th he in ndia ia ozf o fes st d diar ries s. b by larrry heaath
Table of Contents 3 – It started not with a whimper… 4 – Travelling on “Indian Time”… 6 – A Musical Journey Begins… 9 – How exactly does one “Bring the ‘Vool?” 12 – A hangover and its spices… 14 – The Business of it all… 16 – An afterparty at the Hard Rock… 18 – A safari in Mumbai… 20 – The orphanage and the comedy… 23 – The final two BBQs and a farewell… 25 – Photos from OzFest. 30 – Interviews 30: Andrew Jackson 31: Sheppard 34: Big Scary 37: Joe of Jinja Safari 41: The Aston Shuffle 43: Karnivool’s Ian Kenny 46 – Closing Comments by Big Scary’s Jo Syme.
Part One It started not with a whimper… This introduction was written on November 1st, 2012. This is one story that begins not with a whimper, but a storm. A ‘Frankenstorm’ as they called it. Appropriate for Halloween, but a pretty fair description, too, of the clusterfuck of a weather pattern that blew through New York on October 29th, destroying houses, taking lives and effectively cancelling Halloween. Though families were advised against Trick or Treating, a few still did, perhaps trying to bring a sense of normalcy back into their lives after a manic 48 hours. We were staying in Long Island as the storm hit. Not so much by choice as by circumstance. We were inland, away from the threat of floods – it was clear early on that heavy rains wouldn’t be an issue where we were, and they weren’t – but the wind literally blew the records out of the park hitting up to 95mph (153kph), knocking down power lines in the first instance, massive trees not long after. In the aftermath we saw cars that had caught fire, plenty of exploded power lines and houses and cars that were damaged or destroyed by the debris. When you walk out and see this, it’s amazing more people weren't hurt or killed and more houses weren't destroyed. So many trees slid quietly between houses (you couldn’t hear it behind the sound of the wind), or dropped into the road. A mess, indeed, but it could have been a lot worse. I never saw the flooding, I never saw that side of devastation. For that I’m grateful. My girlfriend and I were lucky enough to be staying with a Long Island family whose answer to the situation was to throw a blackout party, a party which still continues as I write this and may do so for some time; estimates suggest 90% of Long Island will be without power for at least 7 days following the end of the storm on October 30th. With predictions that this sort of storm is going to become a regular occurrence on the North Eastern coastline of America, it might be time for the State to invest in underground power cables. It’s November 1st now and I’m sitting at JFK airport in what I hope to be my one and only attempt at boarding a flight to India. My original flight, due to depart on the 30th and arrive on the 1st, was expectantly cancelled in the wake of the storm, and unfortunately Etihad have been less than able to cope at the demand from stranded passengers. Arriving at the airport today at 730am to see my girlfriend off, I’m now at the front of a long line of Etihad customers desperate to get on their flight out of New York. We shall see how we go… For now I wait and reflect on what was one of the most bizarre few days of my life. But I am definitely one of the lucky ones, and with that I should leave this train of thought… The first day of my Indian adventure will be starting at least two days late. If I do make this flight, I will make the second day of the NH7 Weekender, and if I don’t, I’ll miss it entirely. It’s been something I’ve been looking forward to for months, so here’s hoping the former serves true.
Part Two Travelling on “Indian Time”… After some 15 hours at JFK, I was lucky enough to make it on board the lone flight to Mumbai via Abu Dhabi with Etihad, thanks much in part to the GM of Airline Operations, who I have to thank for getting me on board. One piece of advice I have to offer all travellers is that the busier or more manic the airport is, the more people will not show up or miss their flight. So always try for a standby ticket. As long as you’re willing to wait, you’re probably going to have luck. Thankfully I indeed did and have made it to India! During my flight, I got my fair share of education on the country thanks to the film The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, and will henceforth be using this film as a reference point for my experiences in this country. But with the constant possibility in the back of my mind for days that it was possible that I would miss the Indian part of my trip all together, it would be fair to say that my first 24 hours in the country were somewhat surreal. In fact, when I woke up the following morning – my first decent sleep in a good week – I found myself unsure for quite some time as to where I was and how I got there. Ah, the beauties of travelling around the world, and stopping off in a disaster zone along the way. For those playing a home, the first day of India came a month after I left Australia; easily my longest overseas jaunt since July 2008, just before my website the AU review was formed. Arriving at Mumbai International Airport at 330am, I was greeted by a local driver who was taking me to my hotel in Pune, an area which by map looked little further than Parramatta is from Sydney. However, I was quick to discover that driving around India is by no means a quick exercise (everything here runs on what even some of the locals refer to as "Indian time"... double or triple even the best of estimates...), especially when almost all drivers don’t speak English and have no idea where they’re going, even when speaking in Hindi to their dispatchers or to locals. If there was one aspect of India that is most frustrating, it’s this. But it gave me plenty of time to make some immediate observations about the way of life on the road in India, and as the sun came up I even got an idea of the country’s landscape, too. The roads were bumpy and inconsistent, changing from brick to concrete regularly. Speedbumps were a part of even the most “express routes” and larger trucks would go about 2 kph with a “HORN OK PLEASE” sign on their back. One of the first things to notice, and the reason you’ll never get any sleep in transit, are the constant horns and lack of blinker usage. Rather than the “Get the fuck out the way and/or hurry the fuck up” mentality the horn has adopted in Western society, here the horn is more of a polite “please excuse me I’m about to pass you on your right” ‐ almost a replacement for a blinker it seemed. Some horns were even comprised of delightful, clown car‐ esque sound effects. Confusing, but seems to work. In the back of pick up trucks, people were latched on, catching a ride from one town to another at 430 in the morning, while a heavy fog descended over the windy roads. I spotted more than a few people trying to hitch a ride at all hours of the trip. Road tolls were about 30 rupee, or 50 cents, and naturally everything was immensely affordable in all cities ‐ even at the luxury hotels we stayed in; luxury hotels which were situated right next to “housing societies” and slums.
There was little to separate poverty and luxury in all of the country I visited, street dogs mixing with the people in the streets, and new buildings popping up everywhere. I’m told this is a country constantly in development. Most billboards supplemented this growth, advertising new levels of luxury and “happiness” in the form of huge apartment buildings. Bikes were a common mode of transportation, though helmets weren’t as frequent. Most road signs were in English; this is very much a bilingual society. All these observations were coming a mile a minute, and with so many horror stories coming from travellers in developing nations, you couldn't help but feel a little on edge at times, but as mentioned in the …Exotic Hotel, you just have to treat the controlled mayhem like a wave and go with it, otherwise it would crash into you. And indeed I did just that. As we left the freeway and moved into the rural parts of Pune, I started seeing things like dogs fighting and shitting in the middle of the road, passengers on the back of motorbikes reading books or using laptops (impressive, really), bulls, camels, cows and herds of goats taking up lanes of road, lots of sidewalk urination (including one humorously next to a sign that said “Green Pune, Clean Pune”) a bicyclist holding onto a motorbike for some impressive speed advantage. It was a lot to take in. It was close to 8am by the time I got to the hotel. Dawn had well and truly ascended over the city and it was clear I wasn’t going to get any time for a nap. But after my first shower in some 36 hours, and a well‐earned breakfast, it was time to work out how I was going to get to the festival, the NH7 Weekender, a three day event featuring a fine mix of local and international musicians in the heart of Pune, at the beautiful Amanora Park Town. Having arrived just in time for the second day of the festival, I, the latecomer, was placed at a different hotel from the rest of the Australian contingency, which consisted of five bands (Karnivool, Jinja Safari, Big Scary, The Aston Shuffle and Sheppard), their management, a few government representatives and the people behind The Aussie BBQ ‐ the reason for which we would all be travelling around India over the next 10 days as part of the OzFest initiative; an artistic handshake between Australia and India to promote the Australian culture in a positive light following the bad press over the last few years. So, my first stop was to meet up with the Australian contingency, fit in a quick nap, my first of many Indian meals and head in to the festival. The rest of this diary series will be taking you on a journey with the Australian bands as they played a series of shows from the NH7 Weekender in Pune, to the Nokia Music Connects Conference in Mumbai (where the first of three “Aussie BBQs” took place), and onto two shows in Dehli and Bangalore where all but Karnivool performed. Along the way we shared meals with the bands, saw the cities, and in Delhi we went to the “SoundSchool” where local orphans were able to learn and play music. Along the way I spoke to the bands and so in addition to my views on the adventure you can skip to the end of this document to interviews with all the bands. This was certainly a once in a lifetime adventure, and we’ve done our best to give it comprehensive coverage...
Part Three A musical journey begins. So there you have it. I'd made it to India. And now, after settling into my surroundings, it was time to get into the music and head to the second day of the NH7 Weekender Festival in Pune. The sun had well and truly drifted into darkness as I entered the beautiful venue ‐ a brand new park set around a lake which featured the artwork of the "Rock Ness Monster" as its centerpiece (see the photo gallery later in the book). Having travelled the dirty, busy streets of Mumbai and Pune, it was fairly surprising to be greeted to a festival site which would rank among one of the most impressive in the world. In my mind I was picturing a dusty field, but what I got was green grass, fountains and beautiful surrounds of both natural and architectural beauty. My timing of entering the site proved rather perfect as the first Australian act to perform at the festival, Melbourne duo Big Scary, were just finishing up with "Purple" as I made my way over to their stage. The crowd was seated on the lawns for the set, which somehow seemed appropriate despite the heavier nature of some of their music. With "Purple" as a particular example, it’s fair to say that Jo is a boss on her drums, and this brought plenty of cheers from the crowd, especially from the women who looked a little dumb struck by not only the fact she was drumming, but by the intensity of it all. I daresay it’s not something you see in India every day! The Australian contingency was off to a roaring start, and another four acts would represent us well on the third and final day of the festival. With Big Scary out of the way, I wandered the festival to see what else was on offer. Often called the "percussion wizard", and without a doubt a legend of his craft, Trilok Gurtu had a couple of our touring musicians' tails wagging. I for one was not familiar with the instrumentalist; however the host of the stage introduced him as a man who was taking percussion "to a whole new level, not only in India, but in the whole world". Accompanied by a guitarist who looked like he was straight out of Metalocalypse and a female vocalist, Trilok showed off his experimental take on traditional sounds which got the whole crowd moving. Those drummers amongst us looked on in awe as one of their heroes showed off what he's all about. If an artist like Trilok can gain notoriety around the world, then this certainly must give a lot of hope to the younger musicians in the Indian contemporary music scene. And in an age where the internet is king, the crowd at this festival is a part of the first generation in India to truly embrace international music and styles never before heard within Indian culture. At an event like this, you can literally feel the change taking place. But their instincts are much like our own, with Trilok requesting the sound guy to "...just make me as loud as you can". As I would go on to discover, there is definitely a scene in India for loud music... but more on that later. Taking a page out of festivals like Lollapalooza or New Orleans Jazz Festival, there were no chain restaurants here serving food. The organisers of the event told me that the "biggest foodie we know" was curating the food stalls at the event, and that there wouldn't be a bad meal in sight. Indeed, we enjoyed quite a great cross‐section of food, from local tikka to a standard (and delicious) hamburger. An impressive selection to say the least. The cost was
low, too ‐ a litre of water or a can of soft drink costing around 40 cents, with food ranging anywhere from $2 to $6. You're not going to get that in Australia, that's for sure. But then again, you can drink the water here without worrying about imminent death. So we all have our positives and negatives... Portuguese dance outfit Buraka Som Sistema was next, featuring the arse shaking MC Blaya, getting the crowd to put their "fuck finger" in the air and dance up a storm. The group, which was comprised of a DJ, an electronic percussionist and three vocalists showed that the people of Pune were very much up for a good dance, even inviting a group of girls on stage for the "full Buraka experience" ‐ which basically meant they were shaking their arses along with MC Blaya. It's a very entertaining show to say the least. Songs like the autotuned "Up All Night" were particularly popular. The Bombay Metal Project were next over on the main stage, which was dedicated to the harder side of music and known as the "Bacardi Black Rock Arena". Here, a bunch of Mumbai based bands who played last year's festival got together and performed covers of their favourite metal songs. Fear Factory was the band of choice on arrival, and before long the massive Arena crowd were enjoying tracks like "Epic" by Faith No More, "Love?" by Strapping Young Lad (with death circles and all) and an extra brutal version of NIN's "Wish". The crowd knew every word to every song, threw their shirts to the ground during "A Vulgar Picture" by The Black Dahlia Murder and showed themselves as some of the most enthusiastic metal fans I'd seen in years. This is the music they were literally screaming out for and they were loving every minute of it. Though I kept my shirt on, I certainly couldn't help but caught up in the excitement of it all. Moving back over to the more diverse stages, I was told next to check out the Karsh Kale Collectiv, who in the word of one of the event organisers were an act "impossible to place in a genre". With a cover of Nancy Sinatra's "Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)" playing on arrival, before moving into more culturally relevant sort of music (with flute!), it was indeed clear early on that this was an apt description. The band closed with a guitar composition called "Ode To A Sunny Day" which was interlaced with a cover of "Hallelujah" on the piano. I'm told that like the Bombay Metal Project, this Collectiv is made up of a similarly varied group of musicians, including the drummer from a metal band called Zero. I'm told I should check them out. Ending the night were The Manganiyar Seduction by Roysten Abel, who were a hit of Sydney Festival back in 2010. Inspired by the red light district in Amsterdam, the set up features a stack of lit up "windows", which features musicians hidden behind red curtains. The set began with one curtain opening, a man singing, sitting cross legged, as though he was telling the prologue of a long story (he probably was). Gradually more and more musicians are added, all playing traditional Indian instruments, being carried along by a conductor, which in Indian culture is incredibly rare (in fact I'm told this is the ONLY Indian production to ever utilise a conductor). The conductor not only kept the flow and the gradual build up of the music going, but he was an instrumentalist himself and used a few hand techniques to get the crowd involved throughout proceedings. In addition to sound, light was a big part of this show, with the windows lighting up as new instruments were added to the performance, moving your eyes from one section to another ‐ and it wasn't until some 50 minutes into the show (which was essentially one continual song) that all the performers were revealed. And it was in this that you find the unique quality of the performance that makes it so powerful and so unique: the anticipation. From the moment the show began you eagerly anticipated this moment, and it was definitely worth the wait when
the climactic moment hit and all the windows were lit up, all the instruments on display and the beautiful barrage of noise fell upon your ear drums. Each reveal got a bigger cheer from the huge crowd than the one before, and thankfully the instruments got louder too. Let's just say that the big drums were saved for last. There was such excitement in the air, from locals and Westerners alike, collectively feeling our jaws dropping as so much power was given to music which would so often be deemed as "much of the same". If performances like this, and artists like the ones I've seen today are any indication, the Indian music culture is in an exciting state of change, and I for one am now paying a LOT of attention. Give it a few years and I have no doubt there'll be plenty more around the world doing the same.
Part Four How exactly does one “bring the ‘Vool”? This morning was a strange one. After a Hurricane, a journey to India that seemed to go on for days and a first day more epic than most, last night was my first in a proper bed in a good week. With the very fact I was in India still failing to sink in, it was a good ten minutes after waking up before I realised where I was, why I was here and possibly even who I was. Putting it simply: it was hard to believe this was only my second day in India. Unlike the preceding week, however, today was quite straight‐forward: head to the third and final day of the NH7 Weekender here in Pune. See music. Maybe have a few beers after. With eighty bands over six stages, most of whom were performing contemporary music, it was easy to forget that the festival (or at least the Western concept of it) is still a new concept in the Indian Music Industry. NH7 was as good as or even better run than many of our own festivals in Australia. One notable difference, however, were the alcohol restrictions, which even the bands weren't exempt from. Due to recent changes in the state, the drinking age was 25 and isolated to three bars, none of which were allowed to provide a view of any of the stages. Even the rider had to be alcohol free. With the average age well under 25, this certainly provided a different sort of atmosphere, but did little to dampen spirits. The final day of the festival featured four Australian bands, including festival headliners Karnivool. As I arrived on site at the event, I had the opportunity to watch the band soundcheck in the blistering Sun. It would serve as a stark contrast to the band's set later in the evening, but more on that later... After embracing my first opportunity to explore the festival site in the daylight (which would feature a "Junior Masterchef Cook‐Off" today ‐ the Australian series is huge here in India! Though this particular event would feature members from the bands playing at the event...), the public started to drift in and it was time to listen to some music. Delhi Suntanate was the first act I caught, an Indian outfit featuring a DJ and vocalists who were playing traditional Reggae music. From Bob Marley to "Ready or Not" by The Fugees, and a surprising version of Peggy Lee's "Fever", they had all the standards covered (pun intended), and they did as a good a job as any outfit. There was even a guy who was basically Shaggy in the group. Who knows, it actually may have been the man himself... all in all, proof once again that you never knew what you were going to get at this festival. Speaking of which, Punk Rock has its audience here too, proven by local outfit The Lightyears Explode. For someone like myself seeing an act like this, it's easy to get carried away with the thoughts that you've heard all these riffs before, and ultimately it's far from anything new or exciting for yours truly. But for so many in India this IS a new thing, and it's hard to argue as to how exciting or positive a change this is for the local industry. As so many bands were saying to me throughout the festival, however, there is still so little support for bands like Lightyears, but as the current Indian youth grow older, they'll be the ones making all the decisions (as proven in the festival itself, widely run by a group of under‐30s). So my only advice was to keep at it, keep building the scene ‐ it won't be long before wider Indian culture does embrace it ‐ if not the world.
Speaking of supporting emerging talents, Canberra electronic duo The Aston Shuffle ‐ here like the rest of us Aussies as part of OzFest ‐ had brought their latest live show to India, which sees much of their sonud created live through electronic drum panels, synths, keys, effect nobs and so on. The vocals come pre‐recorded but this balance between pre‐recording and live works well for their music. The only downside was that they were on before the sun set, though they had people dancing up a storm all the same, with a crowd that had just about tripled in size by the end of proceedings. Brisbane's Sheppard, meanwhile, brought some colourful pop to the event, on the same stage that Big Scary had dominated the night before. Much like their predecessors, the audience remained primarily seated ‐ which proved difficult at times for lead vocalist and keyboardist George Sheppard, who likes to get amongst the crowd ‐ but nonetheless they made it work and the audience certainly seemed to dig their sound. "Around The Bend" was a track that made its debut at the NH7 set, and the track "These People" seemed to go down particularly well. Colorado based Michal Menert of Pretty Lights fame (there's a long story there which I won't go into, but Google Michal and Pretty Lights... it's a fascinating story) managed to obtain the biggest crowd of the day so far, producing some spectacular mixes. At times I imagined what I was witnessing was what it must have been like to have seen Moby when he was at his prime... back when Gwen Stefani was licking his head... you remember that yeah? I couldn't stay for too long at Michal, as it was time to see the third Australian act of the day, none other than Sydney's own Jinja Safari. The band got their jam on amid some technical difficulties, playing some new tracks as well as their obligatory inclusions such as "Peter Pan", which began with an apology from Pepa for his use of the Sitar in the track, admitting he "wasn't a great Sitar player". Indeed, talking to him before the show, he was quite nervous he would offend the crowd, with India being the home of this loved instrument. But with that in mind, surely there are few more appropriate places than this to whip it out? So, while a backdrop screen played clips from silent films, Pepa received a great reception, something which certainly relaxed him for the rest of the trip. This isn't the Jinja you thought you knew. This is definitely a band who is a little more mature and a little more willing to work outside the boundaries that most young bands face ‐ the limitations of their own skills. Something tells me (and indeed the band confirm this) that the debut record isn't too far off ‐ it all sounded impressively well fleshed out today at the festival. After Jinja, a band no stranger to Australia, Bombay Bicycle Club were making their Indian debut with Ed and Jack in acoustic mode. This was not a usual way for the band to perform, and they made that well known to the crowd ‐ but they still made it work, albeit with melodies often borderline unrecognisable from their original form. There were a LOT of fans of the band in the crowd, singing along to most songs louder even than the band themselves could manage, and requesting tracks new and old. Opening with "Evening/Morning", Jack and Ed played a solid set that included "Lights Out, Words Gone", "Ivy and Gold", "Motel Blues" and "Magnet". For the last two tracks, the duo invited the percussionist from Vernon Noronha, who played earlier, to join them. They closed the set out with "Always Like This" and "Shuffle". The full band will be heading to Australia for Falls Festival and a few sideshows, so be sure to check them out! I was told that if there was one Indian act I had to see while I was at the festival it was Kailasa. With violins and electric guitars, it was a contemporary take on the sort of music we'd refer to as "Bollywood". But there was more than this, with influences such as funk and reggae also making their way into their unique, diverse sound. All in all, a very enjoyable set.
Next on the stage was the amazing Seun Kuti and Egypt 80, who at the time of publishing this article just popped by Australia, too. With an amazing brass section (amazing everything, to be fair), this was a band with great power. They were, after all, the band of Seun's father Fela Kuti, to whom he pays tribute at the start of his show with a cover of Fela's track "Zombie". Seun had great energy on the stage and ran through a set that occasionally featured himself on the saxamaphone. Highlights included "Mr Big Thief" and "The Good Leaf", his 'political argument for Marijuana', which featured the singalong lyrics '...plant and make it grow!'. Not a bad way to end the set, if I do say so myself. Meanwhile, closing out the festival in the Bacardi Rock Arena were none other than Australia's Karnivool who were playing to a mammoth crowd singing along to every word of every song. Indeed a far cry from their soundcheck, which featured 3 or 4 white guys in the crowd bopping their head and trying to find shade as the band worked things out. Absent from the soundcheck was the fire cannon that shot into the crowd, a great addition to the high energy set; something Ian Kenny and his troupe of Western Australian misfits are well known for. From tracks like "Dead Man" to newer, unknown tracks that popped up, the band had their crowd in the palm of their hands, with their fists in the air from start to finish. India definitely approves of the 'Vool. And with this, the impressive NH7 Weekender ‐ India's "Happiest Festival" ‐ was brought to an end. The festival will be reappearing with a different lineup later in the year in Bangalore, but for the Australian contingency it was time to move on to Mumbai... but not before a night that involved a few too many beers with Bombay Bicycle Club for yours truly and an afterparty that delayed our movements the following day by at least a few hours. Definitely worth it, though I daresay my stomach never quite recovered from that hangover... but more on that later...
Part Five A hangover and its spices. After we discovered we were placed in rooms next door to one and other, the night that followed the final day of the NH7 Weekender Festival took a turn for adventure with Ed, Jack and Jack's lovely girlfriend. Keeping it simple, we ended up drinking a few too many Kingfishers as we ran around Pune into the early morning on Tuk Tuks, ending up back at the hotel drinking the Fosters in our minibar. Waking up the next morning with the sort of headache one shouldn't acquire from a night drinking just beer, much of the morning was spent with my head in the toilet; my stomach already a little uneasy from the barrage of Indian food in its system over the previous 48 hours. With much of the rest of the Australian touring party having also partied until the wee hours of the morning ‐ in particular Karnivool ‐ the day got off to a late start as we jumped in our cars and headed back to Mumbai. What should have been a 3 hour journey was once again around the 6 hour mark; our driver getting lost before he'd even left Pune, getting into two minor accidents along the way. It would be fair to say that this was an at times terrifying journey. The ignorance of drivers here was fairly unbelievable; I definitely have a new found respect for Australian taxi drivers, made to look rather glorious in this new light. I was lucky enough, however, to be travelling back to Mumbai with locally based Zain, who was working for the company putting on the festival, Only Much Louder. A fascinating guy, we spent a lot of the trip talking about music, and I discovered a few Indian artists along the way. Sky Rabbit was one I was told I had to listen to more when I returned home. Naturally, I advised him of a few Australian artists to keep his ears out for, too. By the time we'd returned to Mumbai and settled into our new hotel (a glorious five star establishment right near the airport), we'd well and truly lost our day and it was time to head out for dinner. Over the course of my time in India, I would try and spend some time travelling around with each of the participating bands. Tonight, it was Karnivool's turn, as they kindly invited me out to dinner. So we jumped in some taxi's and away we went, off to partake of some Southern Indian Vegetarian delights at a restaurant called Banana Leaf. Recommended to us by Anuj from Only Much Louder, who also joined us for dinner, I have to say I have no idea what I ate in that evening, bar something that I think was Paneer. All I can say is that it was spicy (the Southern Indian style of cooking is much spicer than that of the North's... so I'm told and so I experienced), and delicious. One part of the meal I did understand was the Mango Lassi... easily the best I've ever had. I would go onto learn a lot about Indian cooking during my travels, as I enjoyed intricate flavours I'd never before experienced. The big difference, I'm told, is in the fats and oils they use when cooking. Ghee and Lard is of common place here, and this, in combination with other spices often too difficult or expensive to obtain elsewhere, makes for some of the most flavourful meals I've ever experienced. But it's also these added differences that will often cause Dehli Belly ‐ the dreaded "traveller's diarrhea" that unfortunately most of our group did not avoid. It certainly hit some worse than others, but for now I was definitely OK ‐ hangover irrespective.
After so much running around for all of us over the past few days, it was nice to get to sit down and enjoy some local delicacies with the guys of Karnivool, who are without a doubt some of the funniest guys I've met, letting me in on a few of their "how to cure travel boredom" techniques along the way. Typically it seemed to involve iPhone apps... the sorts of things we all do to pass the time when we need to. Needless to say this made for an entertaining evening. The next day some of us headed into the Nokia Connects Music Conference in Mumbai, a two day event that included myself as a speaker alongside people such as the legendary Steve Lillywhite and our very own Michael Chugg. This was definitely the business side of the trip...
Part Six The business of it all. With the festival under our belts, we were now looking forward to the three standalone Aussie BBQ shows that would take us around the country. The first, in Mumbai, served as an official after‐party of sorts for the Nokia Music Connects Conference held nearby; a two day event that looked at the business of music, and India's place in it all. While most of the bands explored Mumbai, I attended the conference as both a speaker and an onlooker, eager to get a gauge on what was happening in this emerging market. My panel was part of an afternoon of Australia themed discussions during the event's first day. First up was the Federal Minister for the Arts, Simon Crean, who kindly met with the Australian delegates in attendance before delivering a speech and almost bringing Michael Chugg to tears. You can view the entire speech below, which definitely shows a Federal government more invested in the arts ‐ in particular music ‐ than it ever has been. Someone just needs to tell him how to pronounce Gotye. Mr. Crean discussed how OzFest was being used to help develop a culture of engagement within the arts and creative industries between the two countries, helping to foster people to people relationships, while acknowledging that it has come about due to strained relationships between the two countries. With Australia recently named the sixth largest music economy in the world, it's no wonder that music has been an emphasis of this initiative. He went on to point to projects like Generate (which the AU review as well as The Aussie BBQ were a proud part of) as examples of how the current Government is helping develop skills in the music business. He called The Aussie BBQ "a symbol of the mateship within the Australian music industry", and since we've been trading with India since 1788, it seems "an obvious goal" for collaborations to occur within the music scene. As for his favourite Australian acts, Crean pointed to Boy and Bear as well as AC/DC, who got plenty of cheers from the crowd. He left with a poignant note: "I urge you to chase the anything and make it possible". You can view the rest in the video above. Next up was Michael Chugg in a one‐on‐one with Ralph Simon, following an emotional discussion with Simon Crean on the support from the Government he's been waiting his whole lifetime to see happen... now all we need is support to change the radio quotas, he went on to discuss. Chugg spoke a lot about his own past, that by now most of us are familiar with; so I won't go into that here. What was particularly poignant, however, were his pleas to the local musicians and promoters. He pointed to the failed, money losing tours of some of the world's biggest artists in the region due almost entirely to high ticket prices. Chugg told local promoters to tell the old "has‐beens" to piss off and stop letting them degrade and devalue their emerging scene. If they continue letting them do so, they'll never have the chance to grow as a market. Focus instead on the smaller acts, the local acts and STICK TOGETHER... say what you want behind each others backs, but to the rest of the world you need to appear as one body, banded together for your industry. It was a sentiment that would be repeated throughout the conference.
He also went on to call Robbie Williams "the greatest performer I've ever seen", while on Prince: "incredible show... but man, what a weirdo!" I forgot to mention that there was a swear jar in place at this event. Apparently Chuggi set a new record for that one in his impassioned discussions, though I'm sure you wouldn't be surprised. So how does one follow a man like Chuggi? Well, unlike 2010 and when Chugg followed myself at SXSW, this time I was joined by four other Australian panelists in a discussion about ways Indian artists can get their music heard in Australia. We walked through the market, the importance of triple j, but I remarked on the fact it all seemed a bit premature. There was still years of work to be done in growing the local market before any of that was a reality. I echoed Chugg's earlier comments and can only hope that the conference attendees took something valuable from our time on the stage. The highlight of the conference, however, came on day two when the legendary producer Steve Lillywhite appeared in conversation once again with Ralph Simon. He talked about working with Dave Matthews Band, who he just recorded a new record with ‐ reunited after ten years. He talked about how much he loved the days of the "record", where sequencing was so important. He talked about how he wanted to "earn creative people's trust", and that "as long as there is weed, there'll be albums". He went on to say this: "I believe in art. I'm a lover and a believer of arts and commerce in that order. Music is an art form that can last 40 minutes. You go through a journey. Pop music is usually a much smaller journey... and I don't believe you can make a 'classic' record on a laptop ‐ or at the very least I don't think it's been done yet." He acknowledged that "I made the worst Rolling Stones record... at least until the next one..." and called Keith Richards "the fun one" of the group. A fun tidbit: Keith never buys clothes. He just trades with people because who would want to say they're wearing Keith Richard's clothes? Meanwhile, he's wearing your brand new jacket. Another fun fact ‐ no money changed hands when U2's "Vertigo" was used for the Apple iPod launch campaign. These were the sorts of stories he was full of, and what made it so interesting. Of his own skills, he remarked that "I can't make something average great, but I can make something good great... you ALWAYS need a great riff" and that working on the Spiderman musical was a "nightmare" ... "it was horrible right from the start!". As for bands he hasn't worked with, he said he's like to "make Muse listen to people like Marvin Gaye for a month", so they know what music from the heart, and not from the head sounds like. And with two days of business and talks out of the way, it was now time for the afterparty... The Aussie BBQ... why we were all here after all! But more on that later...
Part Seven An afterparty at the Hard Rock. Having completed the business end of proceedings, it was now time to return to the focus of our trip to India: The Aussie BBQs. Having had all five bands play at the NH7 Weekender in Pune, our travelling circus was now in Mumbai, where the first of three Aussie BBQs was taking place following the second day of events at the Nokia Music Matters conference, at the city's Hard Rock Café. Like most Hard Rock Cafés around the world, the setup here was an interesting one ‐ a stage towered above a dance floor, situated in front of booths for table service. There was a second level where most of the Australian contingency was positioned, and after spending the day setting up, it wasn't long before the crowd started arriving, a mix ofKarnivool fans ‐ the event headliners ‐ and conference attendees (the event was set up as an official afterparty for those proceedings). What transpired was a phenomenal night of Australian music, which saw people like Steve Lillywhite rocking out to Karnivool, Simon Crean getting a taste of the Australian music scene first hand, hundreds of sweaty locals screaming every word to every Karnivool song and, especially considering how different every band was, a great level of support given to each and every artist on display. With this being Karnivool’s final date on their Indian tour, it was also a premature goodbye for quite a few who we’d been enjoying travelling with for a week on the road. But they certainly went out on a great note. On the differing natures of all the bands: First up you had Big Scary, the rock and roll two piece from Melbourne; arguably the closest thing musically to Karnivool on the night. The band rocked and thrashed and impressed as they always do. Sheppard were next, who I expected to have a tough crowd given the amount of black shirts in the crowd contradicting their colourful pop rock. Impressively enough, they got the crowd dancing and singing along; very much a testament to their skill on the stage. By the time Jinja Safari arrived, the venue was well and truly packed, and their jungle party vibes, though a considerable distance away musically from Karnivool, sat easily with the crowd, who danced and sang along from start to finish. Once again, Pepa’s Sitar was given a good deal of support from the crowd, much to his continued surprise. But it was very much Karnivool’s night ‐ the locals were here to see them, and some had travelled a considerable distance for the privilege. Suffice it to say, the band did not disappoint. To call them a well‐oiled, well‐rehearsed, tight and impressive live band is perhaps an understatement. This is a band who are playing a constant balancing act with Ian Kenny’s other project, Birds of Tokyo. The former has had great success at home, while The 'Vool have had considerable success overseas. What this means, however, is that this is a band who are only really together six months of the year. As we speak, Kenny has been putting the finishing touches on the new BOT record, all the while a few shows are about to be put on in Australia over the New Year. I honestly don’t know how he does it, but he certainly makes it look easy, and this show in Mumbai was no exception.
Closing the night were The Aston Shuffle, who were given a hard gig tonight with most of the crowd leaving before they hit the stage. Nonetheless, those that stuck around for a dance were given a fantastic show ‐ from the music itself all the way to the light show that accompanied it ‐ and I couldn't have hoped for a better way to end the first of three Aussie BBQ events around India. One thing was for certain ‐ just because we were in India didn't mean that these bands weren't going to give it their all. Some battling Delhi Belly, others an infected foot and/or just general exhaustion, you'd never have known it when they hit the stage. How great it is to be able to share such music with the rest of the world!
Part Eight A safari in Mumbai. With the first of the Aussie BBQs behind us, and Karnivool on their way back to Australia, we were all treated to a day off in Mumbai before we headed to Delhi for the second show. Having spent most of our time in a bit of a glass bubble ‐ taken from one event to the next with a chauffeur, lounging in five star accommodation ‐ for our day off we opted to move outside of our comfort zone and experience some day‐to‐day life in Mumbai, mayhem and all. For this adventure I joined a few members of Jinja Safari and their manager and headed from the hotel to the more touristy areas; the Gateway of India, the Taj Mahal Hotel, street markets and all that fun stuff... We ditched our chauffeurs and opted to take the trains; a journey by which any traveller to the region will tell you is nothing short of manic. Outside, meanwhile, it was about 34 degrees. Faeces layered the streets and I was barely outside for more than five minutes before I comically almost slipped and fell on a nice pile. Hopefully from an animal. We walked on the roads like the locals, feeling the cars as they barely passed us by; an unnerving sensation to say the least. We stopped by a local bakery for some Samosas on the way, where everything costs about 10 cents. Suddenly the “cheap” $1 snacks at the hotel seemed like an outrage! When we arrived at the train station it was clear what everyone was talking about. Locals pushed their way onto overcrowded trains, often while the trains were moving. Proving slightly nerved by the process, the first attempt to board a train was a bit of a fail. By the time the train had emptied, it had already begun moving. Matt, the band’s manager, was the only one game enough to jump on, leaving myself with the three members of the band. We waited for the next train, assumed it would take us to the same place, and jumped on. We knew we were the last stop on the line, so thankfully didn't have to think much beyond there ‐ I daresay we would have ended up in the wrong place otherwise. The journey, though cramped and full of fairly constant stampedes as train regulars rushed off and on their transport, a process made only possible by the lack of closed doors. The organised chaos that was the train system of India ‐ which, after all, in a city like Mumbai is servicing as many people as are in the entirety of Australia ‐ indeed worked just fine. As we let it all wash over us, and a select few were game enough to hang against the opened doors as we passed by entire cities – the smell of methane common ‐ there was almost something cathartic about it all, a sense of freedom as we embarked on foot as the locals do, experiencing the side of India we had so far neglected in lieu of our pampered rock 'n roll lifestyle. We arrived at our destination, with Matt waiting for us at the other end, and we haggled with dodgy taxi drivers to take us to the Gateway of India. A quick look at a map showed we were about 15‐20 minutes walk from the destination, though taxi drivers were trying to take advantage of the tourists and charge us quite a lot more than should be charged for such an excursion. So we walked it. The plan of the day, which regretfully started a lot later than it perhaps should have, was to head to the Gateway of India and board a ferry to Elephant Island. Unfortunately, by the time we arrived it was mid‐afternoon and the final ferry had already departed, leaving us to walk aimlessly around this tourist mecca. To call it frustrating to be in a tourist destination like this is an understatement. Metal detectors are everywhere, at every entrance, though one rarely spots a security guard; this is very much a show for the tourists to feel safe.
The hotels do treat it a bit more seriously, mind you. But it’s the constant hassling that really gets to you. I thought it was bad in Europe, but here you have people from all walks of life trying to get your attention, rip you off, take your money or take a photo with you. One kid, was walking around telling tourists “I am India” and getting photos with them on his mobile phone. No idea what that was about, but when we refused to take the photo, some guy decided to do a massive spit right next to us. Nice. Though most of us found our own ways to ignore the beggars, the children tugging at your legs for money, the people selling photographs and the ones who had “maps” for sale, which conveniently revealed bags of marijuana ‐ also for sale ‐ it would be Jinja Safari's Marcus who would fall victim to what will forever be known as “Balloon Fraud”. The vendors walk around with massive balloons for sale. Marcus naturally thinks this could be fun for the next Jinja Safari show. He buys some balloons. Once he has a look at them though, he discovers they are only regular sized. Another vendor spots his frustration, as then does another, and so suddenly, like flies heading towards a bright light, we are walking as quickly as we can to get out of this insane tourist area, as a half dozen peddlers are following us, trying to convince us to buy this, and buy that... we'll give you the real deal! After we escaped and enjoyed a brief stopover in a Starbucks, which felt very much out of place in amongst everything else, we headed for the famed markets of the area, which once again saw us being followed by peddlers and beggars. People tried pushing you into stores, women and children grabbed you at the hope of some money, and one eager tailor followed us from one end of the markets to the other encouraging us to buy new outfits. I very much enjoyed bartering with the local vendors to get jewellery for my girlfriend, magnets for my Mum and so forth, getting them well below the advertised price, but still more than what they were worth ‐ or so I was told. We did find one street kid who was actually a bit of a champion, and helped us manoeuvre our way through the markets. He seemed keen to check out the latest Bond film, so we thanked him with enough cash to do this. Here’s hoping he did. As we walked away from the markets for a beer at local café and then a meal back at the hotel, one particularly eager street seller had finally convinced Marcus to purchase a drum. As we made our way back onto the crowded train, you could see a “I got suckered again didn't I!?” look on his face, but you definitely better believe it that that drum will always have a great story behind it. And who knows ‐ it might even make its way into the Jinja stage show one day. I learnt a lot about India today. I learnt that it’s a fun adventure to explore the tourist areas of India, but I daresay it’s far more enjoyable to spend your time on the roads less travelled. The rest of my time in India would definitely back this statement up.
Part Nine The orphanage and the comedy. For our second Aussie BBQ show, the four remaining bands – Jinja Safari, The Aston Shuffle, Big Scary and Sheppard – along with myself and the BBQ crew headed onto Delhi. Flying with IndiGO airways, we got off to a shaky start with us, collectively, sitting 130 kilos over the limit in terms of baggage. This resulted in a fairly lengthy procedure to get the some 30 members of the travelling circus onto the plane ‐ especially given we were running reasonably late to the airport to begin with. Thankfully, we all made it on and it was a comfortable flight to Delhi and our first stop in the city: SoundSchool. SoundSchool is an initiative set up by a few Australians, which has a very simple initiative: provide kids in orphanages around the world with the gift of music: instruments and the education that comes along with it. You can learn more about the project at http://www.soundschool.com.au/ On our way to the orphanage, it would be fair to say that madness had started to kick in. For some, Delhi Belly had well and truly hit days before and their bodies were feeling quite worse for wear. For others, a lack of sleep and any food other than Indian curry just made brains not. work. so. very. good. At one point on the plane ride, one member was reduced to speaking in incomplete sentences that reduced the rest of us to a fit of laughter. Oh yes, we had come to THAT part of the tour. And you couldn't help but be humoured by now at “Indian time” ‐ the idea that it takes five times (at least) the normal time to get anywhere. Leaving the airport, I daresay we would have arrived at our destination faster by walking, with roads often turned into car parks thanks in part of animal driven vehicles moving through traffic in the opposite direction. Organised chaos suddenly started to forgo the requirement of its first word. But once we all arrived at Sound School, part of the Salaam Baalak Trust DMRC ‐ Childrens Home ‐ in Delhi, all this exhaustion, stress and/or madness was quickly alleviated and we were reminded of why we were here in the first place. To bring music to the region. It was an absolute joy for all of us to engage with these bubbly kids, if not exhausting in its own right! We were treated to a performance from the School’s own band when we arrived, a bit of Chai tea and then the Aussies got their own chance to perform. With Big Scary’s Tom already at the hotel with a foot infection, Jo was left to her own devices and took to give the kids a demonstration on the drums. Given this was an all boy orphanage; it is easy to understand that this was rather exciting for all involved. Sheppard were no exception to this, with the girls in the band getting plenty of attention, and they gave the kids a treat by playing a couple of songs. The Aston Shuffle ‐ who I should point out had the idea to head here in the first place, gave the kids some T‐shirts, and even the Aussie BBQ’s own Glenn Dickie got on the drums (check out his band The Goldhearted!). These moments would usually result in a group of the kids getting up and dancing with
the band members as they performed. Certainly a sight to behold and their enthusiasm was contagious to say the least! Our big mistake, however, was trying to give out Tim Tam chocolates. Lesson be learned: never introduce sugar into a situation like this. This ended with Glenn falling to the floors thanks to swarm of children; the chocolate bouncing around the room that was once in his hands, which was now being fought over by all the kids. Everyone got up with a smile on their face, thankfully, and we know what NOT to do next time. You can see the photo in the header taken at the moment the Tim Tams went flying... I think for everyone in attendance at SoundSchool, we were reminded about the power of music and how it’s not our right to enjoy or play music; it’s certainly a privilege. And this is something that is very easy to forget. Seeing the kids enjoy the experience as much as they did is not something I’ll soon forget, and I’ll be announcing a project I’m setting up very soon which I hope will help the SoundSchool cause further, so please stay tuned for that! By the time we checked into our hotel, the day was just about over. We made tracks to get some dinner ‐ which I, and many others, mistakenly chose to be some food of the faster variety and was never quite the same from there on out. The next day was a painful one to say the least, as I joined members of a few of the bands for a walk around the ruins of Delhi’s past. A beautiful experience, but one that could have used a few more available toilets from one stop to the next. With the BBQ not happening until quite late that evening, after that journey we had just enough time to jump in our cars and head out to Red Fort, one of the biggest tourist attractions in Delhi. This was where Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, the man responsible for the Taj Mahal, lived while he ruled. It was an incredible fortress indeed, but given our tight deadline, myself and The Aston Shuffle were given a whole 30 minutes in the area by the time we managed to arrive. But still, it was more than enough time to run through, watch the sun set, grab a few trinkets from the markets (no haggling here ‐ for the most part) and see a man not wearing pants ‐ or underwear ‐ bleeding from his ear near the entry to the fort. Though no one seemed willing to do anything about it ‐ including security guards nearby ‐ even the locals were keeping their distance. Perhaps it’s best this isn't an acceptable norm. But still an odd thing to witness as we darted away from the arguably lesser known tourist spot. We headed straight for the venue, at which point I was kindly invited to dine with a few local members of DFAT, as well as the people behind the BBQ, at a nearby restaurant. For whatever reason ‐ maybe it was the wine, or maybe it was the lack of Western food consumed in the days leading up to this point, but I actually had one of the best lasagnas I’d ever eaten tonight. And stuffed with Lamb no less! I was lucky enough, too, to be granted a small break from the music side of things, and had a chance to enjoy another part of the travelling OzFest ‐ the Melbourne International Comedy Festival Roadshow, being held at the same venue as the restaurant, Blue Frog. The first thing to note was the design of the building, with the guests planted in pod‐like booths ‐ a futuristic approach that also made up the venue the Aussie BBQ was held in the same night (Shroom).
MC'd by Dave Callan, the event was a blend of traditional Australian humour, along with plenty of jokes about life as an Australian travelling around India. One could say I related wholeheartedly, and it was fantastic to get a good laugh into the mix of adventures we were having around the country. OzFest definitely had a great deal of activity happening around the region, and will continue to do so until early next year. Even Gotye is popping over!
Part Ten The final two BBQs and a Farewell. Having had a fair dose of laughter thanks to the Melbourne International Comedy Festival travelling roadshow, I headed to Shroom in New Delhi for the Second Aussie BBQ, which was part of a very jam packed final two days of my time in India. The show, in the futuristic surrounds of the venue ‐ where we were introduced to the ‘upmarket’ side of Indian lifestyle ‐ went very well by all indications. Especially considering this was the first time rock bands had performed in the dance oriented venue. Big Scary kicked things off with a big smoke storm ‐ the smoke machine not turning off when it was supposed to, leaving the band humourously obscured from view. But they still seemed to strike a chord. As did Jinja Safari, who got the crowd dancing; there were even a few who knew the songs and had travelled to the gig quite a distance to check them out. Sheppard had to work hard to get the crowd involved, and gave it their all. It wasn't the normal sort of music for the crowd, but they seemed to enjoy themselves all the same. Given the venue, it was definitely The Aston Shuffle’s night, with their electronic music keeping the guests dancing well into the morning. I, regretfully, wasn't so fortunate, with a good dose of Delhi Belly leaving me feeling fairly average, and after a VERY jam packed day, I leaded back to the hotel a bit early to get some much needed R&R ahead of my final day on the trip, and the final BBQ in Bangalore. The trip to Bangalore, which is situated on the Southern end of India, was a lengthy one. At about three hours, we had to take quite an early flight to make it to the city in time for the gig that night. Once again the dramas of travelling this many bands on the one aircraft was a dramatic set of events, but we all got on, all the luggage showed up on the other end and we went straight to the venue. The airport we arrived in is probably the newest in the world, having just opened a few months prior. The original airport was smack bang in the middle of the city, but this new location was much further out, no doubt leaving room at the original airport for more apartments and the like. It was great to make tracks so far outside the centre of the city, however, as I actually got to see a bit of the countryside that makes up so many of those Indian travel articles and books that document the beauty of the country. The weather was beautiful, the air was cleaner, the traffic was non‐existent comparatively and there was more than enough landscape to enjoy along the way. It’s obvious that if I ever come back here, I have to make my way outside the main cities. I feel like I missed so much of the country, and I certainly did, trapped in the concrete jungle that makes up the major city centres, struggling to cope with the amount of people flooding each. It’s been an amazing journey though, that goes without saying. The chance to travel around India with five Australian bands, while sneaking in a bit of sightseeing in between gigs and commitments, was one too good to pass up.
Like any good tour, everyone on it left good mates and that famed comparison to a ‘school field trip’ definitely held true here. I couldn't have travelled with a lovelier group of people and though I was very glad to be heading home by the time I left India, having just escaped the dramas of Hurricane Sandy before arriving, it was nonetheless a bittersweet farewell. The final BBQ was probably the most authentic BBQ that Stage Mothers has put on anywhere in the world. There was an actual BBQ and we felt like we were in the backyard of someone’s house. The venue, a newer one in the city, felt very DIY, and given the region’s “no dancing” policy, it came as no surprise that in speaking to the venue’s owner, it’s quite a challenge to run such an establishment ‐ especially one that supports Western styles of music. Unlike the previous night, this meant that it would be a tough sell for The Aston Shuffle, and unfortunately I had to head to the airport before they played so can’t attest to how they actually went. But Sheppard sounded great, Jinja Safari killed it and Big Scary said goodbye to India with a fantastic cover of Ray Charles’ “I Got a Woman”. On that note I said goodbye to India myself, jumped into my car and headed back to the airport. Cows were everywhere but thankfully the traffic was not. It was an easy journey and my driver, surprisingly savvy on his English compared to every other driver I’d had to date, asked me to play him some Australian music. I ended up plugging in my phone and jamming through some Big Scary and Jezabels for him. He seemed to enjoy it and has no doubt downloaded both albums illegally since. A very appropriate way to end the trip ‐ darting town a highway, wind blowing through the hair, listening to some fantastic music. What a joy it was been to share such great Australian music with the Indian public, and how great it has been to see them so impressed by it, and take it up so kindly.
PHO OTOS S FR ROM OZFE O EST
The generaal view on Longg Island, post H Hurricane Sand dy. Travellingg into Pune as tthe sun was rissing.
The “Rock Ness Monster” at the NH7 W Weekender. Big Scary kick things offf for the Aussiees at NH7.
The Bombaay Metal Proje ect at NH7. The Mangganiyar Seducttion by Roysten n Abe at NH7.
The Aston Shuffle on stagge at NH7 (Sup pplied by Band) Karnivool on stage at NH7 (Supplied b by Band)
One of the e more colourfu ul desserts on the menu… Dinner wiith Karnivool gets BRUTAL. Speaking at tthe Nokia Mussic Connects Coonference in M Mumbai .
Jinja Safarii on stage at th he Hard Rock in n Mumbai. Karnivool on stage at th he Hard Rock in n Mumbai.
One of the e reasons we w were stuck in traffic in Delhi. Sheppardd perform for tthe kids at SoundSchool in Deehli.
A couple o of the kids at So oundSchool. The Tim TTams go flying… …
The authorr at the Dadi‐Poti's Tombs in Delhi. Part of thhe Hauz Khas C Complex in Delhi. Stunning!
The Red Fo ort in Delhi. Inside Th e Red Fort in D Delhi as the sun n set...
Melbourne e Internationall Comedy Festival Roadshow. Sheppardd perform at th he Aussie BBQ in Delhi.
Left: The fu un of getting fo our bands and a bunch of row wdy Australianns onto the sam me flight... Right: My first time escaping the concrrete jungles of the major citiees in Bangaloree.
The final venue of the Au ussie BBQ tour, in Bangalore:: CounterCultu re. Jinja setting up; Big Scaryy performing.
INTERVIEWS Andrew Jackson What were your experiences working and touring with The Aston Shuffle in India? It was amazing, in a similar way we had zero expectations, on a professional level, we had no idea I guess from an organisational aspect how the promoters would run, from an experiential aspect how the crowd interaction would be, we were going from zero. For the Aston Shuffle there is no familiarity as an artist in that territory say for I guess the Internet. We got the feeling that of the crowds that we had there was a small percentage that knew us but for the most part we’re playing to strangers, and it was fantastic. I think that from all accounts from a lot of people we were speaking to, the booming middle class has seen that there’s now a lot more validity for an industry and a scene that’s fast emerging. And like any knew emerging scenes it has its kind of growing pains or things like that, but everything went smoothly, all the shows were amazing, the crowds were fantastic and I think if you speak to every act‐ they can’t wait to go back. And are there any plans for Aston to go back? I know it’s at least in their frame of mind. I think that for every act that went, the first thing they did when they got home was work out how they can get back. And it certainly, it poses a great thing. Any market development is a great thing. For what we got out of it, we definitely saw validation that we can work here, that there is a scene here, that we do fit. We weren’t sure musically whether or not we’d kind of fit with the scene. Every scene has its nuances, but we definitely got validation that it would be viable to go over and do it again, so now personally I’ve been putting through the steps of speaking to the promoters again, seeing when we can get back, meeting other promoters. On an artistic level the boys are currently finishing their album, but once we’ve done that we want to reach out to a few acts over there, spark the idea of collaboration and really we’ve just got this dialogue now that we didn’t have before and we want to push that forward. With the last show in Bangalore where there are rules against dancing. Now I had to leave before Aston came on, did you hear anything about that show? I didn’t hear anything, no. I heard mixed reports from some of the shows that‐ I can’t remember which one of the cities it was, it was more of a dance venue and some of the acts didn’t enjoy as much of a kind of crowd as we did, and then I heard the things on the flip that other venues seemed a lot more rock oriented and we didn’t get as much of a vibe. But no I didn’t get that impression. On the whole I think that when you enter into something, not expecting the worst, but certainly not expecting great things and not having any idea of how things will go, everything exceeded expectation, and everything went really well.
Sheppard This is something new for you guys; what has the experience of being a part of a tour like this been like... travelling around India with a bunch of Australian bands? George: This is actually the first time we've toured with any band, so that's been a pretty interesting experience in itself. I didn't know what to expect at first, because all these different types of genres that are kind of melding together in this one room. I didn't know if anyone would get along, but honestly these guys are a great bunch. I think we've made some really good friends and the fact that we are in India is an absolute bonus. I think it has brought everyone together as well just being in this amazing adventure together, you know, it's like a brotherhood. In sickness and in health... George: Exactly. What are you going to be taking away from the Indian experience? Musically or otherwise... Michael: Ah, I don't know. I think for me it's been the first tour that we've done where we've sort of got to really connect with the other bands. Like George said we've made some really good friends and created a good network. I guess the whole experience of being in India as well is definitely something I'll look back on in the years and remember as something that was pretty amazing. It's not a bad way to kind of start a touring lifestyle is it? Michael: Not at all, totally. Certainly jumping in the deep end Jarred: For me, I would say, the highlight would be the NH7 Weekender in Pune. There was a lot of stuff in that festival that I haven't seen at any Australian festival that I just thought was really good and to come here and see it was really unexpected. So I really liked that. Just in terms of layout of the festival and the stalls and the vibe that that created and then on top of that was the Indian music which was cool and pretty percussive, which is up my alley. Is there anything from that, that you will take away musically? Jarred: Musically? Yeah, I guess I want to get into more percussion stuff, but it was just good to see. It was nice to see that stuff out there. I don't know if i'm going to seek out more world music as such, like I don't really listen to much now as it is, but just seeing that and having that under your belt and in the back of your head is kind of good.
We'll keep going around. What have your experiences been like in India? What are you going to take away? Emma: Every show has been quite different and has been so much fun, each show in their own different way. But I’d have to say Pune? was probably the best . . . just amazing. Everyone was, we're not really well known in India, but everyone just came to the stage and started having a good time and enjoying our music which was awesome. I also love Bollywood music and there were drivers who just turn the music up and it really set the scene. We'd love to use more sitar and percussion in our songs. Has anyone bought any instruments? George: No, we almost got conned into buying one of those drums. Well, Jinja Safai took one for the team on that one. George: That was actually a good quality drum, I was playing that before. They got a bargain there, but anyway, Jay? Jay: I mean, it's been great to play with four other bands with such different genres. Seeing how they would perform and then trying to take some of that and add it to your show. I think that's been the best experience. Saw the live show, every show you learn something. Emma: Seeing how other people perform and the energy they have on stage, it's good. We take that away from things. I guess, the touring lifestyle on paper looks pretty straight forward, good fun, but it's a little bit different too. George: Chaotic. Chaotic is a very good word to describe it. I think just especially being in India, specifically chaotic. I would imagine any band would say the same thing about any tour that they go on. Yeah, so being in India is a bonus. Amy: Besides what's already been said, I’d have to say the metro children's home was a big highlight for me. It's not something that bands get to do that often, especially in a group. Just to sort of inspire some people and that's in the childrens' home and the festivals and the concerts that we've been doing just to inspire young and upcoming‐musicians to pursue their gift or talent. And we'd like to do some, we've sort of being talking about doing some work for the children's home in the future maybe. Oh, good one. Yeah it was a bit of a sporadic decision to go there. Amy: Yeah, it was. And I'm glad it happened as well. I mean you kind of wish we had spent weeks organising it and stuff so that we did certain things, but the way it went down was just fantastic. George: Yeah, we were pretty lucky with the way it was organised. We had Anuj, the whole time stayed with us and he was constantly on the ball making sure that we had drivers. He always knew where we were going next and what time we had to be ready. And it's always nice to have someone actually organising the chaos.
I don't know about you guys but I’d get used to that. Having a driver everywhere. George: Absolutely. I think, the thing that I’d be taking away apart from Delhi Belly. Actually, no, the food was amazing I've got to say. I've never had such amazing food in my life. You know, you've had 'Miss India' back in Australia, your butter chickens, your lamb cormas, the usual stuff. I really enjoyed the variety of food. I thought it was quite amazing how many different dishes they could do with one vegetable. And it's been good to jump in the deep end really with this tour and if you can tour India, you can tour anywhere really. It's been, like you said before, chaos. The moment we hit the ground, it's like "What's going on, what are we doing" but you know we dug our heels in and went for gold and I think it was good. We learnt the hard way and now we can, we're going to tour the USafter the short break back in Brisbane and I think that'll be a breeze. So I can just be like 'Awesome'. Food here, walk anywhere and there are shops everywhere. Drink the tap water, no sweat. But I think that's the main thing I can take away from it, the fact that we've now toured India which is a huge thing for any band to do. Yeah, we've learnt so much. What's the vibe of the Indian music scene? It's such a new market for international bands. George: They kind of put us to shame. I mean, in Puna, we were seeing some of the musicians, you know, western music it's cool; you write a little catchy hook, bit of a chorus but these guys are going on twenty minute odysseys like drum solos and all that sort of stuff. Like Jarred said before, they use a lot of percussion which is really cool. Something I think we really want to start using in the future. But yeah, I think the music scene in India is really cool. I think it's going to take off in a big way. Jarred: I think Amy put it well, someone commented to you about a big gap of some pop music. Amy: Yeah, someone came up to me and was praying and pleading that we'd come back because there's a gap, it's either metal or Bollywood here it seems. There's a small market for, I mean a small India scene rising, so there's a huge potential market here. Jarred: And after seeing what happened with the Nokia Connects music conferences that we went to, there was a lot of people on the ball on all aspects of the business side of things. With them opening doors like that bands like us, or bands from Australia can come here and do really well I think. There's no reason that can't happen now. That's definitely what I took from it as well, doors are opening slowly but getting there, so it'll be interesting what happens for Australian bands in the near future. Do you hope you get back here? George: Of course. It's been the best adventure we've had so far. Can't wait to get back. It's a really colourful country, like full of culture. I think, our music is very colourful and we love that sort of energy and I think our music has a place here. So, we'll be back as soon as possible.
Big Scary What are you each going to be taking away from your experience here in India? Jo: I wasn't expecting such excitement for western‐indie music I guess, and not just western, but the local bands playing indie music. I guess I was surprised by the strength of the youth culture, even if it is, at the moment, only in the wealthy/middle classes. But there's some definitely really exciting things going on. Tom: I don't know, I guess I take the personal experience side away more than anything, as it's a new place and something completely different to what I'm used to. Doing music over here is another experience in itself. Neither of you have been here before have you? Tom: No, I was really amazed to see how much India seems to be in a state of change. You can see it happening all around, and obviously music is a part of that. I'm interested to see how that develops and I'd like to come back. Do it again? Maybe with a few more days off? Jo: Yeah, plenty of days off really. Without an infected foot? (Tom got infected his foot during his travels) Jo: Oh, yeah. But when you do tours in Australia and America, you're doing a gig everyday, it's actually been quite leisurely. Tom: It's a funny thing touring because it is a completely different experience. Like, if this was my personal trip I'd be up and out the door at 10am seeing a lot more than we are. But it's certainly a unique and interesting way to see the world. Tom: Yeah, yeah it is. In some ways I feel like I haven't made the most of it but in other ways you try and do too much. As a touring musician you just run yourself into the ground very quickly, and it's just not an enjoyable experience. What was the hardest thing about touring around India? Tom: The traffic... Jo: The traffic, yeah. It's both slow, when you need to get somewhere on time and then when there is a gap it's so scary. I can't even sit in the front seat because I get too scared. They make it work, it's brilliant, they have the most amazing spatial awareness. Tom: All you have to do is just not look out front and it's fine, because it's just hell. And it works, it works. Jo: Somehow...
Now, I guess the worst and the best thing about touring around India. Jo: They're so friendly, the Indian people, and I was shocked at how generous they are. They're happy to chat, to help. At first it seems like quite a gap, like there's a real language gap for some people. But if you try and say a few Hindi words they're just stoked. Oh, and also the food. The food is so good. For a vegetarian, I have never had more selection ever. Tom: This is the best country to be a vegetarian. I think everytime you ask is there meat, it's like "No", of course not, what are you talking about. Jo: Most restaurants are called just "Pure Veg". Now when it comes to the shows that you've done, talking specifically about you guys to start with, then broader Aussie Barbeque, how have you found the reception to be with the crowds here? One thing in particular that I've heard people saying as you've been performing is "Oh my god that chick is rocking out on the drums!", because that's just not something that you see here. Have you kind of sensed that at all? Jo: I actually just get that everywhere really. Especially in Australia and America it's not rare but there's always someone being like "Oh my god, you hit really hard for a girl", you know. And it used to annoy me but I think they're just trying to make conversation now, and here, I don't think women really get that opportunity maybe, which is totally fine at home. But yeah, everyone's just been really friendly and even on a sophisticated level not just like "Oh my god a band". It was like, well this guy last night said "You know, it was really cool to see the interplay on female and male vocals and the dynamics" and it was really sophisticated feedback and he was a music lover and it was cool. Bangalore seems pretty cool, and you guys are going to get the chance to check it out tomorrow. Now when it comes to getting to share the stage with these four or five Aussie bands, what has that experience been like? It's kind of felt like a school field trip for me at least. Tom: Yeah, it totally has been. But it's been fun. I mean, any tour you do really that's what you hope for, you make friends. And we've totally made some new buddies and that's what makes it enjoyable, because you get sick of hanging out with each other. Jo: And even though it's all different genres as well, everyone's still really stoked for each other. It's worked, and no one's stepping on each other’s toes. Jo: Actually, that's true though. What if you had two grunge bands and one was slightly better, it's like "Aw, that's the shit grunge band". You don't have to worry about that, everyone's different genres.
That's worked really well, and everyone's from a different place as well. You've got Canberra, Melbourne, Brisbane, Sydney and Perth all represented. Jo: And Hobart, Tassie. Yeah, some of the Jinja boys, they're from Tassie. So it's been so much fun for me as well this last week and a half. It's been fun watching you guys all make it work and in this country where it's not easy to get this stuff across. Tom: Well this has actually been surprisingly easy really and it's because of all the hard work of everyone organising it, has put in. The shows in India, there have been issues, but not issues you'd face anywhere else. Bit of a smoke machine incident yesterday. Jo: It was sweet. I wish there was more laser and smoke machines at our gigs. Tom: Just completely clouding us from the audience, should happen more often. Now this one is obviously just for you because unfortunately you couldn't make it but, Sound School, now what was that experience like? I walked in the room and seeing the smile on your face and the Jinja boys' faces, you were being covered in the children. Jo: I guess you just don't even see that kind of affection ever, you know. It was full on, you'd sit down and then all these boys would just crowd around you and just want to hi‐five you. They just want to hold your arm and link arms. They were pretty razzed up, they were so excited. And they were so lovely and I guess that is one of the best things about touring with a band. As a tourist you have to be careful with how you interact with kids and often and sadly the only kids you get to see are beggars. And this was a total mutual friendship, no one's trying to take anything from anyone. And we were there to entertain them and I definitely think they were. And for us to meet those kids and feel that joy, it was really incredible. It was a great afternoon. Do you hope to come back to tour India again? Jo: Yeah, it's hard, I think it would be very difficult to organise without the team that's done this, like Sounds Australiaand Aussie Barbeque and Anuj. I think it might take a few years, but I definitely want to come back. Like, people have enjoyed it and you want to keep in touch with them and stuff. Have you already noticed a few people liking you on facebook from India? Tom: Yeah! We've got some very vocal new facebook fans. There are comments we've enjoyed reading.
Joe of Jinja Safari Now I know some of the band has been here, and some of the band hasn’t been here before. Have you been here before? I hadn't been here before, but Pepa had been on a nice long holiday here. Prior to that I've had two good friends go off to India and have amazing experiences and come back so we were all very very keen. And in fact Marcus was planning a trip around this time and it just happened that the managers were like “Let’s make it a band trip” because all this stuff was popping up. So we gladly all took the opportunity before really asking any questions about what we were doing or what it entailed and we had no idea what the music scene was like over here either. We just all jumped in. What have you taken away from it in terms of the music scene in India? What have you learned about it and discovered of it? I think we've all just got the largest amount of inspiration possible in the two weeks that we've been here. Some of the bands at NH7 blew our minds in particular the one we've mentioned heaps, The Manganiyar Seduction, and that’s sadly the only one name I can remember, but just walking around we were just constantly, ridiculously, I don’t know what to say, blown away by these incredible bands and musicians and also the culture in general. I think we've all been inspired, very creatively inspired. Hopefully we’ll make something of it. When it comes to that side of things, you get back and you pretty much tour straight away. Where are things at on recording and all that? Recording is done on the new album, that's your inside scoop! We’re in the stage of choosing tracks, and having tracks mastered and mixed. Actually not mastered just simply mixing. Listening and emailing back and forth a lot and refining things. So we still don’t know exactly what songs will be on there but we’re checking them off one by one. Yeah, so it’s in the works. Well, I guess those are done, so there’s not so much we can take away from this trip that we can really apply on the next album, but it’s all sinking deep into our musical bones and stuff, hopefully. You guys are tightening up a really solid set here in India... Yeah, maybe we’ll chill out a bit and learn to play a bit better. Well I mean there’s lots of jamming and stuff going and you guys haven’t always done that. We’re at a stage where every time we go back into rehearsals we just throw around a lot of stuff and a lot of cool things have come out of it recently... it's much more a group collaboration... the album stuff is a bit more back and forth and it’s not us at the same place at the same time. So when we rehearse, we do get a bit more jammy. And it’s what we all want to do... it’s what we’re building up to... slowly. But at the moment it’s a pretty set show that we've got, but I think it’s probably safe to say that we have a few differences every time, like there are different
variations and a lot of silliness! So I think the more comfortable we get on stage the more we start to mess around and fresh things come out which sometimes works, sometimes doesn't. Well, the NH7 weekender show was a particular example of throwing yourself in the deep end and you were using new technology and videos in the background that I don’t think you've ever had in your shows before. We didn't know that was even going to happen with the videos but I turned around halfway through the set and saw that and there was a couple of old‐timey black and white movies dancing up there and that was pretty fun. But yeah, there are some new things happening with our gear and stuff. There’s been a few hiccups (laughs). But we’re just practicing in India because we love the Australian crowds so much more and we didn't want to get it wrong in front of them. The shows have all gone so well here though... what have been the best parts of playing to an Indian crowd? Just being completely surprised. We came over with no expectation and absolutely no knowledge of what the crowds were going to be like and then we had people come along and know the songs and sing along. And we were pretty nervous about a Sitar in front of an Indian audience, but every time they have seemed to have gotten excited for it. A few cameras have been flown out, there’s been cheers and no one’s thrown rotten food or booed us off stage... we've been stoked with the Indian audience in summary. What’s the hardest thing about touring around India? Delhi Belly is a challenge that we've all encountered. The heat you kind of get used to, but still, once you’re on stage the heat kind of melts in your mind and that’s when you’re kind of in the danger zone. We've all had moments when you’re forgetting or you’re a bit sloppy and literally slipping off of the strings at times. And particularly with the energy levels that we like to sustain on stage, some of the shenanigans that we have jumping around, sometimes you overestimate you abilities and under the circumstances, like shitting all day in the heat, and not getting as much sleep as you'd like and you get on stage and you try and jump down from an amp, as I discovered last night, sometimes you roll your ankle and fall on top of your own bass amp and make a fool of yourself. But there’s nothing new there, we've done that loads and loads. Yeah, so there’s challenges. Should get you ready for Falls Festival? Yeah, we might wear knee pads and stuff. Are you looking forward to Falls? Yeah hugely, the line‐up is stupidly good. Really good, yeah, we’re pumped. And we've played Falls before, just the Victoria one. This time we’re doing the whole thing. Falls audiences are great, the location is great, the bands are great. There’s a lot to look forward to.
Now this year, I think you and Big Scary are in hot competition for the prize of playing every Aussie BBQ... what’s it been like specifically having them as Aussie BBQ touring partners and the rest of the crew that have kind of come around? It's been the best year I think, like every tour you get to know the bands and have a lot of fun but there’s something about 4 or 5 bands and the whole crew sort of being overseas, a lot of us being in this place for the first time, and with all these shows there’s been an extra level of bonding going on. It’s kind of felt like a school field trip. Yeah, it has. It’s often like that, we've made that comparison before with tours and it’s lots of fun. It’s fun to sort of be dragged around, and tired and grumpy sometimes and ecstatically happy other times and having all these moments. And we've been doing all the touristy things together, as you know, because you've been there. But doing all that kind of stuff in between shows is just heaps of fun. Everyone is going to be good friends after this. It’s hard to be a tourist and a touring musician at the same time, you've got to just squeeze things in. It is, that’s another major challenge into the question before, actually. It's conserving energy because you really want to make the most of it but... You've got to sleep. You spend all day in the sun walking around as we have done, just on your feet for three hours, getting into those packed trains and everything, you do kind of run yourself down. So that’s kind of hard, but we’ll all probably come back and just holiday here and explore more of the country without the pressure of shows and energy conservation. Do you hope to get back yet touring wise? Yeah, definitely, we will be. We don't have to hope, as we simply will. Cool! It’s decided, we definitely will, yeah. Will you bring your green hats again? Yeah, if they still exist. (Editors note: The band wore green John Deere hats throughout the entire Indian tour. Someone in an elevator gave them to them, if my memory serves me correctly...) One thing we should mention, is the school that we went to, Sound School (http://www.soundschool.com.au/). Talk me a little bit through what that was like for you.
Well, I think we got an email saying something about the Aston Shuffle boys planning to visit this little school with a bunch of kids and would we want to join and we were like ‘Yeah, definitely’. I somehow had a feeling we would do something like that, get to meet some smaller local communities or establishments. Especially meeting kids, we all love that. We kind of rocked up, went through this hellish traffic and we were all ridiculously hungry and empty headed and turned up to this crowd of brilliant happy underprivileged orphan children in a school where they were being taken care of, either trying to find their parents of simply live and grow up and it was pretty inspiring. They were crazy, they jumped all over us and literally running from one to the next hi‐fiving us, stealing hats and just inspiring absolute mayhem. Maybe it was just sweat, but we came out of there glowing and inspired and humbled and all that stuff and it was beautiful. And we are looking into following up the charities that were involved in sponsoring that sort of thing in Sydney, because they exist we found out. We’re really keen to follow that up and stay in touch and find more out and make what we’re doing a little bit more significant and worthwhile rather than just a bunch of musicians going around and showing off.
The Aston Shuffle So this is the last day of the tour! What are you going to be taking away from this experience in India? It’s hard to sum it all up. When we had the opportunity to come over here, we honestly thought (a) is anyone into dance music? and (b) would they be into our sound? Like, are there any people who have even heard of us in India? That’s what peaked our interest to come over here. Having the chance to represent Aussie dance culture. It felt like we had to earn that respect right from the first festival gig that we played, but having the opportunity to connect with Indian audiences has let us see the fans we already had over here, through our facebook page, or on Twitter. We had people coming up after for high‐fives, and handshakes, and pats on the bum. That sort of thing. So we’re going to go home knowing that people are into our music over here. Another big thing is embracing Indian culture over here. A lot happened in two weeks, so it’s hard to describe all of it, but I’m sure when we get home we’ll start thinking on it a lot more. You’ve been travelling around on the Aussie BBQ Concert, and you’re the only people waving the dance flag. You’ve got Big Scary waving the rock flag, and Jinja Safari waving the Paul‐Simon‐indie‐rock‐world flag, and then you’ve got Sheppard waving the pop flag, and Karnivool waving the heavy rock flag, for the first couple of shows… What’s it been like travelling around with these guys? It’s good to be able to bond over things outside of your genre stereotype. Obviously when you extract yourself out of the place you live in and transplant yourself into a completely different culture with other people, the connection you make obviously extends beyond music. I mean, except for a couple of the guys from Jinja Safari and of course Karnivool, this is the first trip to India for everybody. But putting music in that mix as well, there’s boundaries and stereotypes… like it’s not necessarily the case that we’re wearing the “dance guys” emblems on our chests like that. I’ve enjoyed the music of every single one of the bands at some point on the radio, so to actually meet them, hang out with them, share those crazy moments with them in another place that’s completely different and hectic, and such a removal from your comfort zone, and have it all work… it multiplies the intensity of the experience so much. All of us are world’s apart, musically, but we all love music as much as each other. We’re all into the other people are doing, and I think that’s a common trait of music people. We gravitate towards the company of other music people, regardless of style and genre. Personally — and I’m guessing it’s the case with a lot of other people — I’ve just enjoyed this experience. What’s the hardest thing about touring around a place like India? I think everything is so culturally in your face. In Australia, you get little pockets of poverty, and you touch on little things, but over here, it actually does feel like there’s 20 million people in Mumbai. I mean… there’s 20 million people in Mumbai, and that’s nearly the amount of people that we have in our whole country. The intensity of everything is multiplied in India. If this was just a trip hanging out, kind of flying the Aussie musicians flag without playing shows, it would still be exciting. But with the touring, every single of what creates anxiety or complication
or raises your blood pressure is just multiplied by ten. It’s very sink‐or‐swim. You’re diving into the deep end and embracing it — and mixing your metaphors — or you’re withering under the sunlight… just to mix another one! As hard as it is for us… I mean, I think about our tour manager — it’s stressful to actually have to deal with venue managers and stuff like that, in another country, with a language barrier… it’s so complicated, but it’s so worth it. The next question was going to be, what was the best thing about touring here, but I think that you’ve just answered it! The best thing has been having brand new Indian fans come up to us and go, ‘that was amazing’, hugs, high‐fives, selfies, and seeing the comments on social media. Or people who have come up saying, ‘thank you for playing thatsong’, because they’re already fans. The internet makes all that transparent, but it’s just a concept until you actually visit other places and see it. And hopefully you’ve done the job that the organisers envisaged you doing, like being respectful, not being a drunken lout… abusing the opportunity that we’ve had. But this was not just a tour of India, there was a greater context to it. You could definitely feel that with the other bands, too. We were here for more than getting drunk and buying clothes for your friends. This has been a once in a lifetime opportunity, but, that said, are you going to try and get back to India? Yeah! This is something I would love to do regularly, if the opportunity was there. I don’t think I could live here, because I like my little safe quiet Canberra, but I’ve loved this. It’s like organised chaos. And dance music has an audience over here! Dance and metal, it seems. At that festival we played at — seeing that metal stage heaving like it was, with heaps of dudes wearing metal shirts with big beards and going ‘Yeahhhh!’ You don’t expect to see that in India. There’s more of a scene for it over here than there is in Australia.
Ian Kenny of Karnivool What has the experience of this tour been like? I know you’ve been here before, but it must still be somewhat surreal... It is. And that hasn’t worn off — the fact that there’s people here who are fans of the band. I mean that was the thing that took us by surprise when we first played over here, at the Mood Indigo Festival in December last year. There were just rabid fans. We did have some idea that there were fans here, because of the traffic online, and conversations that were going on. We were lumped in with all the artists that are rife with file sharing, and that’s totally helped us out in a place like this. Knowing that we have a fanbase here, that there are passionate music fans in general here, it’s awesome. It seems to be the metal scene that happens over here. The Megadeth’s, the Metallica’s, the Karnivool’s. It’s interesting that that’s what has worked here. Any idea about why that might be the case? I’m not sure. Maybe it’s something relatively new? I mean generationally new — I don’t know when metal hit India. Was it at the same time that it hit the rest of the globe? I’m not convinced it did. I think it might have come a bit later, it’s so easily accessible at the moment. And I also think they have a lot of dance over here. There’s a huge trance scene, they’ve got Bollywood… I definitely don’t think it’s come from following the trends; like whatever filters through America hits here and they just think it’s cool because of that. I was talking to some of the guys at the festival, and they were like, ‘what are you listening to?’ and I rattled off a couple of bands, and I asked them the same question, and they said, ‘that’s cool, but there’s nothing new coming through, so what’s the point?’ which is a very harsh look at things, but he was right. There’s calibre here. They don’t just settle for anything, like throwaway‐metal or throwaway‐rock. And they’re so responsive to your music. They know every word to every song. That was what I heard at the acoustic session last night. Yeah. Last night, the acoustic session, only 80 people allowed in this tiny room… It’s the coolest thing we’ve done in years. They were singing every word, collectively louder than we could be. Just drowning us out. It was fuckin’ great. I know you’ve done it in the past, but it’s not something you do often, yeah? So do you now have the urge to do an acoustic album? Not an album, but we’d love to do that again. I could probably count the number of times we’ve done that on my fingers. It’s very much out of our comfort zone, but we’re still into it. Now, you’ve played the Aussie BBQ before — not with Karnivool, but with Birds of Tokyo a couple of years ago. March 2009, in Austin.
So what do you think something like the Aussie BBQ brings to a place like India? What standing does Australian music have in India at this point? Because it feels very new, and bands like yours are creating the link, in a way. I think it’s really new. I think it’s something that both sides are prepared to invest into, and that’s what’s going to work. Because it’s on the up‐and‐up, and both sides are taking interest, and there is a common ground, which is music. That’s the communication — the language that we don’t have to know. We just have to feel it, right? So all the guys that we’ve met, all the guys that are fans of the band, they all ask about Australian bands. What’s happening in the heavy scene, what’s happening in the rock scene, can you suggest this etc. So there’s an interest there for Australian artists and Australian content, which is great. And we’re talking about a fairly uncharted market, which could be a pretty big one, if it’s handled correctly. They’re hungry for new music, and the knowledge based around new music. And it’s fascinating. At this level, what’s the hardest thing about touring in India? …It’s been quite easy! We’ve been very well looked after. There’s been many minds, and many hands on ground, to deal with logistics, and to make it a comfortable touring circuit. But the hardest thing… getting the right gear onstage can sometimes be difficult. We’re used to a pretty elaborate production, but we just make it work as best as we can. Everybody does. You don’t want to be the prima donna on the tour! No! It’s half the challenge. We go, ‘we’ve got this, this, and this,’ and then go, ‘okay, we can make that work.’ You’re only here for a couple more days. Are you heading straight home? I know you’ve got some tracking to do… Yeah, yeah. We’re in the middle of finishing the writing for the next record, so we could only afford a week out of the studio. We’re going to head back and finish that, and then in February we’ll be recording… I’d love to stay, if we could, though. Travel around. Did you get a chance to do that when you were here last December? Some guys did. Some guys came back and partied, but I didn’t. It seems that Karnivool have had more success overseas than in Australia, in recent times. Would that be fair to say? I guess, yeah. We’ve found that if we can get to Europe, and get to the States, and get to India, we’ll win fans. So it’s just investing the time to get over there. Europe, especially. You were co‐headlining a rock festival, I believe? Yeah. And I can see the same beginnings of that sort of thing here in India. It’s great.
Is it hard to be a rock band in Australia? In terms of making a living, it can be. Australia has a few rock bands, and if you’re not one of the top tiering ones, I imagine it’s hard to make a living out of it. A band like Karnivool will only get played on one radio station, sometimes, and that’s triple j. We’ve never been played on anything else — nothing commercial. We need a KROQ in Australia, or something. There’s a missing link in our radio world. triple j equals “touring festivals” now. If you get played on them, you get to play festivals. With the commercial scene, there’s no link to festivals. The percent of Australian music that is played on Australian radio right now is so poor. And their argument would be, listen to community radio then. And that’s not the point. Radio still has such a prominent place, in terms of how we discover new music. It’s a powerhouse, it really is. It’s such an important form of media for any artist who wants exposure, and it can make and break careers. It just makes me wonder what it would be like if it was 80% Australian content, 20% whatever. Around ten years ago, everybody was saying it was the death of radio, but it seems to have become more important. Because there’s so much music out there, and people still need a way to say, ‘okay, that’s the music I want to listen to.’ And then there’s the people who just have the radio on and don’t really give a shit about music. So it’s, ‘what do you like?’, ‘oh, I like… the radio. I don’t know who it is, I just like it.’ That’s the exciting thing about meeting fans in India, is I’m getting to meet Superfans for the first time in a while. The ones who know every word to every song, the people that are really passionate about the bands that they know and they love. And I feel that that’s slowly escaping us in Australia. It’s such a singles culture, whereas here, it’s all about the bands, and really worshipping their catalogue. It’s new again, in that sense. It’s a really, really beautiful thing to be a part of — surely as a fan as well. It’s fuckin’ cool. And we’ll be back next year, for sure. Well, good luck with the album! Yeah, thanks!
Closing Comments by Big Scary’s Jo Syme We got home a week ago from India so now I am being disciplined and sitting down to summarise the rest of our trip. From Pune we drove back to Mumbai. I feel like calling it Bombay now because that’s what all the locals call it still. Bombay is home to Bollywood, and 12.5 million people. Therefore, there are people everywhere. Lean‐tos are pushing up against public walls, fresh produce is carted around on platform‐style wheel barrows and the uber‐rich mingle with the heart‐breakingly poor. Little kids use the footpath as their toilet, yet one of the most extravagant and famous hotels (The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel) is found here. This disparity applies to all the places we visited in India, but in Bombay the slums are a lot more visible than anywhere else. Here was the first of the Aussie BBQs, with all bands present. Its good being on a line‐up with Karnivool as you’re guaranteed a crowd. The production was pretty late in being set up due to the American consulate partying all morning at the venue due to the great result of the US elections. Some of the wiring looked pretty cluttered to, but apart from that the gig ran super smoothly like any other venue. The in‐house guys knew what they were doing, they mixed the other bands well and there was some sweet lighting too. From Bombay we flew to Delhi. Apparently you gotta leave a lot of time when you want 26 musicians to get to a plane on time – we were pushing the limits of the final call, let alone the luggage allowances – DFAT picked up the tab on that one, thanks. Straight off the plane we headed to a boys’ orphanage in old Delhi which has a special music program, who The Aston Shuffle had contacted. I have NEVER experienced so much affection and joy. These kids were pretty excited, but they were so funny and I guess grateful. Sheppard played a few songs for them and they were all dancing. When we gave out some T‐Shirts and Tim‐Tams they nearly killed each other trying to grab them… We played at a pretty exclusive doof doof club in Delhi called Shroom. It was a total coke‐parlour: black leather seats and an entirely white fit‐out, with space‐age curves. Apparently the entry fee at this place can sometimes get to $80AUD, and they don’t allow jeans and thongs. The crowd were a mix of ex‐pats and trendy locals and there was a pretty sweet smoke machine. From the roof‐top bar you could see the fireworks from locals who were amping up for Diwali, an important Indian holiday that is sort of the equivalent of Christmas or New Years. In Delhi we visited this awesome artists community called Haus Khaz Village, which was really reminiscent of Berlin. Although it wasn’t cheap, it was really exciting to see such a cool creative space and artisans at work, along with cool bars and restaurants. Apparently the whole enterprise is illegal, so every few years when a new government comes in all the shops get closed down, and slowly re‐open as they find the right person to bribe. From Delhi we head south straight down the cuts of the sub‐continent for one last night in Bangalore. This was my favourite city by far – heaps of trees and a cooler climate, with calmer roads. The venue we played at was a beautiful spacious block with a grassy backyard. A cool Indian guy owned it and his pet dog Gonzo was a legend. Here we met a bunch of really exciting young locals who were trying to promote culture and advocacy. One guy is working at a website designed to get laymen engaged with government, from whistle blowing on bribery to making suggestions for local improvements; another chick was managing a few bands; an Aussie girl was working
with local artisans in an exchange of skills – they were teaching her their trade and she was teaching them how to fairly sell their items. On the final day we had an amazing traditional southern meal, served on banana leaf and eaten with hands, followed by a visit to a local micro‐brewery for some delicious beers. In summary the trip was lucky and amazing. It felt a bit strange travelling in luxury through a country that has definite issues with regards to wealth distribution, but we were grateful to meet the young people who had much the same desires as us back home, and more motivation and opportunity to really shape a developing nation. They want to see more travelling bands, and to promote a young music scene of all the cool local bands too. Sounds Australia and Stage Mothers (who organise all the Aussie BBQs) created an incredible tour for us, and with the help of the local promoter Anuj from Only Much Louder, the tour went seamlessly, with good crowds, great sound quality and a tour that none of us can ever forget.
All content © Heath Media, 2012 – except for photos where mentioned. This trip was made possible thanks to OzFest, Sounds Australia, APRA, DFAT, Only Much Louder and the AU review. A huge thank you from the author to all involved.