Saturday, 14 January 2017

Music Diaries: Soutrik Banerjee

When was the last time that you heard a song and thought about the music, musicians behind it and not just about the beautiful voice that you hear and the soul touching lyrics? I wouldn't have remembered had someone once not told me, "Musicians are the soul of a song". It was then that I started listening to music in a new light and I knew, I need to interact with musicians, know them and bring them forth to the people who don't know about them. Thus, from today I present to you my journey with music. 

I couldn't have been happier with the fact that I could start off my new endeavour with one of the most talented musicians we have in recent times. Apart from playing the bass guitar with the sensational Pata da (Abhijit Barman) at Pata R Moruddyan, this young guitarist has a lot of other identities. Helping me and all of us understand bass, presenting to you- Soutrik Banerjee...

Thank you, Soutrik for being a part of this... Let's start with the basics? What was the very first tune you ever learnt to play or you could associate yourself with?

Soutrik Banerjee- It started in my school days. 2009/10 to be precise. I was drawn into playing an instrument after listening to basic pop and rock songs. I wanted to play guitar after listening to tunes like "About A Girl" by Nirvana, "Hey There Delilah" by Plain White T's, "Hero" by Enrique Iglesias" etc. You know, those kind of songs. I liked the sound of the acoustic guitar, it felt really cool and thought that myself playing the guitar would please a lot of people (and girls in the school). Like it happens in the early days, ha-ha! So I begged my parents to buy me an acoustic guitar and they finally bought me one after several requests. But it all started getting serious after I was introduced to bands like Metallica, Black Sabbath, and Iron Maiden etc. Cliff Burton's use of distortion and wah in Metallica's first three albums made me go crazy and that's what made me pickup the bass guitar to be honest. It kinda felt like the coolest thing ever. The first tune I ever learnt to play on the bass guitar was the intro to "For Whom The Bell Tolls" by Metallica. That's the first song I ever learnt to play.

Vanya- That's like so common in all the musicians I've met off late. You know, the passion makes me feel like you guys are connected by blood. Blood brothers.

Soutrik- Ha-ha! It definitely is. The musicians in us are our alter egos. They just have to be woken up when time comes.

That takes us, to how would you define the instrument you play- the bass guitar? Of course you are close to it but how close are you to it? Named it anything? How many do you own?

Soutrik Banerjee- People's conception about the bass guitar has always been a little twisted. Some don't even understand its importance. But the irony is, had there been no bass in their favourite songs they would've sounded somewhat thinner and incomplete. Legendary songs have been defined by their baselines. Can you imagine listening to "Billie Jean", "Come Together", "Money", "Under Pressure" etc. without the baselines? Music producers consider the bass guitar as one of the most important instruments in the mix, if not the most. The bass glues everything together in the mix and adds meaty vibe to the songs, the low end that is. I'm extremely close to my basses. I own three of them. A "Sterling Sub Ray 4", an "LTD D6" and a "John Hornby Skewes Vintage V4".

People basically know about the acoustic guitar. For the ignorant, a guitar looks like the acoustic one. While the bass looks super sleek. What's the major difference between those two? It sounds different, yes. But to the layman, how would you explain it?

Soutrik Banerjee- There's a huge difference. These are different instruments. A guitar natural frequency range lies much higher as compared to the bass on which low notes are played. The bass guitar is a modernized upright bass in the shape of a guitar. The major role of the bass guitar is to lock in with the drums and add the low end to a song. The boomy thing actually. So basically it helps to add layers to the song. The low layer. Without the bass there would be no boomy vibe. The song would sound thin.

Talking about live gigs, you have been doing live gigs for a long time now. How is it performing in public? Stage fright? Adrenaline.

Soutrik Banerjee- A good live rock concert with an enthusiastic crowd is the best thing for a musician. Stage fear used to work in the early days but it all went away with time. All the fear lies in the technical problems nowadays. Unwanted white noises and stuff. Adrenaline is always there in good energetic shows. But then there are shows where the people don't seem to react at all.

Vanya- You guys usually have sets that are played, right? How is it decided which set would you play? Decided keeping the venue in mind and the audience you might have there?
Soutrik- Yes set lists are often tweaked keeping the venue and the crowd in mind. The first five songs remain intact. We perform them at a stretch.
1. Sudhu Tumi Elena
2. Mon
3. Raatri
4. Dil Doriya'r Maajhe
5. Bodhu Re
Now that we've been talking about the audience. As an audience yourself, what kind of music defines you? We have known that some people like some kind of music, to each his own. So in such a case, what kind of music do you like to listen and what kind do you like to play?

Soutrik Banerjee- My taste varies from classical music to metal. Progressive Rock/Metal and Funk are the genres which I love playing the most. I enjoy playing bass lines oriented stuff like Chic, Narada Walden, Michael Jackson, Teena Marie, Sly Stone etc. And I also love to play prog. Porcupine Tree, Opeth, Dream Theatre, Tool, The Contortionist, Periphery etc.

Now that we are talking about this, what are you working on currently?

Soutrik Banerjee- Apart from Pata R Moruddyan, I'm associated to a couple of bands. Atlas is a North Kolkata based Bengali heavy metal band where I play bass. It is a 4 man line-up and I've learnt a lot from the guys there. John Paul, Jishu Paul and Sukhendu Chakraborty are the other three members. They too work on multiple projects. John plays guitar in Lakkhichara and Rigmob, Sukhen is a professional guitar tutor and also has a progressive metal band called Trident, and Jishu, who is a music teacher in Aditya Academy Group of Schools, also plays drums in the bands Feather Touch and Hip Pocket. And last but not the least I have a progressive rock project called In4NiA where I write, compose, sing and play bass. It's like a home project. I and my friend Shrayam Das (guitar player) are cooking some stuff in our lab. We are currently working on a six song long Extended Play called 'Hexa' which we will hopefully release by July 2017.

Having said that, you've been associated with so much, how has your journey been? From scratch to now?

Soutrik Banerjee- Music has given me a lot. Being completely self-taught and having taken no formal training, it was a little difficult early on. But hard work, practice, listening to a lot of songs, following good informative videos on YouTube, getting in touch with good musicians etc. has helped me a lot over the years. Challenging ones limits is the key.
And I'm looking forward to learn more.

So let’s go to playing for a band v/s your independent projects. What would you prefer and why?

Soutrik Banerjee- Both. Music in a band consists of multiple influences whereas my personal projects define my own music. The flavours are different. Both are important. But, working with people always has its pros. We get to learn a lot. Our thoughts get widened.

How has been the experience with Pata R Moruddyan? How much time has it been? Any memorable experience?

Soutrik Banerjee- I've been playing with Pata R Moruddyan for the last five months or so. This is my first season with them. It's kinda emotional because I grew up listening to Pata da's songs. Mon, Noah'r Nouka, Bodhu Re etc. were my favourites since I was in primary school. And now I'm playing these songs with the person himself. So, it's really kinda special. And I also get the privilege to work with some of the most phenomenal musicians in the city. Sudipto Paul on Keyboards, Atanu Mukherjee on Drums and Prasun Bhattacharya on Guitar. It has become like a family over the months.

Now that this is such a beautiful start, where do you see yourself in 5 years from date?

Soutrik Banerjee- Hahaha... In 5 years, I want to work in around 50 albums! Kidding! Let’s see what happens. But what I know is, I want to work more.

Vanya- What is the one thing that you want to be asked but haven't been asked yet?
Soutrik- What is my dream rig? It would be awesome if someone asks me this.

Ah. So what is your dream rig?

Soutrik Banerjee- Well, I've always liked the bass tone in modern progressive music. I have a fetish for Kiesel, Dingwall and Musicman basses. For the basses I'd like to have a Kiesel Vader, a Dingwall Combustion or a Musicman Stingray 5. For the preamp I'd like to have a Darkglass Electronics Microtubes B7k or a Tech21 Sansamp. My compressor would be a Super Symmetry by Darkglass. Apart from these I'd have a decent chorus, octaver and envelope filter. And all of it will go to front of house through a powerful DI. That's pretty much it.

For the upcoming musicians and fans, what would you like to say?

Soutrik Banerjee- Practice is the key. And listening to good music. The more you listen, the more you train your ears, and the wider creative area gets. It's not about being faster than the other guys or having the fanciest of skills. It's about expressing you self with music and going with the context.

It was the best that I could think of. Now, don't you think you, being a layman, understand sounds better? Don't you feel like knowing more? Don't you feel that there's so much more to music than it meets the eye? Look up at this space, every weekend for something, anything that I can give you. For the musicians who want to help me with this idea, get in touch with me at- For you, music lover, please share this and spread the word, Let us all be by music. Let us let our soul be musical! 

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