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> ISSUE 00107 > JANUARY 2017 > RS 100 >

Best Albums of 2016

Beyoncé David Bowie Frank Ocean Chance the Rapper


Rolling Stones


Best Indian Releases

Donn Bhat Sanjay Divecha Godless Skyharbor & many more


Rock & Roll Salvation

RS00107 Back to the Blues “ALL THE NEWS THAT FITS”

After an 11-year wait, the Rolling Stones recorded a new album in three days. Inside their roots revival and bright future

TRAILBLAZER Mick Jagger onstage during the Voodoo Lounge Tour in Washington, D.C., 1994 Ja n u a r y 2 017

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CONTENTS Rolling Stone | January 2017

FEATURES Sting’s Rock & Roll Salvation

He’s got a charmed life and a loud, hard-hitting new album. So why can’t he stop thinking about dying? By Stephen Roderick ............44

ROCK & ROLL Floating Points

Tove Lo’s High Life

Katatonia in India

Q&A: DJ Khaled

The English electronic musician on how DJing is more about art than technique, his songwriting process and more ....... 22

Vocalist Jonas Renkse talks about comfort zones, returning to India, and celebrating 25 years together as a band....... 27

The Swedish singer has become one of pop’s most interesting stars by singing honestly about sex, drugs and heartache...... 15

The hitmaking producer on becoming a motivational icon, Snapchatting the birth of his son and the importance of self-care...... 26


ON THE COVER: Mick Jagger and Keith Richards photographed in Santiago, Chile, on February 3rd, 2016, by Carlos Muller.

GIG CALENDAR The chilled-out festival Nariyal Paani returns for a second edition, French producer SHOW ON THEIndian ROAD Ocean will Prateek Kuhad perform at SulaFest 2017

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David Guetta embarks on an India tour, and more ......53 PLAYLIST Childish Gambino’s splays helium-soul love all over a rubbery P-Funk groove on “Redbone,” The Flaming Lips’ darkly hulking “How??”, Nicki Minaj’s “Black Barbies” and more.........54


The 10th edition of SulaFest is around the corner—and this time with one additional day of love, music, food, drinks and more. With three stages and over 120 artists set to perform including desi hip-hop king Nucleya, fusion rock act Indian Ocean and indiepop artist Your Chin, this year’s festival is set to be the biggest that Sula has to offer. The wine-and music extravaganza will be held at the Sula Vineyards in Nashik from February 3rd-5th, 2017.

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Donn Bhat’s latest release ‘Connected’ is part of our list of 10 Best Indian Albums 2016

MUSIC REVIEWS Country queen Miranda Lambert flirts and drinks and digs deep on a powerful double LP, Metallica returns to its classic sound and a brutality perfect for our times and more ....49



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EDITOR-IN-CHIEF & PUBLISHER: Radhakrishnan Nair EXECUTIVE EDITOR: Nirmika Singh CONTRIBUTING WRITERS: Anurag Tagat and Nabeela Shaikh STAFF WRITER: Riddhi Chakraborty JUNIOR WRITER: David Britto ASSISTANT ART DIRECTOR: Hemali Limbachiya SENIOR GRAPHIC DESIGNER: Tanvi Shah GRAPHIC DESIGNER:Vidhi Doshi PRODUCTION MANAGER: Mangesh Salvi DIGITAL ARTIST: Jayesh V. Salvi CONSULTING EDITOR: Anup Kutty CONTRIBUTING EDITORS: Sunil Sampat, Palash Krishna Mehrotra, Milind Deora, Soleil Nathwani

Correspondence Love Letters & Advice


The Hot List 2016 NUCLEYA Parvaaz Divine Prateek Kuhad Mallika Dua Arunabh Kumar Tillotama Shome and more


Swag on the outside. Anxiety within

Man From Mars

THE BEATLES’ ACID TEST How LSD triggered their masterpiece ‘Revolver’

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THE NEW NORAH Singer-songwriter returns with a ‘sneak attack’ LP

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Nucleya Explosion

to his fans and will be touring internationally in 2017. People around the globe need to experience the power of Indian EDM! — Nitin Joshi Pune

05/12/16 6:36 PM

The December issue cover was one of my favorites of ROLLING STONE India. Not only does Nucleya look fantastic, but he 100 percent deserves to be the face of the month. While Bass Rani will always be my first love, Raja Baja was a pretty awesome follow-up and solidified Nucleya’s status as our bass king. While it was sad to read about him not being able to see his family for long periods of time because he travels so much, it’s also great to know he’s so committed

It’s always great to get a glimpse into an artist’s life before they became famous and to read about how they got there. Bruno Mars has always been such a dynamic, talented artist that it’s hard to imagine him as anything but a superstar, so reading about him being homeless in his childhood and his rise to fame was very moving. I also like how his personality shone through in the article— he seems fun and old-school! — Priya Sen, New Delhi

Annual #HotList2016

I loved that ROLLING STONE India did this and incorporated people from various fields. I hope the #HotList2016 becomes an annual thing because all the people featured

in it did things that were outof-the-box, bold and inspiring. My favorite stories were those of Mallika Dua, Sherry Shroff and Arunabh Kumar; they are all people who are the new faces of quality entertainment in India and represent the millennial way of thinking very well. — Justin John, Bengaluru Win a ! ER I L GHT

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IN THE SPOTLIGHT Actor Priyanka Bose was featured as part of The Hot List 2016 in the December issue

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The New Life of




Indian Surfing Stories




Lonely Boy Breaks Through


Getting Ready To Call It Quits


Still Rocking The Campus




Why Indian Electronica Artists Are Rooting For Germany

India’s defining electro dance rock band on being sexy, hated and famous



Blackstratblues Bhayanak Maut Inner Sanctum Last Remaining Light Scribe and more

Back from Nashville RODRIGO Y GABRIELA Instrumental Rock

Inside the Zeppelin singer’s wild, ambitious solo LP


A Private Life


1951 — 2014

Robin Williams






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The Hot List 2016

The Black Keys

> ISSUE 00107 > JANUARY 2017 > RS 100 >


The Dark Days Behind Their Best Album Yet


Parvaaz Divine Prateek Kuhad Mallika Dua Arunabh Kumar Tillotama Shome and more


PRIMAVERA SOUND Arcade Fire, NIN, The National, HAIM and more

Swag on the outside. Anxiety within



Jack White

How LSD triggered their masterpiece ‘Revolver’

THE NEW NORAH Singer-songwriter returns with a ‘sneak attack’ LP

The Strange World of a Rock & Roll Willy Wonka

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THE LAST BEE GEE Barry Gibb Looks Back in Heartbreak

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Best Albums of 2016


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Beyoncé David Bowie Frank Ocean Chance the Rapper


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Return to Heavy Roots On New Album THE BLACK KEYS

Stevie Nicks 

Rolling Stones

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Rock & Roll Salvation


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Pete Townshend’s Ambivalent Farewell









Frances Cobain and the Father She Never Knew


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Justin Bieber Fever in Hong Kong





The Rise Of The Female DJs





Lil Wayne’s War

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Cannibal Corpse’s Indian Debut

Being Ringo

George R.R. Martin

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Duran Duran’s Return To


The Genius Behind the Saga

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Inside GAME of THRONES Kit Harington


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The Man Who Would Be King


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Monica Dogra Tipriti Kharbangar Anushka Manchanda Vasudha Sharma






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Donn Bhat Sanjay Divecha Godless Skyhabor & many more


> ISSUE 0085 > MARCH 2015 > RS 100 >


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Turn to a Darker Shade of Blues


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Best Indian Releases


A Rock Goddess Looks Back

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Metal Wire

Cradle of Filth Sycorax Zygnema

THE PLAYLIST ISSUE Ed Sheeran Rahul Ram Taylor Swift Suman Sridhar Marilyn Manson Vishwesh Krishnamoorthy Mark Ronson and more

MUMFORD & SONS On the road


Inside Her Real World

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Available on: iPad, iPhone, iPod touch and Android devices Subscribe through Magzter, the Digital Web Store, on iTunes and Android Market | | on ipad at


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HAIL TO THE QUEEN Beyoncé in New York, October 2016

Bey’s triumph, Bowie’s farewell and the gospel according to Chance



Beyoncé Lemonade

Be yoncé shu t ever yone else dow n t h i s ye a r w it h a sou l- onf ire masterpiece, test if y ing about love, rage a nd betrayal that felt all too true in the America of 2016. The queen delivered a confessional, genre-devouring suite that’s larger than life yet still heartbreakingly intimate, because it doubles as her portrait of a nation in flames. She dropped Lemonade as a Saturday-night surprise after her HBO special, moving in on every strain of American music from country (“Daddy Lessons”) to blues metal (“Don’t Hurt Yourself”) to post-punk-gone-Vegas dancehall (“Hold Up”) to feminist hiphop windshield-smashing (“Sorry”). Even with “All Night” as an ambiguous resolution, it’s a whole album of hurt, which is why it especially hit home after the election. Beyoncé explores what it’s like to get sold out by a lover – or a nation – that fooled you into feeling safe. The question of whether she’s singing about Jay Z is moot because – unfortunately – it turned out to be about all of us. 8 | R ol l i n g S t o n e |

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David Bowie Blackstar

3 Chance the Rapper 4 Car Seat Headrest 5 Frank Ocean Coloring Book

There’s never been a musical farewell anything like Blackstar – the Cracked Actor saved his bravest and boldest performance for the final curtain. Bowie showed up on his 69th birthday to drop a surprise masterpiece, let an astonished world puzzle over the music for a couple of days and then slipped off into the sky. Nearly a year later, Blackstar still gives up fresh mysteries with every listen. This came on as one of the Starman’s most dizzyingly adventurous albums, stretching out in jazzy space ballads like “Lazarus,” or the 10-minute title epic. (Producer Tony Visconti revealed Bowie was soaking up inspiration from artists like Kendrick Lamar and D’Angelo.) But it took Bowie’s death to reveal Blackstar as his rumination on mortality – a ng uished, bit tersweet , mournful, refusing to give in to self-pity even as he sings his passionate final word, “I Can’t Give Everything Away,” a song every bit as moving as “Heroes.”

The year’s finest hip-hop album had a vision as radiant as its pink-sky cover art. Chance the Rapper’s third mixtape c ombi ne s ra d ic a l polit ic s and heavenly uplift to create l i fe -a f f i r m i ng mu sic t hat doesn’t shy away from harsh realities. Gospel choirs are the backbone of this ecstatic LP, but everything on Coloring Book seems to take a spiritual hue – “I don’t make songs for free, I make ’em for freedom,” he raps on the soulful “Blessings.” The backdrop is a Chicago in crisis, the sound big enough to make room for futurist vocoder soul and bedrock African-American music. Chance’s rhyme style is complex but friendly, reflecting a vision that’s resilient, optimistic and irresistible.

6 Radiohead


A Moon Shaped Pool

Radiohead’s f irst album in five years is among their most ravishingly beautiful, awash in piano, violin and acoustic-guitar frills. Yet somehow it’s never soothing – as Thom Yorke warns here, the truth will mess you up.

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Teens of Denial


Here is the year’s most surefire guitar alchemy, full of riffs that revolve like strobe lights and lyrics that flash insights, slogans and jokes so quickly they erase any difference between them. After years of low-fi solo records, Will Toledo put together a band that helped take his writing to the next level. “Friends are better with drugs. . . . Drugs are better with friends,” he sings in the one about taking mushrooms and not transcending – his songs are full of girls who offered empathy instead of sex, and medicine cabinets where you could choose a new personality. Yet the sound is anything but depressed. Like Nirvana building from quiet to explosive, Car Seat Headrest know how to be intimate and epic at the same time.

GOING DEEPER INTO 2016’S BEST MUSIC To see our top 50 albums and singles of the year, along with lists of the best LPs in pop, hip-hop, R&B, country, dance and more, go to

The Rolling Stones Blue & Lonesome

The Stones returned to their deepest roots with a raw set of Chicago blues covers. It sounds like 1963, but it’s the wisdom of age that helps them connect with these classics.

It took four years to construct this quietly audacious follow-up to Ocean’s breakout R&B gamechanger, Channel Orange. That care came through in the music. Blonde is a tripped-out marvel of smoldering, elusive digitalage psychedelia. Dreamlike and hushed, as influenced by Brian Eno as by Beyoncé, these songs are drowned in memories that keep threatening to slip away: childhood, love, that time you took acid and got your Jagger on. Chasing a freedom that’s always temporary – musical, emotional, sexual – was the idea, as on “White Ferrari,” where Ocean rewrites the Beatles’ “Here, There and Everywhere” to recapture a teenage joyride, or “Pink + White,” a fleeting, stringbathed vision of late-summer bliss. Nothing on Blonde is easy to pin down. Tracks slip from outer space to church, from thoughts of Trayvon Martin to blunt lover-man brags, from his mind to your desires – opening room for every listener to slip inside.

8 Kanye West

9 Leonard Cohen

“Guernica”-size sprawl to make Picasso’s head spin. Peaks like “Ultralight Beam” and “30 Hours” are West at his summit, adding up to a f ractured statement of his life as the “38-year-old eight-year-old.”

Like Blackstar, this powerful statement came just before the artist left us. At 82, Cohen offered a stark, haunting meditation on love and death. “I’m ready, my Lord,” he sings, his voice rumbling into the eternal.

The Life of Pablo

You Want It Darker

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R&R ALBUMS OF THE YEAR 16. Miranda Lambert

The Weight of These Wings A country queen’s postbreak-up double-LP binge, full of drinkin’, flirtin’, movin’ on and songs for the ages.

17. Parquet Courts


Young Thug Jeffery

The strongest album yet from hip-hop’s most captivating vocalist. Thugger wheezes, howls and grumbles his way through hypnotically trippedout tracks like “Kanye West,” which is just as messedup brilliant as the man who inspired it.



A Seat at the Table

A neo-soul statement as graceful as it is unsettling. A f ter years of t r y i ng d i f fer ent g en r e s , Bey oncé’s sis landed on a smooth-flowing minimal R&B that comes with hard-hitting lyrics about pain, power and modern black womanhood.


Paul Simon

Stranger to Stranger

Simon’s 13th LP is packed with genre-bending sonics, blues snap and deep anxieties. The lyrics touch on m a s s sho ot i ng s a nd income inequality. But there is consolation in the music itself – swaying, popping, weird and lovely.

Human Performance These guitar-bending adventurers have never sounded so freewheeling, with a New York malaise added to the perfect Bob Dylan/Lou Reed ambience.

18. The 1975

I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It This year’s breakout U.K. rockers live up to the hype with Duranian flash, INXS throb and dreamy emo beauty.

19. Danny Brown Billie Joe Armstrong

Atrocity Exhibition Detroit hip-hop wild card goes scarily deep into the dark side of partying. The result: a thrilling cry for help.

20. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

Skeleton Tree Goth-punk icon responds to the tragic loss of his son with agonized ballads that plunge into the heart of darkness.

21. Margo Price

Midwest Farmer’s Daughter Whip-smart retro-country artist opens up some Loretta Lynn-style whoop-ass on one of the year’s most striking debuts.

22. Bon Iver

Margo Price

22, a Million Alt-folk star Justin Vernon sets down his guitar and leaps into the future for an album of lush, ethereal android-R&B. Puberty 2 The Brooklyn indie rocker’s fourth LP feels at once artful, unhinged and revelatory. A weird, rewarding listen.


Maren Morris Hero

Morris embodies country’s rule-breaking new freedom. She prays at the church of Cash and Hank. But songs like “Rich” and “80s Mercedes” are full of pop charm, R&B swagger and rock-guitar crunch. 10 | R ol l i n g S t o n e |


Green Day

Revolution Radio

Green Day’s most explosive set since 1994’s Dookie is a punkrock rager steeped in decades of emotiona l a nd music a l experience – from the ringing call for clarity “Somewhere Now” to the Who-huge “Forever Now.”



Return to Love

The se Brook ly n it e s’ neo Nineties guitar moves aren’t just sharper than everyone else’s – the songs are packed with a spiritual hunger that doesn’t let up even when it seems like life might crush them.

24. Drive-By Truckers

American Band DBTs mix political dissections, vivid memoir and StonesSkynyrd guitar fire as they reckon with Trump’s America.

25. Rihanna

Anti Pop’s top singles artist shows she’s awesome with albums too, exploring psych-funk on her own cloud-blowing terms.

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23. Mitski


SINGLES OF THE YEAR Beyoncé owned our world, Drake lit up the dance floor, and Rae Sremmurd got their John Lennon on BY ROB SH EF F IELD Formation

Beyoncé dropped this battle cry at the Super Bowl, shocking the nation with her Black Pantherinspired imagery. “Formation” was the omnipresent hit that just seemed to get more massive and demanding with time. Even before the rest of Lemonade existed, it stood as Bey’s most lyrically defiant and musically militant statement about who she is, where she’s from and where she’s going, declaring, “My daddy Alabama/My ma Louisiana/You mix that Negro with that Creole make a Texas bama.” That Mike Will Made It synth hook is the hot sauce in her bag, an ominous warning siren. From an artist who’s already spent so long at the center of American culture, it was a statement of blackness and feminism, and a party invitation nobody could resist. “Formation” is a song that has kept hope alive in a bleak year – and it will be essential ammo for the struggle to come. Get in formation.


Frank Ocean

Frank Ocean Ivy

It was worth the wait. Ocean sings an avant-R&B tale of hear tbrea k over distor ted electric guitar, his plaintive voice confessing, “I thought that I was dreaming when you said you loved me.” The guitar – from Rostam Batmanglij, late of Vampire Weekend – follows him all through the song, as he revisits memories of lost youth and innocence. It’s the most powerful song Ocean has created yet (also co-written with producer Om’Mas Keith and Jamie xx), a highlight of Blonde that mixes up the soul Ja n u a r y 2 017


and rock elements of his music with a sensibility that still feels unmistakably hip-hop. In “Ivy,” he gives the sense of a diary entry where a longburied memory surges back into his mind in bits and pieces. Even if his broken romance was sheer misery at the time, he still misses it, right down to the way he mourns, “We’ll never be those kids again” – building to a Brian Wilson-worthy wipeout wave of bittersweet angst.




One Dance

Aubrey Graham celebrated the big 3-0 by scoring his first Number One hit as a lead artist: a tropical summer jam with a Caribbean lilt that evokes Lionel Richie in pastel-shirt mode. When Drake mixes in Nigerian singer Wizkid and London diva Kyla, he turns “One Dance” into a Utopian fusion of global styles, by way of Toronto.

David Bowie No Plan

Recorded during the Blackstar sessions, but held back for the Lazarus cast recording, “No Plan” is a magnificent coda. The Thin White Duke sings a spectral torch ballad about floating over New York City; he gazes down on Second Avenue with a ghostly sax as his life fades out of sight – one last transmission from the Bowie universe.

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Ultralight Beam

Kanye goes to church, with a gospel choir chanting, “This is a God dream.” He brings in Kirk Franklin, Kelly Price, theDream and Chance the Rapper to help him plant a foot on the devil’s neck.

Fifth Harmony, Ty Dolla $ign



PWR BTTM Projection

The glitter punks sing about growing up queer and scared and lonesome, staring out the window at the other kids, lamenting, “My skin isn’t made for the weather.” It gets to the heart of how this year felt.



Cranes in the Sky

Solange describes the kind of sadness she can’t escape by crying, drinking, sexing or shopping it away. The music builds from quiet meditation – that Raphael Saadiq bass – into towering soul.

I Don’t Wanna Be Funny Anymore Mixed-up identity confusion with some Johnny Ramone in her guitar and a voice that leaps straight to your heart.

19. Danny Brown Really Doe His hard-stomping posse cut, passing the mic to Kendrick Lamar, Ab-Soul and Earl Sweatshirt in a virtuoso battle rhyme.

20. Bob Dylan


That Old Black Magic Dylan pays his respects to the Chairman of the Board, yet somehow brings his own sense of menace to it.


The year’s most heart-shredding air-guitar jam. The Brooklyn indie upstarts deliver a hate song that feels so real because it’s also a love song, rocking out with a climactic guitar outburst that reaches back to Dinosaur Jr. and Neil Young.

Rae Sremmurd Black Beatles

21. 21 Savage and Metro Boomin feat. Future

X The Atlanta rappers team up for a creepy thugged-and-drugged banger, boasting, “I spent your rent inside the mall.”

22. Ariana Grande feat. Nicki Minaj




Red Hot Chili Peppers

Dark Necessities

No wonder Macca himself is a fan. The rap duo come together and rock their John Lennon lenses with a party-and-bullshit anthem so undeniable it hit Number One. A blunted time is guaranteed for all.

An up-and-coming Brooklyn MC who’s definitely got her own voice – she’s a bully, a boss, a lesbian and a thug, ruling the radio with a club banger about sipping that drink, smoking that loud, stealing your groupies.

Their big comeback-hit collabo with Danger Mouse. Anthony Kiedis gets personal about his darkest, druggiest memories, over a Flea bass line full of blood, sugar, sex and magic.




Mannequin Pussy Romantic

The Philly punks celebrate moder n roma nc e a s a hel l hole , bl a s t i ng out shoegaze guitar fuzz. “You would sleep with me if you could do it comfortably” is a valentine to remember. 12 | R ol l i n g S t o n e |

17. Lucy Dacus

Me & Magdalena What a comeback: Mike Nesmith shows off all the mileage on his country-fried pipes in this superb road-weary ballad.

Work From Home


Angels Chance gives it up to his native Chicago with this steel-drum funk, spreading juked-up positivity through the streets.

18. The Monkees

Kanye West

A celebration of the joys of the freelance life, which for them means having insane amounts of sex on the clock. That lightheaded beat spiced up the radio all year, as these pop divas keep working overtime.


16. Chance the Rapper feat. Saba

Kendrick Lamar

untitled 05 | 09.21.2014

K. Dot debuted this as part of his epochal Grammys performance in February, tapping into spiritual doubts with a sax sample from jazz legend Eric Dolphy and a heavenly R&B hook sung by Anna Wise.


If I Ever Was a Child

Jeff Tweedy at his most lowkey and likable, a three-minute acoustic memory of growing up miserable in the Midwestern suburbs, with a taste of Nels Cline twang to make the pain go down smooth.

Side to Side The teen-pop princess turns dangerous woman on an ode to having so much sex you can’t walk straight the next day.

23. Little Big Town Better Man Taylor Swift writes one of 2016’s best country hits – a catchy tale of weeping in front of the mirror at four in the morning.

24. Courtney Barnett Three Packs a Day The Aussie indie prodigy fesses up to her rock & roll vices, but she’s mainlining ramen noodles, not cigarettes.

25. Leonard Cohen Treaty The ultimate Zen sage offers a poetic goodbye to the battlefield and the bedroom. Farewell, old friend.

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Kanye West


REISSUES OF THE YEAR 2016’s best archival sets – from Floyd’s early odyssey to Dylan’s greatest tour, from deep funk to outlaw country BY DAV ID F R ICK E Pink Floyd

The Early Years 1965-1972

Here is the ultimate saucerful of secrets: the definitive alternate history of this band’s ody ssey from madcap psychedelia to megastardom in more than two dozen hours of rare audio and video, including film scores and unique collaborations. Early TV clips chart Syd Barrett’s shock ing psychic descent; the next five years with David Gi l mou r show t he Floyd pressing through inner space, soon to land on The Dark Side of the Moon. A two-CD set collects 27 highlights.


Bob Dylan

The 1966 Live Recordings

The set lists were the same every night. But it was always a different shootout as Dylan took his transformations in singing, writing and electricity on the road – driving audiences to fury and ecstasy, reveling in the amplified power of the future Band. There are sterling acoustic sets too, like Sheffield, England, on May 16th, when Dylan’s voice is pure, naked force. There has never been another tour like it. These 36 CDs tell the whole tale.


David Bowie Who Can I Be Now? (1974-1976)

The prev iously unrelea sed twist in this set is The Gouster, a 1974 white-soul project that evolved into 1975’s Young Americans. But this box tells a bigger stor y of impulsive studio and live drive: Bowie’s passage out of glam through apocalyptic obsession (1974’s Diamond Dogs), crafty R&B, and stark futurism (1976’s Station to Station), on his way to Berlin. Ja n u a r y 2 017



R.E.M. Out of Time: Deluxe Edition

The best new American band of the Eighties took a striking turn into the next decade on 1991’s Out of Time, a Number One masterpiece of folk-rock modernism and emotional c omplex it y. Th i s foren sic examination of the record’s genesis and glow, with demos and live-radio action, is a fitting 25th-birthday party.


Betty Davis The Columbia Years 1968-1969

At this ’69 session, the R&B singer – then Mrs. Miles Davis – was co-produced by her husband. The marriage ended; the music was shelved. But the funk, featuring Bitches Brew sidemen and Jimi Hendrix’s rhythm section, still crackles with eros and edge.


Big Star Complete Third

This three-CD set is the last word on one of the greatest – and most harrowing – rock

albums ever made: demos, rough mixes, every final master. This is everything in nerve, sweat and tears that surviving Big Star members Alex Chilton and Jody Stephens and their producer Jim Dickinson gave on the way to this willful fusion of avant-pop exploration, rattling funk and brutally direct, romantic candor.


Kris Kristofferson The Complete Monument and Columbia Album Collection

This Rhodes scholar and Army vet was country songwriting’s first modern outlaw, a Dylan who spoke in the Grand Ole O pr y ver n a c u la r. The 11 studio albums and bonus live and demos discs, covering Kristofferson’s first decade on record, are an expansive lesson in acute emotional narrative and gritty melodic charisma.


Led Zeppelin The Complete BBC Sessions

In early 1969, rock’s heaviest ne w b a nd r e c or de d f i v e exclusive sessions for British radio, returning for an epic

concer t broadcast in 197 1. The result is a thrilling report – almost daily in the 1969 tracks – on Led Zeppelin’s ferocious progression toward the panoramic force and finesse with which they would rule throughout the Seventies.


Ian Hunter

Stranded in Reality

Ex-Mott the Hoople singer Hunter is a working legend. This British Dylan has steadily cut solo albums of visceral, probing rock since 1975, and is still touring harder than much younger men. These 28 discs are that life in full so far, with plenty from Hunter’s Seventies golden age alongside guitarist Mick Ronson.


Terry Reid The Other Side of the River

This English singer’s 1973 LP, River, was a dusky folk, funk and Brazilian-pop gem that inexplicably died on release. These outtakes are a marvelous window into the making of Reid’s original, underrated classic – and a seductive triumph on their own.

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MOVIES OF THE YEAR In 2016, Hollywood saw a world where black lives matter, a musical had meaning, and no subject was too hot to tackle BY PET ER T R AV ERS 7 Sully

1 La La Land

Clint Eastwood’s brand of classic, no-bullshit filmmaking f ind s per fec t for m a s a beautifully understated Tom Hanks plays Capt. Chesley Sullenberger, the hero pilot who ditched his disabled plane on the Hudson River and saved the lives of all on board. Job well done. That goes for the man and the movie.

A musical as movie of the year? Bet your ass. Damien Chazelle directs this rapturous song-anddance romance as if cinema was invented for him to play with and for us to get high on. Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling hit career peaks as lovers who try to make their creative dreams come true on the mean, art-fearing streets of the New Hollywood. La La Land swings for the fences. Chazelle puts his heart right out there where hipsters can mock him as tragically untrendy. He’s not. He’s an innovator, a fresh talent who puts technique in the service of feeling and makes the future of film seem like a bright prospect.

8 Loving


For Your Consideration

C a s e y A f f le c k g i v e s t he performance of the year as a Boston janitor faced w ith unspeakable tragedy. In only his third film, writer-director Kenneth Lonergan cuts to the core of what makes us human and gives us the strength to carry on.

3 Moonlight Three wonderful actors (Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders and Trevante Rhodes) play the same boy at different stages of growing up black, gay and alienated in the Miami projects. Director Barry Jenkins handles every aspect of filmmaking, from dialogue to visuals, like the young master he is.

4 Fences What a triumph for Denzel Washington, who directs and stars in the film version of the stage success by the late, great August Wilson. Washington is 14 | R ol l i n g S t o n e |


(1) La La Land, with Stone and Gosling. (2) Fences, with Washington, Davis. (3) Moonlight, featuring Sanders.

9 Hell or High Water 2

monumental as a former Negro League baseball player now collecting garbage in Pittsburgh and roaring against anything that challenges his authority as husband and father. Viola Davis is Oscar material as his wife. The film betrays its origins as a play. But what a play. And you won’t see performance fireworks like this anywhere.

and its meaning in a material world have long obsessed Scorsese. Silence is alternately brutal and cerebral. Some may balk at grappling with moral ambiguity for two and a half hours. Who needs them. Scorsese has crafted a film of potent provocation and fervent heart.

5 Silence

Jackie Kennedy has been so microscopically examined in the media that you wonder what else is there to tell. And then you see her in Jackie, in the days following JFK’s assassination, and you think you hardly knew her. Such is the revelatory vision of Chilean filmmaker Pablo Larraín and the astonishing Nata lie Portman in the title role.

Mar tin Scorsese’s passion project (in development since 1990) follows two Portuguese Jesuits (Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver) to 17th-century Japan, where they search for their mentor priest (Liam Neeson) and risk tor ture a nd death for prea ching Christianity. Matters of faith

6 Jackie

David Mackenzie’s modern-day Western doesn’t do anything new, but it does everything right. Chris Pine and Ben Foster play West Texas brothers who come up against the law in the person of Jeff Bridges at his sly, old-coot best. A B movie raised to the level of rough art.

10 Birth of a Nation One of the damn shames of this movie year is the way director Nate Parker’s incendiary telling of the 1831 slave rebellion led by Nat Turner (a stellar Parker) got lost in the controversy over the charges against Parker for sexually assaulting an 18-yearold woman at Penn State in 1999. He was acquitted at trial, but the court of public opinion has left a flawed yet formidable film struggling for the wide audience it deserves. Ja n u a r y 2 017


2 Manchester by the Sea

The young Arkansas director Jeff Nichols may join the ranks of Eastwood and Scorsese if he continues to craft films as stirring as this one. Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga excel as Richard and Mildred Loving, the mixed-race couple whose 1958 marriage got them arrested in Virginia and whose legal fight became a civil rights landmark.

R&R LO COUNTRY Lady Wood debuted at Number 11 on the album charts.

Tove Lo’s High Life The Swedish singer has become one of pop’s most interesting stars by singing honestly about sex, drugs and heartache


ove lo grew up in a posh suburb of Stockholm, riding horses, doing gymnastics and hanging out at her friends’ summer homes. It was an idyllic childhood – on the surface. “I remember having a sadness in me all the time,” says Lo, who was born Ebba Tove Elsa Nilsson to a psychologist mom and businessman dad. “It’s not really something [my family] would talk about.” Lo has grown up to become pop’s confessional cool kid of the moment, thanks to her very Swedish ability to turn heartache into gleaming pop hooks, often with maximum bluntness about sex and drugs. On her breakthrough hit, 2014’s “Habits (Stay High),” she boasted of frequenting sex clubs, picking up “daddies at the playground” and getting blazed in order to ward off romantic despair. Her new album, Lady Wood, mixes female empowerment – the title, she has said, is “about reclaiming the female hard-on” – with songs that dig even Ja n u a r y 2 017

deeper into darker moments. The record’s most personal tracks go back to that placidseeming childhood, including “Imaginary Friend.” “When I was a kid, I loved to play on my own,” she says. “I had an imaginary friend, and whenever I wanted to do something and didn’t dare to, this friend would tell me, ‘Do it! Do it!’ ” As a teen, Lo attended Sweden’s version of the Fame high school, Rytmus Musikergymnasiet, much to the dismay of her parents. “They didn’t think I was going to get in, but then I got in and they saw how happy I was,” she recalls. “They let me go anyway.” At Rytmus, Lo met lifelong friends, including Caroline Hjelt of the hitmaking Swedish duo Icona Pop. A few years later, a messy breakup helped Lo find her voice as a songwriter. “[That breakup] launched that whole side of me,” she says. “In terms of the tone and the messiness and my lyrics, I found myself realizing that no one could tell me that it’s wrong because it’s me.”

Lo began writing songs for groups like Icona Pop and Girls Aloud, and she found her way into Max Martin’s production collective Wolf Cousins, with whom she earned Grammy and Golden Globe nominations in 2015 for writing Ellie Goulding’s “Love Me Like You Do.” While working on Lady Wood, Lo divided her time between Sweden, where she still lives, and other locations, including Nicaragua. “We would work all day and then go on a catamaran ride in the sunset and dance on a boat and drink mai tais,” she says. “Everyone was getting really high and just watching dolphins jump along the boat. [That trip] was where all the ideas came out.” Although she still sings about getting high, songwriting, as much as chemicals, is her therapy. “Sometimes the best way to get over something is to feel it and just be in that shitty place for a bit,” she says. “That’s what I realized.”

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Mumbai Rockers Blakc Plot Third Album

The band turned an idyllic farmhouse into a makeshift studio ahead of recording their upcoming release




ast november, Mumbai alt rockers Blakc packed up their equipment and moved into a rented bungalow in K ar jat, in the outskir ts of t he cit y, for a week . The agenda wa s clear- cut— spend a good amount of time together playing and testing new material. Says vocalist Shawn Pereira, “We thought why not just cut off from everything and hear our songs over and over again!” The ‘workcation’ away from the urban jungle not only fixed the writer’s block Pereira was experiencing but also helped the band get ready to record t hei r t h i rd a lbu m , t it le d The Consequence Of Feeling. Blakc were joined by sound engineer Anupam Roy, formerly of New Delhi record label and ar tist collective Grey and Saurian. Formed in 2007, the fivemember band—also comprising bassist Roop Thomas Philip, drummer Varun Sood and guitarists Anish Menon and Reinhardt Dias—have so far released two records, 2008’s

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“The songs are shorter, riff-oriented, hard-hitting and heavier.” Choking On A Dream and the 2012 banger Motheredland . Since they didn’t get into any elaborate pre-production on the previous two records, they decided to try it out for their forthcoming release. Pereira says, “This time we thought about it a lot more and wanted to capture even the minute things.” The new record will consist of nine songs, with no track longer than four-and-a half minutes. Says Pereira, “The songs are shorter, riff-oriented, hardhitting and heavier. We’re going back to our roots.” The band are currently in the process of tracking the album at the city-based That Studio. The album will release in a few months, with promotions ranging from a nationwide tour as well as busking gigs at each city they hit. A couple of music videos are also in the the pipeline. DAVID BRITTO


Happily, Ever, After.


n my last visit to Mumbai, my niece had just turned five. She traipsed into little girldom, plaits ablaze, dress twirling, bracelets chiming. Aware that womanhood lay waiting in a land not quite so far, far, away, she asked me as she tried to make sense of it all, why was I wearing a ring if I wasn’t married and who was my husband going to be. As I gently explained that rings are an equal opportunity accessory and that happily ever afters can be found beyond the altar, I was inwardly exasperated that even in an era of resurgent feminism and ambitious role models, we are still hemmed in by arcane stereotypes. Not quite sure who to point the culpable, bejeweled finger at, it struck me that the messaging begins in part with the very first tales we tell. Well before they can aspire to be the next Angela Merkel, Sania Mirza or Sheryl Sandberg, most girls encounter the Fairy-Tale Princess. And that poses a problem. Stories of dainty feet in glass slippers are firmly at odds with shattering glass ceilings. This is not to say that there is a dearth of inspiring narratives for the next generation. Classics like Charlotte’s Web, The Chronicles of Narnia and Nancy Drew have given us protagonists that would give today’s feminists a run for their money. Contemporary authors, J.K. Rowling chief among them, have created bold, empowered role models like Hermione Granger. And cinema screens are increasingly seeing heroines who hold their own; whether it is the bravery of Moana protecting her tribe, the bonds of sisterhood trumping all else in Frozen, the fearlessness of Katniss in The Hunger Games or Furiosa saving the world all by herself as Mad Max plays the Robin to her Batman. And yet somehow Cinderella still has a more than a fighting chance against Wonder Woman as they vie to capture the imagination. Fairy Tales and their archetype of the Distressed Damsel awaiting her Charming Prince continue to be an enduring part of shaping our collective female consciousness. The trailer for Disney’s 2017 version of Beauty and The Beast set a new record, watched 127 million times in the first day alone. At their core, Belle, Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty exalt the stories of heroines without agency; beauty and goodness are their chief attributes, patience is their fortitude and marriage to a handsome ruler is the grand prize. The subliminal message is that if you sit pretty and don’t complain, you’ll have a happy ending—wedding bells and a life with a man that can look after you. This is hardly a recipe for the next great She. E. O. So if Fairy Tales are undoubtedly here to be retold, how do we tackle the Princess Problem? We reframe the narrative to reflect a feminist ethos. Snow White and The Huntsman presents a Snow White who is as much warrior as princess. She saves the Huntsman’s life and wages war against the Queen. Maleficent has a similarly revisionist approach, retelling Sleeping Beauty from the point of view of the villainess, showing that there is more to the human psyche than simple takes on good and evil. And in the upcoming version of Beauty and the Beast, Belle’s looks are just a side note to her skill as an inventor. We can empower the next generation of five year olds by arming them with Fairy Tales that tell stories of Princesses who live by their own rules. Happily, Ever, After. The author is a film producer and journalist and a former hedge fund COO. Twitter: @whats_cutting

Ja n u a r y 2 017

R&R Vayali Folkore Group

Vayali Folkore Group: India’s First ‘Bamboo’ Band The eight-member folk ensemble from Kerala perform with musical instruments they have crafted out of bamboo

Ja n u a r y 2 017

based—a cymbal-like instrument called the kaimani which is used for keeping time. Pradeep K V, a member of the band who is a house painter by profession, says, “In 2007 we went to Japan and performed alongside a bamboo band there. We thought why not start a band like that here in Kerala, especially when bamboo and its variants are a part of our culture.” It took four years to set up the band. With an initial count of 14 members, the group went through several modifications over the years. “Things became difficult because most members have their day jobs to keep, plus the logistics and hassles of bringing together all the members for practice and shows,” says Pradeep, who is joined by band mates Rajesh K K, Manoharan K V, Sanoj, Sajeev, Vishnujithu and Sujil Kumar T P. The Vayali Folkore Group fuse intense dance and percussion routines and perform warm hinterland tunes with occasional folk renditions of Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” or a Bollywood track like “Jia Jale” thrown into the mix. But what truly makes them unique is their dexterity and knack to invent new bamboo instruments. So far, they’ve designed and crafted nine new pieces, such as the kikkera and bumbe (percussion instruments) and thambor (a bass instrument), and are working on two more. Of course, desig ning and creating instruments is no mean feat. “It’s costly to get professionals to design and buy bamboo instruments,” says Kumar, explaining why they continue despite the challenges.

“ We d id n’t ge t t he sou nd we were looking for. That’s when we decided to do it ourselves.” With over 500 shows to their credit, the band has been toying with the idea of scoring for films as well. Band manager Vinod Arangode is keen on pushing the group’s music on a global scale. “On an average, we do around eight shows a month. We are looking forward to taking this innovative music outside and expanding our learning. We have a few offers to do bamboo music for films. We are looking into that.” Although the Vayali Folkore Group own a proprietary sound, they don’t want to be the only ones associated with it in the coming years. They want to do whatever they can to popularize their instruments and music. “We believe in the philosophy of open exchange. We don’t want to keep these instruments as our own property,” adds Arangode. Mo s t of t he memb er s a r e mu lt iinstrumentalists and keep shuffling their duties. The band is also keen to expand their repertoire outside the realm of folk. And as much as they’d like to work on an album, financial constraints have so far prevented them from pursuing that goal. Says Arangode, “People are mixing Western and traditional instruments and creating fusion kind of compositions. But, we only perform with bamboo instruments. In that sense, it’s safe to assume we’re the only such folk band in the country.”



n a placid afternoon, we arr ived at a sun-kissed paddy field in the outskirts of Thrissur, Kerala, to see a band perform with their peculiar ba mboo instr ument s. Some of them looked familiar—there was a rainmaker, a marimba and something that looked like a bamboo version of a xylophone—and some quite strange. That’s when we figured if you’re searching for the ideal DIY project, there’s no need to look any further than the example set by the Vayali Folkore Group. A melting pot of folk music, dance and tradition, the ensemble have been turning heads with their unique bamboo-centred music. The band’s inspiration to form a bamboo music group came about following a tour of Japan in 2007. Back then, they were an indigenous folklore group formed by artists, most of who worked in the day as carpenters, electricians and farmers, intent on keeping their Valluvanad (a region in South Malabar) traditions and culture alive. My tryst with the bamboo ensemble happened dur ing a recent project to document the thriving and dying cultures around Bharatapuzha aka r iver Nila with the responsible travel group called The Blue Yonder. The river (second longest in the country) flows through three districts in Kerala, namely Thrissur, Palakkad and Malapuram. The eight-piece band was being led with the progressions played by the f lautist. Only one instrument stood out as metal-


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The New Delhi singer-songwriter tugs at heartstrings with “Burning Fire,” highlighting the struggles of Tibetans Pragnya Wakhlu


hen Ne w Delhi-based singer-songwriter Pragnya Wakhlu traveled to Dharamsala in Himachal Pradesh two years ago, she was, like most Indians, unaware about the Tibetan political crisis. But while there, she heard the heart-wrenching story of a lady who fled with her children when China occupied Tibet in 1950 and it moved her. She says, “When I came back to Delhi, I felt I just had to do something about this. I felt that I needed to share with other Indians the story and culture of the Tibetans here. There are so many things we don’t know about them, like how they are desperately trying to preserve their language.” “Burning Fire” is Wakhlu’s contribution to the cause. While the soothing acoustic track invokes Tibetan verses (sung by artists she met in New Delhi’s Tibetan colony) the music video gives an insight into Tibetan culture. Shot over 10 days by director Div ya Gopalan at Dharamsala earlier this year, it Ja n u a r y 2 017

is a chilling reminder of Tibet’s ongoing freedom struggle. In between vibrant shots of the traditional Tibetan opera routine performed by the students of the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts, the film also shows a wall behind the Dalai Lama’s temple on which are hung several framed photographs of teenagers—young activists who took their own lives, mostly by self-immolation, to protest Chinese atrocities against Tibetans. The Tibetan cause has as much to do with opposing violence as demanding freedom of expression. Says Wakhlu, “A lot of the Tibetan singers who try to speak out are shunned or even killed. I wanted to create awareness about this in India. As musicians, if we’re able to spread a message through our music, we should.” “Burning Fire” was recorded in Mumbai and New Delhi, and will be a part of Wakhlu’s upcoming album on Kashmir, due March next year. Her first album, Journey To The Sun , released in 2012. DAVID BRITTO


Imitation, Flattery And Tributes


ne has heard musicians record their musical tributes to other musicians. For example you have Satch Plays Fat s where L ouis Armstrong (Satch) plays the music of Fats Waller, the American pianist, singer and songwriter, or Carmen McRae Sings Monk or The Latin Dizzy Gillespie by various artists. These are just random examples to illustrate the ‘tribute’;there are plenty of other such instances. Everybody sings the Beatles! We have encountered a new type of tribute in recent times. In 1963, John Coltrane and vocalist Johnny Hartman recorded an album together called, of course, John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman. It is an iconic album in many ways. The music is simple, straightforward and very easy on the ears. These two fine musicians had not met prior to the recording date. Hartman had misgivings about the collaboration— he had heard the uptempo and even avant garde playing of Coltrane, while he himself was a smooth balladeer and wondered about the outcome. He need not have worried. Coltrane had a mellow, sensitive, almost reflective side to his playing. He brought this into play for this recording. The interesting and in contemporary terminology ‘mind-boggling’ aspect to this: they did the entire recording without a retake. What’s more, as they drove to the recording studio, they were not decided about the last song for the album. Then they heard Nat King Cole on the car radio singing Billy Strayhorn’s “Lush Life” and decided to include that song. This is a complicated song with many changes and would normally require several rehearsals. However, in the hands of these masters, it sounded perfect. This is a precious, seductive jazz album and today, even 63 years since it was recorded, Coltrane and Hartman sounds contemporary and relevant. A current jazz singer, Kurt Elling, like many of his generation, has been inspired enough by the Coltrane-Hartman album to create an entire album of his own in dedication to the masterpiece. The Elling release is, in fact, called Dedicated to You. We recently saw a stage production in Mumbai of Mughal-EAzam, which was inspired by and unabashedly dedicated to the film production of the same name. This again is wholehearted praise and acknowledgement of a timeless masterpiece, much like that of Elling. Last year, American saxophonist Greg Banaszak had played a concert of Bird With Strings, the music of Charlie Parker. We had met Banaszak after the show and asked why he played the entire concert exactly as Parker had recorded it. Banaszak’s reply was simple and honest, “Why mess with perfection!” I suppose in the fairly long history of jazz, there are musicians who have become pillars of the music and musical compositions which are pivotal in the development and growth of the art form. These are pieces of art and go beyond being ‘standards’. It is marvellous for a young jazz musician to have this great material to use as his or her inspiration and development. Duke Ellington had put it very eloquently, “If you want to know where you’re going, you’ve got to know where you’ve come from”. Amen to that. Sunil Sampat is a jazz critic and Contributing Editor of Rolling Stone India. Write to Sunil at

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Pragnya Wakhlu’s Ode to Tibet

R&R TRIBUTE A SONG FOR YOU Russell onstage in California, 2014

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Leon Russell Enigmatic pianist was a master bandleader and songwriter who influenced Elton John and more


ne afternoon in the early nineties, singerpianist Bruce Hornsby was visiting his friend and hero Leon Russell at the latter’s home near Nashville. The house had a three-car garage and the doors “were wide open,” Hornsby recalls, with “things strewn all over: old mixing boards, awards tossed in a box, gold records, all this detritus. I said, ‘Leon, what is all this?’ ” Hornsby affects Russell’s slow, gritty drawl. “He said, ‘Residue from the fast lane.’ “That line said it all,” Hornsby says. Russell – who died on November 13th at 74 in Nashville after years of ill health, including a heart attack in July – “grew up in an era where pop stardom was an ephemeral notion. If you achieved it, it didn’t last long. Maybe he thought his four- or five-year run as a top-drawer touring artist and record seller – as a rock star – was pretty damn good.” That winning streak actually ran longer: from the mid-Sixties – when the Oklahoma-born Russell emerged as a first-call pianist, arranger and producer in Los Angeles, working on sessions for Frank Sinatra, the Beach Boys, Ricky Nelson and the Byrds – until 1977, when jazz guitarist George Benson’s Top 10 cover of Russell’s ballad “This Masquerade” won a Grammy for Record of the Year. In between, Russell applied a unique, instinctive blend of wheat-field-

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country music, down-home rhythm & blues and black Pentecostalchurch elation to classic early-Seventies records by Bob Dylan, Dave Mason and the Rolling Stones, while cutting his own solo LPs with Eric Clapton and the Stones as his sidemen. But Russell was best known for his turn as the musical director of English singer Joe Cocker’s 1970 U.S. tour with a cosmic-R&B big band of more than 20 singers and players, dubbed Mad Dogs and Englishmen, after a Noël Coward song. Russell assembled and rehearsed the troupe in just a week, and later co-produced its Top Five live double album. With his firm command of the music and the entourage, set off by his trademark top hat and Jesus-like mane of silver-gray hair, Russell became the breakout star of the 1971 tour documentary Mad Dogs and Englishmen – the so-called “Master of Space and Time,” after one of his credits on the live LP. Russell “was a control freak,” says Jim Keltner, one of the drummers on that tour. “But the control was about making a potentially chaotic thing into a fantastic revue with great singing, great playing, great grooves.” Four decades after the Mad Dogs tour, Russell looked back with modest realism at his commercial peak and his packed workload for other rock stars. “I was a jobber, like an airconditioning installer,” the pianist said in 2010. “You need air conJa n u a r y 2 017



R&R 1956-2016

Sharon Jones The Brooklyn soul diva found success late in life as a commanding, inspiring vocal powerhouse B Y JA S ON N E W M A N

Jones spent years in wedding bands and obscure funk acts. She was working as an armed guard when she recorded her first songs as a solo artist in the mid-Nineties at age 40, arriving to the session for “Damn It’s Hot” with a “gun hanging on my side.” She made six albums w it h t he Dap -K ings, including 2014’s Gra mmy-nominated Give the People What They Want, released shortly after she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. (Her battle with the disease is chronicled in the 2016 documentary Miss Sharon Jones!) Despite serious physical strain, Jones kept performing between chemotherapy sessions, finding solace onstage. “When I walk out, whatever pain is gone,” she said. “There is no sickness. You’re just floating, looking in their faces and hearing them scream.”

LEON RUSSELL ditioning? Call this guy. People called me to do what I did.” And Russell was not shocked when his stardom waned in the Eighties: “I was surprised by the success that I had. I was not surprised when it went away.” Until his 2010 comeback, The Union, a collaboration with lifelong fan Elton John, Russell had not been on Billboard’s album charts in three decades. “He’s a tough one to place,” says guitarist Derek Trucks, who acknowledges that he and his wife, Susan Tedeschi, were inspired to form their 12-piece Tedeschi Trucks Band after watching the Mad Dogs film. “To people of a certain generation, Leon was a star, a total badass. Then he got lost in the mix. But young musicians know him. In the last five, 10 years, he became a cult hero again.” Russell was born Claude Russell Bridges in Lawton, Oklahoma, on April 2nd, 1942. His father, an oil-company clerk, moved the family to Tulsa when Claude was in the seventh grade. He took classical piano lessons as a boy; in Tulsa, Russell was soon playing in local clubs, often with a friend, guitarist J.J. Cale. By 17, Russell was in Los Angeles, borrowing IDs and musicians-union cards to hustle work. He was using the name Leon Russell but never legally changed it – an early sign of his taste for enigma. “It’s handy,” he confessed. “I can be a different person for a while.” Keltner first worked with Russell on Gary Lewis and the Playboys’ 1966 hit “She’s Just My Style,” co-written and arranged by Russell. After the playback, “without saying a word,” Keltner says, Russell returned to the studio, grabbed a guitar and replaced a “wonderful, sophisticated” solo with a catchy burst of country-blues twang. “Leon had that thing that all great producers had: They know what they want, and they already hear it.” Ja n u a r y 2 017

SOUL FIRE Sharon Jones died of cancer last November

In 1968, Russell released an album with guitarist Marc Benno but largely stuck to guiding from the sidelines – appearing on a 1969 album by the white-soul duo Delaney and Bonnie; writing “Delta Lady” for Cocker that year. Russell’s biggest solo single, the dark, funky march “Tight Rope,” which went to Number 11 in 1972, summed up his ambivalence about celebrity: “I’m up in the spotlight/Ooh, does it feel right/Oh, the altitude/Seems to get to me.” Yet Russell leveraged his rush of success – including a showstopping segment during George Harrison’s 1971 Concert for Bangladesh and the Top 10 LPs Carney and Leon Live, in 1972 and ’73, respectively – into a series of willfully experimental records, featuring a country project under the pseudonym Hank Wilson. Hornsby calls Russell “a huge reason I got into the piano.” When he produced Russell’s 1992 LP Anything Can Happen, he says, it was clear who was really running things: After one near-perfect vocal take, he asked Russell if he wanted to fix a small glitch. “On a Picasso level, that performance was my art,” Russell said. “Any changes to it would be dishonest.” Russell continued working despite increasing health problems. In 2010, he underwent brain surgery to repair a spinal-fluid leak. He had trouble walking and “had gained a lot of weight,” says Keltner. But when Russell “sat at the piano, the feeling was all there.” It was present again at one of Russell’s last major appearances when he joined the Tedeschi Trucks Band in a tribute set to the Mad Dogs album at Virginia’s Lockn’ Festival in September 2015. Trucks remembers respectfully offering to hand over leadership duties: “He was like, ‘Nope. I did it the first time. This one’s on you.’ ” Yet in rehearsals, “Leon was the obvious musical director,” Trucks says, “chiming in on harmonic things here and there, choir stuff in a very subtle way. But when he spoke, everyone listened.”

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l i t t l e mor e t h a n 20 years ago, when soul singer Sharon Jones was in her thirties, a music producer told her that she was “too short, too fat, too black and too old” to ever find success. “They just looked at me and they didn’t like what they saw,” she told Rolli ng Ston e earlier this year. Jones, who died of cancer on November 18th at age 60 in Cooperstown, New York, spent the rest of her life proving her doubters wrong. As frontwoman for the Brooklyn funk-soul band the Dap-Kings, she emerged as a ferocious live performer whose power and command recalled her hero James Brown. “Sharon Jones had one of the most magnificent, gut-wrenching voices of anyone in recent times,” tweeted producer Mark Ronson, who worked with the Dap-Kings.


FLOATING POINTS: ‘I Think Everyone Can DJ’ The English electronic musician on how DJing is more about art than technique, his songwriting process, traveling to India for a record, and more By Kenneth Lobo



a nchest er-nat i v e Sa m Shepherd is one of the DJ heroes of the modern era. He’s an audiophile in the vein of pioneers like New York’s Loft founder David Mancuso. He’s an obsessive record digger, a gifted producer and holds a Ph.D in Neuroscience. His critically acclaimed debut album Elaenia’s restrained electronic jazz funk made its way into most end of the year ‘Best Of’ lists. And his elegantly weaved, genre-hopping, marathon DJ sets are stuff of legends (check out this six-hour epic with Four Tet at the closing of London’s beloved venue, Plastic People, in January last year). In the Internet Age of throwaway tracks and restless toggling, Shepherd likes to take his time with DJ sets and look for space in his compositions. Ditto with this interview, where, Shepherd deliberates every question with measured, thoughtful responses. It’s been a little over a year since your debut album Elaenia’s release. You’ve been touring with the band on the road a fair bit. How much has the live show evolved in the past year? I wouldn’t change anything. It’s been amazing, having different permutations and combinations with the band. It’s been a big band with strings, wind, brass and a smaller band with just five of us. We have tried most combinations. It’s a logistical nightmare. The band segues from a selection of the album into its own music and a lot of quite heavier music. I have been listening to a lot of rock music, which I wasn’t doing years ago. Now I am very interested in psychedelic rock, I never used to listen to that. That is influencing a lot of the music I am making with the band. Now, I am definitely making music for the band, which has definitely been a big change.

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On the album, I wrote and recorded everything. Then I got demo versions and got friends to play the drums and the bass and things like that properly. And now I have got this band together, and we spend time recording together and straightaway it’s become this live thing that I suddenly don’t have control over! I mean, I still can control what I want out of it…It’s a different thing, but I am having a lot of fun with it. It’s exciting. How would you compare the highs and lows of playing with the band and DJing? Well, I always knew that when playing live, bands put their soul on the line. There’s a lot of passion. So even if I am not really into the music that the band is playing, I am always deeply respectful of the fact that they are there doing their thing, and making a lot of effort to try and do that thing.. It’s a very edifying process, and a most valid form of art. DJing…I would always get embarrassed at festivals if I was playing after a band. I would land up with just a bag of records! But now I actually have begun to value… maybe I always saw the value of a DJ but now I have missed it, missed DJing so much this year—I am doing it a lot more. It’s really fun. There’s something different between good DJs and really good DJs. That is a skill, it’s an art. I think everyone can DJ. Technically, it’s not difficult at all. But the whole thing about selection, timing— there are some parts of mixing which can be artistic, an aesthetic. People like Ben UFO when he’s DJing… he really knows the sound he wants. It blows my mind every time I hear him DJ. I feel like I think have an aesthetic… it also depends on the kind of people in the crowd…. I get too bored playing the same style of music so I need to move it along. This isn’t your first trip to India, right? What parts of the country did you check out when you were here?

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THRICE AS NICE Jono Grant, Tony McGuinness and Paavo Siljamäki

Ja n u a r y 2 017

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ELECTRONICA THRICE AS NICE Jono Grant, Tony McGuinness and Paavo Siljamäki

You’re in a position now to make any potential dream collaboration a reality. Is there anyone that you would love to collaborate with in the future? Umm… I saw Anoushka Shankar on Jools Holland the other day, and I was completely blown away by how insanely good a musician she is. That’s the kind of sound I would love to work with, and it’s not because that I am talking to ROLLING STONE India that I am talking about an artist of Indian descent… I just caught her the other day and she is amazing. I don’t think about these kind of things, collaborations… I appreciate the music she makes, that people make. I have not done many collaborations in my life, and whenever it’s happened, it’s happened by being in a room with this person, and there’s no pressure to make music. The one time I did do that was in Morocco, and it was an arranged collaboration with Moroccan musician Maâlem Mahmoud Guinia, and James Holden. And it worked really, really well, but I don’t think I could go into a situation and instigate that situation. I would feel uneasy about doing that. I got one of my guitarists to buy a sitar-guitar here (in Los Angeles). I really love the sound… I am really interested in the sounds of Indian classical music. I have got a lot of records, and all the areas around India--Bangladesh, Pakistan… all that music blows my mind and especially the vocal work. Indian classical musicians have this unattainable level of dedication, it’s an example for the world.

around with portable turntables so I can always listen to records--a lot of shops don’t have record players. It takes time… that’s it. There are certain record dealers I go to, who keep the good stuff and tell me to check out stuff. There are certain shops in Japan that give me some really nice records. Sometimes they’re right, and sometimes they are wrong. A few weeks ago, I bought this Jean Turrell record called No Limit for all of one dollar. It’s literally nothing, you could find it anywhere and I put the needle on the record and I was like, ‘Wow!’ So good, so beautiful. That was my latest find, and it’s even sweeter when it’s only a dollar!

The past few years have put the spotlight back on crate-digging DJs. Everyone from Motor City Drum Ensemble to Sassy J talk about their particular approach to digging. Do you have a particular ritual or routine or technique that’s worked for you? What’s your most recent best buy? Hmm… I don’t have any technique. There are certain shops, certain places that I know I will get stuff. I am always digging around, listening to a lot of stuff. I travel

You said in a Red Bull Music Academy lecture that you usually go through different phases of music—modern soul, Brazilian music—what phase are you in now? I don’t know anything about psychedelic rock… it’s like when I got really into Brazilian music, I didn’t know anything about it. I could probably have a conversation about it with someone now. Psychedelic rock… I totally know even less about it. I am starting so far

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“There’s something different between good DJs and really good DJs. That is a skill, it’s an art.”

down that I don’t even know these classic records like Stairway to Heaven, Pink Floyd and all this stuff. I’ve got a lot to learn. It’s good to be informed. Like I said, being naïve about Portuguese has given me a layer of enjoyment… well that’s no excuse to not learn Portuguese. I haven’t reached a stage where I can call myself an expert but neither can I say the same about modern soul, or Brazilian music. I don’t pretend to know anything about the music. I just know that I like it. In a post-Brexit, Donald Trump-ian, increasingly fascist world, does it feel like just playing music from different races and nationalities is a political statement? I guess, one of the by-products of playing in all the places I do is a globalized view. But then I’m preaching to the converted anyway. Yes, I think DJing itself can be a stand but it’s not the same as having a profile and saying something political. That will probably have more reverberations than just playing music from around the world. You’re spending some time in India after the festival. Anything that you’re looking forward to on this trip? I’ve been to India before but I have never been to Rajasthan. So I’m hoping to spend some time there. I find the bigger cities a little intimidating. I’m currently in the desert seeking some peace, maybe that’s why. And, of course, as much as food as I can get my hands on. I went to a cookery school in Kerala when I was there last, and learnt how to make parottas. Ja n u a r y 2 017


I was looking for one record when I came down to India, and it’s not a difficult record to find but it was one that had a huge impact on me: Ananda Shankar’s Missing…It’s so unfathomably beautiful and dedicated to his great uncle. That record was perhaps when I went to India, but it wasn’t the key reason. I spent three months in India – it was between my degree and Ph.D, seven or eight years ago. We stayed in Mumbai, then went south to Kerala via Hampi, took the train up to Delhi, and drove upto Leh, Ladakh, Srinagar and drove into Amritsar and Chandigarh— my friend was studying architecture. We met a lot of people. We were living cheaply; amazing experiences. I’m coming back for the first time since then. A couple of my friends were speaking about going back. I’m looking forward to it!


Phil Collins

The singer on getting sober, his biggest regrets, and why he admires Davy Crockett Who are your heroes? I’m fascinated with the Alamo, so I go back to Davy Crockett. There was a lot of bravery on both sides of the walls. Crockett was an example of someone who could have left the fort, but he did the right thing and stayed, and he was killed for it. Also, and I know this sounds random, but I admire Jack Nicholson. He’s so honest as an actor, down to his hair. It’s always out of place. What book has left the most lasting impression on you? Romeo and Juliet touched me very much. It’s a bit like the Alamo in its two factions. When the Franco Zeffirelli movie came out, I saw it many times. I was drawn to the romance – total romance. I do believe that childhood loves stick with you. What’s the best part of success, and the worst part? The best part is other people saying that they like what you do. The worst part is that it drags you onto the conveyor belt of working all the time, to maximize the success. I just walked out of CBS and there were people outside that wanted me to sign something. In the old days, it would be fans. Now it’s people selling something on eBay. I wish there was a chip in someone’s neck saying “real fan,” because it’s not my style to diss people that have been waiting in the cold. What music still moves you the most? Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story. I listen to that on my computer. Songs like “Maria,” “Somewhere” and “America” were so far ahead of their time. In your new memoir, you write about the guilt you felt from not being around much when your older kids were younger. How do you get over that? You don’t. When I take my younger kids to football practice or give them advice, I’m reminded I didn’t do that with my older kids. You recently got sober. What did you learn from the experience? I didn’t know I was close to dying. If I had carried on drinking, my organs would have started shutting down. I also didn’t know the effect it was having on my kids. I was falling down because I was mixing alcohol with [pain] medication. One time I was watching TV and I got up to give my sons a hug. I fell down and my teeth made two marks in the tiles. There was lots of blood. I remember Matthew saying to their nanny, “Daddy’s fallen over!” Putting an eight-year-old through that, it gives me chills. By the time I stopped, my family disintegrated. Within six months, they’d moved away. Illustration by Mark Summers

Did you emerge a stronger person? Wiser, yeah. I got a sense of mortality, and then I didn’t drink for three years. Then, when we had our first Christmas in our new home, I had a couple of glasses of wine, but now it doesn’t go anywhere. An alcoholic is someone that wants to see the bottom of the bottle. I don’t consider myself an alcoholic. I made some mistakes, for sure. After injuring your back, you were unable to play drums anymore. How did you come to terms with that? It happened gradually on the Genesis reunion tour in 2007. Then I played with Clapton at Albert Hall for one song, and I had that feeling of “This isn’t happening.” That kind of scared me. The one thing I could rely on in life was that I could sit down at the drums and it would sound good, and suddenly I couldn’t pull it together. Now, I’ve got a drum kit in my garage and I’ve got into a routine of practicing. I’m trying to get my hands to feel natural again when I hold a pair of sticks. I’ve got some comeback shows booked for next year, and we’ll see what happens. Any chance you’ll do more Genesis shows in the future? Writing the book reminded me how close we were. Tony [Banks], Mike [Rutherford] and I went out on my birthday in London. We’re still great pals. Anything can happen, really. I just don’t want to suddenly take the brakes off and start flying off and doing things. I want to do things carefully and think about the consequences. When you divorced your wife Orianne eight years ago, you had to give her £25 million, one of the costliest divorces in history. But you actually got back together last year. Did that teach you something about forgiveness? Usually when there’s divorce, you fall into “I don’t ever want to see you again,” that kind of thing. Orianne and I stayed in touch, very closely. I called the boys pretty much every day. It can be very difficult to forgive. But in our situation, we both felt we made a mistake. Our kids are obviously over the moon. You’ve been divorced three times. Have you ever thought about a prenup? I think they’re unethical. They say, “Oh, darling, I love you forever, but just in case. . . .” It cost me a lot of money, but that’s lawyers for you. Anyway, I don’t envision getting married again. But if you did? I may. I’m just not considering that yet. INTERVIEW BY ANDY GREENE

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or y ears, mia mi producer DJ Khaled was best known for shouting a triumphal threeword phrase – “We the best!” – over amped-up hip-hop tracks featuring friends like Jay Z, T.I. and Future. Over the past year, though, Khaled has transformed into a star in his own right. His latest album, Major Key, hit Number One, but his surging fame is thanks largely to his Snapchat account, where he combines glimpses of the hip-hop high life (there are many jet-ski rides) with weirdly compelling quotidian scenes like Khaled watering a garden full of flowers he refers to as “angels.” Khaled has in turn become an unlikely digital-age motivational speaker, encouraging followers to absorb his “keys” to success. This month, he’ll release The Keys, a memoir that bundles life lessons into colorful self-help mantras. “When you read the book, you’ll see the whole process of my keys,” says Khaled, from his tour bus in Colorado. “The process to progress.” Last month, you went so far as to stream the birth of your first child on Snapchat, although you ultimately kept him offscreen. Why did you draw the line there? He’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. I want to get with my queen and put him in his nice Air Jordans and be properly dressed before I send a picture out to the world. I can’t wait for you to see him – to show you an icon. Right now, I’m on tour, and he’s in a secret location – an iconic secret location. He’s real cool. He’s a young don. Was your fiancee always on board with you broadcasting her labor? I always said that if the doctor says it’s OK to Snapchat the birth, I’m gonna do it. I wanted to do it in a respectful manner. My whole thing was to put love out through the universe. It’s hard times in the world right now: Sometimes you need to be touched by blessings like that. Did you play your son music while he was in the womb? All the time. I would play him Michael Jackson, Lauryn Hill, my album Major Key – beautiful music that’s timeless. I even played some music during the birth. That’s when he really started coming out! You use the word “they” to describe negative, success-sabotaging people. What makes someone a “they”? “They” is an energy that I suggest nobody ever entertain. One thing I’ve learned about success and being a great

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DJ Khaled

The hitmaking producer on becoming a motivational icon, Snapchatting the birth of his son and the importance of self-care BY JONA H W E I N E R

man is that people will try to tear you down. “They” don’t want us to love. “They” don’t want me to have a jet ski. Even little things: “They” don’t want you to have a bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch with almond milk! What will people get out of your book that they won’t get from following you on Snapchat? They’re gonna get to know my story, going through trials and tribulations, weathering storms. I’ve always been the guy who can walk into a dark room and be the lightbulb. I bring joy and light. Now, I’m a father. If you thought I was going hard before, now I’m going super hard. You’ve done more work to promote Snapchat than anybody. Have they cut you a check? Nah. I met the CEO, and he showed me love. But I was just being myself on Snapchat, and it ended up connecting. That’s beautiful, because people used to only know me for putting out hot records. You write in the book about stiffing landlords on rent during hard times. Were you a “they” to them? Not at all. Because I never dissed nobody. If I couldn’t pay my rent or I got kicked out, all I did was move forward. That’s not being a “they.” That’s actually being great. You also talk a lot about chasing bigger things constantly. But can’t endlessly chasing success become its own prison? Success is not just money. It’s giving thanks every day. You could have the worst day ever and you could go, “Let me chill and say, ‘What am I tripping about? I have life! Everything’s gonna be all right!’ ” That’s why, on Snapchat, I show myself watering my grass so it goes from brown to green, caring for it. I’ve been caring for myself a lot lately: I meditate, I pray, I’m in the jacuzzi. How does your Muslim faith guide your daily life? It would take me 40 years to tell you everything I pray about because I pray almost every second of the day. It’s the way I was brought up, and it keeps a shield around me. Your parents are Palestinian immigrants. This year, anti-Muslim racism in the U.S. has gotten seemingly worse than ever. Do you have fears about raising a Muslim-American child in this climate? We’re good people, and we don’t entertain ignorance. It’s the same as staying away from “they” – stay away from that ignorance. Love is the most powerful thing in the world.

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Katatonia Back in India

Swedish metallers Katatonia’s vocalist Jonas Renkse talks about returning to India, celebrating 25 years together as a band, and more


t’s been a hectic time leading up to the Christmas break for vocalist Jonas Renkse. Not only was he fronting Swedish prog metal band Katatonia on their Australia tour until December 11th, he also jumped straight into a special show with his side project, death metallers Bloodbath, playing bass at the Black Christmas Festival in Sweden the same week. But the pressures—of the road or even in the studio—is something that Katatonia don’t lament. Despite being around

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for 25 years, they went into the studio to record their 10th album The Fall of Hearts with limited booked hours. The budgets, as guitarist Anders Nyström mentioned in previous interviews, were also restrained. But Renkse sees it another way. “It’s always good to feel a healthy dose of time pressure, otherwise you get lazy. But I will never compromise with the final result because of financial limits or time restraints. Things have to work out and match our vision, otherwise it’s pointless to even start.” The results are there to see, of course. The Fall of Hearts, which released in May via Peaceville records, was the moody, melodic prog that is signature Katatonia, even if it has moved them far away from their death/doom metal beginnings. What remains is the sprawling, eerie sound. Renkse explains that they don’t just talk about moving out of comfort zones as a clichéd interview response. They really mean it. “Comfort zones are made to be broken, but not just for the sake of it. It’s important

to have a thought behind every new move you make,” he says. Plus, for the rest of us outside Europe, there’s the fascination that some of the world’s most developed countries like Sweden and Norway can often produce the best downhearted music. Renkse says, “I personally think it’s the weather and the nature here that is planting the seeds of melancholy.” Katatonia are bringing that melancholy to India once again, performing their second show in the country on January 7th as part of the Indian Institute of Technology —Madras’s annual cultural festival Saarang in Chennai. Interestingly, their India debut in 2010 also came at an IIT, performing in Mumbai. Renkse recalls their first taste of India as “exciting, exotic and a special moment.” He adds, “I think the whole experience was a standout moment, albeit a very brief one. I hope to have the chance to see a little bit more this time.” With a setlist that will include most of The Fall of Hearts and their favorites such as “My Twin,” “July” and “Dead Letters.” Renkse says their second sojourn to India should be a little more relaxed. Coming in from a show in Dubai on January 5th, the vocalist adds, “We have a little more time on our hands on this run, so I hope to see at least something more than a hotel and a stage.” When asked if he has any plans apart from the show, Renkse says, “I am not yet sure what it could be; I am open for anything as long as it’s not too dangerous!” ANURAG TAGAT

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METAL MATTERS Katatonia will play at Indian Institute of Technology— Madras’s annual cultural festival Saarang in Chennai


Plague Throat Pose a Paradox


Shillong death metallers’ frontman Nangsan Lyngwa on their debut full-length album ‘The Human Paradox’

t’s funny, this album has survived earthquakes and power cuts,” laughs guitarist-growler Nangsan Lyngwa, while talking about his death metal band Plague Throat’s longawaited debut full-length, The Human Paradox. He recalls when they felt the tremors, drummer Malice aka Dolreich Bianglang Kharmawphlang was recording with producer Ashwin Shriyan (the Mumbai bassist had flown down from Mumbai) at the band’s home studio. “They were tracking the last section and had to run out of the house. I asked Ashwin if he’d saved the session and he said he hadn’t, so we had to redo it.” There’s a certain bemusement in Lyngwa’s voice; he can always start a sentence in a somber tone even if he wants to say something funny. Perhaps that’s what is pretty death metal about him and Plague Throat. They can joke about how an earthquake played spoilsport during one tracking session, when the damage could have been much worse. For a band that’s been around since 2008 and started seeing much more approval after their debut EP An Exordium to Contagion (2013), breaking out of the North

TAKE TWO Nangsan Lyngwa (left) and Malice

East to play across the major metros and a performance at Wacken Open Air in Germany in 2014, Plague Throat is putting a rough year behind them. Their bassist Iaidon Jyrwa was out of the band owing to personal reasons in May. Then, in August, the band called for a “long term hiatus” while promising that they will release The Human Paradox. “What matters is that the music

comes first... and I can’t be pointing fingers at anyone,” says Lyngwa. With session bassist Jerry Nelson Ranee (guitarist for Shillong metallers Aberrant) on board, the band will release the 10-track album in January via Transcending Obscurity India (moving from their existing label Incanned Productions) with a possible tour in February. The Human Paradox covers Plague Throat’s earliest material and the latest. Although Lyngwa also tracked bass parts despite having a perfectly capable producerbassist like Shriyan helping with the album, there is one guest featured on the album— “Conception Subjection” includes a guitar solo from former Demonic Resurrection guitarist Daniel Kenneth Rego. The Malice-penned “Ma Nga” originated in 2006, before the band’s current avatar, and the album also features pounding death metal early cuts such as “Dominion Breach,” their first single “Inherited Failure” which Lyngwa wrote overnight, and “Conflict Resolution,” which is an allout razor-sharp riff fest. “People always say death metal guitarists don’t do much, so I thought I’d do this and see what people say,” Lyngwa says. ANURAG TAGAT


Today, bands decide that they’re writing a concept album before they have a concept in mind! Dr.Hex calls their bluff

In 2016, there’s a lot of things out there that I don’t like. Prisma, for example. Why one would want to look like he/she has been crafted out of molten lava is beyond me. People who say the record industry is stronger than it has ever been, also. You already read about that in my last piece. But of late, something that has traditionally always been close to my heart, has become a topic of discomfort to me. In the year 2016, I look the other way when I hear the term ‘concept album’. Here’s a fun activity for you. Meet your local band that’s currently working on their latest concept album and ask them what it is about. You’ll certainly be

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rewarded with a smattering of the following words and phrases- ‘it’s about a struggle’, ‘it’s about discovery’, ‘it’s about spiritual awakening’, ‘it’s about inner demons’. If you have the time and patience, you can probably create an instant ‘concept album word generator’ and write an album that’s at par with the mediocrity that comes out these days. Dr. Hex

Gone are the days of actual storytelling through music. Today, bands decide that they’re writing a concept album, before they have a concept in mind. And this is not just a local phenomenon. But, a worldwide epidemic. And then, they have the gall to say, ‘Hey man, it’s metal… nobody cares about the lyrics anyway!’. Ever wondered why it is so? Maybe because there’s so little emphasis given to the lyrical content that people have, over time, just stopped paying attention? Maybe because there’s so little synergy between lyrics and music these days that it’s probably painful to sit with the lyric-booklet open in front of you? Maybe because there’s probably more cohesiveness of thought in this article, evewn though I’m paid to write like I’m insane and incoherent, than most concept albums released these days? In fact, I’m aghast that in this era of technical wizardry, where people do things on their instruments that couldn’t

be imagined in the classic era of ‘concept albums’; there’s such poverty of thought in the realm of storytelling. Of course, there are exceptions. In our country alone, Bhayanak Maut, Heathen Beast and Gaia’s Throne (and some other bands too) masterfully tell stories through metal and ensure there’s a beautiful synergy between music and thought. I urge other bands across the world to follow in their footsteps, and if they decide to write a concept album; work just as hard on their storytelling as their music. I get paid to preach and so I will. It will not only enrich the experience of your fans, but also your own. And if you cannot, just write a normal album goddamit!


Concept albums without concepts

Riju Dasgupta does not exist. The writer of this piece is an illusion created by mad scientist Dr. Hex, who makes it seem like he plays bass for Albatross and Primitiv.

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Sandunes surprises; Kryptos get psychedelic; Donn Bhat bridges sonic borders




Mumba i producer Sa naya Ardeshir aka Sandunes’s 2016 relea se Dow nstream tests her own capacity for musical mischief. Somewhere between the delicious synths, blips, glitches and chimes on the 10-track record, you can see that Ardeshir has really learnt to take it easy. And with the kind of creatively secure music space she is in right now (carefully picked gigs, surprising collabs etc) she has no points to prove either. Except how electronically agile she is, of course.


Donn Bhat Connected

Mumbai g uitar ist/producer Donn Bhat’s latest record is a remarkably compatible marriage between his ‘live’ a n d ‘e l e c t r o n i c ’ v i s i o n s . Connected is as much about anticipative guitars and synths as it is about lyricism and social commentary, and in being that, it exemplifies the common saying among old-timers: that ‘a good song is good song’, to hell w ith genres. Bhat’s production on his third solo record is crisp and songw riting contemporar y.A nd with help from collaborators like vocalist Toymob and sarangi player Suhail Yusuf Khan, he’s managed to make an album that was perhaps played on


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ALBUMS of the YEAR loop the most among Indian indie music-lovers this year.


The Bodhisattwa Trio Heart of Darkness

It comes across at first as an overused pop culture reference to Joseph Conrad’s modern novella and its film adaptation, the cult hit Apocalypse Now!, but Kolkata experimental jazz rock band The Bodhisattwa Trio only go as far as to use a single voice sample from the Brando-starrer (the uneasy pianoled “Defeat”) on their second album. Everything else is an eerie, lo-fi sonic snapshot of what happens when a troubled (but genius) guitarist’s mind traverses murky waters of introspection.


The Circus

With Love

In seven tracks, New Delhi ex per imenta l rockers The Circus spring back in form with their third album, by when most bands have all but given up. If Bats was a frenzied, unpredictable attack, With Love is a much more studied approach to constructing a sonic bubble that keeps you engrossed throughout —from the quiet of “I Don’t Care Anymore For You” to quaking tunes like “Not Yet Dinosaurs” and “Lions and Wolves” as well

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as the familiarly-infectious “Discourse! Discourse!”


band—which a lso consists of guitarits Hartej Sawhney, Siddharth Talwar, bassist Zubin Bhathena and drummer Joshua Singh—further highlighted the story behind the album with detailed visuals and artwork by photographer Parizad D. at their live shows during their promotion tour last year.



Burn Up the Night

Bengaluru’s old school metallers trade in stories about mythic beings for something much more real—the leather-clad, fistpumping ethos of the Seventies and Eighties. Sonically, Burn Up the Night places Kryptos in a space that’s as glorious as they may ever be. From the incendiary guitar lines (“Full Throttle”) from Rohit Chaturvedi that are burnt into memory and vocalist Nolan Lewis’s snarling call to carpe diem (“One Shot to Kill”), it’s not very often you’ll see someone as stubborn on their principles as Kryptos turn to psychedelic-meets-traditional heavy metal.

in a mere one-and-a-half days at Mumbai’s Cotton Press Studios.


Sanjay Divecha and Secret Secret

One of India’s most prodigious guitarists, Sanjay Divecha’s album Secret combines different musical streams that sit together perfectly. The standout sound on the album is Divecha’s own wizardry on the guitar. The musician shares the rest of the space on the album with his talented musical colleagues such as vocalist Chandana Bala Kalyan, pianist Louiz Banks, horn players Shirish Malhotra and Kishor Sodha, among others.

What Escapes Me Egress Point

Metal in Kolkata is seeing visible signs of recovery, and this year belonged to What Escapes Me’s arresting debut full-length. It’s not just djent, because the band navigates everything from sarangi (“Coalesce”) and tabla (“The Truth Of a Lie”) sections to gimmick-free technically astounding metal. You can tell they’ve got some early materia, but they’re not afraid to share it proudly, whether it’s the metalcore-edged “Pseudo Showcase” or prog-drawing on “Maze of Mutual Apocalypse.”

10 SundogProject Tora


Spud In The Box

Lead Feet Paper Shoes

The Mumbai alt rockers shook the indie music scene earlier this year with the release of their debut album Lead Feet Paper Shoes. From the immersive intro “Drown In” to the deceptively cheerful “Institute of Madness” and the powerful “Hold Your Horses Closer,” the metamorphic album oscillates from mellow to manic, courtesy a combination of powerful lyricism and the two vocalists—A nkit Dayal and Roha n R aja d hya k sha . The


The Kush Upadhyay Group Perspective

At 19, guitarist Kush Upadhyay is already a session guitarist for some of music circuit’s most popular names. After releasing his debut EP Songs In The Key Of EP in 2015, Upadhyay releassed Perspective in 2016. The new record furthers Upadhyay’s signature sonic blend of blues, jazz and rock. Apparently, the five-track album was recorded

New Delhi experimental/electronic act SundogProject’s sophomore offering Tora features an ethereal mix of industrial, darkwave, ambient and rock elements. From the glimmering “Bloom” to the hyper “Disk” and the ominous “Vajra,” principal songwriter Rahul Das (joined by Shardul Mehta, Abhinav Chaudary and Akshat Taneja) presented a journey through time, space and everything in between.

(Releases are listed in no particular order)

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EPs of the YEAR

10 BEST EPs Your Chin sticks to his guns; Unohu get political; Godless’ ruthless debut


Underground Authority





Politically charged and lyrically outspoken, Kolkata rap rock band Underground Authority’s EP Propaगेंडा could well be the soundtrack to the tumultuous year that was 2016. A bit of a melting point (the band experiment with rock, ballad-y strings, reggae and two languages) the EP stands out for its raw energy and raptivism. This is the band’s —comprising vocalist ‘EPR’ Iyer, guitarist Adil Rashid, drummer Sourish Kumar and bassist Soumyadeep Bhattacharya—second record and definitely their more impressive one.

Your Chin

only to Tewari: no-nonsense grooves, oddball songwriting metaphors (“Slowly/Machines retaliate/Get Your Peanuts Out and Wait”) and the just-woke-up staccato vocals.

upon different lyrical themes and there is a common strain of political consciousness running through them. “Incognito” and “Call My Name” express how one cannot afford to be faceless and nameless in a country that’s bursting with people.

Peeping Till It’s Noise

Mumbai producer Raxit Tewari brings his familiar drawl and playful electro-pop on his third EP. If his first two records saw him experimenting and discovering his newfound sonic space, Peeping Till It’s Noise proudly boasts skills that are unique


Unohu Babel

Babel is the follow-up to alt rock band Unohu’s debut EP Asunder which released in 2014. The members say that it has turned out just the way they wanted. All four songs on Babel touch


Vernon Noronha Closer To Home

After writing and performing songs at festivals and clubs

Paraphoniks Yarns

Mu mba i-ba sed s y nt h duo Shatrunjai Dewan and Sid Shirodkar aka Paraphoniks dove deep into retro-futurism on Yarns, exploring spaceage sound effects and smooth Eighties-esque synth in detail. The EP features a myriad of tones that range from galactic conquest (“Frissions”) to video game soundtrack (“Polymath”) and ambient lounge (“Blue Shift,”) offering a unique exploration of the capabilities of modular synth.


Your Chin

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across the country for nearly eight years, Mumbai-based singer-songwriter Vernon Noronha released his debut EP Closer To Home this past February. The EP explores well-founded experiences, Noronha’s laid-back vocals and pleasant guitar work all wrapped in warm emotions that take you back home.

The Hoodwink Circle With The Flow

Although it took The Hoodwink Circle four years to release their debut EP, it proved to be well worth the wait. The Mumbai alternative rock band combined old-school rock, funk and metal on With The Flow, drawing inspiration from various situations around them for lyrics. The compositions

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EPs of the YEAR range from a song about a bike (“Suzanna”) to the Indian education system (“Failure”) to punctuality (“Late”) and more. Frontman Aidan Lewis’ vocals channel Eddie Vedder at points while guitarist Sanju Aguiar, bassist Ishaan Krishna and drummer Rahul Hariharan deliver dynamic and powerful performances.

you wince and smile more than hearing Govindraju’s most unforgiving, guttural squeals set to mosh-mobilizing riffs. Techdeath, slam and a hint of prog permeate on songs like “Focus 22” and “Severe Comorbidity.”

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Wired Anxiety The Delirium of Negation

It’s been a good year for death metal, and even the (now) offshore outfit of Wired Anxiety (with guitarist Naval Katoch and vocalist Dheeraj Govindraju based in the U.S.) have been able to stomp down with brutal intent. Nothing makes

Orchid Orchid

Benga lur u’s mind-bending metallers Orchid seem to be all about measure. On their long overdue debut EP, they make their menacing presence known, alongside their avant-garde alter-ego, writing two-faced songs that sway between pulverizing prog death and eerie jazz-influenced interludes (“Venusian Death”). It’s just a taste, but one that’s one of the most intriguing metal releases of the year, touching

upon all things brutal, from Eighties horror (“Civic TV”), mental disorders (“Disorder”) and manga/anime (“Migrate”).



Centuries of Decadence

allers Behemoth. One spin of riff-busters like “Ossuary” and “Replicant,” and it’s safe to say that Godless are just as ruthless as the past year has been.

10 Death by Fungi In Dearth Of

Hyderabad’s newest, most brutal band sees members of metal acts Eccentric Pendulum, Orchid, Skrypt and Shock Therapy combine forces to debut with epic, skull-crushing death metal that challenges the maladies of modern society—and your capacity for some serious sonic assault. Within half a year of its release, the fourtrack Centuries of Decadence has already earned Godless gigs across the country, and a slot on homeground festival Deccan Rock alongside Polish met-

Mumbai hardcore trio Death By Fungi made their mark this year under just 11 minutes—In Dearth Of wastes no time in unleashing sonic chaos that’s as groovy as it is grimy. Whether it’s the fuzzed-out aggressiveness of “Black Lung,” the frenetic riff-work of “Pathfinder,” the seething vengeance of “Iced,” or the punk-nodding freedom of “Endless Rain,” Death By Fungi keep it rolling with a stabbing angularity that’s all killer and no filler.


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sis on Divine’s verse delivery. The lyrics themselves highlight the power of hard work and determination, hailing those who are fighting their dire situations to achieve success in the urban jungle as soldiers.

Skyhabor’s poignant prog; Divine’s subaltern sass; Hindi funk-rock courtesy Ananthaal




“Make Your Stand’

If you’re running short of some #MondayMotivation—or any day of the week, really—look no further than GingerFeet’s inspirational headbanger. The Kolkata/Mumbai-based funk rock act keep it simple and hard-hitting with the lyrics (“You know we can’t get it all/But we still got to try”), but it’s the groovy riffs and busting falsettos that promise to get you on your feet and make your stand.

this standout track penned by Amitabh Bhattacharya.





‘From Shadows To The Stars’

“From Shadows To The Stars” by New Delhi-based jazz/funk band Afterglow is dedicated to the people that face caste discrimination everyday. Filled with tempo changes, the song has brilliant dynamics that run right through it. Clarinet player Rie Ona’s solos carries the song extremely well, leading the track just like a vocal melody.

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5 Ananthaal ‘Haal-E-Dil’

Who says Urdu poetry can’t glide on jazz-funk riffs? Mumbai fusion trio Ananthaal’s second single “Haal-E-Dil” (off their eponymous debut album) is proof that if there ever were any rules for music-and-lyrics pairings, they need to be broken pronto. Watch out for composer Clinton Cerejo and vocalists Bianca Gomes and Vijay Prakash’s delightful idiosyncrasies on



‘Jungli Sher’

“Jungli Sher” is a ferocious and gritty outline of Vivian Fernandes aka Divine’s journey from the slums of Mumbai to becoming a leading rapper in the Indian hip-hop scene. The beat stays simple with monotone percussion and bass, putting empha-



Mumbai-based singer-songwriter Mali’s single “Dreaming” invokes many of her childhood experiences—the people she met and the way she felt about them. It is the story of a boy, her alter ego, who is growing up. The single was recorded at Mumbai’s Cotton Press Studio with Stuart DaCosta on bass, Jehangir Jehangir on drums and Tejas Menon on guitar. Jehangir and Menon are also producers on the track.

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Prateek Kuhad ‘Tune Kaha’

With fans comparing him to Western artists like James Bay, Ed Sheeran and Ben Howard, New Delhi singer-songwriter Prateek Kuhad has made a considerable impact in the Indian independent music scene with his brand of acoustic pop. The light-hearted “Tune Kaha” woos you instantly with its heartwarming strumming and lyrics about young love.

‘Suck On These!!!’

Is it a comeback? Is it a one-off? Is it a much-needed release from one of the most playful bands in the country? The Mumbai hardcore/prog band turn to rap and grime a la UK act Hacktivist, but add their own grooves that can make you smile as you headbang. Of course it’s got a fully ribald title, because you can’t expect anything else from a band that still champions a song called “Johnny Horny.”

ring. While most of the seven-track release addresses the tumult of relationships, the equally angsty riff-rager “Lions and Wolves” is an exceptional ode to Game of Thrones.

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‘Cannibal Life II’

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Skyharbor ‘Blind Side’

They tested the waters with their second Eric Emery-sung track late last year, but the real deal was released with a music video following their gruelling North

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America tour. If Emery had to prove himself as Dan Tompkins’ stand-in, this one sealed it—emoting like the best in the business, triumphant choruses and all. It helps that the song sits just right with the band’s poignant prog that can earn a nod from the djent, rock and metal faithful.

The Circus

‘Lions & Wolves’

Ne w D el h i-ba se d e x p er imental rock act The Circus brought heady synths, slow grooves and an air of intensit y on their third studio album—With Lov e sees the four member act (comprising members of FuzzCulture, Curtain Blue and Ioish) craft seven tracks of metal-leaning, moody electro rock to the

Chennai alt rockers The F16s have painted quite the canvas on their much-awaited debut album Triggerpunkte . And while overall the album is a bright collection of groovy, chill pop rock (the guitars sometimes even harking back to the glorious Eighties) “Cannibal Life II,” like perhaps a couple of other tracks, invokes a deep sense of melancholia packaged in complex rhythms and plaintive wails. Quite the stunner, this one.

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Reverrse Polarity



Parekh & Singh get vibrant; Monica Dogra’s art deco project; Vernon Noronha’s moving tribute

Mindflew’s ‘O Beti’

ist Ritwik De is the hapless protagonist caught in the middle of it all, there’s Adityan Nair (from fellow psychedelic rock band The Urban EarlyMen) as a no-fucksgiven rickshaw driver who gets our vote.




Turns out dreams make the best music videos. The video for New Delhi producer Sahej Bakshi aka Dualist Inquiry’s latest single “Violet” off his second album Dreamcatcher is a curious narrative of recollections of his dreams, with all the bizarreness that the latter tend to bring: waking up in a derelict bedroom, encountering faceless school girls in the other room etc. Directed by the indie favorite Misha Ghose, “Violet” is both visually articulate and perplexing.


ager Sahej Umang Singh Bhatia (and a cameo by Menwhopause) and directed by Haider Hussain Beig, “On a Boat” showcases the once hipster district at its claustrophobic, seediest, dank best—drugs, surreal frames and the reminder that once you’re in too deep, there’s no escaping HKV. Let’s not forget this is easily the darkest party anthem you’ll hear this year.


Mindflew ‘O Beti’

Through the lens of filmmaker Tushar Prakash, New Delhi psych rockers Mindf lew present their own parallel universe, one that includes mad scientists and mob bosses in a drug deal gone wrong, set to kaleidoscopic rock. While vocalist-guitar-


With the video for “Shiver,” singer-songwriter Monica Dogra takes the audience into an alternative dimension within an old, art deco theater. Featuring a myriad of surreal characters and crisp cinematography, the video follows dancer and actor Reshma Gajjar as she alternates between two personas: a curious outsider versus a performer who seems to be the star of the peculiar troupe. Set against a combination of stripped-down synth, spoken word poetry and Dogra’s whispery vocals, “Shiver” evokes nostalgia and decadence.

5 Dualist Inquiry

Monica Dogra

Paradigm Shift ‘Banjaara’

Paradigm Shift’s dark video for “Banjaara” pack in clouds of floating ink, planetary bodies and disturbing facial deformations on the almost-sevenminute-long song. The Mumbai prog/fusion rock band step away from their previous live performances and playthroughs towards a stor yline that is about how people get inf luenced by external things in life

‘Shiver’ by Monica Dogra

Menwhopause ‘On a Boat’

Hauz Khas Village is not a nice place by night. Or, if you were New Delhi rock band Menwhopause, it’s the best goddamn place for a bender to love benders. Featuring the band’s man-

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VIDEOS of the YEAR Parekh & Singh in ‘I Love You Baby, I Love You Doll’

and lose track of what they are meant to do.


Parekh & Singh

‘I Love You Baby, I Love You Doll’

The country’s favorite dream pop duo suit up and mellow down in this folksy serenade from the 2013 album Ocean (originally put out under only g uit a r ist-voc a list Nischay Parekh’s name). Ahead of record’s the re-release on UK label Peacefrog Records, “I Love You Baby, I Love You Doll” sees Parekh and drummer Jivraj Singh traverse a quaint mansion, old letters and a lush, green landscape in a Wes Anderson-inspired clip, which ‘I’m Home’ by Peter Cat Recording Co.

even earned a nod of approval from the American film auteur himself.


Peter Cat Recording Co. ‘I’m Home’

The New Delhi psychedelic rock band’s video for “I’m Home” follows the journey of Death (portrayed by frontman Suryakant Sawhney) as he crosses the Great Wall of China and makes his way to a cremation to ‘collect’ the soul of a woman in a red sari (New Delhi-based filmmaker Surabhi Tandon.) Set entirely in slow motion, the video complements Sawnhey’s deep, relaxed timbre and hazy vibe of the track. The rest of the band—

ba ssist Roha n Ku lsh re stha , g uitarist K ar tik Pillai and drummer Karan Singh— also make an appearance as mourners.


Roshni Baptist ‘Butterfly’

Mumbai singer-song w r iter Roshni Baptist’s second single “Butterfly” carries the musical crux of her debut album Unbound: freedom and selfdiscovery. The video picturizes the message beautifully around the character of a (male) ballet dancer ambitiously chasing his dream despite adversity. The video plays with shadow and light to create multiple moods, much like the track itself.



‘Chemical Hands’

India’s (arguably) biggest metal export returned this year with a country-wide tour, news of a new album and a sci-fi heavy, post-apocalyptic prog metal ballad. In between shots of the Indian/American act working their instruments, the video for “Chemical Hands” rolls out highly saturated, constellationspeckled clips of deserted factories, fiery explosions and barren lands—all signaling that we’re “Deprived of all senses/ Embrace the nothingness.”

Noronha 10 Vernon ‘ Come Back Jack’

“Come Back Jack” reimagines Noronha’s own experience of his father going missing in 2013. He began writing it when he finally came to terms with the loss. The black&white video featuring some stellar actors also highlights reasons of his father’s disappearance.

— C ompi le d by Ni r m i k a Singh, Anurag Tagat, Nabeela Shaikh, Riddhi Chakraborty and David Britto

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Back to the Blues After an 11-year wait, the Rolling Stones recorded a new album in three days. Inside their roots revival and bright future BY BR I A N HI AT T

ROCKS OFF Rolling Stones performing at Montevideo, Uruguay in February

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BACK TO THE BLUES eptember 1965. charlie watts steps to a microphone in a smart sport jacket, introducing “one of our favorite numbers” to a packed Dublin theater. The 24-year-old drummer heads back to his modest kit, and the Rolling Stones tumble into Howlin’ Wolf’s “Little Red Rooster,” Keith Richards’ duh-dunt-dahduh riff battling Brian Jones’ spiky slide-guitar runs.

And a thousand Irish teenage girls greet each Chess Records guitar stab with crescendoing, this-song-is-so-fab shrieks. (Later, the audience will embark on an actual riot, storming the stage, which just makes it a typ-


ical Stones tour stop.) Ten months earlier, the band had somehow managed to push that raw take on 12bar Chicago blues atop the U.K. singles chart (though U.S. radio refused to play it, suspecting that the lyrics’ prowling rooster was not, in fact, a bird). “Little Red Rooster” is apparently still the only traditional blues ever to hit Number One in the U.K. “It’s crackers,” Mick Jagger says five decades later, on a late-October day in Manhattan, pondering that achievement, recalling those screams. He laughs. “You know, it’s crazy. I mean, that was a weirdo thing, ’cause we could’ve done anything at that time and it would’ve been Number One. That was the point.” He’s wearing a white button-front shirt with a subtle blue pattern and teensy black trousers that are probably the same waist size as his checkered pants on that Irish stage 51 years back. He looks his age, sort of, except not at all. As with all the Stones’ early blues recordings, Jagger says that “Red Rooster” was done “out of love.” “We were kids,” he says, “and we were proselytizing. The Beatles, to some extent, did the same – they talked about the music they loved, which was always, like, soul music.” The Stones’ music was rooted more firmly in their inf luences, however, and they went further in honoring them. In May of ’65, they strong-armed the U.S. teen TV show Shindig! into hosting Howlin’ Wolf himself, with the Stones sitting at the besuited, sixfoot-three, 275-pound 55-year-old’s feet as he bellowed “How Many More Years,” jumping in place and eliciting some improbable adolescent shrieks in his own right. “When those blues records came out,” says Jagger, “they were, in a sense, for their audience, pop music. They would play it like we would play Kendrick Lamar. To me, take away the genres for a minute and it’s all pop music.” Senior writer Bria n Hiatt interviewed Bruce Springsteen in October. 40 | R ol l i n g S t o n e |

Now, the Stones have circled back to the blues, with Blue & Lonesome, a (mostly) live-in-the-studio collection of 12 songs originally performed by the likes of Little Walter, Jimmy Reed and, again, Howlin’ Wolf. It’s the first Stones album to have zero Jagger-Richards originals; even their debut had a couple of attempts at songwriting. Recording Blue & Lonesome was easy – it took all of three days. “It made itself,” says

The freakiest thing about Blue & Lonesome is the extent to which Jagger and Richards agree on it. The two men, currently in their fourth year of détente after some caustic bits in Richards’ autobiography nearly derailed a 50th-anniversary reunion, are both genuinely excited about the roots revival. The project might, from the outside, seem more like a Richards thing, the kind of retro move he’d favor, while the Jagger of fans’ imaginations would be busy pushing the Stones to work with, say, the Chainsmokers. The frontman says the stereotype isn’t all wrong, but that in this case, “we were all equally into it. I was as into it as anyone.” “This is the best record Mick Jagger has ever made,” says Richards, always a fan of Jagger’s emotive harmonica playing, which flourishes on the new LP. “It was just watching the guy enjoying doing what he really can do better than anybody else.” He pauses. “And also, the band ain’t too shabby.” Even after their early flurry of covers subsided, the Stones never stopped playing old blues tunes, both onstage and, especially, in rehearsals. The 200 hours of Exile on Main Street sessions, for instance, were punctuated by repeated attempts at covers, meant to clear the air between the midwifing of new songs. Two of them – Slim Harpo’s “Shake Your Hips” and Robert Johnson’s “Stop Breakin’ Down Blues” – made the 1972 album. (“It’s like ginger at a sushi restaurant,” says Blue & Lonesome co-producer Don Was. “You cleanse the palate.”) In 1968, Jagger told Rolling Stone that the band had always intended to move beyond the blues. “What’s the point in listening to us doing ‘I’m a King Bee,’ ” he said, “when you can hear Slim Harpo do it?” But at their best, the Stones weren’t merely mimicking their inspirations. They weren’t purists, except maybe for Jones; blues fans looked askance at them for playing Chuck Berry tunes at their early gigs. Among early-Sixties R&B hipsters in London, “it was always that sort of reverse psychology,” says Richards. “Anybody who had a hit record was a piece of shit.” “You were kind of forced into a purist style because you wouldn’t get booked if you were a rock band,” Jagger recalls. “So we made out we were blues purists to get booked. The reality is, in rehearsal we would play anything – Ritchie Valens and Buddy Holly.” That irreverence made their take on the blues matter. Their frantic, hand-clappy 1964 version of Muddy Waters’ “I Just Want to Make Love to You” owed a lot of its approach to Bo Diddley, a fresh mixture that

“This is the best record Mick Jagger has ever made,” says Richards. “Also, the band ain’t too shabby.” Richards. As Ronnie Wood points out, however, it’s also the product of “a lifetime’s research, really.” Figuring out when and how to release it was trickier. “I’m saying to the record company,” says Jagger, “ ‘Can you make this pop music if you want? Is it marketable?’ ” The album came out of sessions that were supposed to be for an LP of Stones originals, still in its early stages. Jagger wondered whether they should wait to get that one finished, maybe release them together. But then again, the last time the Stones managed to finish a studio album was back in 2005, with A Bigger Bang. “The record company probably said, ‘Well, the other one’s never gonna come,’ ” Jagger says, twisting those lips of his into an outsize grin. “ ‘We might as well put this one out.’ I don’t blame ’em. I probably would have done the same thing. ’Cause, ‘Now I got something, might as well put it out.’ ”

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his past december, the Rolling Stones g a t he r e d i n M a rk K nop f le r ’s Br it i s h Grove Studios in West London to begin work on a batch of original songs. Jagger is deliberately vague on the nature of those tunes. “I hope it’s gonna be a Ja n ua r y 2 017

First impression At their first TV appearance on Ready Steady Go, performing “Come On,” August, 1963

very eclectic album,” he says. “I hope some of it’s gonna be recognizable Stones and some of it’s gonna be some Stones you never heard before, maybe.” Knopfler’s studio is gorgeous, equipped with an ideal mix of vintage and modern equipment, with high ceilings and gleaming blond-wood floors. It was also a totally alien environment for the Stones. “I know the Rolling Stones,” says Richards. “I know that recording new music in a room they’re not familiar with, there’s sometimes going to be weeks before the room breaks in.” So Richards told fellow Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood to learn Little Walter’s apocalyptically mournful 1965 B side “Blue and Lonesome” as a potential icebreaker (Wood remembers this suggestion coming in by fax, well before the sessions). By the second day at British Grove, Richards felt his prediction coming true. “The room is fighting me,” he recalls thinking. “It’s fighting the band. The sound is not coming.” He suggested “Blue and Lonesome,” Jagger dug up a harmonica in the right key, and the band barreled through two quick takes. “Suddenly,” says Richards, “the room

is obeying and there’s something happening – a sound is happening and it was so good.” One of those two takes ended up on the album, and it’s extraordinary, with Wood playing frantic lead; Richards hitting huge, doom-y chords; Watts nailing the original track’s regally restrained drum part; and Jagger digging deep on his harp when he’s not delivering one of the least-mannered vocals of his career. “Baby, please, come back to me,” he pleads. Afterward, Jagger – who says he had already been pondering a Stones blues album – surprised everyone by calling for more covers. That night, he went to his MP3 collection, returning the next day with more song ideas. And in keeping with the serendipity of the endeavor, a special guest showed up. On the first day, Eric Clapton happened to be mixing an album of his own at British Grove when he poked his head into the Stones’ live room. The guitarist, who had seen the Stones playing blues gigs when he was still in his teens, was taken aback. “Eric walked in, and he had the same reaction that any fan would have,” says Was. “He was just gobsmacked at being that close to something that iconic and powerful. There was this great look on his face.” They asked Clapton to jam on two songs, and he ended up picking up one of Richards’ guitars, a semihol-

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helped birth garage rock. The Stones didn’t get the “Red Rooster” riff right, either, playing it more like Muddy Waters’ “Mannish Boy,” while also drawing from Sam Cooke’s sleek 1963 soul version. (Eric Clapton recalled Howlin’ Wolf taking pains to teach him the original version when they rerecorded it for 1971’s The London Howlin’ Wolf Sessions, with the older man telling him, “It doesn’t go like anything you think it goes like.”) And in 2016, Jagger is finally ready to concede that the Rolling Stones have something to add to this music. “The thing about the blues,” he says, “is it changes in very small increments. People reinterpret what they know – Elmore James reinterpreted Robert Johnson licks, as did Muddy Waters. So I’m not saying we’re making the jumps that they made, but we can’t help but reinterpret these songs.”

BACK TO THE BLUES low Gibson, instead of the Strats he’s mostly played post-1970 – which helped him reclaim the fat tone of his Bluesbreakers days: You can hear the band applauding him at the end of “I Can’t Quit You Baby.” It all happened so quickly and naturally that the band never really discussed what it was doing, or even acknowledged it was making an album. “I didn’t even have time to change my guitar,” says Wood. “They were coming so thick and fast. It was like, ‘OK, let’s do it – this one, that one.’ Some of the harder riffs were making my fingers bleed, and Mick was going, ‘Come, let’s do it again, then!’ And we’ll go, ‘Hang on! My fingers!’ It was real hard work, but I love it.” For Jagger, it was a chance to indulge his blues-harp habit, a subject that arouses an incongruously geeky enthusiasm in him. “If I had known I was gonna have to do this,” he says, “I would have spent a few days practicing, because sometimes I do that, sit at home and play. It’s quite easy, really; I mean, you just put on whatever, a whole bunch of Muddy Waters records.” (Muddy “Mississippi” Waters – Live, a 1979 LP featuring Johnny Winter, is one of Jagger’s favorites for this purpose.) Jagger’s vocals are also striking in their authority. The camp he once brought to the genre is gone, replaced by something darker and deeper, perhaps reflecting the weight of real-life losses. “You can put yourselves inside the songs as a 70-yearold,” says Was, “in a way that you couldn’t when you were 21, because you hadn’t experienced the stuff.” “On some of these, I sound quite old,” Jagger counters, “and on some of them, I don’t. Some of it sounds like when I was in my twenties doing this stuff. I didn’t really mean it to sound like that. I was supposed to be more mature!”

says Jagger, before launching into a lengthy, learned riff on the early days of jazz, when white musicians like Bix Beiderbecke were quickly assimilated into the genre, but “the complaints were really on the fact – and you could level a lot of people with it – that the white people made more money.” Richards has his own answer to the issue. “I’m black as the ace of fucking spades, man,” he says, deadpan. “Ask any of the brothers.” He continues, “I didn’t know what color these people were, as a kid. I don’t think of blues as being of any particular color at all. Obviously, its history. But there were white slaves, as well. There have been plenty of work songs from way back. Try Egypt. Quite Jewish, actually. You know, people have been doing this since history began.” In the end, Jagger asks rhetorically, “Has it hurt the music, this inf lux of foreigners and people from outside of the blues tradition, or has it helped the music? The performers that I spoke to, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, when they were alive, they thought it had helped. There is an exchange.”

I didn’t know white guys could play like that.’ We connected, and they were not particularly impressed about what color you happen to turn out to be or whatever. Of course, Muddy and the other guys did recognize that for some reason, the Stones had brought this music back to America and repopularized it. Or not so much popularized it, just brought it to attention again. And for that, I’m eternally proud, and that’s probably the only way I’m going to get in heaven.” He lets out a long, strangled laugh. Unlike many blues guitarists, Richards never had much interest in being a leadplaying gunslinger. He was more fascinated by ensemble players like the Myers brothers, who backed Little Walter. “The idea was to make the fucking band slam together,” he says. “A quick, short, sharp solo here, boom, great. Otherwise, to me, the fascination has always been that four or five guys can create a sound that sounds a lot larger than the actual number of members actually involved.” Richards is convinced that rock lost its groove, its “roll,” distancing itself from its African-American influences, with the advent of the electric bass some 60 years ago. “By the middle Sixties,” he says, “you have the worst guitar player in the band playing bass. So he goes plunk-plunk-plunk, and that’s a very European thing.” W h i l e h e ’s a t i t , h e shares another opinion: “I mean, Jimi Hendrix,” Richards says. “Love him dearly. Incredible. He ruined guitar. That whist ling saw sound. That ’s what they say about Coltrane with saxophones. Fantastic player. Unfortunately, he ruined the instrument, because after that everybody growled through it.”

“How long can I do this?” asks Jagger. “How long can I run the hundred-meter stage? I mean, as long as I can.”


hile muddy waters was in England in 1966, a journalist a s k e d t he then-53year-old bluesman what he thought about Jagger and the Stones. “He took my music,” Waters reportedly said, “but he gave me my name.” Technically speaking, of course, Waters gave the Stones their name, via his 1950 single “Rollin’ Stone,” but he was speaking metaphorically: He likely wouldn’t have been playing a big show in London in the first place if not for the Stones. The Stones never questioned their right to sing and play the blues. What is now considered by some to be cultural appropriation is hardly a sin in their minds, then or now. “I don’t think we thought about that,” 42 | R ol l i n g S t o n e |

Occasional Stones jam partner and Chicago-blues standard-bearer Buddy Guy agrees. “They did so much for all the blues people, especially the black people,” Guy says. “They were putting the music where we never had put it before, and they just let the world know who we were. They didn’t just come in and say, ‘Well, this is new.’ ” Even before the Stones, the Chicago bluesmen were supportive of white players – Muddy Waters mentored the harp player Paul Butterfield in the Fifties, for instance. And the Stones grew close to the Chess Records crew, beginning with their pilgrimage to the label’s headquarters in 1964, where they were befriended by Waters. (Richards has long maintained that Waters was painting the ceiling when they showed up, which Marshall Chess has denied – but the guitarist is still positive this happened: “Why would I bother to make it up?”) “Muddy made you feel like you were really part of it,” says Richards. “He sort of brought you in. And Howlin’ Wolf was very much the same. There was none of ‘Well,


n october , a s t he ston es stepped onto the Desert Trip stage in Indio, California, some thoughts crossed Mick Jagger’s mind. “It was 30 meters wider than our normal stage,” says Jagger, “which is quite wide, by the way, which I usually run. And I heard that nobody else went out there, apart from me. So what the fuck did they build the stage for? “Was that just for me? And I was just thinking, ‘How long can I fucking do this? How long can I run the hundred-meter stage?’ I don’t know the answer to that. I mean, as long as I can. And then should I stop performing when I can’t run the hundred-meter stage, is that it? Does that mean I have to stop? No one else is using the hundred-meter stage!” Ja n ua r y 2 017

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Deep Blues Above: Mick Jagger circa 1970; Keith Richards on an Austrian stamp, 2003. Last year, Rolling Stones gathered in Mark Knopfler’s British Grove Studios to begin work on a batch of original songs

head injury meant “goodbye to cocaine,” he says. “I was actually fed up with the stuff. I was in a habit.” After quitting, he says, “you make up for all the lost meals and all the lost sleep.” While Wood has been sober since 2010, and even quit cigarettes for the birth of his daughters, Richards hasn’t taken it that far. “I like a drink now and again,” he says. “And I do like a nice piece of hash. Or weed. I hear weed is legal!” He and Jagger do seem to have found some genuine peace. “I love the man,” says Richards. “That doesn’t mean I can’t get pissed off occasionally, and I have no doubt it goes the other way around. But you have to forgive and forget, and also I would say that 89 percent of the time we’re in total agreement. But people only hear about the 11 percent, you know, where it flares up. What would the Stones be without it? If you had the perfect machine and everybody in total agreement, you’d probably be fairly bland. . . . It’s amazing we’re both alive. I celebrate Mick’s life. He’s always five months older than me!” In his book, Richards complained that he hadn’t been in Jagger’s dressing room for

Additional reporting by Patrick Doyle

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As early as 1986, Richards was suggesting that Jagger simply stand in front of the mic and sing, an idea that sends Jagger’s eyes skyward. “That’s good advice, Keith,” he says, with caustic sarcasm. “Thanks so much. It’s very useful. He should stop playing the guitar. I mean, come on! There is some other option besides ‘Are you gonna run the hundred meters or are you gonna sit?’ You can still move a bit in the middle!” Though Jagger blames the dusty field for a recent bout of laryngitis – and he originally questioned the idea of a festival of “old, over-70 white English people playing all the same music” – the band had a good time at Desert Trip, treating it as a sort of boomer-rock class reunion. They were all particularly happy to see just-anointed Nobel Prize winner Bob Dylan, who brought onesies for Wood’s now-six-month-old twin girls. Wood and Watts asked Dylan how he felt about his honor. “He said, ‘I don’t know,’ ” recalls Wood. “ ‘How should I feel? Is it good?’ I said, ‘You’re kidding. We really think it’s great and you deserve it.’ And Dylan said, ‘Do I?’ ” Richards is in his manager’s SoHo offices, slumped majestically on a brown couch beneath a vintage Stones tour poster. On his feet are the same bright-red Nikes Dylan noticed when the two hung out at Desert Trip: “Nice kicks,” Dylan said, to which Richards replied, “I thought you’d never notice.” Richards is wearing a gray overcoat, snug jeans and a T-shirt that reads do not x-ray. There’s a Rasta-style rainbow headband on his forehead and a lit Marlboro in his hand. For the first time in his adult life, Richards has lost his skeletal gauntness. His face is fuller. He looks almost . . . healthy. His 2006

decades. That hasn’t changed, but the guitarist doesn’t care. “The fact is, Mick and I really don’t want to hang together before we go onstage,” he says. “He has a routine of how he gets together for the stage. Me, I have a party.” The Stones are discussing more shows next year, and they really do intend to work on that album of originals. “There’s about 10 or 12 new songs that Mick actually has been cooking up,” says Wood, “and Keith’s got the odd one, too.” Richards suggests that at least some of the songs might be unfinished compositions that date back 15 years or more. They’ll all be in New York soon for the opening of Exhibitionism, an elaborate, immersive pop-up Stones museum that includes a reproduction of the squalid apartment shared by Jagger, Richards and Jones circa 1963, and collectibles including the cassette recorder Richards used to demo “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.” While they’re in town, Richards is trying to persuade them to do some recording, which may be a stretch. Jagger is positive they’ll finish that album, “but I don’t know when, because you want it to be really good and everything.” They all share an almost scientific curiosity about their future as a rock band plunging through its sixth decade. Again, how long can this go on? “I think we’re as interested to find out as anybody else,” says Richards. “But, man, I just got offstage a week ago and we were playing ‘Brown Sugar,’ and I turned to Charlie Watts and said, ‘This time we got it right.’ ” At 75, Watts is the oldest band member, and also happens to have the most physically demanding job. Understandably, he struggles with back pain, according to Wood. It’s unclear what the Rolling Stones would do without him, and that’s a prospect Richards refuses to contemplate. “Charlie Watts will never die or retire,” Richards says. “I forbid him to.” Jagger doesn’t seem eager to contemplate his own mortality, at least in interviews. But if you remind him that he’s convinced everyone he’ll live forever, he’ll shoot back without a pause: “I’m not going to.” Richards knows exactly how he’d like to go, and he’s sure that doctors will want to have “a good look at the liver” when he does. “I’d like to croak magnificently,” he says, savoring the prospect. “Onstage.”


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Sting’s Rock Roll Salvation

He’s got a charmed life and a loud, hard-hitting new album. So why can’t he stop thinking about dying?


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ting sits on a stool in a rehearsal space on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles. He cradles his bass and waits for drummer Vinnie Colaiuta to count in “50,000,” a rocking lament to Bowie, Prince, Lemmy and others lost recently. It’s from 57th & 9th, his first rock album in 13 years. His Springsteen-esque biceps pop out of a gray T-shirt. (Those muscles made middle-aged women gasp and fan themselves at a downtown acoustic show the night before.) Muffled, ungodly sounds leak through the walls. It’s Kiss mucking about next door. “Do you know Gene Simmons?” asked Sting later. “An interesting guy.”

Colaiuta starts the count, and an Australian camera crew filming the proceedings moves in for a close-up. Sting halts his band for a moment. He sends his fingers on a notso-secret journey. “OK, no boogers.” A publicist titters, but Sting gives a naughty grin and shrugs: “It’s always good to check.” In the three days I spent with him, Sting played against the cliché of him as a dour rock god with an overly earnest sense of self-importance. Sometimes he failed: He humble-bragged that he received an award from BMI for “Every Breath You Take” being played 13 million times in the United States. “That’s quite a lot,” he said with arched eyebrows. This was shortly after he marveled about Bob Dylan’s I’m-not-there attitude toward winning the Nobel Prize. Still, Sting now seems in on the joke that he is a tantric-sex-practicing, lute-playing semi-egomaniac. He sends up his own exalted image with comic timing. During a break in rehearsal, he does an extended riff on his much-maligned lute album from a decade ago, Songs From the Labyrinth, which he takes pains to point out sold a million copies. “People had a go at me,” he says. “People were like, ‘I don’t want to listen to the fucking lute.’ I’d say, ‘What’s wrong with the lute?’ ” He pauses and smiles. “I think the instrument suffers from the Monty Pythonization of the lute.” Granted, Sting is never gonna be the rock & roll equivalent of the office clown blowing beer out of his nose at the Christmas party. “I think death is the most interesting subject in any art form, whether it’s literature or poetry or opera,” Sting told me a month earlier while talking about “50,000” in his Central Park West home. He’d shown me a 1962 Contributing editor Stephen Rodrick wrote about James Corden in September. 46 | R ol l i n g S t o n e |

photo of the street he grew up on in Newcastle, England, with a looming shipyard at the end of the block. Everything in that photo has turned to dust: his house, his parents, the shipyard. Staring at it had put him in a melancholy mood, an emotional state that he admits he revels in a little too much. “Pop music is supposed to be about girlfriends and cars and the color of your shoes,”

“People said, ‘I don’t want to hear a fucking lute.’ I’d say, ‘What’s wrong with the lute?’ ” he says. The banality of pop music is a familiar Sting trope that has led him to be accused of taking himself way, way, way too seriously since his “King of Pain” days. He pets his dog, a pointer named Compass. “I’m 64. Most of my life has been lived already, and then, like most of us when a cultural icon dies, we’re children.” He stretches his palms outward. “Because you think, ‘How could he or she die?’ ” He cheerily admits to being a workaholic; he notoriously slept through the birth of his first child. I ask him if he thought he’d made enough time for his six children – two of whom are musicians – in between his touring and recording. “That’s a good question,” he says. “If my kids would ever complain about that, I would say to them, only half serious or half not serious, ‘For some reason, you chose me as a parent.’ Not ‘I chose you’;

you chose me. Because that makes them less of a victim. They’ve all turned out beautifully. I give all credit to their mothers.” He pauses for a moment. “Was I a perfect parent? No. I wasn’t parented terribly well myself, so I didn’t really have an idea.” We agree to pick up the conversation in a few weeks. On the way out of a living room lined with books, I point at a painting I like, an abstract with a lightbulb in the middle. “Oh, that’s a Basquiat,” says Sting offhandedly as he sips a cup of tea. “Andy [Warhol] did the lightbulb.” He whispers the next bit. “My grandchildren like to come in and put their hands all over it. They don’t know what it is.” He grins. “It’s great.”


ting named “57th & 9th” after a Manhattan corner he would cross every morning on the way to the studio. He’d stop and meditate for a moment about his day to come and days past before crossing the street. He spends much of his time in New York with his wife, Trudie Styler, a film producer. His kids are grown, and he and Styler are empty-nesters. He appreciates the relative anonymity Manhattan provides. “People here are all in their own TV show,” he says. “They might stop and say, ‘Hey, Sting, I like your music,’ or ‘Hey, Sting, you suck,’ but then you just go on.” Over the past decade, Sting has done everything but make a rock record. Besides that lute album, there was an orchestral version of his greatest hits, a Police reunion and the passion project of The Last Ship, a musical set in the Newcastle of his childhood. Unlike on his previous solo albums, where songs and arrangements would be painstakingly laid out beforehand, Sting entered the studio for 57th & 9th with nothing – no lyrics, no melodies and no concept. “We would ping-pong lines back and forth,” he says. “A bass line or something until we had a riff or a tune we liked.” Sting is a prodigious walker – you can often see him strolling through Central Park – and he’d think about the songs while moving about. But he still had to write the words. So he would get home from a walk, pour himself a cup of coffee, put on his heavy coat, grab his guitar, and sit on his frigid balcony with gorgeous views of the Manhattan skyline. He didn’t allow himself into the house until he’d written a set of lyrics. “I wrote four songs in two days,” says Sting. “It was fucking cold.” Sting then brought the songs inside, usually playing them for Styler, who he claims is his toughest critic. “She won’t say something is awful,” he says with a long-married smile. “But I can tell.” He has been writing covert protest songs since the Police’s “Driven to Tears,” so it is not a surprise that there’s a passel of slightly disguised political songs on the record. Ja n ua r y 2 017




All This Time (1) With Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland of The Police in 1981. The band’s 2007-08 reunion is unlikely to be repeated. “It closed the circle,” Sting says. (2) As a three-year-old in Newcastle, England. (3) With his wife of 24 years, Trudie Styler. 3

“One Fine Day” humorously deals with the quixotic hope that climate change is in fact a myth as the world melts around us. “Ishallah” deals with the refugee crisis from a humanitarian perspective; “Empty Chair” is an ode to foreign correspondent James Foley, executed by ISIS in 2014. A recent interviewer linked Sting to Woody Guthrie, a comparison that baff les him. “Woody Guthrie, that I’ve never heard,” says Sting with a smirk. “Woody Woodpecker, yes.” Sting has been an activist for more than 30 years, but he keeps a lower profile about it these days, content to run his Rainforest Foundation Fund with Styler and a board of experts, working on smaller projects that help people in 21 countries in the subequatorial parts of the world. Ja n ua r y 2 017

The politics of his songs have evolved as well. We talk about “We Work the Black Seam,” a 1985 lament about Thatcherism, the danger of nuclear power and the loss of coal jobs in Newcastle and other areas that were dear in Sting’s childhood. Now, he is more versed in the downside of dirty coal and the necessity of nuclear power. “What we know about power, I would say my position has shifted,” he says. “I think if we’re going to tackle global warming, nuclear power is the only way you can create massive amounts of power.” Inside, the band is waiting. He wants to make one thing perfectly clear: “But, hey, I’m not a scientist.” between our two visits, i turned 50 while Sting hit 65. He was keen to talk

about the mileposts, even if, when we first met, he professed not knowing exactly how old he was. Now a senior citizen, Sting still looks, annoyingly, 38. It’s not by accident. Every morning he swims laps for an hour while listening to Bach cello concertos played by Yo-Yo Ma. He then does a Pilates class. He describes himself as “vain and disciplined.” I ask if there was ever a point where he’d let himself go and put on 20 or 30 pounds post-tour. He looks at me as if I were mad: “Fuck, no! I’d kill myself. I’d just die of shame. I’m a fattist when it comes to myself.” With all the talk of self-preservation, you could get the idea that Sting is one of those famous persons who has convinced himself that his exalted state in the people food chain means, just possibly, he’ll never die. Not so. The day before he turned 65, he played before a crowd of 100,000 at halftime of Australian-rules football’s version of the Super Bowl, in Melbourne. He then spent most of his birthday alone at his hotel thinking about having more days behind him than in front of him. He spends an inordinate amount of time thinking and writing about death. His parents died young, and Sting skipped their funerals, blaming touring responsibilities, but now knows it was a mistake. Still, he hasn’t exactly made his peace with the end. “I have been thinking about death since I was a kid,” says Sting, who was raised Catholic. “I get a kind of spiritual vertigo. I was brought up in a religious background with ideas of eternity, eternal torment or eternal heaven, which sounded just as tormented to me. I became obsessed with it, maybe morbid about it.” One of Sting’s attempts to parse mortality has been through multiple experiences taking the drug ayahuasca, a psychedelic popular in South American spiritual ceremonies. “I think it’s a way of rehearsing the feeling of being dead,” he says, stressing it’s not a pleasure drug. “Every time, I have to work up the courage to do it. You basically face your mortality, and it’s as if you’re dead, out of time. Your whole life passes in front of you in this other realm. I can only sound vague about it. Most people die in total panic. Terror. I think there’s another way. We’re supposed to die. There must be a way to die peacefully and welcoming.”


istening to sting and his band play songs from 57th & 9th, one of the first things I notice is that there is clear space bet ween t he instr uments. Love him or hate him, Sting’s songs are rarely cluttered with a cacophony of sound to disguise the lack of an idea. There’s a touch of audio aloofness to them, as if Sting has a secret that he’s not quite letting you in on. That

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Onstage in Marysville, California with The Police on their North American Reunion Tour, 2008

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and forgiving. “One of us can make a mistake and he just goes with it or it opens a new avenue,” says Miller. That is real growth for Sting from his earlier days. Asked about his long reputation for being a not-so-benevolent dictator, he readily nods his head. “I used to be an arrogant, feisty old fucker. I’m a better bandleader. I’m a more calm person.” He pauses a second and gives a Cheshire grin. “I think.” The calmer Sting was present the night after the presidential election in New York. While the citizens of Manhattan freaked out and binge-drank before a show at Irving Plaza, Sting appeared and acknowledged that many in the crowd had been “traumatized.” Instead of a lecture, he led the crowd in chanting a very British slogan: “Keep calm and carry on.” Perhaps not coincidentally, he launched into “Message in a Bottle,” and the well-healed crowd sang a little louder at the chorus: “Sending out an S.O.S. Sending out an S.O.S. . . .” There was more healing to do a few days later in Paris. Sting reopened the Bataclan, where, last November, 89 concertgoers were murdered by Islamic terrorists. He addressed the crowd in French. “We will not forget them,” Sting said. “Tonight we have two tasks to settle. First, to remember and honor those who lost their life in the attacks. Then, to celebrate life and music.”


mbition in the young and beautiful can leave a sour taste. Ambition in the old and beautiful can be endearing. The night before his band rehearsal, Sting did an acoustic sing-and-talk show at the Grammy Museum in L.A. Sting was busy being Sting, questioning why he had to hold a mic, barely not rolling his eyes at questions he thought banal and asking his host to guess how many years it would take to listen to all of his music on Spotify – just his solo work, mind you, no Police work. When the host shrugged, Sting told him, “Twenty-seven years. Imagine that.” He also reported that “I Can’t Stop Thinking About You” had entered at Number Four on something called the Adult Alternative airplay chart. Sting hadn’t made any chart for a decade, and you could tell it meant a lot. But there was more to the story. His musician daughter, Eliot Sumner, was on the same chart, right ahead of her father. He had told me the story earlier: “It was fantastic. She was thrilled and said, ‘Ah, Dad, we’re in the same chart.’ ” He paused for a second, and the mask Sting sometimes wears fell over his chiseled face. “She actually had one more play than me.” I couldn’t tell if he was serious or not. And then he broke into a toothy smile. For a moment, Sting wasn’t Sting, just a proud father. It was a good look on him. Ja n ua r y 2 017


ness is present in his personality as well. You get a sense that he’s throwing a jab that keeps the rest of the world from grabbing him in a clinch. “I’ve been with him for 27 years, but I wouldn’t say we are very close,” says Dominic Miller, his longtime guitarist. “But what I can do is get very close to him on a musical level.” The loner part of Sting is largely responsible for the Police breaking up after only nine years. “A band is a democracy,” says Sting. “Or the semblance of democracy. You have to pretend more in a band.” While he claimed to have enjoyed the Police’s 2007 reunion, Sting might have been fibbing. “It was a return back to that forced democracy and reminded me just why I’m not in the band,” he says. “It was Stewart’s band. He started it, he named it, and it was his concept.” I ask if the band was still a democracy by 1983, the time of Synchronicity and Policemania. He slyly smiles and shrugs. “No.” Sting is still friendly with ex-bandmates Andy Summers and Copeland, whom he saw before a Hollywood Bowl show last year. He said the reunion tour shan’t be repeated: “For me, it closed the circle. We’d never officially broke up. It was perfect timing. For me, it feels complete.” Listening in on his rehearsal with his current band, Sting seems more relaxed


“Neon singer with a jukebox title full of heartbreak/33, 45, 78 – When it hurts this good, You gotta play it twice/Another vice.” —Mir a nda L a mbert, “Vice”

Miranda Lambert: Blonde on the Tracks The country queen flirts and drinks and digs deep on a powerful double LP

Miranda Lambert The Weight of These Wings RCA


Miranda Lambert’s latest opens on a classic country image: a weekend hangover echoing the one in K ris K ristofferson’s “Sunday Mornin’ Coming Down.” But “Runnin’ Just in Case” is no brooding existential ramble. It’s a gravel-spitting exit from sorrow’s driveway, bad memories shriveling in the rearview. And it sets the tone for the Nashville star’s most ambitious LP, a rangy two-disc set ditching country’s mainstream playbook for the sort of Great Album that rock acts used to crank out regularly back in the day. Rubber neckers have anticipated The Weight of These Wings since Lambert split from Blake Shelton, ending their four-year term as country’s First Couple (another thankless job). Sure, it’s a “breakup record.” But it’s more about songs for the ages than tabloid Illustration by Chris Buzelli

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Rough justice: Metallica

Metallica’s Hyperthrash Wasteland The band returns to its classic sound and a brutality perfect for our times Metallica Hardwired . . . to Self-Destruct Blackened HHHH It’s been eight years since Metallica’s last studio album. But t h a t ’s small change next to their long haul to this two-disc resurrection: via the jagged apocalypse of 1988’s . . . And Justice for All and the focused brawn of 1991’s Metallica. The mostly epiclength tracks – almost entirely written by drummer Lars Ulrich and singer-guitarist James

Hetfield – are melodically assured furies of serial riffing and tempo shocks. “Hardwired,” “Atlas, Rise!” and “Now That We’re Dead” are relentless whirls of tribal chug and hyperthrash, braking hard at the title chorus lines. Guitarist Kirk Hammett’s torrid wah-wah solos affirm his standing as heavy metal’s most tuneful arsonist. And after working out his interior rage earlier in this centu-

ry, Hetfield is on vintage-lyric ground in the wastelands evoked here: the false-idol worship in “Halo on Fire” and “Moth Into Flame”; the cycles of arrogance and inhumanity that breed payback in “Here Comes Revenge.” In the blitzkrieg “Spit Out the Bone,” Hetfield imagines an Earth cleansed of man by the technology we crave. If you listen on your phone, be very afraid. DAVID FRICKE

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raw meat. With an A-list coauthor team including Natalie Hemby, Liz Rose, Ashley Monroe and Lambert’s boyfriend, Anderson East, Lambert co-wrote 20 of 24 tracks and filled out the rest with well-chosen covers; see “Covered Wagon,” a 1971 jam by singer-songwriter Danny O’Keefe, and “You Wouldn’t Know Me,” by Texas troubadour Shake Russell. The album’s two parts – “The Nerve” and “The Heart” – pivot on songs about romantic rebound. “Use My Heart” chronicles a sort of lovers’ PTSD; “Tin Man” extends the cardiac metaphor per The Wizard of Oz; “Pushin’ Time” is a steely but fragile collaboration (with East, fittingly) about late-game relationships that can’t afford to dawdle. Emmylou Harris’ 1995 LP Wrecking Ball, with its floaty Daniel Lanois production, seems a touchstone here. But this is also an album with dirt under its manicured nails: There’s the hoarse hollers and guitar skronk on “Pink Sunglasses,” and the permdamaged hair-metal riffs on “Vice,” where Lambert’s declaration “said I wouldn’t do it/But I did it again” echoes Britney Spears minus the ingénue coyness, consequences clattering like leg irons. There are goofs (“For the Birds”) and throwaways (“Bad Boy”). But these moments are often less lightweight than they seem; see “Tomboy” (rhymes with “move along, boy”) and “Getaway Driver,” its unsettled friendship as touchingly queer in its way as Little Big Town’s “Girl Crush.” The set’s most vintage moment is “To Learn Her,” a honky-tonk weeper worthy of George Jones, offering a lovers’ curriculum with no easy answers. It’s emblematic of an album that never wallows in breakup pain, but instead deals – making plans, getting drunk, flirting, testifying and, above all, moving on. And if you’re fingering a few scars of your own, you’ll be rooting for her.

On the Shelf Gentlemen Only Absolute by Givenchy With profound intensity, this Eau de Parfum blends extreme sophistication with the most sensual of signatures. Boasting remarkable persistence and trail, its rare power is fiercely addictive. The fragrance combines bergamot and its metallic accents with a trio of warm spices (saffron, nutmeg and cinnamon), sandalwood and a hint of vanilla for sensuality. When the freshness of the top notes has passed, a rich, round, woody fragrance envelops the skin with a captivating imprint that will never leave.

Sennheiser’s PXC 550 Wireless Sennheiser’s PXC 550 Wireless headphones offer a smart travel experience that combines supreme ease of use with features that discretely anticipate the needs of the user. The intuitive, ear cup-mounted touch control panel and voice prompt system allows for a convenient selection of settings, while the PXC 550 Wireless can automatically pause music and calls when the headphones are taken off. The PXC 550 Wireless is built to meet the demands of the frequent traveler with long-haul battery performance of up to 30 hours.

Dylan Blue by Versace Dylan Blue is the essence of the Versace man today. It’s a fragrance full of character and individuality, an expression of a man’s strength and also his charisma. It takes traditional notes and scents and makes them modern, fresh for today and tomorrow.

Celio’s Spring Summer 2017 Collection Celio is taking you on a world trip for this season’s Spring Summer 2017 Collection. The brand is proposing six collections via six unmissable destinations: Tokyo which features a work wear range which is both understated and refined but also fun and sharp. New York highlights a more casual and chic line.Los Angeles is the inspiration for a minimalist style, a functional expression stripped of all excesses. Blue Bali is a denim wear line while Ghana is a very relaxed collection range which imposes a graphic and colourful style whcih draws its inspiration from the denim world. Finally, New Orleans is a more formal collection range which contains a combination of old and new trends.

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Totem by Kenzo

Police Icon Gold

Kenzo perfumes breathe a new energy and a new tempo into three Eau de Toilette under one name, Totem. Kenzo chose to launch three fragrances instead of just one to captivate all identities. Three mighty signatures, universal, but with a strong character. The Woody Citrus is modern and sparkling, exhaling an aroma of freshness, Woody Floral symbolizes a new energy and Woody Fruity evokes a modern, gourmand kind of sensuality, which is neither too smooth, nor too obvious. The perfumes are priced at INR 3,100.

The characteristic eagle-shaped bottle is now reinterpreted in a new prestigious version inspired by the concepts of gold and luxury. With an explosive accord of bergamot, the fragrance is full of sparkling freshness and agility. The beauty of the bottle’s geometric lines is further enhanced by a golden varnish, which exalts the facets of the glass and transforms the bottle into a precious ornament. Priced at INR 2,895 for a 125ml bottle.

Lady Million Prive by Paco Rabanne With notes of orange blossom and vibrant wood, Lady Million Eau de Parfum plays the seduction card, attracting her partner to a romantic scent. The amazing trio of sunny heliotrope flower, hot and creamy vanilla and raspberry seals the enchantment. In the base notes, soft and captivating cocoa bean comes to the fore, followed by honey and vibrant patchouli. It is priced at INR 6,800 for an 80ml bottle.

MZ-X Series Keyboards’ 1.40 Update by Casio The MZ-X Series Keyboard 1.40 update has additional user accompaniment storage capacity, a new direct import from USB flash drive to accompaniment function and enhanced settings for the pattern sequencer recorder. Also added is a new record repeat setting for the pattern sequencer recorder and a new tempo option for registration filter items.

Vans Old Skool Vans Old Skool is an iconic footwear form that has endured the test of time. This holiday season, the Vans Old Skool appears in an assorted mix of colors, patterns and materials. The arrangement of solid-colored styles present dark tones such as eclipse, ivy green and iron brown together with an offering of neons and pastels for men and women. It also includes a collection of prints like the iconic checkerboard, nebula mountain, paint splatter and floral on the quarter panels of each shoe.

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GIG CALENDAR Kuenta i Tambu

GOAT FESTIVAL 2017 After the exit of two of its most popular music festivals, Sunburn and VH1 Supersonic, Goa is now home to a new festival, GOAT, organized by London-based music and events agency GOAT. Some of the international acts set to perform are tropical bass group Kuenta i Tambu, South African rapper Dope Saint Jude and soul electronic act Sorceress from New Zealand. Indian names include electro-folk act Donn Bhat + Passenger Revelator, producer Aqua Dominatrix and more. January 27th-29th MORJIM, GOA

On the back of hosting a stellar second edition last year, featuring the likes of singer-songwriter Prateek Kuhad and electronic duo Nicholson, India’s most chilled-out festival is back with its coconut trees, camping tents and of course a great lineup of musicians. January 21st-22nd ALIBAUG, RAIGAD

KATATONIA Swedish doom/prog metal band Katatonia return to India after nearly seven years, to headline the Rock Show at IIT Madras’s annual college festival Saarang. Best known for crafting a heavy yet melancholic sound, the Swedes released their 10th studio album ‘The Fall of Hearts’ in May 2016. January 7th SAARANG, IIT MADRAS, CHENNAI

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SUNBURN ARENA WITH DAVID GUETTA French DJ, record producer, re-mixer and songwriter David Guetta returns to India as part of his Unity Tour 2017. Guetta has sold over nine million albums and 30 million singles worldwide. The tour will be part of the DJ’s #Guetta4Good initiative. The DJ

will perform in three cities. The venues are still to be announced. January 13th MUMBAI January 14th HYDERABAD January 15th NOIDA

GENERATION WHY The first edition of the ‘Generation Why’ gig series will feature hip-hop crew Swadesi, alternative poprock group Ryan Victor Project and new kids on the block Cat Kamikazee. January 5th HARD ROCK CAFÉ, ANDHERI, MUMBAI

David Guetta

GOA SUNSPLASH 2017 Goa Sunsplash brings a wave of reggae to India. The second edition of the festival is to be headlined by some heavyweights in the global reggae scene, including UK dub producer Zion Train, digital reggae specialist Manudigital from France, veteran British MC Brother Culture and the reggae-dancehall singer Cali P from Jamaica. January 14th-15th NYEX BEACH CLUB, GOA

ANAND BHASKAR COLLECTIVE The alternative rock-fusion act will be launching their new album this month. The band pen strikingly relevant lyrics that complement their music in an easy and comprehensible manner. The upcoming release features nine new songs. January 10th, ANTISOCIAL, MUMBAI

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“ ’93 Me and Fred and Dave and Ted”

Has anyone ever done the actor-to-rapper thing as well as Community/Atlanta star Donald Glover? This single from his third LP exudes geeky warmth, as he splays helium-soul love all over a rubbery P-Funk groove. But when he sings, “You better believe in something,” it’s clear there’s more going on here than just loopedout fun.

Stephin Merritt is releasing an album of 50 songs, one for every year of his life – including this sweet ode to New York in ’93, complete with squalor, sex and gunplay.

3. Saba An elegiac image of Chicago from rapper Saba. Poignant details (like leaving for college as your friends go to jail) drive the song home.

“Age of Consent” A lot of New Order songs are heavy on the electronics. I really like this song because it sounds like a band.

“Westside Bound 3”

“Legalize It” Quitting the Wailers was a ballsy move, but he wanted to be a singer. This song spoke to the hearts and minds of stoners all over the world.

6. Charly Bliss

George Harrison

“Wah-Wah” He had to separate himself from the Beatles to find out who he was. It’s so dope he wrote a song about a guitar pedal.


A great punk-rock banger about getting catcalled (“In your dreams, turd!”), with all sales going to Planned Parenthood.

The Heartbreakers

7. Nicki Minaj “How??”

Amiably deranged psych rock that’s perfectly poised between wonderment and dread. This darkly hulking song from the Lips’ forthcoming album is like viewing an alien craft over a far-off ridge. We’re probably gonna die, but, man, does it look awesome.

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New Order

Peter Tosh

“Kick Jump Twist”

5. The Flaming Lips

Great Songs by Guitarists-TurnedSingers The Strokes guitarist just released the debut album by his new hard-rock band, CRX. “It’s fairly obvious why I chose this category,” he says.

4. Sylvan Esso Amelia Meath, the singer in this North Carolina synth-pop duo, can pull you out on the dance floor with just a murmur, and this crinkly track will keep you there all night.

Nick Valensi

“Black Barbies”

Just as Rae Sremmurd’s “Black Beatles” went Number One, Nicki Minaj dropped this killer freestyle over that irresistible hit: “Island girl, Donald Trump want me go home/Still pull up with my wrist lookin’ like a snow cone,” she raps. We’re all just lucky to live in her flex zone.

“Born to Lose” Johnny Thunders was one of the coolest voices to come out of the New York punkrock generation. It’s clear from his voice he just does not give a fuck.

Keith Richards

“Take It So Hard” I wonder if Keith played this for Mick, because this should have been a Rolling Stones song – it’s that good. You can just feel his personality.

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2. The Magnetic Fields

1. Childish Gambino “Redbone”

RNI NO. MAHENG/2008/25616 ISSN 2277 - 1859 Rolling Stone