For fourteen years, I walked the corporate corridors of hell to make ends meet when all I wanted to do was rock out with my band. A conversation with Anand Bhaskar brought back some of those memories. Anand is a singer, songwriter, composer, ex-NIFTian, corporate hot shot, and an overall cool guy. Some of the questions I asked him, I already knew the answers to. But sometimes, affirmation by a man of intelligence does help. Please scroll to see how some of us choose to live with passion. It may be a brutal mix, but that is what keeps us going.
2Blue: ?Your album ‘Samsara’ is soon to hit the digital stores. Congratulations! Tell our readers about the journey that led to it.
Anand: For the past 5 years, I have had material for almost two albums ready. I have trained in Carnatic vocals and I love alternative rock. The path for me was clear. I had to fuse the genres. But then again, plain fusion was not what I was looking for. The music had to be technically proficient, yet simple to understand. I am a big fan of simple hummable melodies, and that is what I wanted in the album. Here, you will see what I mean when you listen to it.
You will find elements of electronica, dub step, alternative rock, and raga-based vocal melodies that are very simple and hummable. I did not have a band when I started out. I did approach a lot of musicians and all of them had something or the other going on. So, I decided to go solo and call the project Anand Bhaskar Collective (I hate having my name in the band name actually, but I had no choice). Then, when I decided to record my album, Adhiraj Singh — from the metal outfit Noiseware — was the only Producer who had the bandwidth to help me out. We recorded the first track 'Chewtiya' and knew instantly that he was the man to nail my sound exactly the way I wanted it. That is how it all started. The album will soon be available on OK listen!
2Blue: With Bollywood still ruling our airwaves with little or no support from mainstream media for non-film music, how do hardworking and immensely self-respecting artistes like you break even?
Anand: The album was completely self-funded. The production was taken care of by Adhiraj. We tracked, mixed, and mastered all songs at Refractor Studios which is owned by him. About breaking even, I don't think any artiste's first album is released with that objective. It is like a 'brand establishment cost'. At present, people know the music we make and it is being appreciated. That is our return on investment. Our ultimate goal is to crack the Bollywood market and make meaningful music for the masses with lyrics that are relevant.
2Blue: How do you manage to split your time between your demanding day jobs and your music?
Anand: You know, sometimes I wish I was born in a 'Filmy Family' when somebody asks me this question. But since I am not, I have got no choice but to manage both my job and music simultaneously. I think everybody in the band is doing the same. While Chandan is a renowned musician/artist manager, Shrikant is a doctor. Neel works for Kotak Mahindra and Bhushan works for Flying Carpet. Ajay is the only guy in the band who is doing music full time right now. At the end of the day, no matter how tired you are, when you know you're going to jam with your bros, you know you are going to sleep well. And that passion spills over to our shows too. We forget everything else when we play and that is what helps us strike a balance between our dual lives.
2Blue: The violin really adds a whole new dimension to the ABC sound. Tell us about Ajay's induction into the band.
Anand: I was going to record 'Hey Ram'. It has this insane breakdown right in the middle where the riff demanded to be played on a violin. So I started looking, and Ajay was the third guy I came across. I was so impressed by the sample he sent me that I called him down directly to track. As unbelievable as it may sound, Ajay didn't even know what he had to play on the track. He just came down with his violin and asked me what he was expected to play. When the final song came out, it just blew me away! Ajay's work on the track was just that impeccable! This is when I decided to ask him to join the band full time. Ajay, very politely, refused my offer citing commitments to his own Ethno-Drum N’ Bass outfit 'Krazy Electrons'. However, I kept getting Ajay to play on the other songs in the album. I think somewhere down the line, he himself decided to be a part of the band. He never formally told me he is joining, and I did not want to remind him that he did not either. I was just too happy about him being in the band.
2Blue: How do the very eclectic influences of the musicians align themselves to ABC's musical direction?
Anand: To be really honest, the direction that 'Samsara' took was solely my own. However, now that I have the boys with me, the musical direction is changing as we speak. The next album is totally going to be our work as opposed to just mine. As mentioned earlier, the whole line up came together only when the album was almost finished. Secondly, all the members of the band simply love classical music and have grown up on a staple diet of rock music. So I guess the whole ABC sound naturally appealed to them. And that resulted in them believing in the band, the album, and thankfully me.
2Blue: A wise man once said "Be careful what you ask for, because you just might get it." Rumor has it that just when you were looking for a guitar player, Chandan Raina miraculously appeared out of thin air. Tell us more. Enquiring minds want to know [2Blue smiles].
Anand [laughs out loud]: Here's how the actual story goes. We did have a lead guitar player before Chandan. Apparently, we were too musically insignificant and devoid of skill for him to be a part of ABC. So he left the band three weeks before the album launch gig at High Spirits. I was in a fix. Now, earlier that month, I had added Mr. Raina on Facebook and we got chatting. First of all, I was superbly surprised by how amazing a human being he is. I had sent him the album version of ‘Hey Ram’ and he said these exact words to me: "Bro, I want to play ‘Hey Ram’ at least once on stage with you". So when the aforementioned band-leaving scene happened, the only person I could think of was Chandan. When we met, in the very first jam, Chandan played 5 songs off of the album like he had been playing them for years! I knew then and there that Chandan Raina is the guy we all needed!
2Blue: Tell us more about your songwriting process.
Anand: I think there is no process to the way I write songs. It is like the universe sends a song that is already prepared directly into my head. For ‘Samsara’, the songwriting process was purely my own, with musical inputs from Adhiraj. But as of now and going forward, all the new songs are and will be a collaborative effort. Also, all current songs are inspired by what happens around us.
2Blue: They say when strong creative individuals come together to make music, clashes are inevitable. True?
Anand: I don't think this applies to us. Chandan and I are twins born to different mothers. We are probably the easiest people to work with. Ajay, on the other hand, has a super OCD about stuff. But he works very well when given a free hand, which we give him because he transforms any song we work on into a masterpiece. Neel and Shri possess an elegant laziness and believe in working together with the band. Bhushan is also like Ajay in terms of writing a part and doesn't stop unless he nails it. But when it comes to egos, ABC members have none. We respect each other and love what each of us brings to the table. I think this also prepares us for any clashes that may happen in the future.
2Blue: What will have happened in the life of ABC when we sync up say about a year from now?
Anand: We would hope to have had played all the venues in the country and maybe feature in a Bollywood film or two [Anand smiles].
Article & Images By: 2Blue
2Blue (a.k.a Tirthankar Poddar) forayed into the Mumbai rock circuit in 2000. Having gained notoriety for his powerful high-pitched singing and on-stage charisma, he was soon invited to sing for Vayu. After 5 years in Vayu and countless monumental shows, 2Blue formed the hard rock band Zedde (pronounced z?d). Always a man for his heroes, the self-taught singer attributes his vocal prowess to his childhood heroes: David Coverdale, Joe Lynn Turner, Ian Gillan, Ronnie James Dio, and Bruce Dickinson. For him, if a thing was good once, it always is.
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