Tryst with the Other Authority

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After their earth shattering performance, Team MM caught up with the stars of Innovision’13‘s pro-nite: Underground Authority. Excerpts from the heart-to-heart:

MM. How has your experience in NIT Rourkela been? 

UA. It has been great. We have never been here in Rourkela before and everything has been great. The crowd has been great. The crowd, the response far exceeded our expectations. Even when we set out on the stage to perform we didn’t expect the kind of reaction from the crowd that we got. 

MM. How did it all begin?

UA. It all began a little over three years ago. We were playing in two different bands back then, competing against each other. Now each member is indispensible part of the team. Without any of the five members, the band would be incomplete. 


Q. What have been your biggest achievements so far?

A. Among the five of us, we have won twenty national rock competitions. And then India’s Got Talent happened to us. Then we were called up by Salman Khan. Then one day Sohail Khan called up and we were offered Bigg Boss also.  We have toured across the country, we’re 350 shows old. We have played in all the colleges we wanted to get admitted to, as students. One of our biggest achievements was when we went to Gangtok and we played with Rudolf Schenker. Rudolf Schenker is the rhythm guitarist of Scorpions. We didn’t cover for any other band, he was playing with us. That doesn’t happen. 

When you do rock music in our country you are supposed to be segregated. You are supposed to not cater to the normal crowd. You are supposed to cater to a certain specific audience who come to your shows and who are your loyal fans.  We have been able and we are still able to extend that. We have played in the remotest parts of India and very honestly, people have really taken a liking to our music. We have had one of the largest crowds ever in one of the remotest parts of the country, in a government college in a place called Bagula near the Bangladesh border. They did not even have lights on, but when we got on stage we found twenty five thousand people.  

In our country rock music is considered to be indecent, too loud and too western.  We’re very proud of how we’ve made it digestible. And people are not taking it as noise, they are taking rock music. It’s a misconception that rock music does not have any scope in India. As Tom Morello from Rage Against the Machine once said, there’s something about a distortion guitar that gets people aggressive and that’s true for everybody, everywhere, like we saw in today’s crowd. We loved it. 


MM: Who are your inspirations?

UA: That’s a very long list. We listen to a lot of music. We go on a lot of long car rides, especially when we are traveling in West Bengal and that is when we share music among ourselves. Each of us listens to different music. If we were to name some of the musical acts that have inspired us, they would be Rage Against the Machine, Skrillex, Limp Bizkit, Porcupine Tree, Iron Maiden, Metallica, Guns ‘n’ Roses. We also are very appreciative of Indian bands like Parikrama, Pentagram, Junkyard Roots, Indian Ocean, Avial and Euphoria. When we sit down to make a song we not only play what we’ve learned from our influences, we try and adapt. 

MM: What do you think of our institute’s bands Heartbeats and Euphony? You heard them perform. 

UA: One thing that could be understood is that they don’t get enough opportunities to play live here as opposed to say, in Calcutta, where even if you don’t get stage shows you get to participate in like two hundred competitions a year. The good thing is that they were trying. And they sounded good. One of the bands played “Radioactive”. We do that song live. They were doing a very nice job. 


MM: Tell us something about your new album. 

UA: Yes, it’s called YouAuthority. All the songs on it are our original creations. It has got four Hindi songs, four English songs. Each song carries a message. Everything on this album is a result of us going through all of this for the last three years.  It took as one year to make the album. One year is a lot of time, but we didn’t want to rush. 


MM: Tell us about the political messages that some of your songs are associated with. 

UA:  We’re not putting up a political agenda. It’s not like we’re shunning leaders or parties, it’s nothing like that. We talk about things that we see, and it is up to you to see them the way you want to. 

Something we all believe in and something we would like to propagate is individuality. We want people to be able to stand up and do their own thing and not feel bogged down about it. There are certain conformist formulas in our country that people follow to get recognized in society. Anything that’s not mainstream is shunned. We want people to follow their own path. We believe in what we say and we do not care if people are offended by what we say but we’re not trying to offend anyone. One of our songs, “You can’t stop us” is about racism. When we wrote that song Indians were targets of racially motivated violence in Australia. And in that song we condemn fairness creams for trying to make us want to be “white”. 


MM: Your cover songs seem to be very original.

UA: That’s another convention we are breaking. There are two kinds of bands. Original bands and cover bands. The original bands don’t like the cover bands. Our covers are like our originals and our originals are like something which other people would like to cover. 

MM: There have been some criticisms about your cover songs being unfaithful to the originals. What do you have to say about it?

UA: There are people who call us sellouts. They accuse us of trying to cater to mainstream tastes, which is silly. A funny incident happened in Calcutta. There was a band that said the same thing about us, and then two months later copied our songs. Criticism is a very good thing. We get a chance to show them what we’re all about. At the same time, if the criticism is correct or justified we get a chance to improve ourselves. But then again, we get a good laugh whenever we get criticized. I remember this especially interesting comment on a Youtube video of ours. We were using a Les Paul guitar and the comment said: “That’s a fake Les Paul”. 


MM: What about the trouble that arose during your performance 

UA: We do not promote indiscipline. We’ve seen a lot of people; we know how to manage crowds. When there are authorities putting these kinds of restrictions on the crowd, there’s generally a good reason. Most of the times we listen to the professors, to the organizers and we ask them to tell us what they want to tell the crowd.  Because we know that at a gig the crowd is going to listen to us and not to the organizers. We don’t like interruptions during our performances. The point is, and it’s very simple, that when we’re playing and when we’re telling them to come to the front or when we tell them to push back, the crowd listens to us. It works better when we say that. If somebody else tries to stop them, they only get more aggressive. So when the person was coming to stop us today, we were asking him to wait till the song was over, after which we would tell the crowd to step back. Because there was an interruption in the middle of a song it took a longer time to push the crowd back. If he had let us finish, we would have told the crowd to go back and we have done that many times before. We understand the risks involved with crowds. We know if a crowd is dangerous or capable of hurting themselves. Today’s crowd was alright. But the professors were cool. They listened to what we said.


MM: What are your future plans?

UA: We want to come out with more albums. But we also want to keep on playing. We want to keep performing music all our lives. We want to play out of the country in places where people neither speak English or Hindi. What’s most important is that we keep on playing. 

MM: Any message to the crowd at NIT Rourkela? 

UA: Just stay the way you are. Next time, if we get a chance to perform here again, we promise that we’ll get them two times more crazy.