Uday Benegal, the lead singer and one of the founding members of Indus Creed talks to Pratiti Ganatra about the changing sound of the band, the varying cultural landscapes it incorporates in its oeuvre and the evolving music scene in the country.
From Rock Machine to Indus Creed to now a re-grouped Indus Creed, your journey has been nothing short of an extraordinary tale. Why did the band decide to shut shop in 1997?
The way things were moving in the music industry at the time wasn’t giving us any joy. Music television was turning into the abomination known as reality television. The barely standing indie scene had devolved into a wretched flood of sorry Hindi pop and the pressure from record companies to head that way was causing the bile to rise. In addition to that, I had got sick of living in Bombay and needed a cultural shot in the arm, so I decided to head to New York with another Indus Creed band mate, Jayesh Gandhi. In this 20/20 hindsight we all realise that those were the greatest decisions we made.
Tell us a little bit about the re-grouping took place in 2010. How did that happen?
Fate, or circumstance if you prefer, waved its unpredictable wand and brought me back to Bombay at the end of 2008, a relocation I never thought would happen. I had come here on a movie project that looked very likely to happen but which also felt fate’s hand when it went down the tube with the sliding economy. What else would a musician do but make music? And who else with but his mates from the days of yore? Mahesh Tinaikar and I had already started making music together with an acoustic band called Whirling Kalapas. That partnership extended to our ex-bandmate Zubin Balaporia when we decided that a resurrection of Indus Creed might be a jolly fun adventure.
How would you say that those years of working independently have changed your sounds personally, and in turn changed the sound of the band?
We’ve all grown in many and different ways—as people and as musicians. The music we’ve each followed and absorbed, as well as created on our separate paths, have been very diverse. The combination of all those new ideas, philosophies and peculiar worldviews have only enriched our collaborations.
Has the addition of the new members sort of infused new life into the sound?
Yes indeed. Jai Row Kavi’s energy and skill have played a tremendous role in enhancing Indus Creed’s sound. He brought, and continues to bring, exactly what we were looking for in our own quest to move forward with our music. And our bass guitarist, Krishna Jhaveri, has a force of ideas and sounds that meld perfectly with where we’re heading.
Your last album Evolve did brilliantly and won several awards at the Jack Daniel’s JD Rock Awards 2013 … was it something that you expected? I mean when you re-grouped, did you think that your first album would do so well?
‘Doing well’ for us means being satisfied with what we’ve created. We aim to please ourselves first. Of course we want our music to travel as far and wide as it could possibly go. But we don’t create to end-gain. Gathering accolades is great for the morale and a terrible test for the ego, so while we are very grateful every time someone thinks we deserve an award, we don’t it seriously. By that I mean we don’t allow ourselves to believe that it’s ok to stop trying as hard as we can to write better songs, be better musicians and be as tight and interesting as a band as we can be.
How was the experience of working with a Grammy-nominated engineer like Tim Palmer? That must have had some sort of influence on the final sound of the album.
The experience of working with Tim was fulfilling beyond description. He was so easy to work with. I daresay he’d say the same about us. It was just such a smooth experience on both sides. Tim’s influence on the album was through his mastery as a mix engineer of the highest calibre. Not only does he have an incredible pair of ears, his sense of graph and trajectory to assist the song in its primary role of storytelling, is remarkable. We were wearing the producers’ hats, so all decisions were ours and Tim respected that. We were all very satisfied with the collaboration.
The band has played in the Soviet Union, opened for Bon Jovi, Slash… Tell us about some of the more memorable experiences that you have had.
That requires a movie screenplay…coming (someday) to a theatre near you…
From when you started out way back in the 80’s to now, how would you say the Indian music scene has evolved?
It’s evolved in a couple of principal ways:
The best thing about the non-Bollywood, non-traditional independent music scene in India today is that every band is expected to write and compose their own songs. When we first started, we had to fight to play our own music. Even though we managed to conquer that bias at a very early stage, other bands weren’t allowed to.
Technology has revolutionised the way music is being created and shared. From affordable computer-based systems to the Internet, the ferment of amazing music being created and distributed independently of record companies (may their souls rest in peace) is resulting in some of the most beautiful music this world has ever experienced. And it’s just a trickle yet.
And what about the current crop of musicians here? Are you impressed by anyone in particular?
We are impressed by many, not just one or two in particular. I’m sure to miss a whole bunch of names but off the top of my head the music I’m really digging from the country’s indie scene includes the Supersonics, Skrat, Soulmate, the F16s, Sandunes, Nicholson, the Skavengers. There are so many more.
Having recently been inducted into the VH1 Hall of Fame in the recently concluded VH1 Sound Nation Awards… how did that feel?
As I mentioned earlier, awards are very flattering, not to mention good for the resume and the band description on your YouTube channel. But we prefer to say thank you thank you thank you…now let’s go write some more songs. The past is over.
Indus Creed is known for touring across the country widely, how do you all deal with that kind of lifestyle? It must be difficult…
It can get brutal sometimes, especially with flying becoming increasingly tedious with security issues, baggage allowances dropping and the like, but somehow the fact that we are off to play a gig infuses us with a different kind of energy that makes all of that tedium and fatigue disappear.
And what are you all currently working on? Is there a plan for a new album to be released soon?
We just released a single titled “Thief,” which was mixed by the guitar giant Keshav Dhar of the band Skyharbor. The video is on our YouTube channel. The plan at the moment is to continually write, record and release singles. So more are coming up very soon. They’ll probably find their way into an album but for now it’s one at a time.
And finally, what advice would you like to give to the younger generation on how to hold on to their band, and keep going despite adversities?
Always make the music that makes you happy. If you stick with that, nothing can come in the way. Except your ego; which you should probably start chipping away at right now itself because it’s the most fallacious fellow you will ever meet.