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Split: Of Imaginary Donuts and Real Tantriks

By Vishal Gandhi | May 24, 2006

Split: Of Imaginary Donuts and Real Tantriks

Split Magazine caught up with Bombay-based alt. rock band Split‘s (no relation to this magazine) guitarist Vishwesh K over a bunch of left-over imaginary donuts. He spoke to us exclusively about his role in Split, other bands he’s involved in and the current rock scene.

Whose donuts are these? Can I take one?

(Chuckles) Sure, go ahead. They are left-over from last week but they still taste good.

I’ll bet. (Munches on imaginary donut) So, ready, aim, fire my friend.

Firstly, what’s up with all the freak accidents? It seems every member has been injured in the past year.

Well, we’re consulting psychics and tantrics and such right now, ‘coz we’re really thinking some voodoo nonsense is afoot. Every single member in the band has been surviving injuries and accidents for a year now. It’s almost like you can’t play in the band unless you come with a cast.

Nigel: Bike Accident — Injured arm and rib cage.
Gary: Arse-headedness — Injured foot.
Vishwesh: Arse-headedness of Bus Driver — Injured Back.
Mel: Mischievous pet dog — Scratches and cuts.
Shekhar: Unsupervised activity — Got himself a job.

But thankfully, we’ve come at a stage where everyone’s recovered enough to recognise each other… and the volume knob as well. So, we’re warming the engine right now.

Glad to hear. So despite the hitches you guys are just roaring to get back to business.

Yes. And also, Mel’s back… so it is the all-star round up, y’know?

Ok, so it’s back to a twin guitar attack.

Yup! Two guitars, longer hair and we’ve gotten better at the mayhem.

Can you tell us about any new material you guys are working on?

There is a lot of material that we’d worked on…some of which we liked, some of which we didn’t and others that just got lost in between changing bandages and getting painkiller shots. But one thing’s that really helped Split in sort of evolving with our own music are all the side-projects. That, in a large way helped the music get a different texture.

How so?

Mel and Garreth started their punk project called Forcefield, while I went ahead with a whole range of projects from Hedgehog the Sonic (punk) to Method (hip hop) and Scribe (Hardcore) and Phragm (acoustic jam) that really helped in going around the block. So, when this posse comes together, the music sort of takes its own demented little turns and skids.

Can you tell us more about your side-projects and who’s involved?

Phragm is one of the oldest bands I’ve played in. It started of as just two wandering musicians, my good comrade and flautist, Phragm (yes, I named the band after what I call him) and myself…trying to make meaning of our respective instruments. It has come to be everything from a jam band to a ‘background score for films’ duo.

I sing for Scribe… and the music is radically different from all the other bands. It also gave me the opportunity to work with some of the best talent I’ve ever come across — Prashant (guitar), The Vaas (bass) and Niraj (drums). Scribe is a hardcore band and swears by all things hardcore.

Method started of as an old-school hip-hop outfit playing Cypress Hill, Beastie Boys and the like and really gave us a chance to remix songs in our own depraved way. But with the kind of talent that it houses, it’s hard to stick in one genre…so now, it starts off with hip hop, takes you for one wild spin across a whole set of genres and drops you off in one of them.

And it’s a revolving door of musicians playing with Method?

The way I see it, it’s just one big party on stage — Bijou on vocals, the Vaas on bass, Sandy on drums and Niraj on percussive spoils. It also has a whole load of artists that come and go from Gary to Phragm.

Getting back to Split… Garreth has such a powerful voice. He’s been even called the ‘Indian Chris Cornell’ for his amazing range. That must surely be inspiring.

Undoubtedly. He’s the best I’ve heard. And I think he’s at his element when it’s just us and an acoustic guitar. Sometimes in trains on our way to an out-station gig, or on a porch, or on the curb… anything goes. In fact, I think some of our most memorable shows have been the acoustic shows we played. That’s us having a field day right there.

In terms of your role in the band, how do you think it’s going to change or be redefined with Mel coming back?

I’m really glad he’s back. The biggest problem I had when we went four-piece was that I couldn’t jump about. I was the only guitar in the ensemble (not to mention singing seconds). So, more parts to play, more tones to toggle with and well… more standing and nodding, while you can really jump your fanny off. Now that he’s back, it’s sunshine and ointments again!

Who’s gonna take up the lead-guitar duty?

Mel and I share lead-guitar duties. But most times, I work them. ‘Coz I’m the guy with the ‘Cry Baby’.

You’re also known to make silly comments on stage and enjoy some banter with the crowd to get them going. Was that a role assigned to you or did you just take it up voluntarily?

Hey, they keep a mic in front of me. What’s a guy to do? And no, they didn’t assign the role to me. I’m in advertising. It’s just that I usually have something ludicrous to say about everything. I’m sure you’ve figured that out by now.

“Pig Society” is your most famous song. How did that come about?

Well… it’s become popular because of GIR. It was on the CD and is one of the better produced songs in our duffel bag. It’s been a while since we wrote that song and it’s been lucky for us… it got us twice into Independence Rock and got a spot on the GIR compilation too. And there’s a shitload from where that came from. Pigs gonna fly!

Playing GIR must have been a big thrill. Tell us about the experience.

Oh certainly! In fact, that whole trip was really inspiring. We met so many awesome bands from all across the country. And we not just saw them perform, but we hung out with them, took that trusty acoustic out and jammed with them. That too in the hotel corridors along with lassi and yesterday’s biryani. It was unbelievable. Not to mention, the three international acts that totally blew the place apart.

Can you compare the crowd reactions in Delhi and Bombay?

Well, the crowds in both places are paradoxically different. You can’t really compare them. Delhi loves to sing along. Bombay prefers to tear each other apart.

Any incident that sticks out during the whole trip?

Oh yeah. Pahar Ganj in Delhi — there was this tantrik we’d met on the street. He looked a lot like Rob Zombie, so I went up and spoke to him. He was really friendly too. He got out this staff and allowed us to take pictures with him and his lovely bonfire. We were all pleased as punch. Until he took a human skull out of his rug sack and we got the hell out of there.

(Laughs) I’d like to see those pictures.

Oh, you have to see them.

Ok, what do you think of the current rock scene in India?

I’m delighted. It has a terribly arduous way to go, but it has unquestionably come a long eventful way. One sole instance will answer that question. In any given rock show, all you need to do is turn around and take a look at what happens at the back. You’d see albums, EPs, compilations and demo CDs of bands that might just be from your neighbourhood. That is fantastic progress.

Agreed. With the advent of recording programs and tools that are widely available on the interweb, it’s becoming easier for bands to record and distribute their own material.

While bands are finding their way to a more organised and focused approach to making their music and reaching it out, there are other factors like PETA and Furtado’s who give bands more than just a reason for starting all those pits. And that’s just one side of the story. VH1, Only Much Louder, B4U music, Jam Magazine, RSJ… they’re all giving more propulsion to talent so the music and culture can have its pride of place.

Not to mention Split Magazine and their whole-hearted focus on Indian rock music.


Ok, now it’s time for the Last of Vishwesh.

When was the last time you got totally drunk out of your wits?

GIR Delhi. Sorry wait! Now, if I could remember that, I wouldn’t have been drunk out of my wits now, would I?

When was the last time you dabbled in suspicious substances?

That donut you offered me before we started.

What was the last album you bought and downloaded?

The last album I bought was ‘Divinities: 12 Dances with God’ by Ian Anderson. What I just finished downloading are two… ‘Frances the Mute’ by The Mars Volta and ‘Goldfly’ by Guster.

Who was the last rock star you shook hands with?

Ian Anderson, Jethro Tull… and I’ve fervently avoided any contact with soap and other cleansing agents ever since.

Finally, do you have anything to say to all those that read this interview?

July folks! We’re going to hit the town with new songs, new hairdo and new found glory.


2 Comments. Post Yours Here.
  1. July 24, 2006, 12:36 pm palle

    Rock Rules Buddy!!!

  2. January 18, 2007, 12:41 am Anavrin

    Vishwesh rules too !! :D

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