Jay Wud get ready to rock on their own terms
By UAE standards, rock musician Jay Wud is a veteran of the scene. The Lebanese guitarist has already released two self-produced albums, scoring heavy rotation with the 2012 single Incomplete Heart.
Fronting the band named after him, Jay Wud landed the supporting slot when Guns N’ Roses performed in Abu Dhabi. Something of a fretboard virtuoso, the frontman boasts endorsements from seven different guitar and music-gear companies.
On Friday, the band will open for Mötley Crüe at Yas Island, a day after launching a US$30,000 [Dh110,200] crowdfunding campaign to finance the completion of the third album, recorded in Los Angeles.
Wud believes the only way to realise his musical dreams is to ask fans to dig deep and show their support.
Crowdfunding by Middle Eastern artists?
It’s no secret that the emergence of streaming services and illegal downloads have crippled music companies the world over. Established artists now earn the bulk of their revenue from touring, while unsigned acts have been forced to find new ways to market and fund their recordings.
For musicians in the Gulf, the collapse of conventional marketing models has, perhaps, levelled the playing field. But Jay Wud isn’t the first Middle Eastern act to try crowdfunding. Lebanese bands Mashrou’ Leila and Who Killed Bruce Lee surpassed their crowdfunding targets by raising $67,073 and $22,040, respectively, from online campaigns.
But if Jay Wud prove successful, they could be setting the groundwork for other UAE acts.
“It’s the way forward for musicians,” says Wud. “I don’t want to be tied to a label – I’ve been approached by labels and turned them down. It’s not a fair deal – it’s way better if you’re on your own and backed by your followers.”
After 2012’s False Utopia – self-recorded at the Dubai Media City film and sound studio where he works – Wud was determined that album number three would up the game. And to do that, he wanted someone else at the helm.
Wud sent new demos out to 10 producers. The first to reply was United States-based Howard Benson, a Grammy-nominated alt-rock veteran who has worked withMotörhead, 3 Doors Down, Daughtry, My Chemical Romance, Chris Cornell and Kelly Clarkson.
In October last year, Wud flew to Benson’s Los Angeles studio and recorded three songs with session musicians for a planned EP. Low, a pounding hard-rock anthem driven by a mammoth guitar riff, was released with an anime-style video in January.
“When you record with a producer like Howard, you get what you pay for,” says Wud, with a smile.
Early this year, he returned to LA – this time with his band – to record a fourth track and tape sessions for the web channel EMGtv. They also made their North American debut at The Viper Room, the notorious Sunset Strip venue once owned by Johnny Depp, outside of which actor River Phoenix died of an overdose. The experience served to convince Wud of his desire to record a whole album stateside with Benson.
“I want to step it up,” says Wud, 32. “I don’t want to be that guy making home-made records, I want to be one of the first artists in the region to get a proper production made in LA.”
The question is: how to foot the bill? That’s what sparked the idea to crowdfund $30,000 towards completing the sessions and promoting the album’s release next year.
To kick-start the 60-day campaign, Wud has put together a video of testimonials from friends, including Lebanon’s reigning “King of Comedy”, Nemr Abou Nassar, and Guns N’ Roses guitarist Bumblefoot.
In the video, we also hear from Benson.
“I really wanted to work with a band from the Middle East,” he says. “It’s interesting to see the reactions from people when I say that – there’s a lot of people who don’t even think a rock music scene exists out there.”
Thanks to Jay Wud, that could be set to change.
• Jay Wud support Mötley Crüe at du Arena, Yas Island, on Friday. The band also perform at Dubai’s The Music Room on November 27, tickets cost Dh60. Follow @JayWud on Twitter and click here for details of the crowdfunding campaign