Nitin Rajan is well known in the small community of men and women who run the FM radio scene in the country. As the Associate Vice President of digital media and business for Radio City 91.1 since its inception in 2007, he is one of the veterans of the radio business. He is also among the founders of the Radio City web portal which took off last year. As the product head for India’s first independent music web radio station, Rajan oversees 13 web radio stations across genres including the Metal, Electronica, Sufi, Ghazal, Indipop and Smaran channels.
Rajan is an even more famous outside of the radio industry, particularly among those who frequent the mosh pits of the Indian heavy metal scene in places like Mumbai, Bangalore and Delhi. He is among the country’s leading death metal vocalists with a growl and a terrifying onstage persona that remains largely unparalleled. Rajan sees no contradiction between the love for his corporate day job, and pursuing his passion as the vocalist for popular extreme metal band Primitv. It is a passion that goes back decades. The 37-year-old has been an active part of the Indian metal scene since it slowly took off around the late nineties.
He started by fronting India’s first death metal band Morticide [now inactive], moving on to [Mumbai death/grind project] Reptilian Death for a brief while in 2001, followed by Hyderabad-based Sledge. He returned to stage in recent years as the frontman for Primitiv. Besides, Rajan also built up from scratch India’s first metal-exclusive gig series—‘Domination: The Deathfest’ in 2000, which ran for six editions across five years and two cities. “Back then there were no [exclusive] ‘metal shows,’ so we started one of the first initiatives,” he recalls.
So how does Rajan balance the demands of his 9-to-5 day job and the struggles of the independent metal scene? “I devote all my spare time post-work—which is not much—and my weekends to my other pursuits such as vocal practice, creating and promoting music and organizing gigs,” says Rajan, admitting that it’s “tough but manageable.” His passion for his alternate career has earned him and his band Primitiv immense popularity in the independent metal circle, which was fuelled by the release of their debut album in late 2015. Since then, Primitiv has been earning rave reviews both local and international, and landing gigs across the country to promote the release of ‘Immortal and Vile,’ making them one of the busiest metal troupes on the circuit.
When asked about balancing the demands of a digital media expert with the extensive requirements of an independent musician, Rajan says it’s no accident that he chose a job closely related to music. “It helps that I’m in a domain which is kind of related [to music], so that keeps me sane!” He also finds more in common between the two jobs than most would assume: “As a product head, I create a product which is consumed by people, but firstly it has to appeal to them and they have to connect to it. Similarly with metal, the music has to appeal to our audience; they need to relate to it be loyal.”He continues, “I find that the ethics are the same. Musicians are not known for their discipline, professionalism and commitment, but the job teaches you a lot of that— there are a lot of synergies that way from either area which I manage to bring in.”
And while a jam-packed schedule of band practice, organizing shows, managing Primitiv’s social media and gigs and fitting in his own practice time doesn’t allow Rajan a ”typical social life” like his peers, he doesn’t seem to have any complaints about ardently pursuing his passion alongside a full-time job. “I really can’t imagine myself doing anything else,” says Rajan. “I love playing live and creating metal music, and am also dedicated to organizing shows and supporting the scene in whatever little way to create a platform for the underground forms of music.”
Although pursuing metal full-time would be an ideal career choice, Rajan doesn’t show signs of quitting his day job any time soon. “In India a metal musician doesn’t really have a busy, 30-day tour where you’re playing gigs every day. Fortunately or unfortunately it doesn’t happen,” explains Rajan. He adds, “My day job gives me funds and security and allows me to go ahead and do this without expecting huge profits don’t have to worry about my art. Abroad, even [vocalist] Chuck Billy of [American thrash metal band] Testament as a day job, so who are we to compare?”
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