Thursday, 25 August 2011


                                                          … SOUND CHECK

Mike test…(screeching feedback)…”could you lower the treble please”…Hello 12…Mike test…”yea much better, now gimme more bass”…

The lead guitarist cranks up the distortion and like a raging bull thrusting its nostrils and mud kicking from its heels, his Ibanez rumbles with every sliding rift. The bassy takes guard and the grunt of his mean Fender grips you like a revving Mustang. The keyboardist is subtle, as he seduces you with the blissful touch of his smooth black n whites. Much like the Pied Piper of Hamelin, the saxophonist- every boyfriend’s nemesis, uses his soothing pipe (ahem…I meant his saxophone) to lure the women in. The vocalist rips off his shirt, and hurls it at the crowd which now is a violent sea of hands reaching out. The neons on stage flicker as a cold mist sets your pulse racing. Soon your heart thuds in synch with the bass drum and with each strike of the cymbal, the crowd erupts and then TWEENG…the rhythm guitarist goes, “Oye Bhenc**d, my string broke.”

In a teenage world torn apart by drugs, sex and booze, Bands have always ‘been there’ for all sections of teen society- the nerds, the Goth, the jocks, the noobs, the rebels, the mo-hawks and the works. The Rolling Stones, the Beatles, the Animals et al, kinda shared the same story- a bunch of guys, socially outcast, playing their hearts out, changing the world. Every band has a story, one that defines the lives of each of its members; a story that no gig can truthfully tell. So, I’ll try and take you behind the scenes, coz beneath the classic guitarist stereotypes, drunken keyboardists, ‘cracked’ drummers and the heaving cleavage of most backup singers, each member brings a lone flavor that adequately marinates the band.

All lead guitarists are show offs. Admit it. Be it the distortion ridden unwanted fret burning rifts during sound checks, the flashy licks some Hendrix wannabes try to pull off or even smashing their guitars after gigs (the later less likely). Some go the extra mile just to be YouTube cult celebrities. The irony is, behind their hardcore manly alias, leads tend to be the most emotional characters of the band, easily offended. Yet they help put things in perspective and are blunt. They tend to take charge, during those weird moments in the course of practice when the flow of ideas dries up. They can be really bitchy critics, but it is that scrutiny that helps a band come up with a really good original composition or even a worthy cover. So the next time a lead does a flamboyant screaming solo, cut him some slack!

Bassys are the horny ones. I mean you really can’t blame them, with all the intricate yet smooth ‘fingering’ (o yeah), their bass solo is all the ‘climax’ they get. They bring the much needed humor to most bands. Bass guitarists tend to cut to the chase, do their part, and get out. No questions asked. Not easily rattled, they’re the guys who set the ball rolling. In band lingo, they give a song a good ‘feel’.

The keyboardist is usually a brat. Now brat-o-meter readings vary, but they can get on your nerves at times. Get it right and the guy on keys can walk you into the jazz and blues hall of fame. Their cheesy fill-ins, pitch bending pipe organ arpeggios and sound effects break the guitar dominance. They’re like a garnish that compliments the bold guitar flavors and adds the additional funk to your band gourmet.

The rhythm guitarist, the saxophonist and the other musicians in some bands’ arsenals, are like snipers in a war zone. Along with your regular ground troops you need them taking out vital impossible targets through their scopes aka rare skills. They are the goofy guys who lighten things up and crack the occasional dry joke. More importantly, they break the monotony and smoothen out the rough edges of any performance.  They kinda are the most creative and the ones who come up with tunes that stick or insane lyrics.

The drummer pretty much is a Knight in whining armor. The pillars of any band they can also be cranky, absurdly emo, outrageously loud and on their off days, the epicenter of a musical disaster. Much like a really hot girl you’re trying to hook up with; get her to open up and slowly you work your way deeper (relationship-wise that is). Probably the most important and pivotal part of a band is its drummer. It’s like gravy spiced up with it the rhythmic booms of the bass, the crisp clash of the Hi-Hat, the deep toms blending with the snare or the glass shattering cymbal strikes, you need it to make your band curry awesome.

And finally the lone soul that weaves it all together and makes it happen- the vocalist (background explosion). He is either the most complimented or the most cursed after a gig. Some of them have issues; major superiority, lime light hogging issues, but most are humble Samaritans that lead the way. A guitarist plays a wrong chord, nobody notices, the keys guy hits two keys at once by mistake, well it may raise an eyebrow, the drummer loses timing, the bassy makes up, but if the vocalist screws up, it’s Armageddon. The vocalist is the go-to guy for any band. He soaks in all the pressure off the musicians and delivers in style. He kinda is the ring master cracking the whip to keep the on stage circus as entertaining as possible.

A gig at a good club…5000 bucks…fancy equipment…10,000 bucks…getting the crowd to love you…good music and lotsa Vodka , but as anybody who has ever played in a band would agree; the hours of practice, the heated arguments over pitches, the countless ‘let’s take it from the top’s, crashing at your drummers place coz practice ended late, the soppy one liners, random rifts that were eventually rejected, the mix matching of vocal parts and harmonies, strings breaking, face palms during zero idea moments and the satisfaction after your first half decent run-through…Priceless.

Well, I do the keys for a band called Ever Undecided, and the confines of our drummer’s place, where we jam, sure is my dojo. Now we aint no AC/DC in the making, but we think through hearts and play it out loud. Be it our lead guitarist James’ mind boggling fretwork, Myron slapping his bass guitar, Jaydeep’s tryst with some wicked strumming, Kris tearing apart his Pearl drum kit or Eddie singing soprano; after a long rough week , nothing is as fulfilling as free styling with the band. Coz no matter how bad things get, you can always take it from the top.
 (drumsticks)…tick tick tick tick… 

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

The Last Action Hero

James Bond, the world’s favorite spy. He’d score the women, nail the bad guys and ride into the sunset in his shiny Aston martin. Classic hard core action sequences, G-Force sucking high speed car chases, virginity busting sex scenes, gadgets to die for and the smooth vodka martini. He’d need no cape, no undies over his pants, no ring from outer space, not even a wand. His little Walter or now his MP-5 sub machine gun realistically did the trick. From Connery to Craig; they all filled in the shoes of Fleming’s Bond and enthralled audiences with sheer acting excellence and withheld the true taste of a good action movie.

Sadly, in the past couple of years, there have been just a hand full of movies that have stuck to the age old recipe of an explosive ‘guy flick’. The latest trend of fusing a soppy love story right in the middle of a good cop-bad cop story line is hideous. What happened to busting the front door open, or the Pulp Fiction like interrogation sequences, Mexicans with sombreros doing tequila shots, shady…African Americans popping caps in butts? In the words of my favorite country singer-Brad Paisley, with actors today lining up to get ‘nuder ‘ and some getting facials, manicured and tucked, it’s apparently hep now to be feminized. Now I’m not anti feminine, just a disappointed action movie fan.

Jason Bourne, wanted in like 6 countries, takes on the CIA and screws them over. Far from the ultra-suave, always-in-control, lost man that defined his character, the intensity and attention to detail throughout the Bourne Trilogy was epic. No theatrics, the guy punches you, you punch him back, he punches you again, you throw him off a building. Apart from the kick ass fight scenes, Jason did have his amnesia fading, the odd emotional ‘why me’ moments, but he pulled through. Off the record, my favorite part-when he drove off the roof in the Ultimatum…;)

Action movies tend to get predictable at times, I agree. It sometimes is necessary to put some sense in the mayhem to counter the stuff blowing up. Now take Desperado for instance, a muchacho out to get the guy who killed his lover. Pretty ordinary and Bollywood’ish a story and nothing fancy to work with. So how did they manage to make it a movie for the ages? Give Antonio Banderas a guitar. Fill the case with a couple of guns, get two more guys, give them guitars, turn one into a rocket launcher, the other into a machine gun, get a latino chick with really nice legs, whose ready to ooze cleavage all through the movie and a good rack or just rope in  Salma Hayek (nice) and Wollah....El mariachi…

The epic onscreen battle between Vampires and Lycans revolutionized action back in the day. The trademark blood dripping canines and hairy claws made them the most looked up pieces of fiction. Be it the creaking sound of a vampires coffin opening or the full moon howl of a werewolf, people never were bored of watching a pretty girl get her neck gauged on by a dodgy vampire. Van Helsing and the Underworld series did their bit to keep the evil alive. And then came Twilight (facepalm).  Twilight vampires are whiny, emo brats, the werewolves are buff hobos and the romantic leads are soppy. Kinda like a High School Musical remake, with fur and sleep deprived dark circled dudes…they’re ‘all in this together’.

Things got really bad when they tried getting angels involved. Legion was the most boring ‘end of the world’ movie ever made. I’m a religious but practical guy and the idea of two angels going head to head is kinda new and awesome. But the way Legion pulled it off, was just pitiful. Why the additional drama of the kid being born, the crazy grandma crawling off walls?? The story completely lost its way with so much happening.

Even today when I watch Rocky Balboa in the ring against Apollo Creed, my fists jab the air and I’m literally dodging superfluous punches to my head. That’s what I miss with movies today. The realism and excitement, kinda like a getaway from all the stress you can’t vent out. Some people don’t like the idea of violence on screen, yea they got a point, but I’m a guy, I need this shit.

Today things are getting pretty bad. Back in the day John Rambo, Taken, Saving Private Ryan et al were movies with heart and brawn. Stuff did blow up, but when the smoke clears every action movie has a story the present day theatrics tend to blur. From Clint Eastwood’s days as a rugged gun slinger to little Master Yoda’s light saber duels, action flicks have always been my most sort after genre of cinema. They push the boundaries of imagination, but sensibly.  So as a fan I’ll keep the faith cause hey, cool guys don’t look at explosions…(*fistpump  Andy Samberg).

Sunday, 14 August 2011

The Ignominy of Defeat

My living room sports this well lit ‘wall of fame’ that holds  the little accolades and medals I’d win all through school and junior college. Each little ribbon has a memory and several moments attached that I will always cherish. Winning was all that mattered to me as a kid; be it my first high school brawl or my first national debate. It felt good. When you make winning a habit, things just seem to go your way.  I was dating the cutest but most poker faced girl in school, my grades were way past average, and I played the guitar, so the lime light was really never an issue. Great Success *thumbs up*

It was my last year in junior college, when things really started to go wrong. ‘Plan As’ started failing miserably and I really wasn’t used to having back up strategies already thought through. My HSC scores plummeted and the entrance exams didn’t help either. In the stock-markets, when property falls, it take jobs down with it. Well my stocks were crashing alright and the river of opportunities I proudly swam in, soon dried up. My ‘brand value’ took a beating but my investors- my folks and my girlfriend, kept the faith. But the truth still remained-   I was helpless, my confidence meter read zero, my dream college wouldn’t accept my application, I let people down, I LOST.

‘The game of life’ as most sports veterans put it, is complicated. Your half time score may suggest a podium finish, but tides turn fast in sports and you may end up partially or completely screwed. Now back in the day, my dad was a hockey jock. As the team goalkeeper, he pretty much was at the receiving end of the opposition back-flicks and the ‘critics’ weren’t far behind. The best keeper in Mumbai at the time, he seldom had a bad day at the office. But if the odd penalty did see the back of the net, the fans would boo him to oblivion. So yea, my dad and I were total screw ups at some point in time of our lives.

The strikingly remarkable yet weird part about his team was that each time they’d lose; they’d arrive an hour late for practice the next morning and have a mild work out instead of a knee jerk intense session in reaction to loosing. Now in one of the many ‘father-son’ conversations we have, I asked him what exactly they did for that hour off the field. What my dad told me that day kinda changed my life. He said, ‘’Son, we used that hour to deal with the Ignominy of Defeat’’. Say what??

The ignominy of defeat- accepting it, telling yourself you suck and starting from zero. Now most shrinks tend to leave this out of their usual motivational pep talks coz  it’s the last thing you wanna tell a guy who’s about to take a plunge off a building. Defeat is cold and brutal, but it sometimes is the only way we reach out and tap dormant abilities we never thought we had. What happens when you lose? You introspect and realize that what you were doing was neither  to the best of your ability nor even remotely on the right track. Yea, sometimes shit happens, and circumstances get the better of you, but take a moment and look back at the way you’ve gone about doing stuff. You may spot a flat that’s slowing you down.

It’s not easy getting up when you’re down and out; especially when you were most envied student, the smoothest guitarist or even the best sportsman. The problem is that success has a very dark side which even the most trained Jedi can turn to. Losing or failing doesn’t define your worth, what you do when your pinned against the wall does. I was pretty much raised by the sports psychology hand book courtesy-my dad and it wasn’t until I messed up that I finally understood why my dad’s team took that hour off.
The post defeat rehab boot camp isn’t for the faint at heart. It tests you not only physically but psychologically as well. There will be days you feel you can push through and get back to the top and some when the ignominy kicks in hard. Accepting that you suck at the time is by far the hardest thing to do. The longer you take, the harder it gets. Let it haunt you, not break you. Trust me, when the adrenaline to fight back takes over, people tend to lose their way. The ghosts of your fall always help keep things in perspective.

In our quest to achieve our Magnum Opus, we tend to ignore the little things that unknowingly give us that added edge. ‘Trust no one’, well that’s what most success stories say, I say that’s bullshit. I’ll turn 20 this December, and for the 2 decades that I’ve been around, I value all the people who make my life ride worthwhile. When the road gets bumpy, they’re the only airbags you’ve got. My dad’s team usually had convincing wins post the few losses they suffered. As for me, I pulled through the mid teenage crisis. I had quite a few people and God to thank. Defeat is a bitch, has always been. But the next time you lose, dont worry, just take an hour off…;)

Friday, 12 August 2011

GTA aka Life ???

It’s funny how you can relate your life to a game of Grand Theft Auto. Like your alias-Tommy Vercetti, you’re mangled in a mafia-war like tossup between graduation, career prospects and the final phase of raging hormones. You steal a smooth ride which in my case is ‘engineering’ and hope like crazy she muscles past drug lords in Little Haiti or the University. At your disposal is GRE or GATE with which you can machete your way past pesky cops and nerdy Americans or improvise a GMAT loaded rocket launcher and blow-up a B-School abroad.

The new face of cussing movies today, is apparently giving the youth a sense of belonging. The irony is with new educational reforms revolutionizing the appalling education system, the legal age to have a drink has reached an all time high. My first day at college as a third year engineering student got me thinking. The next 10 years are like the little map at the bottom of a GTA screen, your pink blip needs to drive to the right destination and your graduation degree will only get you so far.

The rebellious generation is now making way for under grads who analyze and reason. The urge to learn and apply has outdone the traditional need for survival education. Dual degrees and entrepreneurship is the new game plan with the occasional need to ‘smoke a sandwich’. ‘Defy the obvious and redefine the way you look at things’; seems to be the driving force behind most collegiates. But the question still remains, what after you toss your black hat into the sky?

How does a college punk band lead guitarist, majoring in Mechanical Engineering, fathom a mundane white collar job? He certainly ain’t assured of a 30 second shot to the top which his usual guitar solo would have earned him. The epic battle between Creativity and Logic rages on and you get caught right in the middle of it. GTA rules just take away your weapons and cash but your boss may just as well run away with your girlfriend. Getting dumped and fired on the same day...Sigh!

Yea, we all have our off days, but when the chips are down; ask yourself- ‘What would BORAT do?’…or don’t, but you get the point right?! As an engineering under grad I’m always so consumed and over whelmed by the sheer awesomeness of technology, I tend to over analyse. In Vice City, it sometimes feels good to get outa your car and stab a random guy or stop by for a pizza or get your freak on at the strip club. Most techno-grads are accused of being ‘slow’ and not to mention ‘nerdy’, and they pretty much have themselves to blame. After keeping up with all the stressful study routines, techies tend to keep it up longer…get what I mean. But the irony is the potential just isn’t tapped, just like our job placements.

Defence- the word most commonly used by every Basketball coach on the sidelines of an ongoing game. How does one nip an over head spinning ball from ever dunking into the basket when the guy shooting is a 3 time MVP? He’ll miss if you’re lucky, but just like GTA, you take out the bad guy but the cops will get to you eventually. Doing your best sometimes just isn’t good enough. With all the emphasis on equating success with money, the youth today are being governed by the ideas of yesterday. We have the skills and the will to go beyond the imaginable, do things the way we see them. Now I’m not recruiting for a rebellious revolution, I’m talking about all those ideas we doodle about, all the innovations we dream about, all those secret plans we chalk out but never see through. Don’t be content with the ordinary because you really don’t have to ‘keep it simple’ silly. You think it, you do it.

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