From Across The Invisible Line

Great singer/songwriters can draw from their life experience to add emotion and depth to their lyrics. Digging deep into one's self-consciousness to create expressions of love and loss, difficult life-experiences, self-doubt or just struggling to pay the rent, can create an immediate bond with the listener, who can relate those trials to their own life story.

Raman Kia, the creative force behind Buddahead, started out life with an experience that is probably unique among America's musicians. Through the age of nine, Kia lived in Iran, during a turbulent and war-torn period in that nation's history. It was there that he had his first exposure to music, both cultural and western. He started playing on a piano that was in his home and recorded his first songs. While he has not returned there since leaving for England as a pre-teen, being a child in a war zone, and experiencing the horrors and bloodshed of a repressive society, gave him an insight and early maturity that is evident in his perspective and his music.

Now based in New York City, Kia and Buddahead, which is actually the evolution of Kia's work as a solo project, has released their debut CD on Sanctuary Records, "Crossing The Invisible Line". The album features eleven tracks, including guest appearances by John Popper of Blues Traveler and Tony Fageson of Eve 6, and showcases Kia's emotional and sonic range. Kia voice, a warm yet striking tenor, handles several styles and voices effortlessly. The combination of style and substance in his music has drawn several critical comparisons to Jeff Buckley and the promise of great things to come. Tracks such as "Strong" display a strong Brit-pop influence, while "How Does It Feel?" and "Holding Me Back" boast great hooks and sing-along choruses. The final track, "Outside," is a simply beautiful combination of everything that precedes it and the perfect set-ender. The album is filled with lush production and harmonies that only enhance the stellar songwriting and the beauty of the lyrical craftsmanship.

Finding Kia in the in the midst of a hectic touring schedule which recently saw the band on dates with Adam Green of the Moldy Peaches, and a series of dates in California, Chorus and Verse caught up with the singer to discuss some of his influences and the story behind the making of "Crossing The Invisible Line". We also got some early news on the follow-up album and the future of this promising and talented performer.

You recently returned from your first tour of Japan. What are your impressions of the tour and the country now that you're home? Was the tour a successful one, and did any new opportunities develop for you while over there?

Touring Japan was certainly one of the best experiences I've had in this business. The level of professionalism and attention to detail was extraordinary. The interesting thing about Japan is that the same level of professionalism, courtesy, and attention to detail is put into every aspect of their lives. I think we could do well by learning a few things from the Japanese. As for the tour -- it was highly successful and we are already planning to return next year.

Buddahead started out as a solo project, but has developed into a full-band effort. Can you give us some background into the evolution of the band and do you have any preferences between performing solo and collaborating?

The evolution of Buddahead from solo to band has been very steady and very organic. Basically, as I toured and met musicians that I enjoyed playing music with and hanging out with I invited them to join the band until I had the line up Buddahead needed. Right now, with Toby, Rich, Simon, and I, it is sounding just right.

The one truly great thing about performing solo is that it is so easy to organize. No vans, trailers, per diems, equipment, etc. Just me and a guitar; but, to be honest, you can never beat the high from the energy of the music created by a group of musicians who are clicking together.

Let's back-up a bit to your early life, growing up in Iran. Do you still have any connections there, and are there effects that the culture has on your creative muse?

I have not been back since I left as a little boy. As for how the culture may or may not have influenced my creativity -- well, it is hard to tell. I have not been affected in an obvious way but then again much of our creative energy comes from our subconscious.

Does it surprise you that western culture has become so popular in Iran? Are you aware at all of your music reaching outside of the United States and would you gain any sort of satisfaction to be able to build a fan base in Iran today?

I am not surprised at all, to be honest. The popularity of certain western products and cultural aspects in the rest of the world has been escalating for decades now and today with the time-space compression that various forms of global high speed communication have led to, it is even more difficult not to be introduced to products and cultures from all around the world. Our music is just one example of that. Through our various bulletin boards, fans from as far away as Malaysia and Iran contact us to tell us they have heard our music and are huge fans.

Your bio calls "Crossing The Invisible Line" a frustrating battle, rather than a labor of love. Can you expand on that comment a bit, and express some of the challenges that you faced in making the album a reality? Does finally having your music on CD feel more satisfying since it was such a difficult process?

If you ever speak with an old married couple who have been in love for 20 or 30 years, they will tell you that love is difficult; it can be frustrating and it takes a lot of compromise. In other words, just because making this record was a labour of love it doesn't mean it wasn't also frustrating. Of course, having it on a CD feels amazing but, as I have learnt over the last year, that is only half the battle. The other half is the promotion, which once again is a labour of love and a frustrating battle at the same time. Getting recognized within your label, within the entertainment industry, and within the saturated world of media is all a frustrating battle.

Give us some insight into your songwriting process. Do you write constantly, filling notebooks with thoughts here and there, or do you tend to write a song from beginning to end? Do songs come to you quickly as a single burst of inspiration, or will you work with them for weeks or months?

There really is not much of a process, except maybe randomness. I do write constantly, and I do have scraps of papers with ideas, but not many. Mostly, the song stays in my head from the time I begin writing until the time that it is written, which can sometimes take as little as an hour and sometimes months and months.

A lot of the reviews of "Crossing The Invisible Line" have compared your songwriting to a number of talented artists, but who would you consider inspirations? Are there songs that you hear and just wish that you wrote and that set a new bar that you try to reach for yourself?

Thankfully, my music has so far been compared to some very cool artists of the present and of the past. On the first album, I found inspirations in everything from modern British rock to two-step, to 60's and 70's film music, random songs on radio, jam-bands in the America, and some plain old classic singer/songwriter stuff like Harry Nielson. I have to admit in all of these forms of music I hear pieces that set the bar.

One of the tracks on the CD, "Invisible," features a guest appearance by Blues Traveler's John Popper, whom you met at last year's Bonnaroo Festival. What's the story of how the two of you hooked up and he agreed to be a part of the recording?

We both happened to be walking back to our trailers after our sets were over when we bumped into [each other]. I started talking to him about some artists that I felt influenced him. I then gave him a CD of some demos we were working on and a couple of days later he called to say he loved them and that if I ever wanted a harmonica player I should just call him. So I did!

A few months ago, you were the featured band on MySpace, which has become a very popular means of networking between bands and their fans. What are your thoughts on MySpace and being able to maintain such a close connection with fans on the Internet? Do you think it has changed how a band or artist has to approach developing a career in music?

I love Myspace. It is has really helped create a bond between us and some of our die-hard fans which would have otherwise been impossible. For example, last night Simon and I drove to a fan's house in Santa Barbara and played for her and a few friends of hers who has been asking us very kindly for a while. They were basically too young to make it to the shows and we didn't want them to miss out on the experience. It made their day and made us feel good because we managed to connect with some fans beyond the usual way. They told us about their lives and asked us about us. They got a chance to ask us to play their favourite Buddahead songs and even sing with us on a few.

Do you have any plans for a follow-up to "Crossing The Invisible Line" that you can share with us? What would you like to accomplish musically and within your career goals during 2005?

I am working on the follow-up right now! I would like to accomplish even more musical depth. I want to make an album that is warm, beautiful and full of integrity and one that can be my sophomore attempt at building the kind of foundation that will allow me to have the same staying power as the likes of Elton John, U2, James Taylor, etc.

[ Website: www.buddaheadmusic.com ]

Buddahead performs June 4 at the "Rock For Sight" Benefit for the The Foundation Fighting Blindness (FFB) at CB's 313 Gallery Lounge (313 Bowery at the corner of Bleecker St.) in New York, NY with Van Davis and Emii. Show time is 8 pm, doors open at 7 pm. There will be a donation-sponsored raffle and silent auction. Admission is $10, 18 to enter, 21 to drink.

Matt Mrowicki

Matt Mrowicki founded Chorus and Verse in 2001. He is a rock star designer and technologist, Internet professional, content creator, and entrepreneur specializing in web development, IT consulting, branding, social media and online marketing. www.imprtech.com