Hamza Kazi (Workshop)

  • Interview by: Madhav R
  • Date: January 7, 2010
Almost everyone in the Indian music scene knows Hamza “I-can-play-Bleed” Kazi, drummer of Workshop, Apollonian Quest and loads of other Mumbai based bands. Headbangers India caught up with him, to find out what really makes him tick. No, we’re not talking about his metronome!
HB: Hey Hamza, good to have you here. So what’s been up with you?

HK: It’s an honour for me to be here, thank you. 🙂 Well, off late I’ve been insanely busy for some reason. I think it has something to do with there being only 23/16 hours in a day. Work, jams, gigs, programming tracks for bands recording with Demonstealer Records, conducting drum clinics, teaching drums at IIT, studying for my MBA entrance exam (yikes!), editing Workshop video blogs, eating, which I do a lot of 😛 and getting on peoples nerves’ by cracking the most randomly absurd jokes seem to be taking up a lot of my time. Speaking of time shortage, I’ve agreed to fill in for the Reverrse Polarity drummer. I have no clue of how I’m going to squeeze in some jam time for them. And finally (yes after all that rambling), I’d like to mention that I recently designed a 6 Bell Custom Stand and got it manufactured at a local workshop (not my band). 4 years of Mechanical Engineering finally put to some good use eh. Oooh, and Headbangers India is where you’ll see pictures of it first. 🙂 So in return for all the publicity… do I get to be artist of the month Feb 2010 also? 😛 (Kidding)
HB: Ha, you wish! 😀 Ok, tell us more about yourself; who you are by day, and the creature you transform into at night.
HK: By day, I’m Kevalram Dungachand Ghanshyamdas Poptey and at night, under the silver gleam of twinkling stars, I turn into Shahruk Khan. Bet you didn’t know that. On a serious note, during the day I’m a nerdy mechanical engineer working at an engineering goods trading firm and at night I’m a cool rock-star much like Salman Khan in that movie…
Following is a complete transition table.
7 am – MBA class student
10 am – Working class hero
7 pm – Jam time drummer
10 pm – Programmer/producer/editor
That’s what a normal day in my life is like.
HB: If my sources are right (and they usually are), Workshop has already started writing material for their second album, yes? What can fans of the first album expect from this?
HK: Sources! Spot on! (If your reading this, this is the best time to ask for a raise). Well actually, we have started writing new songs. We’ve got 3 down, played 2 of them live and got an awesome response each time. So we’re pretty positive about the new album. However the writing process has taken a break since Sahil started recording the new DR album. I guess we’ll resume after its launch. This album will definitely be whackier, more brutal, funnier and way more absurd. We’re going to take metal to heights it has never achieved in genres such as Samba, Carnatic, Pop, Disco, Experimental and so on. You can expect more regional language based lyrics Iif Sahil is able to pronounce the words right). Khooni Murga got a special mention in Outlook Mumbai for its production and packaging, so we’ll surely tax our brains to top that. We might even distribute small pieces of Raj along with Box Sets of the new album. (He has yet to agree on that issue).
HB: And Apollonian Quest? What’s the scene with them?
HK: AQ is on a break right now. Raj has been incredibly busy and has had time only for one band. I was busy too and had time only for five. Josh (keys) was also busy with his placements. Roy (bass) had some academic issues. Not really the best time for the band. We haven’t really jammed after the launch of the Furtados Compilation Album back in August. We have a couple of tracks lined up for an online release though. You can expect that to happen sometime soon. However I doubt we’ll play live again. Depends on where Josh and Raj get placed. If they’re still in the city then we’ll start gigging again for sure.
HB: Apart from AQ and Workshop, you’re also involved in a Hindi rock band (Coshish) and a few more projects. How do you think playing such varied music styles has helped you as a drummer and a musician?
HK: Coshish has come a long way from being your next door alternative Hindi rock band, and is now in its “ambient prog” rock avatar, and is also currently one of my main projects. This is a classic example of how useful it is for musicians to play different styles of music. The tech-prog influence that I gained from AQ and the fun peppy song writing influence that I picked up from Workshop are now being applied to Coshish, which have given the band a completely different angle. Had we stuck to just playing alternative rock, we would’ve never been exposed to other influences and hence, remained stale and unoriginal. Playing with different bands has given me an insight into how certain drum parts are created, reasons for simplicity in beats, musical relevance, etc. Earlier I used to make complicated patterns just for the heck of it. Now I always ask the question “what purpose is the beat serving” and create something accordingly with its relevance to the song and also its position in the song. I’m sure one can learn this with experience in a particular genre as well but some things you can’t learn are acceptability and appreciation of other genres and the keenness to play anything that comes your way.
HB: Hmmm, that sounds interesting. Ok, so tell us more about the process involved in actually composing the drum tracks for the bands you play for.
HK: The approach I follow while writing drum parts varies with different bands.
Workshop – I usually try and keep them as simple and groovy as possible. However I do have a tendency to overplay, but Sahil keeps an eye out for that and says “Dude stop showing off”. That’s more like “Dude, way too complicated… Simplify or I’ll kick your ass”. Besides I’m not much of a straight out double bass guy and I had to really get my behind whooped a lot to get some of the Workshop parts down (again because they were required in the song).
Apollonian Quest – Most songs are co-written by Raj and me. So usually I create this complicated polyrhythmic drum track (Ooh, because we’re prog/tech death), which forms the framework and then we dissect it and add/remove parts or change them completely and finally end up with a smooth flowing song. Then we give it a theme and pretend that we created the song with a theme in mind 😛
Coshish – Again most tracks are co-written by all the members. So sometimes a simple beat (with a lot of soul) is created for a certain part or sometimes I come up with a beat and the others make melodies over it. With Coshish, my aim is to be as eclectic as possible. Most of the parts appear simple but have certain prog subtleties only drummers will spot. 🙂 I would say that Coshish’s stuff is really up my alley and something that comes to me naturally (major Tool and Porcupine Tree influence). Oh and I use my custom bell setup for Coshish primarily.
REV/Khiladi – I just play the parts Jonny and Viru write.
HB: You’re one of the few drummers from India, along with Ryan Colaco (Kryptos),  Rahul Hariharan (Bhayanak Maut) and a few others who share the honour of being official Mapex Endorsees. Tell us more about it, and what it means to you, as well as Indian music.
HK: It’s really an honour to be an endorsee and share the spotlight with some great drummers (especially Viru [DR], who I look up to for his blazing fast speeds). I’ve been playing a Mapex kit for the last six years and when Mr. Anthony Gomes told me about the endorsement, my jaw dropped open. It was my dream to own a Saturn and to get publicity for owning it was something else. I think endorsements have helped in opening the eyes of other musical instrument manufacturers and making them realize that there’s huge potential in the Indian market. Along with the Mapex endorsements, our artists are endorsed by Pearl, Zildjian, Evans, ESP, Warwick, etc. I’m sure in the coming years there will be more such endorsements with different brands trying to search for their Indian stars. Apart from the good it’s doing for Indian musicians and distributors, it’s helping the Indian Music Scene grow as well. Any layman would know that where there’s an endorsement, there’s potential. Considering our profiles are up on the official sites, there’ll be tonnes of people wanting to check the endorsees’ bands out, this will increase hits on the myspace pages, links to other bands’ myspace pages will also get more traffic, which will obviously increase the popularity and finally put Indian rock/metal music up there on the international market. Personally I think this endorsement business is the best thing to have happened to the Indian scene after Drumkit from Hell.
HB: Everyone knows that you’re a fan of Meshuggah, and Tool of course, but tell us the not-so-obvious, never-heard-before influences that makes Hamza who he is.
HK: Ha-ha, I think the whole world knows that I’m a Tool fan. 🙂 (Been one since 2001!!) Well my obvious influences are Meshuggah, Porcupine Tree, A Perfect Circle, Pain of Salvation, Opeth, Isis, Mastodon, Katatonia, Death, Gojira, Planet X, Textures and the likes. My not so obvious influences would be Nine Inch Nails (I’m a HUGE NIN fan… Got all their originals including rarities et al… Thinking out of the box is what I’ve learnt from Reznor), Primus, Radiohead, Pearl Jam, Death Cab For Cutie (visible in Coshish songs), Type O Negative, Aphex Twin, King Crimson, Tony Levin Stevens, Louis Armstrong, Naicin, Pigmy Love Circus, 05Ric, John Williams, Howard Shore, Kishore Kumar are all I can think of at the moment. There are tonnes of other artists I may be subconsciously influenced by.
HB: What advice can you give to the budding drummers who hope to follow in your footsteps someday?
HK: Ah… Not that I’m Danny Carey, Gavin Harrison or anything like that, but the one thing I’d like to stress on, is Drum Theory. Please don’t neglect it, EVER. It’s a very strong tool and you may never know when it will come in handy. If you are going to do sessions at some point, you’ll be completely handicapped without it. It helps in remembering parts or jotting parts down that you might come up with on a bus ride or wherever. It makes learning new parts easier. And trust me on this, trying to practice odd time signatures or poly-rhythms without the knowledge of drum theory is like trying to form sentences without knowing words. Apart from that a lot of practice and dedication is required. Oh and by the way “drummers get all the chicks” is a misconception. If you want chicks, learn to play the guitar :P.
HB: This is your space. Need I say more?
HK: This is myspace? Strange… I could’ve sworn the interface was different the last time I signed in.
I guess this is where I put up links to my bands eh?
And take the opportunity to thank some people?
Well here goes nothing… I’d like to thank Headbangers India for noticing me (*wipes tears from eyes), Furtados and Mapex for all the support, my bands Workshop, Coshish, AQ, Khiladi, Reverrse Polarity and Kvanaa, my parents, Pragati, Zorran and all the musicians who I’ve jammed with and those who helped and or influenced me along the way. Oh, and I’d like to thank Danny Carey, Gavin Harrison and Tomas Haake for making such inspiring music. And finally… Thank you dear reader for spending time on this little interview of mine. Please collect your reward from Madhav.