Blackstratblues: Newness and Sunshine
Blackstratblues, the solo project of creative genius Warren Mendonsa, is one of the finest acts in the Indian music scene today. After the highly acknowledged ‘Nights in Shining Karma‘, Warren has just launched his much-awaited second album titled, well, ‘The New Album’. Split Magazine caught up with him for an exclusive interview about the album.
Is there any particular theme that your new album is based on?
It’s pretty much a diary of my time in New Zealand and everything that comes with adjusting to a new life. If I had to pick themes I’d say change, growth, the weather, relationships, quitting your day job, turning 30, the weather… (smiles)
Is it just titled ‘The New Album’ or is there going to be another “proper” title?
It’s called ‘The New Album’ (download). No other title (smiles).
According to you, how is this album different from ‘Nights in Shining Karma’?
On this album, I had four great musicians to collaborate with and bounce ideas off, which is something I definitely prefer to working all by myself. The drums were live. ‘Nights In Shining Karma‘ had programmed drums, and though those were beautifully done, I think live drums definitely give the songs a more human and organic feel. ‘Nights’ was all instrumental, ‘The New Album’ features a couple of tracks with vocals on them, and many of the instrumental tracks feature vocal textures as well.
Tell us a little bit about the recording and songwriting processes.
With regards to songwriting, this was the first time I’ve written lyrics by myself, and I found it to be a really nice way of expressing myself. I’m shocked I didn’t think of it earlier (smiles). With regards to the music, I made a little folder, and every time I had a musical idea I would put it down. When the time came to go into the studio, I sifted through these ideas and picked the best ones out. In the case of the Odes, I actually combined a few separate ideas into one cohesive piece. Recording sessions went by really quickly, which meant I kept all my initial takes and ideas. It was really fun, instead of being a long drawn out process, and I hope all future recording experiences are that painless!
With regards to songwriting, this was the first time I’ve written lyrics by myself, and I found it to be a really nice way of expressing myself.
Do you have any favourite tracks from ‘The New Album’? Talk us through them.
I’d have to pick “Ode to a Sunny Day”, that one makes me smile every single time I hear it. I think that while growing up in India, I tended to take the sun for granted — apart from the monsoon, when the rains are a welcome relief from the heat, you can really rely on the sun shining every single day. After moving to Auckland, where it’s mostly cold and rainy, and a day of blue skies is met with all-round celebration, I started figuring out what songs like “Good Day Sunshine” and “Here Comes the Sun” were all about! So, “Ode to a Sunny Day” is basically a child’s prayer to the sun, thanking it for heat, warmth and food. If you look at it, pretty much everything we eat is directly or indirectly dependent on sunlight (smiles).
Are you planning on doing a promotional tour for the album? And will there be an offline ‘launch’?
Yup, we’re playing a few Blackstratblues gigs in India while I’m here: December 16 @ Mithibai College, Mumbai, December 22 @ Hard Rock Cafe, Mumbai, December 23 @ Opus, Pune, December 26 @ Sports Bar, Hyderabad, and December 27 @ Cafe Morrison, Delhi. The Mithibai College gig is a full length Blackstratblues set, the rest are Zero reunion gigs, which feature a shorter Blackstratblues set at the start. If by offline launch you mean physical CDs, I plan on having the album professionally mastered and CD copies made when funds allow. Don’t ask me when, though (smiles).
This album is available for free as well, with the only source of revenue (apart from gigs) being donations from fans. What has your experience been with this distribution model with your first album? How has it worked out for you?
I’ve been lucky not to have had significant recording costs while making either album, so any revenue from donations means a profit right from the very first donation. I’m looking at this as a long term investment — at this point in time, my main objective is to have my music heard by as many people as possible. So far that seems to be working fine, and I’ve got positive feedback from Japan to South America, which I don’t think would be possible by conventional distribution methods. So far, so good!
Download ‘The New Album’ by Blackstratblues for free at this location.