At Toit, our customers have always been our primary focus. They’re the ones who bring life to the place, create memories and end up giving the place its familiar, friendly vibe.
And there are so many different kinds of people who come through our doors daily, that we wanted to get to know their stories.
The Kudix Mug Holder of the Month is our little way of celebrating our customers, and their unique stories.
Why do you think you were selected as the Mug Holder?
I don’t know. It’s been a source of wonder to a lot of my friends, that it has taken as long as it has. I was here when they were doing the test runs also, when they first started the brewery. So I’ve been here, and a lot of the staff know me from then. It got to a point where people thought I had a stake in the place because of how much time I spent here.
It was almost like office—I’d be here in the afternoon, leave late evening. And I’d know the owners, the customers.
What do you do?
I’m based out of Bangalore, and I consult when I feel like my bank balance is low. But I usually spend a lot of time with music. I write, and along with a friend of mine, we ran India’s first structured tour for Indie Musicians. It’s called the Two Stroke Tour. That was me and Uddipan.
I do that, and I try to promote bands and try to help them out. My money making skills really come from strategy consulting, I do a lot of work around analytics. But I do less and less of this.
And we don’t have children, so that’s a load off. And my wife Shilpa is a doctor. Between the two of us, we’re comfortable.
…along with a friend of mine, we ran India’s first structured tour for Indie Musicians…the Two Stroke Tour.
Have you been writing for a long time?
No, no. Writing also started basically because a lot of my friends discovered certain music because of things I used to recommend.
And I used to make it a point that my corporate emails, if not from a strategy side of things, they would at least be valuable from a content perspective. So people thought, “Ok, this guy can write.” And my friends told me to share my thoughts and I was just like “Who reads blogs?”
But I said ok, although for me it’s more of an indulgence in writing. I’m not sure if people are discovering new things through my blog, but sometimes it happens.
What is your blog called?
There really is no structured approach, and I haven’t written in a while. I really need to get back to that, because it’s one of the most satisfying things I do. I like language and I really like the power of the word. I will not lay claim to whether I write well or not—I think I do but it doesn’t matter what other people think because I primarily write for myself.
I have two blogs—one is dyingnote.com which is purely on music, and a very macabre sort of thing, and the other one is Bantering Ram, where I write random stuff. The latter is more of an outlet for the strangeness of my mind. I am obsessed with trying to be clever, in my writing. And sometimes I look back and think it’s so kiddish, but then that’s me.
Where does this passion for Indie music come from?
I just like music. And I have two guitars which I don’t play, and a harmonica which I play a bit. I come from a family of musicians from my mom’s side but that’s about the closest connect I have to being a musician. It’s vicarious.
But I think I’ve been listening to music from the time I was a child. I never used to care too much for these genres that people used to play around. I generally keep an open mind to it.
But you do promote Indie music a lot, right?
That’s because I saw a lot of music which was really good, and I thought it needed to be pushed. The thing that I’ve seen is that we tend to be very closed. It didn’t make any sense to me that bands were so diffident about their music.
I keep hearing this ‘best band in Bombay’ or ‘best Indian band’. Nonsense! I think if you’re an Indie band, you ought to be as good as anybody from any country.
I’ve met musicians from France and other places, who make English music, and they have no problem in saying they’re up there with the rest. I don’t know why we have a problem saying that.
…my interest in Indie music really woke up after I heard the Avial album.
But for me, my interest in Indie music really woke up after I heard the Avial album. I still rate it as one of the best albums I’ve heard, period. Not just Indian. For me, from an Indian perspective it was like something like this could be done. And I loved the fact that here was a band that said “I’m not going to sing in English. I’m going to sing in my language and if you want to follow, you follow. And if you don’t follow, it’s ok.”
That changed things for me. And then I started following Indian music more.
So it was a slow burn?
Very slow. And I think my involvement started with Ctrl + Alt + Delete. I found it very interesting that someone was saying that all you guys can keep cribbing that there’s no scene, but here was a bunch of guys who were willing to make it happen. So I got involved with them from the 4th edition.
I also used to volunteer at festivals and that’s where I met Uddipan, in Goa. When he came over here, we got talking and he had some ideas about things he wanted to do which kind of matched with the ideas I had. We hit it off and that’s how the Two Stroke Tour happened. And in the process, I was helping his band also. (As We Keep Searching)
Now I’ve stopped Two Stroke.
You’ve stopped. How come?
Yes. Because my point was this—in every time, the first time we did it, everybody thought we were mad. Five cities, five nights and no sponsors and we were putting in our own money. People were even shocked that we made money. We made a significant amount of profits.
Second time we did it, people were surprised again, this time because they didn’t think this could be sustained. And that time we played 8 cities, and with bands that weren’t that well known. And then the third time, turned out to be even more profitable because we structured it better. Venues, people—everything came together.
And at the end of it, I get bored. I’ll always be an outsider.
So my point was that this can be done, and can be done well, and bands could pull it off. The sad part of the whole thing was that 130+ bands approached me saying that they wanted to be a part of the tour, but only 4-5 out of those asked how they could do this on their own if the tour didn’t continue. The bands need to invest in themselves. Not just money, but effort and time as well. And you have to go around networking. That’s why I like bands like Skrat and As We Keep Searching, because even before I got to know them, I could see them do this.
Now I need the rest of the people to take over. And at the end of it, I get bored. I’ll always be an outsider.
Why do you think that?
I don’t know. I will never get personally caught up in any of this. I guess it’s the way I’m built—I’ve always been an outsider with anything I do, so all this passion stuff, I don’t understand it at all.
When I do something I am totally focussed on it, but I’m not emotionally attached.
When I announced that I wouldn’t be a part of Two Stroke anymore, people messaged me asking if I was ok and I had to tell them that I was fine. I don’t get emotional about this kind of stuff at all. In fact the only emotion or feeling I get from this is a feeling of satisfaction, that we managed to pull this off against the odds.
So your involvement with the scene is a fairly recent one.
Yes. I’ve passively and actively been a part of the scene for roughly the same time, about 3 years. So I don’t know anything about the older bands like Parikrama and all. That bus has left and I don’t even want to get on it.
For me bands like that and Indus Creed are not relevant anymore. They can hate me for it, but as far as they’re concerned I’m a non-entity, and as far as I’m concerned they’re has-beens. I’m not a big fan of any of those kind of things.
Bandcamp has been a huge hole in my pocket, because I like to own things. I’m fairly old-school, collector kinds that way. It’s more of the new bands that I’m interested in, the ones that I know are trying and it doesn’t matter if they pack up.
Bandcamp has been a huge hole in my pocket, because I like to own things.
So what about the current scene inspires you and pisses you off, specifically in Bangalore.
Nothing pisses me off really, because I’m not emotionally connected. But I am just shocked by the lack of pride. I think there is a lot of great quality in the bands in Bangalore.
If you look at it, Bangalore probably has the most vibrant indie scene in the country. This is as good as it gets.
But here’s the thing. There are a lot of things that need to grow. It’s not just the band, but also venues that need to grow. That’s part of the reason I like the Humming Tree, because of the philosophy. They’re willing to take a hit for the lesser-known bands, and those bands also get paid. It’s a crazy venue man—they’re programming some 20-25 days of the month. And most of it is music. They know where they make their money, and they’re willing to invest as well. And that’s how venues need to be.
And this is why Chennai is terrible for the same reason. Even Bombay, I’m kind of shocked. Blue Frog used to be amazing, one of the best sonically, but ever since the management has changed people are not too keen.
And apart from venues, audiences need to grow. I find it ridiculous that you pay money for a gig and are just socialising. Even in a packed venue like Humming Tree, there are 3-4 rows upfront, some at the back passively listening, while the majority is at the back socialising. Then don’t call yourself a ‘music crowd’. That needs to change. Classical shows are an example of that—dedicated crowd, and not everyone is a classical musician but they’re still completely into it. But maybe that’s a different model. You can’t have that all the time, but that kind of dedication needs to come.
And apart from venues, audiences need to grow.
People don’t seem to have a problem paying for anything except music shows. Somehow there’s a sense of entitlement when it comes to paying for live music. Do you agree?
What I find really hypocritical is people quibble about paying 300 bucks for a ticket, but you’ll blow up 3000 on booze at the same place. That’s so ironic!
The thing is that sense of entitlement, and also that people know that this is an industry that is struggling, the indie scene, and they feel that musicians need them more than they need the musicians. I’ve heard that! I mean, come on! Are you doing someone a favour? If that’s your attitude, then don’t call yourself a music lover. You can, but you’ll end up looking like a bloody fool.
The biggest change has to come from the audience and I really have no idea how that will happen.
…really hypocritical is people quibble about paying 300 bucks for a ticket, but you’ll blow up 3000 on booze…
I would love to set up a venue for 100 odd dedicated people to come and watch music for a fee. Even in the pub venues, a huge audience is lost because they don’t drink and don’t want to be in that crowd. Also, kids! Where are the kids? I only see Manou at gigs, and that’s because his parents are actively involved. Otherwise it’s very inaccessible, and you’re losing out on a generation that ought to be an audience because they will be driving musical tastes in the future.
Do you think bands also have something to do with it? How many bands show up to support other bands?
Very few. The biggest culprits of this whole horrible practice of ‘guest list’ are bands themselves. At one of the festivals I was at the gate for, there were huge numbers on the guest list. To the point where I was actually telling people that while it was great that they were coming out to support their friends, a big part of what is collected at the gate goes to the band as well. I said pay whatever you want, and I managed to convert a lot of those free loaders.
That needs to change. And the progressive bands (not in the music genre sense) are the ones that don’t care too much about this guest list. And some of these bands are not even that popular.
The biggest culprits of this whole horrible practice of ‘guest list’ are bands themselves.
But it needs to come from within. If you’re going to ask a graphic artist to design a poster for your band and then say “no money, do it to support the scene”, then that’s the same thing. All around there is this entitlement thing, which is just very odd. The scene is so small, and in that itself if you want to have freebies…I mean I made my wife Shilpa pay for the Two Stroke Tour. I just made sure she got a good place inside.
I mean it’s also about tastes as well, but I see it as a principle a lot too.
Of course, there are many other factors as well. Like Government support, where in countries like France and Germany you get a massive amount of support, and funnily enough, we get more support from the German Embassy than we get from our own Government. So, it’s a complicated one. I’m seeing though that things are improving.
Ok! getting back to the bands, what are your five favourites currently in the scene?
In India, and not in any particular order, Skrat, As We Keep Searching, Shepherd, Moscow and right now I’m tripping heavily on the Bodhisattwa Trio. Oh, and Parvaaz. How can I miss them! But you know, five is only a number. There are many more.
Circling all the way back to the beginning—you think you’re Mug Holder because you’re here a lot or because of how much you drink?
Both! I’m here all the time, and I drink. It’s the frequency, duration and volume! I used to spend so much time here, that I used to joke and tell people that I co-own the place until I heard that some people started taking it seriously. Then I had to clarify and tell them I don’t!
I started drinking when I was 28. But I think in three years, I’ve made up…
Have you always been a beer drinker?
I started drinking when I was 28. But I think in three years, I’ve made up for all the other years.
But beer, I discovered how good it can be when I started going to the US for work. I spent time in some of the microbreweries there.
Now there are bunch of good microbreweries in Bangalore.
Toit is a great place, to have conversations with people and also a great observation gallery. I’m also glad they’ve started the beer tours, that’s really stepped things up.