Beat From the Street (Oct. 21, 2015)

Imran Malik is a musician originally
from Lahore, Pakistan and Natasha
Poor is an art historian originally
from Hendersonville. Photo by
Jordyn Key. 
Many stories lurk throughout Asheville, whether they are behind the Vaudevillian jazz-folk played by buskers around Pritchard Park, the colorful businesses decorated with funky, hand-made crafts or the laughter echoing from a patio as locals and tourists alike enjoy delicious beer.

Imran Malik, musician originally from Lahore, Pakistan, and Natasha Poor, art historian originally from Hendersonville
Living in a country like Pakistan seems very mentally oppressive.
Imran: “It is. There’s always an agenda and they’re trying to sell you patriotism. I think every country does that. I think you really have to live someplace to understand between the lines of what’s really going on.”
How would you describe your style? Is it specific to a certain scene in New York?
“You know, I’ve been dressing like this for so long, I don’t even think about it. A couple of weeks ago, we went out and I wore blue jeans and I couldn’t walk right because something felt off. I don’t know.”
If you were to say a personal motto that you live be on a day-to-day basis, what would you say?
“I think, let’s take an example, you say something political. I think like I’ll have my opinions and my gut reactions and all that but you try to think a little deeper. I’ve come to realize that my existence, whether or not I’m alive or dead, let alone my opinion, couldn’t possibly make any less of a difference. So in essence, what it means is that the only thing I have control over is myself. But, you know, beyond that, I don’t know if I really have a motto and stuff. Just do good.”
If you were to say something inspires you creatively, in terms of artists or people, who would you cite as an inspiration?
“My best friend who just passed away two weeks ago. We were a band together for 25 years. He was the biggest influence in many ways. I guess him and a lot of classic rock stuff like The Doors and early Pink Floyd with Syd Barrett, a lot of the ’80s underground thrash scene. When I was a kid growing up, I was heavily influenced by and I was a part of that whole movement in New York. It was more like Venom, Voivod, things like that.  Back then it was like, if you saw somebody with a Venom T-shirt on, say 1983, you knew you were going to be friends with them because there were so few. There were only a handful of people. But I do love, and you know the weird thing is, I grew up listening to more aggressive stuff, but when I play now, for some reason, new wave has had more of an influence on my playing.”
What was your band called?
“Hate Disease.”
What is your profession now? What do you do in Asheville?
“We just moved here and we are in the process of opening a bar, a dark, dive rock ‘n’ roll bar that’s all about music. Ideally what we want to do is get a place that has a first floor and a basement because I want to make the basement a bar. I want that dark vibe to it and upstairs I want to open up a rock ‘n’ roll clothing store.”
Kind of like Trash and Vaudeville?
“Exactly. We want to call it Trasheville, combine Asheville and Trash. In the ’80s, Trash and Vaudeville used to be great and then they got, I don’t know when it started, this clothing line called Tripp. Their quality is not that good. It’s overpriced, and they fall apart after half a year. But yeah, that’s what I really want to do. I want a rock n’ roll bar and a rock n’ roll clothing store.”
What made you guys move to Asheville? Did you hear about it from a friend?
“She’s originally from around here.”
Natasha: “I grew up in Hendersonville. My dad’s from Brevard. My grandmother lived there, so I grew up driving to Brevard on weekends. I left in 1988. I moved to Chapel Hill, went to school, moved to LA, and moved to New York. I was there for 16 years, and met this guy. We’ve been together 11 years and then decided we wanted to leave. I love Asheville, so it was coming back home for me.”
What would you say inspires you on a regular basis? 
“I think art. I think that we’re a good combination because from him I know music. I think together I have that connection to art, to music, which is all really the same. It’s just different expressions, similar feelings. I would say art.”
If you were to say a personal motto for yourself, what would you cite?
“I’m going to steal the same motto. When he said that, I thought that was great. Be good. Be kind.”
Imran: “It takes a lot of energy to be aggressive and negative.”
Natasha: “It’s easy to be nice, you know?”
Imran: “I think the worst condition a human being should be psychologically is indifferent. That’s the worst thing you could be. Because if the world’s most violent criminal were indifferent, he or she would be committing no crime because they just wouldn’t care. But that’s like the worst, you know? Not saying that being indifferent is good but anything below that is unacceptable. I think your generation is a lot, A LOT more politically aware than our generation when I was younger, absolutely. I think that’s entirely because of 9/11.”
Natasha: “Also, because of social media. Now it’s so easy. You have to go out of your way to be uninformed these days.”
If you were to describe your style, what would you say influences the way you dress?
“Mm, I would say I love like retro, vintage, hippie kind of styles. Not hippie maybe but I like the ’70s vibe a lot, absolutely, and comfort. I like things that are comfortable.”
Why did you guys decided to leave New York together? 
Imran: “There’s a lot of reasons, just being in one place for so long. I personally wanted a change and it was getting to be too expensive. In order to do that in New York, you would need a lot of money, and the rent there is absolutely insane. Yeah, it’s definitely getting worse.”
“In the late ’90s, maybe early 2000s, there used to be this artist who would go around in New York near the light posts. This artist went around putting up mosaic tiles on light post bases in the Lower East Side and Giuliani took one million dollars of taxpayers money to have somebody go around removing that. Why? Don’t you have anything else to spend this million dollars on? There’s still people on the street without homes but you’re obsessed about something that’s beautiful, just because you didn’t approve of them.”
“New York loves to claim this whole, ‘We’re like the capital of the world.’ To a major degree they are, because every ethnic background is in New York City. The diversity is incredible. But they play this, ‘We’re so liberal’ but they’re not. It’s not. It’s a very conservative city.”
Natasha: “We found we were more welcome here in supposedly a small town which I think stereotypically is considered to be less liberal. But, this place has been welcoming to me.”
Imran: “People in New York have become very jaded, very cynical. Over here what I like is with people you can see the happiness when you say, ‘This is what we want to do, open a bar, this style, that style,’ people are excited about it. In New York, they’re like, ‘Aw, that’s been done already.’ You know, that attitude kind of defeats you, it beats you down and I don’t want to deal with it anymore.”
What would you say you like and not like about Asheville right off the bat?
Imran: “I don’t like that the produce is too expensive. I like to cook and produce is just for some reason.  I don’t get why it’s so expensive or maybe I just haven’t found the right places.”
Natasha: “We’ve kind of been going to the farmers markets and Whole Foods, and stuff like that is really pricey.”
Imran: “I like the people here, Ashevillians, are they called? I like the sense of community and enthusiasm and love for art and music is great down here.”
Natasha: “I would say definitely the sense of community and the positiveness to agree with you and the sense of being reinvigorated by life. I think in New York after being there for so long, I was like, ‘Just go to work.’ You know? I just wasn’t inspired anymore. No matter who you meet here, everybody’s got something interesting going on. Yeah, I really love that. And I don’t like–
Imran: “Lack of sidewalks.”
Natasha: “Yeah, yeah, like our neighborhood. I’d like to be able to walk more.”
Do you live in West Asheville?
Natasha: “I feel like we do, but apparently we live right up Leicester Highway. It doesn’t feel that far but it’s once you get out of downtown, I mean, there are pockets where you can walk, but not really.”
The original version of this interview appeared in The Blue Banner