post-hardcore - Mumbai, India

Vishwesh, the singer, answers to our questions.

First of all, could you introduce Scribe and its members? What's the story behind Scribe?
Vishwesh :I, Vishwesh, am responsible for all the voices in our music. Akshay and Prashant are on guitars, Vaas on bass and Viru's on drums. Scribe, in its earliest manifestation, was a deliberate approach to differ from the attitude of bands and listeners alike in the Bombay independent music scene. During the genesis of this sub-culture, the initiators were merely imitators. In India's respect, it's still relevant. There are still bands in India that draw tremendous crowds to their gigs, and are undeniably popular, but have been playing the same setlist of covers for over a decade. Scribe was formed to disrupt this particular aspect with a determined mindset. This dates to about half a decade ago, when any popular band in India had one or more of the following factors - a commendable cover set that played the classical, long-established songs of the genre (Slayer, Pantera, Metallica etc for Metal), accolades that include winning the local and inter-state battle of the bands, and regularly appearing in the most popular festivals in different parts of the map. Each member in the band had been in a unit that had done this routine. And we took it as our personal responsibility to break the pattern and introduce captive audiences to newer things. We played covers too. But none of them were popular; on the contrary, they were obscure bands that no one had ever heard. We would play a The Dillinger Escape Plan cover and then tell the audience to download its music. Over time, there were kids who followed our lead and in turn would come up to us and tell us about bands even we'd never heard of. The rest of the story is merely the fortification of friendship among like-minded blokes sharing a streak of maniacal intentions.

We can detect so many influences and genre fusion in your music. How would you define your sound?
Vishwesh :Schizophrenic. Or perhaps, moody and distracted. I dare say, we committed ourselves to a genre only in the very beginnings of the writing process (punk hardcore). I must also add that we were only getting to know each other then. Just as soon as we had one release (a 4 song EP entitled Have Hard. Will Core.) out of our system, we allowed the entire force of our inspirations take over our expression. And that included everything from silly cartoon themes to legendary Bollywood soundtracks that play during a villain's dramatic monologue. The closer we got to each other, the more varied our creations became. And less identifiable or familiar as a "genre".

You all come from different musical backgrounds. Tuning up each other to create loud and noisy music isn't a hard thing to do? How do you proceed?
Vishway: It had never been surprising for us to meet varied preferences since the beginning. It is merely being creative with something that already exists. Like if you were to replace all the different layers on a pizza with say chocolate and cake and icing, you'd have a pizza cake which is merely being creative as a pizza, except with cake. You could do the same thing with some ground beef, crispy bacon and what-have-you and make something like a three-tier wedding cake. It's just getting inventive with what influences you. We've always let each member influence the sound as they most naturally would. And most importantly, we never drive the music towards something specific. It reaches some place, almost entirely on its own accord.

What was your first contact with metal?
Vishway:I was in my grandmother's sister's house in a rural cove in southern India when I was barely 10 years old. Her grandson was working in another town then, but his room still had his things. This was the age when art and literature were being slowly introduced, and there I stumbled upon a striking image. It was demon-like creature with a vicious glint in its eyes, fangs bared and claws in a clasp. Its body was attached to an old withering tree in blue moonlight and the title of the image said "Fear of the Dark". At first, I thought it was a horror film. And then, I read the words "Iron Maiden" and saw a songlist on the cassette cover. I was transfixed. The tape was covered in fungus, but I played it nonetheless. It was noisy (mostly because of the decayed tape), but it had rhythm and something so dark and alluring about it, that I kept the tape without letting anyone know. In the following years, as I grew older, I'd keep an eye out for tapes with dark imagery and "noisy" sounds. I wasn't particularly into Iron Maiden's music, but I thought their artwork was unparalleled. It felt like I belonged to this form of music and art. Soon, cable television made its way to Indian households and MTV introduced an entire generation to the power of music videos. Even video games and movies introduced me to new bands. Not to mention, making friends along the way who appreciated similar tastes and lent tapes, CD's, T-shirts and magazines.

Who or what inspires your music? Cinema seems to be one of the cocktail component...
Vishway: A lot of things inspire us. Videogames, food, people, movies, stories, myths, lies, jokes, animals, pets and everything else that make up lives. If you leave your mind open, you'd discover that all sorts of things fall in and out of it.

Aren't you afraid that Crime Master Gogo could kidnap one of you guys?
Vishway: I do hope we're fortunate enough for that to happen. Crime Master Gogo is Mogambo's nephew. And Mogambo, is of course, the single-most powerful human being in the history of mankind. Evil, but very very powerful. All references are to Bollywood baddies who, we're positive, do exist in real life.

What can you tell us about Have Hard. Will Core. and Confect., your previous recordings?
Vishway: Both recordings had keen significance with Sahil Makhija (who'd much rather prefer I referred to him as "The Demonstealer"), a man with quite a commendable hat collection (the figurative kinds). He is the frontman of Demonic Resurrection, owner of Demonstealer Records and the one who has adopted the word "Demonic" for everything that concerns him for the rest of his mortal life. Have Hard. Will Core. was one-fifth part of a collaborative compilation of EP's shepherded under the guidance and direction of Mr. Makhija. It was produced, mixed, mastered and also distributed by him. It sparked the careers of many a band since most of the EP's on the CD were debut releases. Confect. was serendipitous. We won a "Battle of the Bands" competition called "Independence Rock" (incidentally, one of the oldest in Asia) and most astonishingly got the prize money on time. We looked at each other, shrugged our shoulders and put together the album in three different bedrooms. And then, Mr. Makhija mixed, mastered and blessed us with his facilities at Demonic Studios. Vaas (bass) quickly shot a promo for its release and I coined the campaign line - "Don't buy our album. Just take it from us". We put it out for free because that's what we'd like to do if it were left to us. We're from India. Bootlegging is in our blood. So, why not seed what you reap. Confect. came number 2 and number 5 in two different publications enlisting the top 10 Indian Independent albums of that year. And before we knew it, we were gigging all over India. More and more people knew our songs, and started coming to our shows.

Which song or gig or whatever as a band has given you the most satisfaction so far?
Vishway: A lot of our music has led us to bigger things. It would be unjust to hinge it all on one song or one concert. However, there is an answer to this question. The GIR 2009 Concert in New Delhi landed us our first International show in Norway since the delegates were witness to the madness. I would deem that as the most "significant" show since it served quite like a crowning for us to be among the first ever "extreme music" band to play outside of India.

So you've done few shows in Norway. Could you tell us more about this experience?
Vishway: As I said we played an exceptional set at this festival in New Delhi where Krunk, our booking agency had invited a few delegates from Rikskonsertene (Concerts Norway), who asked us to pack our bags as soon as we got off stage. It was life-altering. We were wedged between two very heavy bands (Spearhead and Vomitory) that wore great big boots, leather jackets and here we were, about two feet shorter than everyone else and so inappropriately dressed for the occasion. I wore a t-shirt with a picture of "baby Darth Vader" on it while the drummer (Niraj, now ex-drummer) wore something orange! I was certain sodomy was the plan right after our set for many gigantic members in the audience. But it was fantastic. We presented ourselves like we always do, with the gags and the jokes, and had people smiling and jumping around like we have them back home. In fact, in one of the shows, we got the entire audience on stage, and we played on the floor! The tour changed us in a way we never imagined. And on our way back, we made a stopover at Amsterdam too!

Any plan to play again abroad? Which countries do you want to play in?
Vishway: Oh yes! We play in Bali next month! And we would love to play in every single country on the planet. We're not really partial to any continent; we love it when we have a chance to play overseas because it's learning that we can never get back home. Not to mention the bands that we'd sell our kidneys to get a glimpse of; but personally, Hellfest would be my dream festival.

In Mumbai, the metal scene seems pretty popular. What can you tell us about it?
Vishway: You must pardon me, I prefer to call the city "Bombay", because that's its real name. Well, Bombay and metal music took to each other like bats to Ozzy Osbourne. For the longest time, all of India was obsessed with Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Pink Floyd and bands from that time warp in the context of live music performance. Every band you'd come across would play Whole lotto love and Paranoid and Smoke on the water to pie-eyed audiences. But then a wave of change was slowly changing the tide. In the late 90's (when I was old enough to attend concerts), I witnessed an imminent emergence of bands who weren't particularly different in their approach; they played mostly covers too, but the covers were of newer bands. One could find bands cover Pearl Jam, Stone Temple Pilots, Alice in Chains too. And then that led to more cover bands, but now they played Pantera, Sepultura, Fear Factory, Slayer and subsequently the newer crop with Coal Chamber, Korn and so forth. Not only did metal cover bands bring in huge crowds, but the gigs would also be the most memorable because of the nature of a good metal show. The circumference of resident moshpits became the yardstick of a successful gig. But one must bear in mind, that this was entirely an underground phenomenon. A club called "Razzberry Rhinoceros" was the beating heart of this burgeoning culture, but it was a lone standing institution at the time. If one managed to organize a gig in another club that experiments with live music, and a metal band played to a roaring audience, the occurrence of a moshpit would lead bouncers in the club hurtling to stop the "fight" and throw people out for unruly behavior. Even today, club owners and bouncers need to be told about such a form of expression, so they don't mistake it to be a brawl. The cover bands slowly changed with more information access. The internet educated everyone - the audiences, as well as the musicians. And then we arrived at a completely indigenous form of the genre. Bands couldn't do much before because they didn't know any better. Access to any form of media be it magazines, CD's and tapes or even equipment was acutely limited. Now, we're catching up with the rest of the globe in terms of access. So, no more imitations, just new ideas.

Is it still difficult to find gigs to play? Do labels accord more interest in such music getting along with its underground development?
Vishway: Yes. And no. You'll find gigs. You just won't get paid. In India, metal music is like anime. There are people who swear by it and nothing else. And then there are people who just don't get it. The good part is that along with the musicians, the audience has also taken charge of the scene. They show their love for bands they like. They love buying merchandise and proudly show it in their classrooms and clubs and parties. There's love for bands and genres, and they're not afraid to show it. There are people we know who've tattooed the Scribe logo on their bodies, and its testimony to how powerful their love is. There's a keen sense of organization in the scene too. Things are getting streamlined, shows happen with a lot more professionalism, be it organizers, marketers, ticket sales, gear and even safety arrangements. The label system isn't relevant in India at the moment because music controlled by labels in this country is "Bollywood OST". Only the major metropolitan cities (Bombay, Delhi, Bangalore) have active audiences to Independent music and indie labels (albeit very few). It's changing every few months, which is remarkable but it still needs a bit more time to flourish before we start referring to it as an "industry". As of now, it's still a "scene".

What are you afraid of regarding in the future of Metal scene in India?
Vishway: Corruption stifling its growth. In some ways, it'll make the music even more powerful, but it is the cancer that's India's greatest impediment. The political control in many cities don't allow a lot of expression. The system thwarts what it doesn't understand. And they certainly don't understand metal. We've lost a lot to it already, and I'm sure they'll take a lot more away too. But that only means we have something to fight for.

Do you have any final words to the future buyers of Mark of Teja in France?
Vishway: I'm so stoked that we can actually think about the possibility of people in France listening to our studio shenanigans. I hope the music is accepted. And I hope we see you soon!

April 2011

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