Russell Ali, former lead guitarist and keyboard player of Bangladeshi rock band Warfaze and currently a successful LA-based music producer, is one of the judges for actor Quazi Nawshaba’s campaign Art for Togetherness 2020. With the motto Dure thekeo jure thaki, shilper shoktite, the campaign strives to provide an opportunity to people from all across the country to demonstrate their talents on a national platform and not to succumb to the dread of the ongoing pandemic. Russell is one of the numbered few Bangladeshi musicians who have gone truly international, working with big names from Limp Bizkit to Demi Lovato.In this interview, he talks to Dhaka Tribune Showtime's Sadia Khalid about his hopes for the Art for Togetherness campaign and his life in LA
Tell us about your involvement with the campaign.
Nawshaba contacted me, asking if I wanted in. I said, yes. So I am going to be one of the judges, evaluating the music submissions.
Have you had a chance to look through some of the submissions so far?
Not yet. But soon, I hope.
Do you think, the campaign will help put people’s minds at ease during the country-wide lockdown?
Exactly. Look, the whole world is suffering. So, it’s a good thing what her organization is doing. It’s inspiring when you think about it. It helps put our focus on the good things, in the midst of the pandemic. My own studio is closed since everything has been shut down in California. So, what I have been doing in the meantime is staying home and creating music on my laptop. It keeps me in a positive place, safe from all the craziness out there.
People tend to turn to the art community in times of crisis as we have seen before.
Yes. I mean, no one has anything to do right now. Where else are we going to go? You have to keep your mind sane, no? (laughs)
Yes. Let’s talk about you. You are an amazing inspiration for musicians in this country, who look up to you for making it big in a crazy place like LA.
I don’t know if you know my story, the whole story. I had a son seven years ago which is when I decided not to tour anymore. And I used to tour a lot, went to every country in the world, pretty much. But when I had a son, everything changed. I had to be there for my son, you know? So I thought, why not become a producer instead? That’s how I became a music producer, having worked with big artists like Demi Lovato. I have had a very blessed life, no question there. But I also worked hard. Really hard.
Can you tell the young artists in Bangladesh how long they might have to wait and keep faith before anything takes off?
There is no shortcut. The music industry specially is a closed off place, in a sense. You can’t really invite yourself to this party. I got lucky and worked with people I looked up to, you know. But here’s the thing, it was never easy, not for a moment. There was no time for me. I toiled away in my studio In LA every day and night. But that’s how the creative process really is. I have loved music all my life, and that’s why, working hard was more fulfilling than painful. It’s like a drug. It kept me going. Also, I understood people. And there is sort of a victory in that. Being a producer required me to keep my mind open and really listen to what people were saying. Even before I started working, I used to have these random, long-winded conversations with artists. It inspired me alright. But it also helped me understand them.
You know, I have never really liked talking about my work. Things were different when I was touring. But things don’t ever stay the same, do they? Making music is such a spiritual and personal business. Bragging about it never felt right, to be honest.