PART I : Starting Out, The Question of Originality.

27th Feb 2009
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Clockwise from top left: Ananda Sen, Rohan Ganguly, Avinash Chordia, Nitin Mani

What made you decide to become musicians?

Ganguly – I always believed I was going to be one.

Sen – I did B.Com Hons for a bit and I realised I was crappy in studies and wasn’t going to make it in the corporate world. So I decided to go with what I do best.

So how did The Supersonics come together?

Ganguly – He[Sen] and Mani [Mani] were playing in another band called Soundcheck. I was doing nothing. Everyone wanted to write originals so we got together. It was just fun in the beginning.

Sen – Up until then all of us were playing for cover bands. But we eventually got tired of it.

Mani – I was playing covers like ‘Purple Haze’, etc. It really wasn’t my style of music.

How long did it take you to find your sound?

Sen – For any band making their own music, it takes a year or two to know how to be able to make music together. You learn what the other’s thinking. If you look at our early songs they’re very different from what we’re doing right now. The music we’re doing now is written and made in such a way so as to compliment everyone’s playing styles.

Ganguly – It’s now a collective thought process.

Sen – I can say that it has influenced my song writing. From stage 1, I now know what’s going to happen so I make adjustments accordingly. I hope that in another 2 years or so, we can take that process even further. I know we want to be recorded, but we need to implement these details in our recordings.

Is there any song that is inspired by a book, film or another artist?

Sen – [Rolls his eyes] All of them! They’re like blatantly stolen – it’s so badly stolen from so many places that you’ll never know!

[Everyone laughs.]

Sen – Jokes aside, we don’t follow any particular band or artist.

Mani – Actually, all of us listen to very different things but we respect each other’s tastes. Sometimes I purposely don’t listen to the kind of music he[Ganguly] listens to because we’d start thinking along the same lines. It’s normal to be influenced by music. That is why when we play together we sound a little different.

Have you jammed with anyone else? Perhaps to bring in another dimension to your music?

Sen – Sure! We’ve had mandolin players, keyboard players, percussion players, singers. Sometimes a song might need something extra or there maybe someone who’s so good we’d love to play with him.

Mani – We have a friend who is very good mandolin player who did an acoustic set of some 7-8 songs. There were mandolin pieces that worked for our songs. We wanted them and he decided to play with us so it happened.

Ganguly – In fact, there is a link on our Facebook community where you can actually listen to it.

Is there any political angle to your music?

Sen – Little bit. Some songs. Maybe 3-4.

Ganguly – But not like out and out. Not completely political.

Sen – They’re democratic songs. Let me put it this way, not Republican. They could be Indian politics, whatever.

Ganguly – Its actually a personal opinion on politics, not directly derived.

Sen – But yeah, any opinion on politics is political.

You have taken a huge risk by only playing your originals in a city where most successful English rock bands play cover versions of famous songs. What made you so sure you’re music would be accepted by the local audiences?

Sen – We never knew! We didn’t think we’d even play one gig! We were doing it cause we really wanted to do it.

Ganguly – We had initially done one or two covers but then we stopped. We didn’t want to do any more. We wanted to write our own stuff. Now other Cal bands are doing the same.

Mani – We’ve been fighting very stiff odds from the very beginning. For starters, 90% of all bands in Kolkata play Bangla rock. You won’t find any Hindi or Marathi rock scene in Delhi or Mumbai. Of the remaining 10%, nearly all of them play English cover tracks. That in itself is fighting ‘Hotel California’ and ‘Summer of ‘69’! So we’re at the bottom of the food chain so it doesn’t get any worse than this.

Sen – I don’t want to be 40 and be playing ‘Summer of ’69’ and that too for 20 years. I’d go mad! I wouldn’t want to do that with my own songs – let alone Summer of 69! [Everyone laughs]

Ganguly – [About cover bands] At the end of the day, they look at their jobs as security.

Sen – Take a cover band like Hip Pocket – they’re not looking to cut an album and they’re happy doing what they’re doing. I have no problems with that. I’m sure that if we all collectively liked the song, we’d probably do it. But there should be a bigger picture if you’re an artist. You should have something to say. It’s a pointless endeavour to put in time and effort to learn an instrument if you’re trying to copy Hip Pocket or any other band. There will be no music scene in Cal!

Ganguly – Yeah. You could stay home and turn on your CD player or pick up that song on an instrument. But how does that make you an artist or a musician? What do you have to contribute? Nothing, really! Music is an art form after all. We are probably the only [English] band who plays our own songs at every show at the moment – definitely in Kolkata.

Are there sufficient platforms promoting original bands in Kolkata?

Sen – There are only two or three live spaces to perform. One is in a 5-Star hotel, one is a club that opens its bar area two days a week and calls itself a pub, and one is a little hole in the wall – which is okay.

Ganguly – But that’s the best of the three. Your other option is a college fest.

Sen – But then college fests and corporate parties all want their cover bands. They’re still stuck in that, you know? However, colleges are now slowly breaking away from that.

Ganguly – Even some 5-star hotels have started. But there has been a change for the better. We’re now looking at a scene where people diversify and listen to new stuff.

Do you think you have made an impact with your originals?

Sen – Definitely! Earlier bands were told not to play demos.

Ganguly – We were told not to play demos. Back then, only Cassini’s Division would play their stuff but it would be mixed up with some popular covers.

Sen – Live, original English music was right at the bottom of the priority list until two years ago. But now it’s almost at the top. If you want to play music, you’ve gotta do your own thing too – at least in Cal.

How many times have you reached the point where you’ve told yourself “I need to quit this. I can’t work with these guys. I need to move on.”? And what has kept you together?

[Everyone laughs]

Mani – How many combinations do you want? Me fighting with Ganguly, Ganguly with Sen, Sen with me, Chotu [Chordia]with Ganguly. All combinations have happened!

Chordia – You’ve gotta understand, for two years we haven’t been making the sort of money we need to live off. So it gets very difficult to do this for the love of doing it.

Sen – Realistically speaking, we ask ourselves if this is a viable option to live off. You start thinking cause everyday you wake up and go ‘Fuck, I’ve got no money. I’ve got no job. I’m growing older. I’m playing English music in a country that is naturally not inclined to that genre and I’m doing it from Kolkata. What are my chances? So everyday we’re on the verge of quitting.

Ganguly – But it’s okay. It’s not too bad. We now know that things are moving upwards. At least we know we’re going somewhere cause we’re playing more gigs.

Mani – For example, last year we played 20 shows but in the last four months we’ve played more than 10 shows. In your head you know that you’re doing something good so it brings you back each time you’re losing faith.

Sen – True. Every month we keep saying that things are getting better and better. But I’m there will come a point when we slip back into that rut but we will have to push through that as well. All we can do as musicians is to ensure that our music is good.

Which was the first song you guys wrote? What was it about?

Sen – ‘Moving’?

Ganguly – Blotter was before that.

Sen – But ‘Moving’ was complete first.

Ganguly – Yeah. Yeah.

Sen – It’s basically about getting the fuck out of home. Every creature has to leave its nest at some point in their lives.

Where was your first gig? What was the response like?

Sen – Someplace Else [at The Park]. We haven’t played there in a sometime, but we had our first gig there.

Mani – Most people didn’t know we were playing our own songs. They didn’t believe us! Someone went ‘Your song?’


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