Arif is one of Velvet Chain's two guitarists.

He's a pro session player in L.A., and Velvet Chain has been trying to recruit him for years.

After being hired by the band to cover on a few gigs, the band basically said, "Look, you totally rock and we want you to be in the band, and we don't care what it takes."

 

Now, Arif makes his living exclusively by playing guitar, does a lot of session work, and is a hired gun in about six other projects. Plus, he has his own band called "Olio," which totally kicks ass.

Velvet Chain basically said, "That's great, whatever, we don't care· we want you to be in Velvet Chain."

Arif said, "Well I really like the band and everything, but I have my own band and I'm really quite busy with a lot of other projects I've been hired for·."

And Velvet Chain said, "Ok, that's fine·whatever·can you be in Velvet Chain too? You rock."

Arif said, "Well, my own band is really my priority, and I really have to get paid because that's how I make my living·."

Velvet Chain said, "Fine, whatever, can we say you're in the band now?"

Arif said, "Okay."

The thing is, Arif is both a super special guitar player and a really, really great person. The band loves him, and basically will do whatever it takes to keep him around. His versatility is amazing and his rhythm is impeccable. He's always in the pocket - always. He could make a Carpenters song funky. And his capacity to absorb and retain material is no less than astonishing. Velvet Chain's music has a lot of nuance, and the guitarist role within the band's arrangements can be particularly tricky. It's not a "normal" type of gig for any guitar player·. Yeah, whatever· Arif completely nailed the band's whole vibe and learned the whole set in about a week. Everybody just looked at each other like, "What's with this guy?"

The other thing about Arif is that he's such a nice guy. Arif is such a nice guy, you think there must be something wrong with him. Nobody's that nice. But he is, and apparently, there's nothing wrong with him.

Arif was born in Windsor, Ontario, Canada. When he was 2 months old, his family moved to the Washington, D.C. area, where they lived for a few years, then moved to Northern Virginia, where Arif lived until he graduated from High School.

As a youngster in school, his best subject was math, which is not typical for a musician. Later on, he gravitated more towards English and writing. His all-time most hated class was Latin. He does not remember how he ended up taking Latin, but he knows for sure that he hates Latin class.

His primary interests growing up were music and sports. In sports, he played football, hockey, basketball, soccer, tennis, was on the swim team and did a lot of skiing. The only sport he remembers NOT playing is baseball. He got very good at tennis and was a tournament-level player for a few years in high school. Today, his favorite sport is surfing.

Arif remembers being interested in music his whole life. The first sign was his habit of conducting the orchestra almost every time his mom put on classical music. One time, when he was about 5, some friends came over to play while he was right in the middle of Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture (the one with the cannon blasts). Arif was pacing around the dining room table, aggressively conducting, and waved his mom away in such a serious fashion, she was taken aback. "Well," she thought, "I'll just bring his friends in and see what he thinks about that."

So his mom brought in his friends, thinking it might teach him a lesson about brushing off his mom, but to her surprise it had no effect whatsoever. They all ended up sitting in the living room, watching Arif conduct until the symphony was over. He was fully into it, and none of them said anything.

Sometime about a year or two after this, Arif saw Elvis Presley on TV. It was an "Elvis Special" of some kind. This planted a seed deep in his musical psyche. His tastes in music would be forever bent, but he didn't know it yet. He just knew he really liked whatever it was that that was.
His mom was into music and had an acoustic guitar. She always had jazz or classical music going on the stereo. Arif took an interest in the guitar at a very early age, but he was a small kid, and his hands couldn't fit around the neck. They tried buying him a smaller guitar, but no dice. So at age 8, he started playing piano instead, and ended up taking piano lessons until he was about 14.

After taking piano lessons for 6 years you can get burnt out on it. More importantly, when you're 14, playing the piano just isn't cool. You don't get chicks playing piano. None of the rock bands played piano. Why was he playing piano? One day, he just switched to electric guitar, and that was that.

Now· Arif's parents were immigrants from Yugoslavia, and not rockers to begin with, so this screaming electric blast-off instrument was a real new thing. One day, your kid is playing beautiful piano, and the next day he's playing a buzz saw upstairs in his room. It was like Van Halen moved in.

They were cool about it though, especially his mom. She really made an effort to see what Arif liked so much about this rock music. She loved music, and wanted to "get it." On several occasions she sat with Arif in his room and listened. She didn't like high, screaming guitar solos, so most of the stuff sounded pretty bad to her. Like waiting for the part you hate. This was the beginning of the Eddie Van Halen phase of guitar rock in the early 80's.

Anyway, Arif connected with the guitar in a big way. His hands were plenty big now, and he knew a lot about music from 6 years of piano lessons. He had also been singing in the school chorus for 6 years and was an excellent singer and had a great voice. To him, things were working out great. He was like Elvis and Eddie at the same time. This is about the time he started to write songs.

Arif graduated from Thomas Jefferson High, in Annandale, Virginia (it might have been in Alexandria). After graduating High School, Arif immediately moved to Hollywood to become a rock star. He was 17. He had the full-blown "California Dream" going on·.lots of sun, wind, surfing, chicks and rock stardom· Movies, parties, bands, and chicks·. Palm trees and chicks·. California·.

 

Before we go on to what happened next, we need to talk about Uncle Zoran. Uncle Zoran was Arif's musician Uncle in Yugoslavia. He was a pretty big time entertainer over there and had a Dixieland Jazz band that played all over Europe with various Jazz heavyweights of the time.
Uncle Zoran was kind of an old timer, but Arif really looked up to him. He was a big success and the family looked up to him too. Arif wanted respect like that.
He wanted what Uncle Zoran had, and consequently, when it came to music, Uncle Zoran was the single biggest influence in Arif's life.
Arif always wanted to impress Uncle Zoran and would send him tapes of his music. He placed a huge value on Uncle Zoran's approval, which did not always come. Arif usually found out through his mom what Uncle Zoran had to say about it.
Arif was intimidated by him for many years, which served to elevate Uncle Zoran to an even higher status, and pushed Arif's goals and expectations of himself even higher.
This scenario created a perpetuating environment of improvement and development that has never left Arif.

Today, Uncle Zoran runs a music school in Germany.

 

Getting back to California·· When Arif came to California, he immediately went to a well known private music school called GIT (Guitar Institute of Technology), and started playing in bands. He surfed a lot.

After a year at GIT, Arif enrolled at Long Beach State and surfed every day. By now he was getting a little burnt out on learning about music, so at Long Beach State he majored in Film and minored in Music. The Hollywood scene was in its heyday, and Arif played a lot of gigs. He ended up investing a lot of time and energy in this one particular band that got some serious attention from Capitol but fell apart for for the typical reasons. It was a frustrating experience all around. The Hollywood scene has always been an exercise in frustration, regardless of era.

In the meantime, Arif had already gone through, and to some degree "outgrown" the whole Hollywood rock band scene. He was getting jaded, and felt like he was surrounded by a bunch of latent adolescent idiots who weren't very interesting and had limited musical vision. Arif was about 20.

So a new phase began, where Arif focused more on his writing, and began seriously branching out into a wide variety of musical genres. He started writing songs in all kinds of different styles. Elton John type songs, Love songs, Funk songs, Soul songs, Storytelling songs, etc. Then, he went into a Reggae phase.

Arif learned a lot from this experience and the musical exposure of the people he met in the Reggae scene. It was a more open-minded, organic sensibility that seemed refreshing to Arif. He learned how to look for and find what it is that's so special about every genre of music. It's there, if you look for it -- otherwise, it probably wouldn't be a genre of music to begin with. Ironically, this is probably what Arif's mom thought too.

Eventually, this reggae band became the backup band for Arif's own project, which he fronted. It had the complicated name, "Arif." They played around town and did a lot of coffee house gigs. Around 1993, various members of this band started getting replaced and the reggae phase was getting phased out.

One of the new players was an extremely talented bass and Chapman Stick player named Tony Shibumi, with whom Arif would forge a long term musical relationship that continues to thrive today. In 1994, Arif released an independent 10 song album of his material. The style was a high energy combination of rock and world beat. In 1995, Arif and Tony formed a new band called Vivid, which later changed it's name to Olio (you can check them out at www.o-l-i-o.com. Olio released a CD called, "Ain't No Party Like an Olio Party" in early 1999.

Today, Arif sites Stevie Wonder and Sade as two of his favorite artists. He also likes Meshell N'degeocello. He thinks Beck's stuff is kind of cool and different, but in general, Arif is not overly impressed with much of what's coming out these days. We know he thinks Velvet Chain is pretty good.