For many college students, the issue of compatibility with their roommate is something they have to face, especially going into their freshman year. For Simon Taufique, his roommate not only became one of his best friends but was also the one who started his career.
Taufique graduated from New York University with a double major in Political Science and Economics. Beyond academics, he tried something else out, music, thanks to his roommate, director M. Night Shyamalan.
Shyamalan, known for blockbuster movies like The Sixth Sense and The Last Airbender, brought Taufique in to compose a piece for his first film, Wide Awake . While the song never made it into the film, it was the start of a new career for Taufique.
“It was a transformative experience. Night was very open about the creative and logistical process of incorporating music in a film. I enjoyed amazing access to his composer Edmund Choi, as he composed and recorded the score, and the film's Music Editor David Carbonara, who went on to compose the music for the hit television show Mad Men. Songwriters rarely get access to such a bird's-eye view of this very intense process, but as a friend of the director, the closed doors magically opened up to me.”
Rooming together since freshman year, Shyamalan and Taufique worked together in a variety of ways.
“Night and I were thick as thieves during our time at NYU and for years after that. We wrote songs together, he would sneak me into his film classes, he’d ask for feedback on his screenplays, and invite me to the set. Even though my formal work collaboration was limited to one song, it has felt like a continuous collaboration and series of lessons on creativity and the inner working of the film business. I’ve little doubt that if Night hadn’t asked me to contribute a song for his movie, I wouldn't be working in film today.”
Shyamalan was not the only thing that inspired Simon Taufique to go ahead and pursue music.
“I'd always dreamed about making music as my life's work but I kept putting it off or just never fully committed to it. That changed on September 11th. People I knew died in the Twin Towers and I realized life was too short to keep putting off your dreams for some day in the future may never arrive,” he said.
After the terror attacks, Simon Taufique left his job and moved into a small apartment in Manhattan. He learned about music, and he devoted his time to internships at studios and record labels. During his free time, Taufique would focus on his own work, renting a recording space and taking any project he could get his hands on. Soon, after a year, Simon believed it was time to branch out and find newer projects that would let him tell other people’s stories instead of his own.
After writing the song and being told that it would ultimately not be used in the film, Simon took the experience as one that was more educational than anything. He had found his new passion and insisted on pursuing it.
“I witnessed some amazing and intense collaborations that resulted in some pretty stunning music. Each person was literally helping to make the music sound better, whether it was creative, technical or otherwise. I witnessed an army of people working their tails off to create something so beautiful. Of course, I wanted to be a part of it, and so I began exploring how I could further develop the idiosyncratic music I was making so that it would work in the context of a film,” he said.
This wasn’t Taufique’s first career change; he was previously a professional BMX rider and owned an online boutique BMX parts company called TRP at age 13. Using the money that he had saved up working as an office assistant, Taufique used his knowledge about bikes and turned it into a business.
While he had ended his career as a BMX rider, he continued to create bike parts through TRP. Eventually, however, Taufique decided to move on and close the company. A recent interest in old parts, some even going for $2000 that had retailed for $12, is causing Taufique to consider a relaunch of the brand and some of it’s products.
“After spending so much time on my bike, I came to know every nuance of its’ design and construction, so I began designing and fabricating parts that were needed but weren’t offered by bigger bike manufacturers. I built some prototypes and got some great feedback from the top pro riders in the sport. Recently, I found out that there's a black market for my TRP products. Even the stickers are being sought after for $50,” he explains.
But all the time he was BMX racing, Simon says that his love for music was never that far from his mind.
“I was constantly and intently listening to music whenever I was on my bike, which was practically every free moment. The music I was listening to became the soundtrack to this incredible BMX adventure. Gaining any sort of proficiency in BMX, whether as a racer or as a freestyler, gave me the confidence to try my hands at other things I felt similarly passionate about,” he said.
Music was nothing new to him. He started experimenting with abandoned guitars that belonged to his friends and classmates. Later on he would add percussion to “visualize how music was crafted and performed.”
After graduating NYU with his double majors, he would later move on to their Master’s program, this time majoring in Music Technology.
Currently, Taufique is also producing films. His latest effort Imperium stars Daniel Radcliffe, from the Harry Potter series, and Toni Collette, who stared in Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense. The film, which is about an FBI agent (Radcliffe) who goes undercover to stop white supremacists from creating and detonating a dirty bomb, has already been acquired by Lionsgate and Universal. The film, “deals with many of the timely issues we’re facing in this very contentious election.”
Taufique hopes to continue branching out and moving on to other projects, while still keeping music as a creative outlet. It wouldn’t be surprising if he does, as he wishes he would be able to tell his younger self to pursue various other talents.
“Start with one thing first, master it, get some success, and then leverage that into other, related pursuits,” he says.
Despite his many successes, Taufique feels that he had spent too much time spreading himself too thin. However, he views it as a positive thing, helping him discover his passions and his career path.
“Once I figured out that I needed to focus on one thing I loved most of all, then the rest came along quite organically. No one cares if you do a million things unless you’re getting some remarkable results from them. Finding out where to start is the first big step. It will allow you to gain some mastery, some momentum and hopefully some success.”