Stories

Iliya Zaki

"I’ve been stubborn since young. If I want to do it, I will do it. I hated school, and I remember my parents having to pry me from the door because I didn’t want to go. When I picked up the guitar at 15, I realised that music was what I wanted to do.

I was frustrated all the way till I left Singapore in 1995. There is no market in Singapore for the sort of music I wanted to write. For Industrial Metal, there was no audience, nobody to appreciate it, and no money to be made. I was fortunate enough, as leaving Singapore opened a lot of experiences and expanded my creativity. What elevated my struggle was when I broke into the US TV industry; it paid me for what I wanted to do, and got me an audience.

I don’t blame Singaporeans for their lack of support. I think it’s very hard to tell anybody 'hey, you have to like this music'. Music is a personal preference, people may not like certain music because of their upbringing, or how society is structured. Most people have a fixed perception. We are a very repressed people, we were not taught to express ourselves. Instead we’re taught that we have to do well in school and make money, because these things are equated with success. Singapore has our strengths– science and medicine for example, but we need balance. From how I see it, art is a great way to connect with yourself. We’ve all had our own pain, but art is great self therapy. Because of that, there needs to be more opportunities for the youth to explore the arts as a way of expressing themselves, and being free the suppression that they are under. Art helps society to grow mentally, spiritually and emotionally. From the artistic point of view, Singapore has come a long way. From the perspective of the support from the government, there is much to go.

Maturity made me realise that you also need to be a little flexible. That was my lesson. I had imposed my struggles upon myself, by going against the grain– being stubborn about only doing the music I wanted to. My obstacles could have been overcome by looking at other channels. In fact, a few years after being flexible, came the opportunity to write and earn money from writing Industrial Metal. That was the time for me to unleash the beast. It was a spiritual journey. When you start to relax, opportunities will flow. I used to be very angry about what I needed to do, and when I had to make it by. But when you really enjoy what you do and not force things, life will flow. Same with money and love.

Now I’d say that I’m tenacious, because I know it’s just a matter of time. I realized that I had to let go, but believe and hold on to faith. It was a slow progression, within the last three years, I slowly realised that life is more than the main business I’m pursuing now. I hope to help the people who had faith in my business. It feels good to help and when I had a taste of that, I realised that I wanted more. Of course, I’m also doing this for money because a business needs to survive, but at the same time, you can help others.

Even so, I feel that I have to thank the repression for the dark music I create. Mud irritates the oyster, but the oyster needs mud to create a pearl. In a Zen way, nothing needs to be changed. If I didn't go through what I went through before, I wouldn't be here today."

K, Musician