Farsheed Hamidi-Toosi is a modified electrical engineer with a balanced program of engineering and music classes at the University of Illinois. The Virginia Beach, Va., native is also a practicing DJ with a substantial resume of albums and live performances under his belt. He has been a part of a number of side projects, such as the Animate Objects and is most often seen these days with Black Tie Elephant. Recently picked up by Green Street Records, who released a single by Hamidi-Toosi and DJ Spinnery last year, the local company will also be the home of his forthcoming record.
He will also be found Saturday, April 16, at 6 p.m. in the Illinois Disciples Foundation, where several other acts will be hosting an event titled “Big Soup” featuring music, food and Nintendo.
What kinds of goals do you aim for when you sit down to compose a track?
That’s hard to say. I don’t really set goals for tracks, they tend to have a life of their own, and I just help them along the way. Sometimes it’ll just hit me, and I’ll hear a melody in my head. Usually it happens at the worst possible moment, when I’m in class or five miles from a tape recorder. Other times I will play around with combining and recombining different loops and sounds together like puzzle pieces, to try and reconstruct a feeling or mood. Sometimes I try and compose music to a picture or video my friends post on my Web site.
What do you like best about performing live?
Performing live is great because it’s definitely a communal thing. You vibe off your band mates, you vibe off your friends and the crowd, people are dancing and laughing and hollering and the next thing you know the fire department arrives … anything can happen. The energy of it all feels great.
How would you characterize the local Champaign-Urbana music scene, and what you do like best about it?
I feel like the C-U scene has a lot of potential, but for some reason there is a lack of energy. I think it has something to do with nobody identifying with Urbana-Champaign, you know? Nobody seems to want to be here, or they feel that Urbana-Champaign can never live up to Chicago (it can). This town is very much a temporary place for a lot of people, and I think people don’t want to invest the time and energy it takes to make stuff happen because they’ll be leaving soon. There are some exceptions to this, though. I really think UC Hiphop has an energy, which is why I got involved with them. They are constantly working and doing stuff for the sake of fun and for the sake of music and that’s what it’s about.
What are your favorite styles and genres of music to mix?
Haha, well everything sort of sounds mixed up to me already. The first music I was ever exposed to was jazz and classical music and then by following Miles Davis I was exposed to free jazz, bop, funk and fusion. Later on I started getting into electronic stuff, hip-hop and the early ’90s indie bands my older sisters listened to. What’s weird is just how mixed up these genres are to begin with. Hip-hop and jazz, electronic and classical, hawaiian and blues, no genre is pure. My favorite artists are the dynamic ones that don’t have an allegiance to any one style, yet retain their own unique sound.
What kind of direction have you taken with your new album in relation to your past work?
I started experimenting with vocals a bit, which was scary. Dealing with musical fragments and how to arrange them together became a big issue after my computer crashed halfway through recording, and I lost two years of work. All the songs were shattered into a million pieces on my hard drive, little pieces of a drum loop here, little pieces of vocals there, a burst of noise in the middle of a guitar solo. It was a huge mess. I wasn’t going to release it, but figured I’d give it a shot and try to put it back together, so I could have some sort of closure with the project.