Twenty four year-old Mohsen Amini is a celebrated Glasgow-based folk musician and part of the multi award-winning Talisk. The band features Amini on concertina, Hayley Keenan on fiddle and Graeme Armstrong on guitar. Taking time out of their international tour, Mohsen spoke to TSA about the band and, current album, Abyss.
How did you get involved with folk music?
When I was about ten, I did Irish dancing for about four months and took part in a competition where a ceilidh band were playing – I had a nosey, and found out about music classes. I’d planned to do karate for ages, but tried music, thinking I’d quit it after one night… I’ve still never tried karate.
I was studying chemical engineering at uni when I got offered my first tour. I dropped out and wanted the experience. I got back and started working with a friend who owned a roofing company who said I could work with him and have a day off when I have a gig. For two years I did that until I became busy enough that I couldn’t fit any roofing in, and that led me to where I am now.
How well did you know the others before forming the band?
Graeme joined the band six months ago. At first, it was me, Craig Irving and Hayley. I had a band with Hayley about two years before, then we met Craig are formed Talisk. Originally, it was only supposed to be a one-off: there were originally five of us playing a gig, then four, then three, then we tried to cancel it but it was fantastic. After a great reception online, Hayley entered us into the Folk Awards, and we ended up winning.
Has there been any sort of pressure over the last few years off the back of that success?
As soon as you get it, you get put into the Cambridge Folk Festival and others off the back of winning the award, and we only had about three sets, so we had to make a big set list full of music for all these gigs – we had to come up with a whole repertoire in a month, but it worked out!
Is that where your album Abyss came from?
Basically. Some bands spend a year on an album and the next few years touring with it – we tried to get into that cycle. We did it quite early on and we’re still trying to find our sound; there’s a track on Abyss called ‘Echo’ that’s essentially the sound of Talisk. The next album will be very much like that.
Is it a collaborative writing process?
We start with a tune, play around with it. Most of it might be absolute garbage, but you take that one brilliant minute and make more. Right now, we’re gigging the new stuff, seeing reactions, and tweaking little bits, so that when we get home we’ve got a set that works everywhere.
How do you account for Talisk’s success?
I don’t really know. A lot of it comes down to luck – there are so many bands that fit the same categories. Most of trad music is online now, through social media; people who haven’t seen you get a good impression if you’ve got an active social media presence, so I think that is a big plus. We hit Facebook as much as we can to get ourselves out there. Everyone’s done it for years, but we made sure to do it when we were starting the band. It’s given us a massive step forwards in comparison to other bands our age who have the same following offline, but maybe don’t use social media as much.
Has the success impacted you?
You have to deal with not being home a lot. Within a week of winning Young Traditional Musician of the Year, I got really busy. You have to handle when you come home you can’t lie in your bed and do nothing, you have to make an effort to see everyone, because you’ll be away for another few weeks and won’t see anybody. That’s probably the biggest thing, but apart from that it’s quite easy-going and it’s not changed much about me at all!
What’s coming up next?
Through December and January we’ll just be writing, then we’ve got our gig at Celtic Connections, then a week and a half after that we’re away to America. We’ve got a bit of a Christmas break then we’re straight back into it.