Headbangers India interviews Shashwath Gupta, of Grey and Saurian. Read on..
Headbangers India: Hi Shashwat. Tell us more about yourself. What you do by day, the bands you haunt by night etc.
Shashwat: I studied law in collage after taking engineering subjects in school. I used to play drums for couple of bands like Oritus, Virulent, and Undying Inc way back but I never pushed for it as I was and still am terrible. After drums, there was another attempt at becoming a musician by doing vocals for Narsil, but squeaking, squealing, burping isn’t essentially considered an art.
Headbangers India: If I’m not mistaken, you also go around by the name Saurian. Why the name, and what’s the significance behind it?
Shashwat: I have been a Nile fan ever since their first album was released and I had bought a pirated copy of the CD somewhere in Bangkok in ‘98. Karl Sanders, the guitarist of the band released an album called ‘Saurian Meditation’ in 2004. I was open to a lot of genres before this came but the introduction of world music to me made me realize that all I’d heard until then was the tip of the iceberg. So, I went on a spree, exploring music like more of world music, jazz, Zeuhl, electronica etc beside various genres, sub-genres and off shoots of metal.
As this was an eye opener for me and one of my favorite albums, I named myself ‘Saurian Meditator’ on the Nile, Gigpad and RSJ Forums. Eventually, when restrictions came to the number of alphabets in a name, only ‘Saurian’ remained.
Headbangers India: What exactly does Grey And Saurian do? Tell us more about the Grey element and how each of you contributes towards the running of this company.
Shashwat: Grey is Anupam Roy. My partner and one of the finest sound engineers in the country. Anupam has been in the circuit and the music industry as a musician and composer, live sound engineer, recording artist and producer. He has recorded bands such as Cactus, AVR, Joint Family, Bhayanak Maut etc. Over the years, Anupam has shared lot of ideas which are practical and if implemented would do well for the circuit. But as planning and execution is not his forte, we share the ideas and do a collective decision and basic planning and find out ways to implement them, some of which have worked and others are in progress. Essentially, I do the management bit and Anupam does the studio work. Collectively we run the newly setup record label, production house, and we also have an artwork and design team called Cinnamon Design, who are just superb at their work. This is essentially what Grey and Saurian does.
Headbangers India: Having played for bands like Narsil, 1833AD etc, how does it feel to manage bands rather than actually play live with them? Given an option, which one would you choose?
Shashwat: Well, I still practice drums as much as I can, but management is much easier for me I guess. It felt great playing music; it felt way better than being a manager. But you got to do, what you are cut for.
Headbangers India: Why did you actually take up managing bands? Do you think amateur bands in India really need management by a third person?
Shashwat: I am not sure why I took up management as I don’t even really like traveling. 😛
Anyway in my opinion everything needs management, from your health to your mind, from your CD rack to your instrument, from your relationships to your accounts. When a few individuals form a group deciding collectively to play music, their focus and goal is essentially to play and create music together. An Individual from the band initially represents the band to third person; he who is a musician has to represent a group which he is creatively a part of. For such members to handle both the roles becomes very difficult eventually, hence a manager should be appointed. The manager should be a guy who understands how the band thinks and wants to function, what the band wants and how it wishes to be portrayed. Every band has its way of functioning and the manager should be able to give that individuality to the band.
Headbangers India: Having been a part of the Indian music scene for several years now, you’ve probably seen the rise of Indian metal, from a handful of bands across India, to what it is today, several solid metal bands in almost every city in India. What do you attribute this sudden popularity to?
Shashwat: It’s pretty simple and it’s due to coming of the internet and spread in information. Also, due to access to music, the acceptability to the music one chooses to like has a major role as research on it and going deeper into it is also now very convenient. Some draw backs of this could be the fast food culture in listening music, because there are so many options, the amount of time spend listening, per album has reduced. Also, a lot of music through mp3 is cheap or free, which essentially reduces the making ‘worth of cost’ factor lower. Back in the day even the bad albums were heard so many times that they or some element in them ended being liked, actually I do regret liking some and hearing them excessively.
Coming of Bollywood movies with ‘rockers’ was another factor, these people making movies don’t realize that it’s called Bollywood’ because it is neither ‘rock’ nor ‘metal’, but it did increase the attraction to tremendous amount of listeners as well. I wouldn’t say rockers were shown in bad taste, but come on which fisherman can afford a fender (Or was it Gibson) here in India?
Headbangers India: I think you’re talking about the Ibanez. But there are some really good metal bands in India, and none of them really get the international fame they deserve. Where do you think we lack as compared to international bands?
Shashwat: We lack a lot, there is a lot we need to learn. There are only a handful of people working for the interest of the industry, but it will take a little time. There is hope though; Infinite Dreams is taking Kryptos for an International tour to the US for over 18 shows, Vijay Nair of OML won the International British Council Entrepreneur of the year, which is huge. Vijay has already taken several of his artists to UK or provided platforms for the same. Motherjane, Prestorika and many other bands have played international shows as well.
Grey and Saurian and our artists genuinely believe in the Indian audience, till now we haven’t taken any special efforts to push our bands to go international, but once we are fully settled we will be trying and off course touring outside would be a good experience.
Headbangers India: What’s the criteria upon which you sign up a band on to G&S. Are you biased towards metal or can a band of any genre approach you to be signed up?
Shashwat: I hate trick questions. There is no set criterion for selecting bands, if there is a band whose music we like and have done their hard work and struggle in the industry they become favorable, also if we get along with them individually it’s even better. I am not sure how appealing signing with us is; many artists may not even want to sign with us and may not like our fundamentals or functionality. Although, I am loaded with bands for a long time right now, I would wait till next year to consider newer artists.
Headbangers India: Right. Now Bhayanak Maut’s release was a huge success, if I’m correct. What’s next on the agenda?
Shashwat: For Bhayanak Maut’s album major credit goes to all the band members, they made very sensible decisions and choose the right options. I am very proud of being associated with the band and the album. Besides that Biz and Reuben from Undying Inc. have received endorsements from Ibanez guitars, thanks to Onstage for believing in them.
There is a lot going on as well, the studio is booked till November end already, loads of recordings. A few releases can be expected soon, The Circus, Undying Inc, Third Sovereign etc. A lot of shows coming up as well. I am excited about getting some t-shirts printed for BM and Undying Inc, more artist Tee’s also coming out soon as well. We have collaboration with Scopial for this, they have excellent quality and we are very glad they have associated with us as our merchandising partners.
Also on the festivals front, Great Indian Rock 2009 is around the corner as well, looking forward to it. Rock Connect is happening as well. It’s a great showcase for Indian artists for promoting their bands in front of foreign labels, booking agents and event organizers.
At our office, we have Keshav, our studio head assisting Anupam and we are bringing Ashwin Sharma from Mumbai to help us out. I am really looking forward to seeing how things shape up once he joins. There is no big agenda right now, besides getting everything settled I guess.
Headbangers India: From what I hear, 1833AD are going to be releasing an album next year. So can we expect to have you touring the country and playing gigs across India?
Shashwat: 1833AD has some fantastic music, but my hectic schedules and lack of dedication towards drumming are made it very difficult for me to do justice. So, I am not playing with them anymore. However I do want to play some 4/4 eventually.
Headbangers India: Sounds good. And any chance of Narsil being reformed?
Shashwat: Narsil might just have some hope when Kshitish comes back from Australia. Doing vocals is simple, you just have to carry your jaw.
Headbangers India: I’m sure you would have loads of experience and advice for upcoming India bands. Care to share some with us?
Shashwat: Hahaha, thanks for the confidence. Well the bands, especially metal bands need to stop worrying so much about when they will be booked with shows. No matter how talented you are, no matter how much better, tighter or original your band is, making this passion your profession one day is a delusion. The day you have to make this decision if you can man make music full time, you will know. So relax and play music, you try to play all shows whether paid, free, underpaid; you will miss some shows and get some, but just play. Not everyone will win competitions and competitions you’ll lose will never seem fair. Don’t let this break you, come out stronger, mentally and musically. Don’t worry about music piracy and copyrights, just let your music reach out as much as it can, if your product is good you will see returns soon.
Headbangers India: Thank you for your time and patience Shashwat, and we wish you the best of luck for all your future endeavors.
Shashwat: Thank you as well.