Singer-songwriter Rahim Quazi has hit a sweet spot of sorts. Sure, he’s seen higher highs, like sharing equal billing with The Strokes at New York City’s Mercury Lounge and receiving props from ’N Sync frontman Chris Kirkpatrick, a self-avowed Rahim Quazi superfan. But choosing new priorities (namely, his two children and the friendship of his bandmates) has brought Quazi inner peace. Plus, the recent refocus has made his last two years his most fruitful.
“I’ve been lovingly immersed in music lately,” Quazi said. “I have as much energy as ever and the wisdom that comes with experience.”
The release of his third album, Ghost Hunting, will be celebrated on Wednesday, June 17, with a performance at The Kessler Theater. The show will be the most ambitious one he’s ever organized. In addition to his bandmates –– The Polyphonic Spree’s Cory Helms (guitar) and Kelly Test (drums), bassist Jeremy Hull (Holy Moly), and Neo Camerata’s Mark Landson (viola) and Thiago Nascimento (piano) –– Quazi has several guest musicians and ensembles lined up.
His music goal is to do more with less, or, as he describes it, to do acoustically what Zen painters achieve with a few brushstrokes. By contrast, several songs from his 2008 album, Supernatural, were recorded with as many as 100 separate tracks.
“I was adding a cello here, doubling guitar lines there,” he recalled. “I was happy with the results, but the album just became so swollen.”
What isn’t on the chopping block are the catchy melodies, harmonized vocals, and colorful chord changes that have always been a part of the Quazi sound. A large influence in his music comes from The Beatles. He named his son Lennon in honor of the legendary band’s co-frontman.
After graduating from UNT in the early ’90s, Quazi joined Purple Overdose. The rock band regularly sold out shows at The Aardvark, among other local spots, and one night in 1997 opened for legendary Dallasites Tablet. Young Rahim caught the attention of Tablet frontman Steve Holt. When both bands broke up soon after, Holt asked Quazi to join a new alt-rock outfit he was forming.
OHNO took Quazi to high-profile venues all over the country and exposed him to huge crowds. This was when the ’N Sync frontman started going to Quazi’s shows in Dallas, wearing a hoodie to disguise himself.
OHNO “headlined several clubs in New York City,” Quazi said. “We were selling out clubs in Deep Ellum, but we were doing the same sets. It was like being on a treadmill.”
In 2004, he left the band. Three months later, he released his first solo album, Big Black Box, and began performing under his own name. For Ghost Hunting, Quazi also pulled inspiration from a paranormal experience. While visiting Jefferson, Texas, in 2001, Rahim and his then-13-year-old daughter Jessica decided to visit a haunted house. No, it wasn’t part of a tour, and Quazi admits it probably wasn’t the best idea.
“Sneaking into any abandoned house is scary enough, let alone a haunted one,” he said.
With Quazi holding a tape recorder, the two crept slowly across rickety old floorboards and around musty furniture. At first, the visitors were surprised at how benign the house appeared. But that changed quickly.
“We heard this blood-curdling female scream,” Quazi recalled. “All I could think about was the Friday the 13th movie. I thought, ‘Any minute, someone with a chainsaw is going to come after us.’ ”
They bolted. While recording Ghost Hunting at Marigny Recording Studio in New Orleans two years ago, Quazi decided he wanted to embed the eerie scream into the title track. (The tape later revealed several creepy sounds that weren’t audible during the visit.) The recording process, he said, was a week-long marathon of 16-hour daily sessions with the studio’s owner, co-producer Rick Nelson.
That year was one of Quazi’s roughest. The fallout from his second divorce meant he went from living in a Grapevine lake house to spending nights on the floor of his friend’s garage while searching for an apartment. He had a lot of time to reflect on his career up to that point. He’d seen what didn’t work. OHNO was semi-famous, but he and his bandmates weren’t having fun. Quazi admits he’s pushed musicians and friends away by being overbearing.
“A lot of bands are in that trap,” he said. “I used to be a perfectionist, and it wasn’t fun. This time, it’s about listening to each other.”
Jessica, whom he raised on his own, is now 27 and an active musician. And artist. Her artwork and photographs will be projected above the Kessler stage throughout the show, and she’ll be joining her dad onstage for some songs.
“I’ve had Jessica by my side since I was in college and gigging as a young man,” he said. “Now she’s turned into a great musician herself. Having her by my side for the show is going to be the highlight of my life.”
CD release show
7pm Wed, Jun 17, w/Neo Camerata, Wesley Geiger, Mark Landson, and Katelyn Harris at The Kessler Theater, 1230 W Davis St, Dallas. $15. 214-272-8346.[/box_info]