing my songs, but their interpretation of my words didn’t feel right to me. Their vocal technique was there, but they were missing something essential in my stories: the emotions behind them. Anyway, I wanted to develop my words and melodies into more complete songs, and I figured if I could sing my words I could finish writing them. Initially, I began working on and singing other people’s songs, but when I mentioned to Raz that I wrote my own lyrics he asked me to bring some of them in. When Raz read some of my words he really liked them, and his faith in my lyrics triggered me to suggest he help me with the music. We began collaborating after that. I would bring mostly finished lyrics and some raw melodies I had sung acappella into a tape recorder. He would listen to the tape a couple of times then he would play the chords from the rough melodies he heard, before we would develop them further. Raz has a great ear and a wonderful musical imagination. He was very instrumental, pun intended, in helping me finish my songs. Musically, our collaboration was very organic. We would finish a song in about thirty minutes or so. He created a very safe space for me where I felt I could share some very intimate stories through my lyrics. After about ten or twelve weeks of meeting once or twice a week, we had about thirteen songs that we really liked, so I suggested we record them and asked him to help me produce an album. He’s really the main producer, especially when it comes to the music and vocal arrangements. That’s how The Iambic Dream Project’s CD began.

AJ: Identity Crisis: Aliens, Beduins and Leos is your first complete album. In the album liner notes you dedicate it to your “kids” who have similar names. Tell me more about that.

WK: I dedicated the album to my niece Basma, and my kids Alien, Beduin, and Leona. Alien was our family German Shepherd, and Beduin was my cat. Both of them passed away some years ago. My cat Leona is still with me. My brother and I adopted Alien when we were living in L.A., the cats and I adopted each other (at different times) also in L.A. I didn’t name any of them, but, to me, their names are symbolic of how we are sometimes born strange & different like aliens, grow up wandering the desert we call life like nomads or beduins, and hopefully overcome struggles, we encounter along the way, with the strength of lions or Leos.

AJ: Most of the songs from the album are now being played on the radio. Even famous singers don’t get the chance to have most of their songs from a particular album being on the radio. How does it feel?

WK: It’s amazing! It feels like a dream. I’m thrilled, but I had never really thought that far ahead. Most of the time, I was so involved in trying to create something with Raz that we would both be proud of that it didn’t occur to me that some day some radio stations would play eight of our songs.

AJ: You wrote all the words on the album. Some of the songs have very homosexual lyrics, especially “Torch Song” and “The Boys of the Blvd.” Are you homosexual?

WK: Yes, I’m gay.

AJ: When did you come out to yourself?

WK: I’d always known I was different. Actually, there are so many of us that “different” sounds like an oxymoron. Anyway, I’d known for a long time, but was in denial and didn’t really come out to myself completely until I was in my early twenties.

AJ: Does your family know?

WK: Yes, I came out to them when I was twenty-three, because I wanted to bridge a gap I had created between us by not being honest (with them) about a big part of who I am.

AJ: Did your family listen to the CD?

WK: Yes, my family has listened to my CD and continues to listen to it. They really like it and are very proud of my work, and that makes me extremely happy. Without my parents and brother, I wouldn’t have been able to end up with this professionally recorded album. I’ve never really had the financial means to support my dreams fully, and my family has always been generous in the way they’ve invested in my dreams. I’ll always be grateful to them, and I’m hoping to make enough money to help put my nieces through school.

AJ: As you know, I went to the party where people had the chance to listen to your album and I asked a few people what they thought. Some of them really thought this was the work of a genius and all of them enjoyed the music. What has been the response the album gets from the public?

WK: Genius? Madman, maybe, but not genius. People are too kind. Either way, as I’ve mentioned before, I can’t take all the credit. Most people really seem to like the album, but some people don’t really get it, because it’s so eclectic. I think the majority of people like most of the songs, but you can’t please everyone. As much as I like hearing that people like the album, it’s really more about challenging myself as a songwriter and singer, and sharing a variety of genres I enjoy working in.

AJ: I really love all the songs from this album. I’m particularly in love with “The Boys of the Blvd.”, which I think is one of the most beautiful songs I have ever heard – both lyrically and music-wise. What is the story behind it?

WK: Thank you very much! I’m thrilled that you like my music. “The Boys of the Blvd.” was the first song I finished lyrically. Most of the words were written when I was in my late teens. I think I was nineteen at the time, and I was in Switzerland for The Montreux Jazz Festival. People always ask me about that song and if it was inspired by real life gay male prostitutes whom I noticed on the streets or something like that, but the truth is I was at a park in Montreux one Sunday afternoon. It was a beautiful sunny day, there were no prostitutes around, and I was feeling good when the words to that song suddenly popped into my head, so I wrote them down on paper. My songs always come out multi-layered somehow, when it comes to the storylines. I think it’s because I try to allow the words to come out of me without judging or critiquing them. So, “The Boys of the Blvd.” is about more than prostitution. It tackles subconscious fears I had growing up of possibly being kicked out of my parents’ home if they knew I was gay, even if I never acted on my sexuality. There’s also this very subtle love story between two of the boys, but it’s so subtle only I know about it [laughs]. It’s really more about them helping & supporting each other, running from the cops & bad johns together, etc. It’s a part of the story that I’ve always envisioned would be unveiled in a music video for the song.

AJ: Are you in a relationship?

WK: No. My friends are gonna love this question, because a few of them claim my long term self-imposed celibacy is more severe than that of a monk (living) in a monastery. I’m open to having a relationship, but I’m extremely picky. He’d have to be extremely special, because I don’t put up with much crap, and he would have to be strong enough to call me on any of my own crap. In the mean time, I’m enjoying the relationship I’ve been having with my music for the past three years. I wanna keep nurturing that.

AJ: That is very good. I’m glad to hear that the brothers out there now have the chance. Tell me your thoughts on Queer Marriage(s).

WK: I think the legal rights and benefits that come with marriage should be afforded to all human beings who choose to be in loving, monogamous relationships, regardless of their partners’ genders. On the other hand, I don’t need a piece of paper to tell me that my partner and I love and cherish one another. I would only get “married” if my partner really wanted to. Many straight people take marriage for granted. I mean look at the rate of infidelity and divorce, and some of them have the balls to tell us we’re not worthy of a real “marriage”.

AJ: I know. It is ironic. What is next for you?

WK: I’ll continue to get the word out about my songs, and hopefully make enough money by selling my CDs and getting songs placed in film and television, and sung by other artists, so that I can afford to record and put out the next Iambic Dream Project album. I have so many stories waiting to be told.

AJ: Looking forward to it. In every interview that I do, I ask this last question: If you could change one thing about you what would it be, and why?

WK: There are many things I’m working on changing. I believe I’m a work in progress, and I want to keep evolving. But if I had to pick two things – sorry I can’t narrow it down to one – they would be to be less of a perfectionist and to be more patient with myself and others. I would change those two things, because both interfere with my humanity, creativity, and relationships with people I love.

AJ: Waël, Thank you so much for doing this with me!

WK: Thank you, Afdhere! It was a pleasure meeting you. I really enjoyed this, and appreciate you helping me get the word out about my music.

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HERO WORSHIP

It's about having a secret crush on someone and coming to terms with it. I've had a few of those "secret" crushes (where you idolize someone like a hero) & I want to thank them all for inspiring the song. Also, I was a big fan of superheroes, especially the Super Friends, when I was growing up in the 70's, hence all the superhero imagery.

SWEET DESIRE #2

Inspired by someone I was dating. The chemistry between us was amazing & electric. (OOH LA LA!!!).

TORCH SONG

Gay/Straight or Straight/Gay unrequited love story. Written from a gay perspective but sung from a straight one. When I was a teenager, I fell in love with my best friend who's straight. It was a very difficult time for both of us, but he was extremely supportive. I wrote the song from a gay perspective but it's sung from a straight one, because the vocalist had been involved with a woman who had left him for another woman.

FLYING SOLO

Being alone is sometimes a great thing. Being single gets a really bad rap, but it's much better than being in a very dysfunctional relationship or forcing yourself to be with someone who isn't right for you, just so you won't be alone. This song is for the single people out there. It celebrates the joys & comforts of celibacy.

JULY ROSE

It's about a party girl! Partly inspired by a wild & daring girl a good friend told me about. My friend doesn't think that "July Rose" was her real name, but it's the name she used when they were teenagers in the Sixties.

THE BOYS OF THE BLVD.

Some teenagers who are kicked out & disowned by their parents, for being gay, end up on the streets. Growing up as a closeted gay teen in the early 80's, I lived in fear of being disowned by my family & ending up on the blvd, so I wrote a song about it. In reality, I came out when I was 23 and I was one of the lucky ones.

GEMINI

This Gemini was not the right one for me. It's break up time! I dated a Gemini who was really into astrology. We really liked each other, but he wasn't right for me. Breaking up wasn't easy but it had to be done. I put some Gemini imagery in there for good measure.

MISTAKEN IDENTITY

It's about mistaken identities & people assuming you're someone or something you're not. People who are high on drugs & alcohol assume you are (& they're not). I was visiting a good friend in Berkeley, CA, for the week-end. We came across a lot of people who assumed I was things or people I wasn't, such as a junky, a body guard (to a friend who's much bigger than me, go figure), straight, and drunk. Well, it made for an interesting song anyway.

I COULD BE FREE

It's about Dreams, Creativity, Freedom, and Civil Rights. I could pretend to remember the story behind this one, but I'd be lying.

ANGELINA

True story about a friend who died in a car accident. This one was written as a poem first & then turned into a song in memory of my friend Angelina.

INSOMNIACS DREAM (I.D.)

It's about how you've got to believe in & go after your dreams, no matter how many people, (including you, yourself), doubt you. The title was inspired by sleepless nights in L.A. spent writing a flood of ideas down. Creative energy wasn't letting me sleep & though I was doubting myself at times I wanted to turn something that could have become a negative situation into a positive one.

BLUE

It's about relationships that depress you & about depression in general. Just looked out at the Red Sea one day and the words came to me.

THE TRAILS OF NEPAL (TRAIL 1)

Sometimes you have to leave home or where you're from, (not always physically), to find yourself. It's as much about a spiritual journey as it is about a physical one. Inspired by friends' stories of treks in Nepal & the birth of my first niece.

Paul Calvert: Since the 2003 release of the Iambic Dream Project’s “Identity Crisis: Aliens, Beduins, and Leos” album, you have gone on to win numerous songwriting awards, including a Gold Disc Award for Best International Production. When did you realise that songwriting was something you were interested in?

Waël Kabbani: I realized songwriting was something I was interested in when, as a teenager, I accidentally discovered I was writing in rhyme without trying to, and when it became clear to me that writing my feelings and thoughts down made me feel good.

PC: I know how important keeping a dream diary was to releasing your 1st record but recently I see you’ve been writing a lot from a political perspective. What themes or stories are you looking to tell in song on the new album? And what will it be called?

WK: The next album will be called “Phoenix from the Ash”. Most of the songs will still be about relationships of one sort or another. There are a few songs that may be perceived as “political” but I don’t view them that way at all. I see them as personal observations. It’s hard for some people not to label you as “political” when you have an opinion about a country’s foreign policy and another country that’s been committing human rights violations since its inception. On that note, one song is titled “Who’s Driving This Suicide Car?” and it’s written from a young American Soldier’s perspective about the war his country has inflicted on Iraq and the lies & greed of the Bush administration. Another song is titled “Israel’s Got A Berlin Wall”.

PC: When I first met you, one of the first compositions I heard was your “Very Rough Demo”, as you call it, of the song “Please Don’t Let Me Go”. I enjoyed the emotional delivery of the vocal and the simplicity of the lyric. Will this feature on the new record? If so, I certainly will be excited to hear it.

WK: Thanks. I really like its rawness, too. It’s a very rough demo, because it was written on the spot in two minutes and nine seconds back in 2001. None of the music, lyrics, or vocal delivery were thought out or planned in advance. I just started playing the piano and sang whatever came out. I’m glad I had my little tape recorder on hand to capture the moment. The rough demo will first appear on my new web site (which will be launched later this year), and, later, it or a newer version of the song will be featured on the album “Phoenix from the Ash” (which is anticipated for a 2011/2012 release).

PC: The Iambic Dream Project has very much been a collaborative effort between you and your good friend Raz Kennedy. How did you come to meet and work together?

WK: We met through my friend Shana Morrison. Raz started out as my vocal coach and became a good friend & songwriting partner. The first time we collaborated on one of my songs it just felt very natural and organic. All our tunes for the first record were pretty much written that way. Fortunately, they came together quite quickly & smoothly.

PC: The first album’s sound really reaches towards all genres like that of funk, jazz, classic rock and acoustic material. “Flying Solo” which always makes me smile sounds like a swinging 50’s number inspired by Dean Martin, while the funkiness of “Insomniacs Dream (I.D.)” has a groove that even Maceo Parker would be proud of! How did you manage it and was it ever an intention to have so many styles on the record?

WK: I just Googled Maceo Parker whom I’d never heard of before, and listened to some of his great music. Thanks for the introduction, Paul. I can’t say that I’ve knowingly heard any of Dean Martin’s stuff, but I’ve always found swinging Jazz a lot of fun, and, for me, “Flying Solo” naturally lent itself to a mixture of Big Band Jazz & Swing with a rocking beat. It was always my intention to produce a record with a variety of musical genres, and Raz was very instrumental in helping me create a team of musicians, singers, and engineers who made this very eclectic album a reality.

PC: I was certainly impressed by how well the “Hero Worship” music video is coming along after seeing many of its 3D Animation scenes recently at a Pre-Pre-viewing party. Your characters look visually striking in their identities, but how long has this process of creating them and also putting together a music video taken you? I’d imagine there is much research needed and copyright issues too?

WK: I began this project about 5 years ago. I wrote the script & made 1 minute sketches of the ten main superheroes/characters, (called The Utopians’ Alliance), using a computer, because I can’t draw to save my life. After that, I did a lot of thinking and research about the characters, their outfits, background stories, etc. I then began working with my friend Michel Cavro who’s an amazing animator. We’re both very passionate about the characters and the story of the kid, (based on Wael’s childhood), who creates them from his vivid imagination. Like many of my projects, this was definitely a community effort that involved very talented animators, actors, dancers, filmmakers, and a lot of preparation. Many people that know me well know that I can often be a perfectionist, but that’s not the only reason it’s taken a very long time to finish the “Hero Worship” music video. For the most part, Michel and I have done the bulk of the work ourselves. Because he really believes in the project and knows I have a non-existent budget, he has been willing to do incredible work on it for hardly any money. We’re doing something that has the quality of a Disney or Pixar production without the army of animators and millions of dollars’ budget, so patience comes in very handy in these types of situations. I’ve applied for trademarks to protect my characters’ names and images. Securing a trademark can be a very lengthy but necessary process. It’s important, especially since I’m hoping to spin the characters off into comic books, cartoons, action figures, video games, etc., after their initial introduction via the music video.

PC: The cover of a record can be important in the way it reflects the artist’s vision for an album. The artwork in your CD Booklet has a definite resonance with the themes and stories throughout the record. How did you go about picking such photographs for the album sleeve, and was there anything particular you were looking for?

WK: Being very visual, I met with my friend photographer Susan Casentini after I’d decided which songs were definitely going to be featured on the first album. I went through many of her photographs and selected seven images that I felt reflected an aspect or several aspects of some of the song lyrics. My dear friend Michaela Bohem-Wung was kind enough to let me use a picture she had taken in Nepal for the song “The Trails of Nepal (Trail 1)”, and finally, my graphic designer Alicia Buelow, with some guidance from me, created the other background images, as well as the album cover. I wanted a very colourful yet faded look for all the images and Alicia did a great job bringing my vision to life.

PC: What sort of photographs can we expect to see for the new album or have you looked into that aspect yet?

WK: I decided, a long time ago, to use only black & white photographs for the new album, especially since I’d done the faded but very colourful look for the first CD. I’ve already picked a few amazing photos by an Iranian friend of mine called Spanda Moradmand. She’s a really talented photographer.

PC: I know you’ve mentioned a few times how writing lyrics (or poems as some might call them) can be very therapeutic. What do you read, watch or listen to that helps inspire the notion?

WK: Yes, writing in general, not just songs or poems, is very therapeutic for me personally, as well as being a great tool for self-discovery. I often think of songwriting as free therapy. I don’t read as much as I used to, but I’ve always related to literature about minority groups, the underdog, human rights, and about overcoming personal and social struggles. This applies to a lot of the films and music I enjoy watching and listening to. I listen to a lot of relatively unknown singer/songwriters as well as mainstream music in most genres. More importantly, I get most of my inspiration from life & human relationships; my life, and the lives & stories of friends, family, and people I know. All those stories inspire me much more than books, films, and other people’s music.

PC: The great Van Morrison seems to be quite a favourite among artists in your record collection. What is it about him that you love, and is there a particular record that has inspired you from his discography or one you would recommend readers of this interview to listen to?

WK: Yeah, Van the Man is amazing! I love a lot of his songwriting and the genuine rawness he brings to the table. His songwriting aside, I think he’s sometimes very underrated as a vocalist. It’s very hard to just pick one of his albums, but “No Guru, No Method, No Teacher” is a favourite of mine. I also encourage new comers to check out his “The Best of Van Morrison” & “The Best of Van Morrison Volume Two” to get a little taste of his brilliance.

PC: In songs such as “Blue” and “I Could Be Free” you often use similes to convey the message in song. What’s one of your favourite lyrics you’ve written that includes a simile? I know that there are quite a few similes used in one of the new songs you’ve written, which on first listen sounds like it could be one of the pop songs from the new album. What’s the song called and how did you write that one?

WK: “You’re as real as a plastic plant” is one of my favourite similes from the new song “Use Me Up”. It’s one of those songs that sort of wrote itself. I didn’t have to do much. The words just came out of me.

PC: Did you study music when you were younger or are you studying music now for that matter? If not, is it something you have any plans of doing in the foreseeable future?

WK: I tried taking guitar and piano lessons when I was in my twenties and thirties, but it was hopeless. I couldn’t deal with the confining structures expected of me. To this day, I don’t have the patience or desire to follow a book. I love improvising on the piano. Some of my friends swear that I can play, but I really make things up as I go along. I can never replay a song I’ve just come up with, so now that I’m forty, I’m thinking it’s time to take some piano lessons again, but this time I’ll do it on my own terms. Meaning, I’ll mainly focus on playing my own songs, do more to encourage my improvisational skills, and learn different ways to arrange my own music.

PC: When writing on the piano are you very precise on structure and rhythm, or do you tend to see where the music takes you by letting things flow?

WK: Again, you could say I subscribe to the Organic School of Songwriting. I like beginning from a very raw and naked place. For me, music is more about expressing genuine feelings and emotions and about telling a story. It’s not about precise notes & structure. When writing songs for the first album, I barely touched a piano. I focused on my lyrics and created very raw melodies that I sang a cappella/without music into a tape recorder. Raz & I then worked off those very rough demos to finish the music together.

PC: Thus far, “The Iambic Dream Project” has been released independently through your label (Iambic Dream Records). Though other than releasing your own music, do you see the possibility of releasing other artists’ music in the future? I guess, in a round about way, I’m asking you if you see yourself as an A&R man?

WK: One of my dreams has always been for Iambic Dream Records to release not only my albums but those of other artists I believe in as well. Unfortunately, this aspect of releasing other people’s projects has had to go on the backburner for now, because I’m barely able to fund the music video, my next album, and the superheroes I’ve created. I don’t really see myself as an A&R man, but more like someone who believes in creating and supporting a community of creative people.

PC: Now that you’ve released your first album “Identity Crisis: Aliens, Beduins, and Leos” and got much feedback, is there anything you would have done differently on the record? On this next record are you aiming to create something quite different?

WK: I honestly wouldn’t change anything. I wanted a very eclectic album, spanning an incredible variety of musical genres, and that’s exactly what I got. I was very lucky to work with so many talented singers and musicians, many of whom will be featured on the second album. The new record will have some variety but it won’t be as extreme as the first one. It’s going to be more cohesive musically. I’ve already demonstrated I can collaborate in many different genres of music, so I don’t need to do it again on my second album.

PC: Are there assets you’ve learned that you’ll be applying in the studio when recording the next album?

WK: Eight years ago, I learnt that, vocally, I wasn’t always where I wanted to be. At the time, it was very frustrating, but I kept reminding myself that I was working with people who had been singing for twenty, thirty, or forty years. Up to that point, I’d only taken almost two years’ worth of weekly vocal lessons, so I did the best that I could with the little experience that I had. I knew I wanted to be a songwriter but I wasn’t convinced that I wanted to be a singer. Singing was something I had to do when more technically savvy singers struggled to deliver one of my songs emotionally. I even took a four-year hiatus from singing after the album came out, but started training again in the beginning of 2008. I’m enjoying the vocal training process a lot more now and feel I’ve got more confidence to experiment with my three octave range on the new album. You may even hear me doing some of my own back up vocals on a song or two. So, I guess I’ve learnt that I want to be & will hopefully be more prepared vocally for the second album. That’s the main thing I’ll be applying. I know this extra preparation will help me a lot.

PC: What song or songs, if any, took longer than expected, or was there one or a few you found yourself going back to and making frequent changes to?

WK: “Hero Worship” & “The Boys of the Blvd.” were two of the songs that went through quite a few versions, musically. The vocals for a couple of the songs, including “The Boys of the Blvd.” & “Angelina”, had to be recorded again. The singer who first sang “The Boys of the Blvd.”, although extremely talented, was not able to capture the vibe Raz & I were after, so Raz suggested I sing that one. It’s an example of how a better singer is not always the best vocalist for the vibe of a particular song. On the other hand, “Angelina”, (about the death of Wael’s friend in a car accident), was very difficult for me to sing in the studio at the time, because the material was too close to home and because that song needed a more experienced vocalist. Brett Abramson did a beautiful job.

PC: I know the website is almost ready and, after seeing snippets of it, I’m sure you’re excited about it. How much time have you had to put into the website and what features will be available for those accessing it?

WK: I’ve been dreaming of an interactive Web Site for many years, but it’s only been possible to work on it for the past year or so. One part of the Web Site will deal with music and The Iambic Dream Project and the other part will deal with The Utopians’ Alliance/My Superheroes. Visitors will be able to access some free music, watch the music video, interact with the superheroes and change the colours of their outfits, follow 3D Comic Strips, etc.

PC: Where can we find the CD if we want to purchase it, and where can we read reviews of the album?

WK: You can buy a hard/physical copy directly from me by e-mailing me at wael@iambicdream.com or from CD Baby by going to http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/iambicdream where you can also read some great reviews. For one of my favourite reviews, you can go to: http://www.threemonkeysonline.com/identity-crisis-identity-crisis-aliens-beduins-and-leos-iambic-dream-project/ You can also buy on-line versions of the album and the individual songs by going to iTunes or 70 other online websites. Enter “The Iambic Dream Project” for the artist & “Identity Crisis: Aliens, Beduins, and Leos” for the title of the album.

PC: Finally, what attributes would you say a songwriter needs? Or for people wanting to try their hand at writing, what must they do that’s important?

WK: I think good songwriting requires genuine passion, patience, persistence, the ability to tell a story, some luck, and openness. I’ve been fortunate to guide some fledgling songwriters with their songwriting, especially when it comes to lyrics and melody ideas. I always emphasize the importance of writing freely and continuously whenever they have any ideas at all. I call this “Free Versing” and it involves putting all your ideas, feelings, and thoughts down on paper or into a recording device. It is crucial to do this without letting your Internal Critic or Editor interfere with the free flowing creativity. The Internal Critic or Editor comes in much later in my songwriting process. I feel very lucky that rhymes come out of me naturally, but I’ve noticed that it’s not a natural thing for everyone I work with, so I encourage those songwriters to study their favourite songs and ask themselves why they like those songs. Also, I urge them to experiment with different rhyme schemes, imagery, the use of similes, metaphors, and improvising on an instrument like the piano or the guitar, or experimenting vocally, etc. Any or all of these tools can be applied when writing a song, as long as they don’t compromise the story the songwriter is trying to tell.

Between living in the Middle East where he was born, Europe where he kind of grew up and America where he currently lives, singer/songwriter Waël K. was influenced by diverse music. But Waël has created his own genre of music.His new album, Identity Crisis: Aliens, Beduins and Leos, was just released. And reflecting the diverse music influences in his life, this album is full of really cool songs. So cool, actually, that most songs are being played on radios all over the world. Being the product of a collaboration of more than fifty other people, this album is so off the hook. I met the musician at a party in San Francisco where we danced to his tracks. He is a very cool, down to earth kind of guy. We talked about our common interests in music. Later, I was honored when he agreed to let me interview him so that I could introduce him – and his music – to you. Afdhere Jama: Let’s start with your name. What does it mean? Waël K.: For the longest time, I was under the impression that “Waël” was one of those rare Arabic names that have no meaning, but about two years ago I had dinner at a cousin’s relative’s home. This man’s a linguistic scholar who’s very knowledgeable when it comes to old Arabic names, so when my cousin asked him what my name meant the guy told us that “it refers to someone who leaves the place he’s from, goes somewhere else, and survives.” Basically, according to this wise man, “Waël” means “Survivor.”

AJ: Very interesting name. You were born in Syria, though you grew up in Saudi Arabia. How come?

WK: Yes, I was born in Damascus, Syria, but grew up in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, because my parents lived there. They still do. My father was born in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, my mother, like me, was born in Damascus, and my brother was born in Vienna, Austria.

AJ: What was your early childhood experience like?

WK: For the most part, my childhood was a good one. I remember I wasn’t always very social and spent a lot of time listening to music, creating dream or imaginary worlds, and playing by myself. Don’t get me wrong, I had a lot of friends I played with, but I definitely appreciated and valued time alone. In fact, I still do.

AJ: How was music perceived in your family?

WK: My parents, brother, and I listened to all kinds of music. In our home, you could hear everything from Arabic music by Fairuz & Umm Kalthoum to African Music from Kenya and South Africa, and from French, Spanish, and Italian artists to Stevie Wonder & The Rolling Stones, Disco to Rock & Roll, Metal to Pop. You name it, and we probably listened to it.

AJ: Were you interested in music more than the rest of the family?

WK: We all loved music, but growing up, I was definitely the music addict in the family. It seemed like I always had my tapes and ghetto blaster or Walkman with me everywhere I went. I guess they were like my security blanket. I used to make a lot of mixed tapes of my favorite songs. To this day, when I get into my parents’ car they’re always expecting me to hand them a tape. I trained my parents well [laughs]. So, my parents love music but never thought it could be a serious career choice for one of their sons. None of us dreamed that one day I would be handing them a CD of my own songs.

AJ: That is most certainly a dream come true. How did the opportunity to go to Switzerland for boarding school come up?

WK: I went to a public school in Jeddah, where I did my studies in Arabic, until I was about 11 Years Old. I was then given the option of staying in Public School in Saudi or going to a boarding school in a small village in Switzerland. I jumped at the opportunity of being able to pursue my studies in English at the boarding school, because my English was better than my public school English teacher’s at the time, and I think I felt I needed more of a challenge. Also, I was beginning to feel like I needed a little more independence from my parents and I had a lot I needed to work out by myself. Besides, my brother and three of our childhood friends (who are all older than me) were waiting for me to join them. My father worked his ass off so he could afford to send my brother and I to Switzerland, and I will always be grateful to him for that. My mom also sacrificed a lot personally to let me go to Switzerland, and I love her for that.

AJ: What was your experience there like?

WK: I never really liked or cared about schools as institutions, per se, because I still believe self-education and the interactions & experiences you have with friends and fellow students teach you a lot more than the classroom ever could. That said, boarding school was an incredible experience, because I made friends for life. My friends in boarding school became my family. It wasn’t always easy, but I learned a lot about life, myself, and other people.

AJ: What did you study?

WK: For a long time, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my life, but I knew I loved words & different languages, so I got away with being the only student I know who took four languages and no other subjects his last year of high school. Because the school in Switzerland was very international and had students from all over the world, it was easy to pick up new words and practice with friends.

AJ: You started writing music as a teenager. Tell me about that.

WK: For a couple of summers, when I was in my late teens I had enjoyed working at a Safeway Supermarket in Jeddah, but I didn’t apply for a job there the summer I graduated from boarding school, because I was getting ready for college and my parents were taking my brother and I to the South of France. Anyway, because I didn’t have a summer job, that summer felt pretty long at times, even in the South of France, so one day I began writing in a notebook. I wrote anything that popped into my head, in other words, feelings, thoughts, emotions, and ideas. A few days later, I looked over what I had written and realized that 95% of it rhymed, even though I wasn’t trying to write poetry or songs. Pages and pages of mostly personal stuff came out rhyming, and I figured it was because I loved and listened to so much music as a kid. So, I didn’t actually write music, but I filled notebooks, napkins, scraps of paper, and anything else I could get my hands on with words that some consider musical. I discovered writing by accident, and find it very therapeutic. For many years, I hid what I was writing, even from my closest friends. A few of my friends would ask me what I was writing in my notebooks, but I would tell them it was nothing, because I felt it was very personal. It wasn’t until I realized I might have to make a living sharing my words and ideas with people that I allowed close friends to read some of my stuff.

AJ: Accident or not, you found something you love at a young age. That is something many would kill for. I know you went to college for English Literature. Was that in America?

WK: Wow! You’ve done your homework. Yes, I studied English Lit. at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California.

AJ: Your CD is by “The Iambic Dream Project.” What does that mean? Is that the name of a band?

WK: I got the name from “The Iambic Pentameter” which is a poetic term. I was looking for something that could allude to a poetic dream that began with words that rhymed, and something that abbreviated into I.D., because the songs contain parts of my identity. I didn’t want to use my name for the CD, because I wanted to show that, although it was originally my dream and vision, many people contributed their talents and skills to help make it happen. “The Iambic Dream Project” is a poetic dream I’ve subconsciously always had of creating a CD with an eclectic mix of songs, but thirty eight amazing singers and musicians, fourteen incredible recording and mixing engineers, an unbelievable mastering engineer, two gifted photographers, a great graphic designer, many loving friends and family members, and a brilliant producer/voice coach/vocalist/songwriting partner and friend named Raz Kennedy made it possible.

AJ: Raz Kennedy co-wrote the music and also co-produced the album. How did you two meet and how did your collaboration begin?

WK: I met Raz through my friend Shana Morrison who’s a great singer. I think Shana had worked with Raz once or twice, and she recommended him to me when I asked her about a good voice coach. I didn’t really want to sing, but fell into it, because in the past I had worked with a couple of very talented singers who loved my lyrics and asked if they could sing my songs, but their interpretation of my words didn’t feel right to me. Their vocal technique was there, but they were missing something essential in my stories: the emotions behind them. Anyway, I wanted to develop my words and melodies into more complete songs, and I figured if I could sing my words I could finish writing them. Initially, I began working on and singing other people’s songs, but when I mentioned to Raz that I wrote my own lyrics he asked me to bring some of them in. When Raz read some of my words he really liked them, and his faith in my lyrics triggered me to suggest he help me with the music. We began collaborating after that. I would bring mostly finished lyrics and some raw melodies I had sung acappella into a tape recorder. He would listen to the tape a couple of times then he would play the chords from the rough melodies he heard, before we would develop them further. Raz has a great ear and a wonderful musical imagination. He was very instrumental, pun intended, in helping me finish my songs. Musically, our collaboration was very organic. We would finish a song in about thirty minutes or so. He created a very safe space for me where I felt I could share some very intimate stories through my lyrics. After about ten or twelve weeks of meeting once or twice a week, we had about thirteen songs that we really liked, so I suggested we record them and asked him to help me produce an album. He’s really the main producer, especially when it comes to the music and vocal arrangements. That’s how The Iambic Dream Project’s CD began.

AJ: Identity Crisis: Aliens, Beduins and Leos is your first complete album. In the album liner notes you dedicate it to your “kids” who have similar names. Tell me more about that.

WK: I dedicated the album to my niece Basma, and my kids Alien, Beduin, and Leona. Alien was our family German Shepherd, and Beduin was my cat. Both of them passed away some years ago. My cat Leona is still with me. My brother and I adopted Alien when we were living in L.A., the cats and I adopted each other (at different times) also in L.A. I didn’t name any of them, but, to me, their names are symbolic of how we are sometimes born strange & different like aliens, grow up wandering the desert we call life like nomads or beduins, and hopefully overcome struggles, we encounter along the way, with the strength of lions or Leos.

AJ: Most of the songs from the album are now being played on the radio. Even famous singers don’t get the chance to have most of their songs from a particular album being on the radio. How does it feel?

WK: It’s amazing! It feels like a dream. I’m thrilled, but I had never really thought that far ahead. Most of the time, I was so involved in trying to create something with Raz that we would both be proud of that it didn’t occur to me that some day some radio stations would play eight of our songs.

AJ: You wrote all the words on the album. Some of the songs have very homosexual lyrics, especially “Torch Song” and “The Boys of the Blvd.” Are you homosexual?

WK: Yes, I’m gay.

AJ: When did you come out to yourself?

WK: I’d always known I was different. Actually, there are so many of us that “different” sounds like an oxymoron. Anyway, I’d known for a long time, but was in denial and didn’t really come out to myself completely until I was in my early twenties.

AJ: Does your family know?

WK: Yes, I came out to them when I was twenty-three, because I wanted to bridge a gap I had created between us by not being honest (with them) about a big part of who I am.

AJ: Did your family listen to the CD?

WK: Yes, my family has listened to my CD and continues to listen to it. They really like it and are very proud of my work, and that makes me extremely happy. Without my parents and brother, I wouldn’t have been able to end up with this professionally recorded album. I’ve never really had the financial means to support my dreams fully, and my family has always been generous in the way they’ve invested in my dreams. I’ll always be grateful to them, and I’m hoping to make enough money to help put my nieces through school.

AJ: As you know, I went to the party where people had the chance to listen to your album and I asked a few people what they thought. Some of them really thought this was the work of a genius and all of them enjoyed the music. What has been the response the album gets from the public?

WK: Genius? Madman, maybe, but not genius. People are too kind. Either way, as I’ve mentioned before, I can’t take all the credit. Most people really seem to like the album, but some people don’t really get it, because it’s so eclectic. I think the majority of people like most of the songs, but you can’t please everyone. As much as I like hearing that people like the album, it’s really more about challenging myself as a songwriter and singer, and sharing a variety of genres I enjoy working in.

AJ: I really love all the songs from this album. I’m particularly in love with “The Boys of the Blvd.”, which I think is one of the most beautiful songs I have ever heard – both lyrically and music-wise. What is the story behind it?

WK: Thank you very much! I’m thrilled that you like my music. “The Boys of the Blvd.” was the first song I finished lyrically. Most of the words were written when I was in my late teens. I think I was nineteen at the time, and I was in Switzerland for The Montreux Jazz Festival. People always ask me about that song and if it was inspired by real life gay male prostitutes whom I noticed on the streets or something like that, but the truth is I was at a park in Montreux one Sunday afternoon. It was a beautiful sunny day, there were no prostitutes around, and I was feeling good when the words to that song suddenly popped into my head, so I wrote them down on paper. My songs always come out multi-layered somehow, when it comes to the storylines. I think it’s because I try to allow the words to come out of me without judging or critiquing them. So, “The Boys of the Blvd.” is about more than prostitution. It tackles subconscious fears I had growing up of possibly being kicked out of my parents’ home if they knew I was gay, even if I never acted on my sexuality. There’s also this very subtle love story between two of the boys, but it’s so subtle only I know about it [laughs]. It’s really more about them helping & supporting each other, running from the cops & bad johns together, etc. It’s a part of the story that I’ve always envisioned would be unveiled in a music video for the song.

AJ: Are you in a relationship?

WK: No. My friends are gonna love this question, because a few of them claim my long term self-imposed celibacy is more severe than that of a monk (living) in a monastery. I’m open to having a relationship, but I’m extremely picky. He’d have to be extremely special, because I don’t put up with much crap, and he would have to be strong enough to call me on any of my own crap. In the mean time, I’m enjoying the relationship I’ve been having with my music for the past three years. I wanna keep nurturing that.

AJ: That is very good. I’m glad to hear that the brothers out there now have the chance. Tell me your thoughts on Queer Marriage(s).

WK: I think the legal rights and benefits that come with marriage should be afforded to all human beings who choose to be in loving, monogamous relationships, regardless of their partners’ genders. On the other hand, I don’t need a piece of paper to tell me that my partner and I love and cherish one another. I would only get “married” if my partner really wanted to. Many straight people take marriage for granted. I mean look at the rate of infidelity and divorce, and some of them have the balls to tell us we’re not worthy of a real “marriage”.

AJ: I know. It is ironic. What is next for you?

WK: I’ll continue to get the word out about my songs, and hopefully make enough money by selling my CDs and getting songs placed in film and television, and sung by other artists, so that I can afford to record and put out the next Iambic Dream Project album. I have so many stories waiting to be told.

AJ: Looking forward to it. In every interview that I do, I ask this last question: If you could change one thing about you what would it be, and why?

WK: There are many things I’m working on changing. I believe I’m a work in progress, and I want to keep evolving. But if I had to pick two things – sorry I can’t narrow it down to one – they would be to be less of a perfectionist and to be more patient with myself and others. I would change those two things, because both interfere with my humanity, creativity, and relationships with people I love.

AJ: Waël, Thank you so much for doing this with me!

WK: Thank you, Afdhere! It was a pleasure meeting you. I really enjoyed this, and appreciate you helping me get the word out about my music.