Clad in a casual yellow, orange and beige striped polo and rust slim fit jeans, Talha Asim Wynne who goes by the stage name Tollcrane comes off cool as a cucumber.
When I met him to sit down and have a chat at the Red Bull head office, I got some insight into the guy I see playing experimental groovy tunes at underground EDM gigs and realized what makes Tollcrane Talha Asim and vice versa.
From 1st November to 14th November , Talha traveled to Tokyo to attend the Red Bull Music Academy which is a series of globe-trotting musical workshops. 30 selected participants from all spheres of the music industry from vocalists to producers come together each year in a different city for recording sessions, lectures by musical beatniks, collaborations and basically do anything that inspires them creatively.
It's every musician's dream playground and Talha became the third Pakistani ever to be selected (after Aaman Mushtaq and Sheryar Hyatt) to attend the academy.
Upon discovering that he had been selected for the RBMA, Talha recalls feeling extremely humbled.
"I was dumbfounded for at least 5-10 minutes and then this crazy wave of humility took over me. A lot of us applied this year and to be chosen from my peers who are so talented was just overwhelming. The entire experience was overwhelming; just the wait till the Academy started was unbearable!"
So what does a normal day at the Red Bull Music Academy look like?
Never a dull day it seems.
Talha reveals, "The first day was orientation obviously. Other than that, a normal day was waking up from 3-4 hours of sleep, having breakfast, rushing to the studio or the Red Bull radio station. We'd have a lecture after, break for lunch and then lectures would resume and every night was some different kind of event or club night."
The Academy began back in 1998, and has been traversing the globe since. From Berlin to SãoPaulo to New York, the RBMA decided to make Tokyo, Japan its home for a month in 2014.
His first time in the city, Talha explains what the music scene is like there and why he considers it "one of the prime locations to play at":
"Everybody is really receptive of different kinds of music. They're not pin-holed into listening to just one genre. They love going out, they love going out for music and they love dancing. Everybody would be having a blast, no matter what gig you're at. That city's insane!"
Looking back on the experience, Talha admits that the Academy has made him more focused.
"I've got to get professional about my music sensibilities. I wouldn't say I was doing it as a hobby because that's such a small word for it but the Academy has definitely paved the way for the future. I know what to do now very much more than before the Academy, especially stuff that can be done in Pakistan. People go out for food, people go for movies but that's not the only thing: you CAN go out for music. That's one thing I want to integrate in Pakistan."
Reflecting back on how his passion for music was ignited, Asim shares he was always an innovative soul: "I was always into artistic stuff as a kid such as drawing. I got a toy keyboard and I just started playing around with it as a child and I guess that's what sparked my interest in music."
In the past few years, the underground electronic dance music scene in Pakistan has really flourished.
People are becoming more open-minded to exploring new genres instead of just sticking to pop/rock music.
Talha feels it is a revival of the industry, sharing "I've been in the underground scene since 2010 you could say and I've seen a change happen. People used to stick to doing covers mostly but now, they're deviating away from that and coming out with much more original music. There's been some great indie bands that have formed in recent years and [Forever South], the crew that I'm associated wwith, we host a lot of gigs too so it's just that people should be more well-informed about these things and they shouldn't be afraid to show up."
I couldn't help but ask Talha the story behind his stage name Tollcrane.
Smiling sheepishly, he confesses it was a spur of the moment thing.
"I had just started producing music back then and I wanted to give myself a moniker just so I could make a Souncloud account. I started counting down all my inspirations and [Coltrane] (Jazz saxophonist and composer) was one of them so I just jumbled that up and that was it."
Known for his eclectic beats and unique track structures, Tollcrane's style of music has evolved in his short but productive lifespan, drawing inspiration from John Coltrane, [My Bloody Valentine], [Actress] to name a few: "I started out with ambient jazzy electronica and moved on to more beaty stuff. I have now arrived at some experimental form of techno."
Before becoming an individual producer, Talha was part of the group [//orangenoise] which explored the lesser known sub-genre of alternative rock known as shoegaze. The band consisted of Daniel Arthur Panjwaneey (bass and vocals), Danial Hyatt (drums), Talha Asim Wynne (vocals and guitar) and Faizan Reidinger (synths).
Even though he is getting recognition as a solo artist, Talha insists the band is not dead: ""With Faizan having moved away, we will have to rearrange the band. It's in the works but the band is definitely not split up, we're going to do something real soon!"
So what's next for Tollcrane?
"I really want a vinyl release. I want to have my CD in a record store," affirms Talha, who wants to take the route less-traveled in the age of digital music.
Using the opporunity of RBMA to the fullest, Talha suggest he would definitely want to collaborate with some of his new friends: "I met 30 of the craziest people from around the world and I would definitely want to link up with them real soon. I want to do more gigs, locally or internationally!"
Although not confirmed at the moment, Talha also conveyed that there might be a Forever South gig coming up this winter so all of you who haven't had a chance to see Tollcrane in action before, your chance might be closer than you think.