Music Spotlight - Anand Bhaskar Collective: Part II - The Interview

Posted on 26 July, 2016 by Team Wishberry

Anand-bhaskar   As a fan, when you meet your favourite artists, it is difficult to contain the excitement. Especially when you are meeting them professionally. That is exactly what happened with me when I met Anand Bhaskar Collective. I went to Chandan’s (the guitar player) house, where the band was meeting to discuss the next album (in the works, and due later this year). It was fun. The three hours of a Tuesday evening well-spent on a fun-filled conversation, which added the warmth required for a cold, windy day. The band is fun. The guys know how to have fun, and they know their shit – as musicians and as people. The camaraderie really is incredible. Being a fan first, I straight up jumped to a question about my new favourite track, Malhar.     I love Malhar! It isn't on Samsara (the debut album). I assume and hope it is on the second album. Anand Bhaskar: Yes, it is going to be on the second album. Chandan Raina: You assume correctly.     I saw this trend of breakdown, which Malhar has, on a couple of other songs as well. Is this the new direction for the band? Anand: We don't sit and write a breakdown. When we are composing and writing, the part just flows from the previous part. In Malhar, after ‘...chamkat’ …it was something that just came out organically. It wasn't an approach like there should be a breakdown here. That was not our thought. It isn't like a standard pattern or thought. Chandan: The songwriting process in the song is forcefully democratic. We want everyone to write. Even if one guy does not write in one song, we ensure he has something to contribute in the next song. Everyone has their own styles and approach towards a song. I loooove breakdowns. Ajay has very very melodic ideas, Neel has these amazing harmonies and basslines. In a song, one guy's ideas sort of dominate and flow with the mood of the song, which is why I think it (the breakdown on Malhar) is there. Other songs (on the second album) are very very different from Malhar.     Is the second album going to be heavier or more classical oriented? Anand: Surprisingly, the classical elements have reduced on this album. What do you (Chandan) think? Chandan: Ajay's parts haven't come in yet, so we really don't know. Anand: The two people who add the most classical elements are Ajay and I. From a singing point of view, only two songs are nicely classical. The rest of them... In fact, one of the songs is like an angry, dark song, which is a far-cry from any song on Samsara. We just finished writing it, and we have recorded a demo of sorts. It talks about the current socio-political environment. We have the likes of leaders and religious leaders fucking us up in terms of how they are guiding their followers. Everything is very hate-led, religion-led, which is so dominating common sense and rational thinking. That is what the song is about. We discuss that amongst ourselves and get angry. So that song manifested that expression of rage.     I have always believed that art has shaped and corrected society when it has gone wrong. Do you think it still has the power to do the same? And does ABC have that in mind while making music? Anand: It is funny that you ask me this, because I was having this conversation with someone about art leading revolutions. There was a time when Rage Against The Machine came out and did this. There were people who actually got influenced, actually did translated into physical efforts. I am not sure if that's the scenario now. First, there is a deluge of music - there is a huge repertoire of artists and songs and genres - available to every listener. We are not sure if we are big enough to make that change right now. But, we are also very sure that, whatever we are affected by, we reflect it in our music. So, if you ask me if music or art has the power to bring a revolution - yes, it does. But, it has become more difficult now despite the fact that the advent in technology has been far more substantial than it was back then. Chandan: There is this famous quote by some famous guy. He said, 'All great cultures are remembered by the art they produce'. I feel that is very true. But, I think that won't be the case for humanity, going forward; because this is now the first or the second generation which has not been involved in any great war. Up till the 50s, every generation had fought some massive wars. We (our generation) are the product of a world that is largely stable, because of which the politics is very unstable. Leaders do not know how to rally people anymore. Hate is the only one unifying factor. Music also has diversified in the past 20 years. I definitely think a renaissance of sorts is going to happen with all arts. It is already happening, with holographics and VR, etc. So, I don't know if revolutions to unify people will be a thing anymore. But, revolution to further the human experience definitely will. Music has always been in the forefront of it all, and will remain that way.     So now that Chandan has given us a very interesting approach here. Would you as a band prefer going back and revolutionising society, or going forward and experiencing the elevated human experience? Chandan: To me personally, I have always had the wet dream of going back in time and being the guy with the now-how, being the coolest around. Anand: If we go back with our current line-up and sound, from the stage point of view, we'd be revolutionary, dude. *laughter* Chandan: If we go back 40 years. Anand: Yes, 40 years from now. With the technology that we have right now. Chandan: People would be like 'Ye kaise kar rahe hain, yaar?'   Which is what Pink Floyd did at the time, to some extent. Chandan: To a large extent, absolutely.     What would you prefer, Chandan? Chandan: See, if we went back in time and we were in a situation where we were pressurised to do something, I am sure me, Tao, Anand would (probably channel a revolution) because we get pissed off pretty quickly. So, we would be like ‘fuck you!’ you know. But, if that was not the case and we went back to a peaceful country and a peaceful place, we would be very happy chilling. Inherently, everyone wants things to be chill.  They are not chill therefore people react to it. Anand: We do not have unnecessary anger towards people who don’t agree with us. Chandan: Ya, like I am not pissed with my dad still. *laughs* Anand: We don’t hold a grudge towards someone for having an opinion. If someone comes and tells us that our music sucks, that’s their opinion and for them it might as well just suck, man. I am cool. I don’t want to force him to listen to the music and then convert him when there is no preliminary interest from him to begin with. So, agreeing to what he is saying, we would want to be chill. But, I don’t know what would happen to us if we were to go to the future. I think we will be lost for a while. Chandan: Ya, it will take us some time to cope up.   You’d be like Steve Rogers (Captain America) in present day New York. Anand: But, of course we will enjoy it; purely because it will be a new experience from a human behaviour standpoint. As artists we’d definitely want to figure out how we would want to use the existing technology at the time. We are very technology driven as a band, and we’d like to add more gear. But, obviously we can’t right now because, well, money. The idea is to become big enough to be able to afford that kind of technological gear. What revolution we’d bring in that future, we can’t say. Chandan: Depends on the situation then.   It depends on whether Trump wins now or not. *laughter* Chandan: If John Connors is still around, we’ll figure it out. Anand: It is a very difficult question to answer, really.       How did music happen professionally for you? Anand: Three people are responsible for me taking up music professionally – my wife, Chandan Raina, and Surya Raghunathan. Basically, I was working for a digital marketing firm. The thing is, no matter how much you work for an organisation and how well you perform, in the end it is a thankless job. I was getting really tired of that. I had never done anything professionally in music till then. This one day, I got into an argument with my boss. That was the moment when I just went ‘Dude, fuck this. I don’t want to do this’. I called my wife and I told her I don’t want to do this (the job), I don’t know what to do. She said, ‘Do music, fuck this job.’ She did not ask me what, why, how. She just said that. Then I called Chandan, working in OML that time, and I asked him, ‘Do you think I can get an artist management job because that will bring me closer to music?’ He said, ‘fuck jobs, dude. You sing well, do singing jobs.’ Now, the know-how is important with respect to how to approach people, who to approach. That came from Surya. She sat me down, took me through the entire process of creating a showreel, sending it to composers, and actually meeting them and finding work. So, that is how I started my musical journey. January, 2015 is when I started doing music full-time. It has been two and a half years since.   It has worked beautifully. Even for us. Anand: Yes. Thankfully. I was the first one to leave my job. Then Tao left his job. Then Chandan left his job. Ajay was never in a job because he told his parents that he wants to do music full-time. And he eventually ended up making more money than his classmates, through music. Last person to leave his job was Neel. So, basically, everybody in the band is a full-time musician now.   That’s lovely; rare in our country. Anand: It is lovely; especially availability-wise and energy-wise.     ABC went from writing a song like Chewtiya, which is a humorous social commentary, to writing an angry song about the socio-political scenario today in the upcoming album. Do you think the band has become more serious and has matured during this time? Anand: I agree on the maturity part. I will talk about myself. My problem when playing live is timing. These guys have hit me on the head ever since we have come together. In a similar fashion, we keep telling each other about problem areas and ask them to be worked on. The best part is that nobody gets offended if that area of improvement is pointed out. Everybody work to improve. And from the live sound point of view, we have improved a lot! Chandan: Both Ajay and I, we believe that every musician has something that comes naturally to him/her and he/she does not have to put too much effort or thought into. With this album, we are trying to make sure that everyone (in the band) does what they do really well. A lot of musicians have this ego-trip that ‘haan, main sab kuch kar sakta hu’. It might be true, but that does not mean that it is sounding great necessarily. We are focussing on what every individual does really well, and then blend in all the ideas together. So, Anand was very vocal about it, that ‘ in the last album I have done everything. Ab tumlog please karo’ . *laughs* That has worked out well. We are done with recording demos for about 4-5 songs. We will play them for you.   Yay! Chandan: Yay! *laughter* We are quite excited in terms of the production value, in terms of the songwriting, in terms of the soundscape. It definitely sounds like Samsara has matured. It is now 45 years old. It has a wife and two kids. *laughter* So ya, that is, I think, the second album.     They really did make me listen to the demos from the upcoming album, and boy, it is mindblowing! There is everything one would seek in a good rock album. I will not say more, because some things are to be revealed when the time is right.

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