Workshop: Men At Work
Workshop, the band best known for their single “Bunty Aur Malika Sherwath” and their insane in-song humour, speak to Split Magazine about some very serious issues. They give us their take on how the universe was formed, who’s out to steal their intelligence (?) and how they are out to conquer the world.
How important is humour in the Indian underground scene? Does it help you take everything else with a pinch of salt?
Sahil: I think the India music scene was definitely lacking some extremely serious humour and I think Workshop will definitely inject the scene with a large dose of the funnies. We take everything with a handful of salt.
Raj: Most of us have other bands that are pretty serious. We are usually very KVLT and brutal. Workshop was born when four of us got bored of running around in forests with axes and wearing face paint.
Hamza: This interview seems to have a serious touch to it… so I’ll play along. I think humour is a big part of the scene simply because even members of the most brutal bands joke around and play pranks. People don’t go around burning churches here. (I bet Varg Vikernes might get pissed off at this.) Also, by nature we are a naturally funny bunch so we tend to take everything with a pinch of salt. That, however, does not imply that we are diabetic.
How did the Workshop happen? Now we’ve all heard the stories about the bang after the Big Bang, but who was the banger and who was the banged?
Sahil: Both Raj and Hamza are fags. The real story is that I needed backup musicians for a guitar workshop I was conducting for ESP guitars and I asked Hamza and Riju to be part of that as they were pretty jobless musicians at the time. So I wrote a few not-too-metal type songs and we jammed on those and after that it we did an impromptu show at K C College where the band Workshop was born. As for the big bang you better ask Raj and Hamza cause they bang each other all the time and try to put the blame on the other members of Workshop. It’s called cover-up.
Raj: Part 1 — Workshop was born around the year 1887, as an offshoot of the industrial revolution. We got so frustrated of working in flourmills and car factories that they decided to make music inspired by the new revolutionary school of thought.
Part 2 — I think this question is quite irrelevant to its predecessor. Nevertheless, the answer is fairly elementary. The bang was not after the big bang, but ‘with’ it. The banger was an obstinate middle class pot-bellied businessman called Sahil Makhija and the bangee was his little pet goldfish called Lieutenant Shinysigns.
Hamza: Sahil was the banger and Raj was the banged. Workshop happened at this event called “Phone a Friend, Call Him, Kill Him”. It’s an anger management workshop where you call the person you hate and you kill him to remove any pent up frustration before it boils down to a point where you kill someone you don’t know. So Raj was pretty pissed of at Sahil for the so-called domestic violence and he called him to the expo. I called Riju because I don’t like people who have two brains. So there we were, the four of us, about to beat the hell out of each other, and then someone switched the bloody channel to MTV, which at that moment of self-realisation was airing a video of Himesh. To our surprise we went “oh man, that’s what we want to do”. That’s how Workshop came into being. Pretty anti-climactic, no?
Why the hats? Does having a name like ‘Workshop’ have anything to do with wearing those?
Raj: We are so infinitely intelligent and creative that the hats are actually sponsored by our insurance company in order to protect our genius little brains against potential threats from rival bands, terrorists and the Dutch.
Hamza: We were given those hard hats at that “beat your friend” convention, for protection. I mean, can you believe those guys? They actually charged us to protect ourselves. To this day we wear them as a tribute to that fateful day.
Riju: Hats off to you for this amazing interview, though.
Sahil: As usual, I’m left to give the serious answers to these questions. Basically, when we finally decided to get serious about the band, I decided that we’d go the whole hog and get ourselves costumes that go with the band name and the obvious choice was boiler suits and hard hats.
What was the inspiration for “Bunty Aur Malika Sherwath”? Was it Rani Mukherjee, Mallika Sherawat or little bits of both?
Hamza: Don’t you mean “little tits of both”? Just making a funny, don’t be sending this to Rani. I have no clue, but I’m pretty sure it has something to do with Sahil’s habit of stalking and stocking little girls.
Raj: I think it were the “bits” of both, if you catch my drift…
Sahil: Actually, this was written around the time I was writing my Hindi Metal songs like “Khooni Murda” and “Chhati Ke Saath Panga” that I penned this hit song down. I used to sing an acoustic version at all my house parties for my friends. Needless to say when Workshop was formed this was instantly added to the catalogue of songs.
…and the inspiration for the nicknames?
Raj: The Demonstealer — A bit dry and growing really old now with around 673 double meanings and subtexts.
The Rijunator — He is so fond of Jerry, from Tom and Jerry, that he decided to name himself after “Junior Rat”.
The Hamzoid — This was inspired by the world famous album about which confirms the existence of alien intelligence and the fact that it can be a threat to human bowel movements.
The Rajbot — I am not human. I am actually an anthropomorphic automatron. Hence the name.
Hamza: MSN inspired us, as far as the nicknames go. Also, with names like Rajarshri-chodu-rai
Bhansal Bhattacharya-panch-ya-chey, Riju-pama Nikummey Sun-das gupta, Hamza-ul-al-el-cough-cough-bin-quasi-static-kazi and Sa-hila-ta-bahut-hai Nimuparna Makhuja, I doubt we’d get really far.
Sahil: (laughs) I’ll be serious. Since I had a nickname already, it just made sense that we maintain uniformity in the band and so everyone was christened accordingly.
Is Workshop’s debut album ‘Khooni Murga’ going to come out any time soon?
Riju: Depends! Will you pull it out of Hamza’s butt?
Hamza: 9:37 a.m. on the first Sunday in May that doesn’t come after a Saturday.
Sahil: Yes, we are hoping to be able to release it in April.
If I were to slot you guys with a couple other bands in a genre-based classification, who’d be the bands next to Workshop?
Riju: Yanni and Beethoven.
Raj: Modern Talking, Primus, D12, and the Backstreet Boys with the old lineup.
Hamza: Metal Warriors, Raja Babu Band Party and Himesh.
Sahil: No one! We are trés cool! Okay, maybe MC Hammer.
Who are your favourite bhangra/garba artistes?
Riju: Ronan Keating.
We are actually banned at most commercial establishments for being too obscene.
Raj: Malkhitjeet Sing Arora and Lambodarani Shah. You should really check out their stuff, man. Really groovy tunes.
Hamza: Dialer Mehendi (that guy who keeps dialing wrong numbers), Hard Kaur (with a name like that you have got to like her), Faggy or Falguni Pathak (unbeatable garba queen) and Hunsa Bain (of Kyunki fame).
Sahil: I don’t listen to bang-her-ass-and-grab-her kind of bands. I think women should be respected and I won’t listen to such foul fiends.
How do you guys go about writing songs? Where does it all begin?
Hamza: It usually starts with learning how to write the letter “a”. Once that’s out of the way, the toughest part is already done. Then we contort the letter “a” to look like s,o, n and g. Finally, we put it all together and write “a song”.
Raj: It begins with Hamza being naughty, Riju being extremely happy about something, me being horny and gross and Sahil being Sahil. Everything else just falls into place.
Sahil: It begins with an idea in my head. I write a basic structure and we jam on that and take it forward with everyone adding their two cents to it. Since this is just the first record, we’ve used some of my older material, which has been given a new twist.
Being a band that writes songs primarily in Hindi, how do you think you guys can contribute to making the metal scene in India a little more mainstream?
Riju: Considering the fact that the Ganges will always be India’s main stream, I’m not sure.
Raj: Not really. The actual term would be reaching out to a wider audience. Workshop doesn’t intend to become really mainstream and do projects with Anu Malik or Himesh Reshammiya. This is quite evident from the themes used in our compositions. However, I think that workshop has been able to reach out to a much wider audience than other metal bands in the city.
Hamza: Sigh, all you bugger peoples getting all the facts wrong. We have only three or four songs in Hindi. The others have an English base with Gujarati, Bengali, Marathi, Punjabi and Assamese thrown in for good measure.
Sahil: (sighs) I think we are primarily an English-singing band, as even our songs which have Marathi, Bengali and Gujarati only have lines in the languages but the body is all English. I guess right now we got 60% English material and 40% Hindi. If you notice all the Hindi material is extremely brutal with blast beats, etc. except the “Bunty” song, so it’s definitely not an attempt to be mainstream. We are actually banned at most commercial establishments for being too obscene.
Does it distract you guys a lot if there are scantily clad women up front at a gig, or is it business as usual at gigs, regardless of who’s watching?
Riju: It offend’s Raj’s natural homosexual instincts.
Raj: Of course it will distract us. This hasn’t really happened in any of our shows yet. There are usually a lot of kids and drunk fat guys who start body surfing an moshing as if they are at a Slayer show.
Hamza: Dude! The next time you see a scantily clad woman at a gig, give me a call on (98#96 13#4#). (For those of you who didn’t get the joke, that’s not my cell number.)
Sahil: Nope, most of the time the lights are so bright I can barely see the audience. But if there are some nice women, maybe I can make eyes at them, however if my girlfriend reads this I am going to get pastings.
While we’re on the topic, what are your favourite songs to play live?
Riju: “Khooni Murga”, “I Came”, “Bunty”, “Like a Virgin”.
Hamza: “She Folked Up My Jazz” — always has the crowd singing along. “Cookie Monster” — shock value. “Pudhey Sarka” — for the moshpits. “Bunty Aur Malika Sherwath” — for the babley part.
Raj: “I Came”, “Like a Virgin” and our all-time favourite cover, “Mere Bhains Ko Danda Kyon Maara”.
Sahil: (laughs) Raj just said he came like a virgin! On a serious note, my favourite songs to play are “I Came”, “She Folked Up My Jazz” and “Kothai Doro Cho”.
How was the entire Channel [V] Launch Pad experience for you guys?
Riju: The best experience of my life.
Hamza: The best experience we’ve had as a band. We got to know a lot of bands from around the country. Made some friends. It also helped with promoting our concept, and who knows, Channel [V] might decide to make us host a show or something.
Raj: Well, I was only there for the elims, due to my extremely cooperative and considerate IIT professors, which was a decent experience. It was interesting enough to be at a venue all day and play only one song. We had a pretty good vibe with the crowd and the other bands there. Sadly, there weren’t any pretty scantily dressed women in the front row.
Sahil: I definitely enjoyed the experience. I’d do it again, given the chance. However, since I want to be on the judging panel next year, I guess I can’t go back to the house.
You guys have come to the scene as a breath of fresh air, to use a cliché there. Any parting words for our readers?
Riju: (impersonates Priety Zinta) Where’s the parting tonight? On the dance floor…
Raj: Hippies, elephants, whales, canisters, Tungsten, alcohol. Those are really nice words. Thanks for the interview.
Hamza: Now, if everyone chewed on some “happy dent”, the world would’ve had a brighter past.