Raman Kia, a.k.a. singer/songwriter Buddahead, has seen a lot in his life. Until age eight, he lived in war-torn Iran, where he witnessed things no human being, let alone a child, should have to see. A battered piano was his escape from the violence. Kia's father was finally able to seize an opportunity to get his son out of the tumultuous nation, sending him to live in England with his estranged mother at age eight. As he left, his father gave him a special going away present that would have a profound affect on the young Kia: his first walkman and four albums (The Beatles Love Songs, Cat Stevens Tea for the Tilerman, Bread-The Sound of, and Simon and Garfunkel's Bridge Over Troubled Water).
In England, Kia was enrolled in a Roman Catholic military boarding academy, where pop music was banned. He was forced to join the choir as a disciplinary measure. Singing and the sense of inclusion kept him from feeling like a social outcast.
Later on, Kia's song "When I Fall" would lead to a publishing deal in England, and open his eyes to the possibility of a career in music. The band name Buddahead was born during one of Kia's first trips to New York, when singer/songwriter Leona Naess dubbed him with the moniker.
Currently, Kia and his band mates are wrapping up a month-long tour of the United States. Now south of the Mason-Dixon Line, eventually finishing up in Atlanta, Kia took some time to answer a few questions on his life and his music.
1.How has having spent the first nine years of your life in war-torn Iran and having to witness tortures, hangings and shootings affected you as an artist and as a person?
It is virtually impossible for me to separate between myself as an artist
and me as a person. They are one and the same thing and therefore when I am
affected by something my reaction will creep into my art to a greater or
Someone who knows me quite well described me once as 'a volcano of
repressed emotion'. I think that is because not only the events you mention
destroyed my innocence at such a young age but because my parents were
divorced and my father and I existed on our efforts to survive, as a child
I mostly repressed my emotional outflow. This continued for many years
afterwards as I grew up in a British boarding school - not exactly an
environment that welcomes open emotional bonding.
So, basically whether you are listening to STRONG, BROKEN, HOW DOES IT
FEEL, or WHEN I FALL, in a sense they are all eruptions of my emotions
repressed since those early years.
2. Your web site refers to the recording of Crossing the Invisible Line as a "frustrating battle." Could you elaborate on that?
It was a frustrating battle because on the one hand there are the huge
artistic and musical demands I put upon myself which is always being
negotiated with formulaic expectations that the record company has. There
is no battle more frustrating than the fight for artistic freedom for any artist.
3. You have said that you are constantly questioning yourself in your songwriting; do you think you'll always be that critical of your own work? Do you ever think that self-criticism holds you back in any way? Or is it a useful tool in songwriting?
I think that I will always be that critical of myself because it is in my nature. I am critical of myself and those with whom I work. I think it probably holds me back only in a 'time' sense because I refuse to put out music that I don't think is good enough. In this sense I think it is a great song-writing tool. I would hate to turn into a middle-aged guy who doesn't care anymore and just puts out crap because he can.
4. Your online journal entries range from shameless self-confidence ("After all we were the dominant draw of the night") to introspective self-doubt ("The moments of sublime are coming less frequently. My place in life used to leave me awe struck but now leaves me in terror"). What is it that brings you to such highs and lows?
From a deeper psychological point of view I don't really know. I have never been to therapy and I have never had the inner workings of my mind examined - maybe it has to do with all those repressed emotions.
You know the way I look at it is here I am going from town to town daily spreading the music and some days the experience is great and other times it is not, and how the journal turns out is directly a response to my most recent experience - like a little emotional eruption. There is nothing fake or preplanned about it. I just sit down and write is as I feel it at that moment - a stream of consciousness.
5. You have said that the road from desire to ability is long. Did you ever think about giving up on music?
The music inside of me is such a strong force I don't think that is possible.
6. Because of your Middle-Eastern roots, do you ever encounter any negative backlash or ignorance at your shows or in day-to-day life in the post 9/11 world?
Strangely enough more in my day-to-day life than at shows. While on the road this kind of thing has only happened once or twice as far as I can recall. So far American people have been very welcoming. To give you an example, we just had Thanksgiving at the home of a fan whose mother had never met my band or me but refused to allow us to stay at out hotel rooms on Thanksgiving.
Honestly though I think most people see me as British.
7. On your web site you have a graphic that refers to Canada as the United States of Canada, could you explain the motivation behind that for your Canadian fans?
Actually there is no strong motivation in this case. We use the loudmouth soup page on the web site to show our fans tit-bits of things that somehow we find interesting - it is mostly a blag which is not related to band activity.
As for our fans in Canada though: I have not been yet but I have heard that it is a wonderful, liberal, peaceful place to exist and I can't wait to tour there.
8. Your lyrics run the gamut from relationships to substance abuse, is there one aspect of life that inspires you to write most or is there a potential song in everything?
There is a potential song in everything that can affect me emotionally.
9. You have enjoyed much critical acclaim thus far, is that sort of thing important to you?
Critical acclaim is good but nothing beats meeting fans at shows who have discovered buddahead and have fallen in love with the songs.
10. Your sound has been described as everything from emo to rock to pop/rock, how would you describe your sound?
All of the above I guess. There are so many categories these days that I think it is easier to say what it is not. All of the above fit though. Toby, the bass player in the band, said on this tour 'you are emo when you are playing small clubs and a rock band when you are playing stadiums'. I tend to agree.
Writer: Joe Henley