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Deepak Rao of Resonate

  • Interview by: Vilasini Muralidhar
  • Date: December 7, 2009

It’s just a handful of people who lend their whole-hearted support to the Indian metal scene, and the latest to join this struggling army is Deepak Rao- ex-Shrapnel member, who has now constituted The Resonate Music Award. Headbangers India caught up with him in a little round of Q and A and here’s what he had to say…

HB: Hey Deepak, what are you up to nowadays?

DR: Hey there! I now work as an Investment Banker in London and as you would expect, that takes up most of my time. When I do get the free time, I try to catch some gigs, laze around on the couch, and I’m very excited about the new project I’ve put together called The Resonate Music Award.

HB: Living in London, what’s the main difference you notice about the music scene there and here in India?

DR: I guess this is something that is quite widely debated. I would say that everything is slightly more professional. Even upcoming bands take their brand image extremely seriously and interact constantly with their fan base, whatever the size of that maybe. Gigs start on time, bands usually know their sound and manage to get a great mix most of the time. I think they are constantly thinking about the whole package. However I must say that professionalism is definitely on the rise in India as bands use to tools available from sites like Reverbnation. For instance, I am extremely impressed with the ultra-professional mailers that Kryptos sends out. Also Gaurav Vaz of The Raghu Dixit Project does a great job of documenting everything that the band does and this definitely enhances the experience for a band’s fans.

HB: Are you playing for any band now? If not, looking to join a band and hit the stage again?

DR: Not at the moment unfortunately. During my Master’s degree I formed a band called “The Reps” with my classmates and we played a gig in France which was pretty cool. We’ve recorded an album worth of songs and will look to get this mixed and mastered soon. It was a pretty great experience playing along in a band with an American, two guys from France and an English drummer – music is definitely a universal language. I do have a recording setup at home and record some solo material when I get a chance. I must admit that I miss performing on stage a great deal.

HB: Tell us more about The Resonate Awards. What’s the reason behind it?

DR: It’s quite simple – to help band’s get their music out there and to give them a “leg-up” on the whole recording and marketing process. Recording an album with Shrapnel was one of the most satisfying things I’ve done and I am well aware of the struggles involved. My hope is that by helping a band fund their album and giving them support – they can channel their energy to making good music in the studio and to spearhead the marketing effort of the finished product. Another problem I faced with Shrapnel was that most distribution deals with labels were too restrictive and we couldn’t put out the type of album we wanted – hence we chose to release it independently. With The Resonate Music Award, the winning band can rest assured that while we will be around to provide all the support we possibly can, we will not interfere with their vision and musical aspirations. I’ve been extremely lucky to have great partners – Rolling Stone Magazine, who will do a feature on the winner.  Furtados Music who will provide a 10% discount to ALL bands that apply and 30% plus a special gift for the winner. RadioVeRVe who will ensure that the winner’s music gets played on their amazing internet platform. Netbramha Studios who give me great web support. Chris, Nolan and Sahil have helped make this project come together and overcome the challenges that you would expect when trying to put this together remotely from London.

HB: In addition to yourself and Chris Avinash, you’ve chosen The Demonstealer and Nolan Lewis, both members of famous metal bands to judge this event with you. Don’t you think that will put off musicians from alternative musical genres?

DR: Well judging from the entries we’ve received that definitely hasn’t been the case! I think most seasoned musicians will agree that the music you choose to play doesn’t limit your musical tastes. Chris Avinash is a hugely experienced musician who has been playing music for 12 years now and has experience with various genres. I’ve personally seen Nolan’s widely ranging music collection and Sahil is extremely versatile as he has proved with his project Workshop, in addition to Demonic Resurrection.

HB: What would you say is the aim of these awards in the bigger picture?

DR: To help bands get there music out there and to try and gain some synergies from experience that the Resonate team has gained, by putting out recordings of our own. I know from personal experience a helping hand goes a long way. When I was putting together an album it was Nolan who introduced us to Ricky Kej our producer – if I didn’t have this introduction there is a strong chance that our album wouldn’t have turned out as well as it did. Sometimes, there is no need to reinvent the wheel and we hope that we can ensure that the band can focus its efforts on activities that will provide maximum impact.

HB: What exactly are you looking for in a band for you to select them? Also, what are the minimum requirements for qualification?

DR: Its very easy. I’d say the minimum ‘requirement’ is the willingness to come record at Chris Avinash’s amazing studio, Christortion. You could be based anywhere, but if you are willing to come down – we are happy to take your entry. I’ve been asked numerous times, why don’t we just give out cash or let the winning band record anywhere? The answer is quite simple – I think Chris is offering an extremely valuable package, with access to unmatched facilities and this would be more ‘valuable’ than just cash spent without direction. If you aren’t studio ready, walking into a studio without the proper guidance could just be money down the drain. I want this award to have a meaningful impact for the winning band and I can’t see a better way to ensure that something ‘real’ comes out of this process.

What are we looking for in the band? A serious passion for music. An element of professionalism – if you look at the entry form you will see that we ask two very simple questions a) What have you achieved to date and b) What are your plans for marketing the finished album? These questions help us get to know what drives the band. Some bands have laid out extremely clear visions for marketing the album – that definitely gets us excited. I don’t want the recorded CD to be used as a tea coaster, the winner should do everything possible to see that it gets heard by the widest audience. Of course they always have our support. So send us up to three songs (the more the better as it allows us to have a greater appreciation for your music), and a completed form to [email protected] or visit www.resonate.in to apply.

HB: Are these awards a one time only-2009 thing or can we hope to see this next year again?

DR: Definitely not a one-off. I’ve been overwhelmed with the response for the inaugural award and I’m sure that over time the team at Resonate will be able to offer much more to upcoming talent. We’d love to get feedback on how we’ve done so far, what we could possibly do better or ideas on anything else that might prove beneficial. We have setup a discussion forum at www.resonate.in/forum where anyone interested in the award can interact with us.

HB: You’ve travelled with Bruce Dickinson and Iron Maiden on Bruce Air to Stockholm, Sweden. What was it like, travelling with Gods of Metal. Tell us more. Any incidents of note?

DR: Well, I only travelled with Bruce Dickinson who flew the plane from London to Stockholm. It was an amazing experience – Bruce is unbelievably down to earth, and clearly enjoys what he does so much. It was pretty amazing getting up on the stage where Iron Maiden were going to play and getting this group photograph signed by Bruce. What were my highlights? Well I never, ever in my wildest dreams thought that I would hand a copy of Intellectual Pursuit to the frontman of the very band that inspired us so much. To hand him a copy when he was on stage was something I will never forget. Also it was pretty special to hear “Welcome aboard, we are at 30,000 ft and this is your pilot Bruce Dickinson”. I had a quick chat with Bruce where I mentioned the huge following in India – he told me that we might get lucky soon and lo behold they announced their first show in Bangalore soon after. Haha I’d love to take credit for that, but they clearly had it on the radar!

HB: If I’m correct , Shrapnel disbanded in 2004 after loads of shows across the country and the release of a very successful, self-financed album. What was the reason behind the break up?

DR: We disbanded in 2005, and we played our last show on August 15th at Freedom Jam, exactly a year after we released the album in 2004. Playing in Shrapnel was an extremely serious thing for all of us and it was tough to disband as we moved to different parts of the globe to pursue professional careers. I’m glad I have a chance to be involved with the music community again, albeit in a slightly different manner.

HB: For those who haven’t heard ‘Intellectual Pursuit’, is there any way they can get their hands on it now?

DR: Yes – we recently re-released the album on its 5 year anniversary for free download. You can check it out at www.gimmesound.com/shrapnel – if anyone is still feeling generous the album is available via Apple iTunes and googling ‘Intellectual Pursuit’ always pops up a few physical copies still up for sale.

HB: This is a standard question we ask everyone we interview. Any words of wisdom for the scores of upcoming bands and musicians out there?

DR: I think it’s easy to take your time in a band for granted. Definitely cherish it, make the most of it. Give it your 110% while you are at it – you will be surprised at how much you will rely on the experience later on in life, even if you only make music for a while. It’s probably one of the best ways to experience fruitful teamwork and their is nothing like the creative brainstorming sessions you will be part of. Be professional and there is really no limit to what you can achieve.

HB: Thank you for your time. We wish you the best of luck with all your future endeavors.

DR: Thank you very much! This was very enjoyable and I’m very happy to see your website cover the local music scene extremely well!