Alright, first of all, what is your name and what do you do?
My named is Mohamad Abulhasan Taher. Born in Kuwait. In 2013, I began working on a musical project, an album with various composers who compose video game music. The album came out in 2013 and a second album came out after it. The idea came to me to change it from an internet based music label, a net label, into an actual music production company / label. The reason for me making my label into an actual company is that it’ll give me an opportunity to work with big name video game companies such as Capcom, Square Enix, Nintendo, etc. So in the beginning of 2014, we registered the company with the Japanese government as a Japanese company
You’ve had a lot of interviews about Brave Wave, and as amazing as Brave Wave is, I want to know about Mohamad Taher. I want the Mohamad Taher that calls himself a regular guy, which I really disagree with. Have you had any, in relation to Kuwait as a whole or family in specific, criticism towards your work in Brave Wave? Were they supportive, skeptical or indifferent?
My immediate family was supportive; mum, dad, sisters. I’m sure they probably didn’t understand what I’m trying to do but they were seeing that I was passionate about it and I had a vision for it that might not get but do appreciate. But extended family and a lot of colleagues were focused on the return of the work, asking how much I was going to make on this and that. That was the only thing that mattered to them because they saw it as a business, which might not be wrong but I had bigger goals and I had different things to measure than the income. Evidently the first, second, fourth albums didn’t make much. I still have a plan that they probably wouldn’t understand just because they don’t really know anything about videos game composers or the video game industry. There were also a lot of people who didn’t like chip tunes and told me to incorporate Kuwaiti instruments. To me that speaks about what they like not what I like, not to say I don’t like Kuwaiti instruments or Arabic instruments in general but they are trying to cage what I do with what Kuwaitis like while with me what I’m trying to do is having a specific focus that might not have anything to do with Kuwait. With time, especially the SF2 album I think it’ll surprise a lot of them just because they didn’t really have an understanding of what I was trying to do within the industry itself. Seeing something like that make a big splash, to them, they can’t comprehend it.
Was it more of trying to prove them wrong or you just don’t care about them at all?
Well, I work with a team so designing everything has to make sense to us at the same time I can’t say that some part of me isn’t happy about proving them wrong that’s just human nature. I think that’s a big motivation to just take all the — not gonna say hate — all the negative vibes and try to work towards what I have in mind but also hoping to prove them wrong. It feels good to do something right and show them.
Do you see yourself a creative mind? Do yourself as a visionary?
I don’t think that’s for me to say. I think that’s what people should figure out by themselves about me. What I do know is that I love design I love music and I love having a strong identity for an album. I love a polished product, a good engineering team behind me. All of that makes me feel good. I love being a part of that. I think to, to answer the first question if I see myself as a creative mind, I think everyone is creative, it’s just about teaching yourself what you need to do about your profession. In my case, I spent a lot of time reading design books, music books, about art direction and leading design, trying to be better at what I do. It’s a learning process, a never ending learning process. But when I compare my first album and the latter projects I think the newer things are more interesting because I had a better understanding of the tools instead of just trying to do something random which is how I started everything. Maybe I do believe in talent but I believe in just pursuing what you like and strengthening your sensibilities and your skills more than just believing in some hidden talent that came to you from God.
That’s being lazy, basically.
As a kid what made you appreciate the art of video games, comics and the such? What was the spark?
I’m not sure. I just know that it looked really good and — I don’t know it’s hard to say what, it just felt natural to me at the time playing video games. We, me and my brothers, didn’t go out a lot. We didn’t play in the streets. We usually either play video games, read comics or listen to music and I think a part of who I am, since I grew up with it, that I can’t dissect it and try to figure out what drew me into it. But I think it’s just fun.
Keeping the on with your childhood, do you think that living in Omariya (area in Kuwait) and playing video games all day — which is what I did too — did that cultivate your world view? I really hate this question, but, how was your childhood? Was it an environment where art was appreciated and encouraged?
I think so. I think my parents allowed us to do a lot of things that other families didn’t like. Especially back then, a lot of people who didn’t like video games thought of video games as something that wasted time, affected your studies, etc. But my family let us buy whatever we wanted ever since the Sega Master System and NES and it was good that my parents understood that our time was different from our time. What made sense to us was different than what made sense to them. For a lot of people, that is a hard realisation to come by. Parents usually want their kids to grow up the same way they did a lot of them, because of that, deny their kids iPads and all of that. Nevertheless, we were encouraged to read and used to go to the bookstore once a week to buy new books.
How is it being an artist when you were in high school, an environment encompassing a wide range of people, interests and personalities?
To me high school was just school. Spent most of my time playing video games and listening to music. I actually remember trying to make music on a Playstation 1 game called Music Maker 2000. It was a lot of fun. I remember making and recording two tracks on a cassette and showed them to my mum. I don’t think I was conscious about being an artist. It was just something cool and interesting to do. I tried writing poetry, obviously it was all crap but it was something I had to do. I don’t think I started caring about what I do, in terms of writing or deigning, until I was maybe in college. That’s when I started writing about video games and recording podcasts. I slowly understood the appeal of doing something that I loved on the side or full-time. Before that it was me soaking in all the games, music, movies and shows that I could. It was subconscious. It wasn’t a conscious effort to do something about the art or being an artist. I think that realisation of wanting to be an artist is something that comes to people at different times. You see people who write or make music when they’re teenagers but with me I think it started when I was in my early 20’s. I started realising what that means.
Did you have any days where you felt your fear of failure was just too hard or too crippling to your work?
So many days. So many days I would think that everything I was doing in BW was pointless and I’m wasting my time with it. At first, I thought that those fears were something I actually believed but not they’re just bad days. Being hyperctical of myself is in my nature. It’s something I consciously think about a lot. I think about failure, not succeeding in what we’re doing. That’s just natural. Being in BW is being a part of daily struggles and trying to cope with the fact that there is no silver plate waiting for us, we have to do all the work.
When you have those days, what makes you bounce back?
Either talking to Marco about it or sleeping it off. Sometimes I need to take a day or two off, or unwind with a show, game or book. I know I’ll slowly get back to it once I clear my mind.
Was it hard to make art expect a profit out of it? Does the financial aspect affect your artistic vision?
When I first started I didn’t care much about money. Now that I have a company, the financial return and project cost factors in everything I tackle. But I try to not let that affect the work because if I started working on something and began changing the designs or art direction just because we think that colour would profit us more or that colour would sell more copies, that could have a negative impact on the work itself. It’s helpful to be aware of the market, the sales, and I try to be aware of the people I hire for the collaborations and albums. I could make my own calculations and if I think an album would not sell much I can make the decision of not hiring a lot of artists or expensive musicians, which is fine. Being aware or that aspect is good, but making money from art is very unexpected. We didn’t think the SF album would sell that much as it did. It flew right past all our expectations. I think the difference between me and a lot of creators is that I don’t see what I do as just art. They are products. We design them with the intent of selling them. They are not something for charity. We do want them to look good, and be as perfect as they could be. I am aware of them being products more than art. Maybe some individual parts of them are art but all of that is packaged into one product. They are created with an artistic vision. They’re not just created and thrown into the void.
Now, last question. When will I get my SF vinyl?
(laughs) Probably in March. We got the design proofs yesterday. They look amazing. I’m going to Japan in January to sign the signed edition with Yoko so hopefully they’re be out sometime in March. They look really good!
I can’t wait. I put an alarm, ordered them, and went back to bed.
It was crazy. They were all sold out in seconds.
Thank you so much for your time and agreeing to do this interview.