Wednesday 22 February 2012

Pompus the Saucepan Cat

My thoughts as shallow as my breathing
I stand swaying in a bus stand
Wondering whether to walk
Or just sit down here
And wait for the rains
To turn all this dirt into

seen in Mumbai

A relief in front of the Holy Family Hospital, Bandra, a poster spotted on Linking Road, graffiti in the garage of a residential society in Ghatla and my friend Ravi's super-deluxe copy of Evil Dead.

Tuesday 14 February 2012


You would have had something to say
About the headlines
Something bitter and true
And hopeless
Just like all of us

You would have had something to say
About the weather
Something suitable and wry
And harmless
Just like all of us

You would have done something about dinner
Something meticulous but simple
Something with coconut scrapings
And not too much salt
And then you’d have opened a pack of crisps
And sat with an unobtrusive glass perched beside
Unobtrusive you.

(PS: I wrote this on my stepfather's first death anniversary)

Djinn & Miskatonic: the first three months

Note: this is not meant to be a personal essay or a literary memoir. It's just some random nobody writing about his nothing life so don't attempt to lit-crit it. Besides, I am officially not involved in Literature, so there you go .

Fuck, I've got a blog.

Right, so I'd like to write about the Trendslaughter Fest, a metal fest that happened here in Bangalore on the 29th of January. But before that I'll have to cover a lot of backstory

I played at the first Trendslaughter Fest last year, as part of a stoner/doom band called Bevar Sea. I quit Bevar Sea last August; it was a season of mists. I wasn't really sure if I'd continue playing actively, but I did have this little doom band on the side called Djinn & Miskatonic. When the mists cleared, I found myself dedicating a lot of time and effort to the D&M sound. I tried bringing in a guitarist, but nothing really worked out so I started adding more and more fuzz to my bass and worked on locking with my drummer Sid on slow to mid-paced doom riffs, aiming for an iterative heaviness in the style of classic Hawkwind or Electric Wizard. My old friend Khandige stepped up to the mike and started displaying some serious vocal chops, matching my riffs with voices that ranged from low drones to soaring monotones and sludge/death growls. I wrote lyrics about tentacled monsters and mighty barbarians; he wrote slightly more introspective material and we soon had four songs sewn together and ready to roll.

I hadn't seriously thought about playing live but a few friends told me about this gig coming up called Warp Zone. It seemed like a good idea to try and take our show on stage so I got in touch with the organisers and D&M was added to the bill. We didn't have a logo so I threw something together in and it seemed to work, for the moment. I found some cool fantasy art to go with each of our songs as a backdrop and we played our debut gig on the 24th of October, 2011. Getting the right sound was tough, the sound people were nonplussed when we revealed that we didn't have a guitarist, but our set seemed to go well. Vik from Dying Embrace and Sandesh Shenoy, a local metalhead and scene promoter, and more importantly friends of ours, were there to catch the gig as were Srikanth and Deepak from Bevar Sea and the members of Deepak's new sludge project, Shepherd. Familiar faces in the audience made the gig easier. It felt good to see the response - maybe it was just the novelty value but nearly everyone who was there that night seemed to like what they heard. That night was also the debut gig for Dhwesha, a kickass death metal band.

In November, we really didn't have a gig lined up, so we went and played at this open platform called the Sunday Jam. The Sunday Jams were a great platform for bands back in the early 2000s, but they seem to have gone down a bit in terms of attendance. The venue, an old factory on the outskirts of town was suitably postmodern and dramatic but the audience numbered perhaps 20 people at best. Someone told me I looked like John Lennon. I shook my head sadly. Why did the chicken cross Abbey Road? It was an interesting gig - my bass amp was shut down halfway through a song because the organisers couldn't fathom the sheer waves of fuzz emerging from it. I managed to talk them down and reinstate myself. We met a couple of members of a band called Mystixsz who said encouraging things about our set as well as a few metalcore kids who said we 'needed a guitarist'.

After this we, focussed on rehearsing our songs, with the aim of releasing a demo EP by December. Then, we were called to play at a pre-Xmas gig, rather preposterously named XXXMas when some of the bands dropped out. We played in between Shepherd, whose sound I really liked and Dhwesha, and the venue was full of friends of ours. We had a decent gig, but the show was supposed to be a covers night and the audience had really come in with a different mindset from that required to absorb a band playing a set of originals in a rather sparse idiom. On the other hand, someone who we couldn't identify requested our song 'Flight Of Sand', which was a real shot in the arm.

Later that month we hit the studios to start laying down tracks for our EP. A couple of hours in, we got a call from Sandesh, informing us that we'd been confirmed to appear at the second Trendslaughter festival. I was elated, Khandige had a big grin on his face and Sid wanted to know what we were giggling about.

And now we get to the actual point of all this: Trendslaughter. Those EP sessions were a washout, but we switched into rehearsal mode, preparing for frankly the biggest platform we could hope for as a new band with a very off-kilter sound. We also had a killer new logo designed by Chacko, Bevar Sea's guitar god and resident artist.

The day of the gig, I arrived early because my laptop was to be used to help project images during the bands' sets. A few of the organisers and band members were already there and I remember playing some Cirith Ungol and Uncle Acid on my laptop to help set the atmosphere. I bought a few CDs from Sandesh (including the Venenum EP) and generally hung around trying not to show how nervous I felt. I remember Annick and Francoise from the Canadian doom band Cauchemar saying 'oh yeah, you're the guys from that weird band' when we were introduced, which made me wonder exactly what people were going to make of us. Later, I realised they meant it in a good way, but you're always paranoid just before a gig.

I got to find out soon; we were the first band and got on stage by late afternoon. I'm always pretty calm and in control once I'm actually on stage, and we had a great time playing our songs. The audience was still filing in by the time we finished - but the handful of people there seemed to enjoy our set. There were even a couple of people headbanging to our lugubrious tunes.

The headbanging kicked into overdrive with the next band, none other than Dhwesha. I guess that Warp Zone gig served as a sort of audition for TSF! Dhwesha's set was fierce and tight. I really like their brand of uncompromisingly battle-ready, old-school death metal, but I did feel that their guitar sound wasn't as clear and immense as the last couple of times I'd heard them.

Next up were Gorified, the two-piece goregrind band that never fails to entertain me with their precise, breakneck riffing and ability to mix it up within the confines of their chosen  genre.Their set is always a time for fun and wisecracks and random gore references, and this occasion was no exception.

When Cauchemar took the stage, aided by Ganesh and Deepak of Bevar Sea on bass and drums, I wasn't sure what to expect, but their set soon had Khandige and me totally converted. Francoise is a cornucopia of classic doom and metal riffing - you can tell this man rarely listens to anything released later than 1987, at most - and Annick's voice, while not mixed as well as I'd have wanted, brings an almost folksy quality to the sound.

Next came the highlight of the evening - Dying Embrace. One of the first truly extreme bands in the scene. DE's doom-infused brand of mid-paced death metal is one of India's finest metal exports, sadly only known to a few connoisseurs the world over. But that's probably the way they like it. Sick grinding grooves, epic solos and hauntingly melodic parts - axeman Jim covers all the bases as Vik struts, swaggers and totally dominates the hall with his authoritative vocal admonitions. Deepak bangs up a fine scrimmage on the drums, and I can't wait until they finally find and induct a new bassist!

The headliners were the Japanese black n' rollers Abigail. This was pure good-time heavy rock and the mob went wild. Their set certainly left a ringing in my ears that lasted for a long time. Soon after they finished, I headed home, satisfied with the day's deeds and kinda looking forward to the next gig.