Answered by VARUN RAJPUT(VR) COMPOSER, VOCALIST, GUITAR PLAYER & FOUNDER, ANTARIKSH
Congratulations on your big win at the start of the year. Tell us how your collaboration with the legendary Marty Friedman happened.
VR: Thank you so much! Well, now when I can reflect on it I think the collaboration with Marty happened in a really unique, interesting and almost a bizarre way if you will. I was playing with Antariksh on Day 1 of the Bacardi NH7 Weekender Festival in Shillong in November 2019. I stayed back on Day 2 of the festival to watch Marty, who was the headliner on the second day.
I’d been a huge fan of his playing all these years, but when I saw him play live, I was completely blown away and literally in trance hearing his incredibly fierce, intentful and almost magical guitar playing and compositions. Who would have thought, when we’d be returning to Delhi the next day, we’d find Marty sitting two rows ahead of us in the aircraft.
I went up to him and introduced myself when we landed at the Delhi airport and spoke to him about some of his recent music, his collaborations with Skyharbor and how I used to swear by his guitar instructional DVD, ‘Melodic Control’ back in the days. After watching him play the previous night, all I could think was about asking him if we could have him play on our song Quest, which we were in the process of recording at that point in time.
Once he got back to Japan, I wrote to Marty and sent him some of our existing music which he found really interesting and unique coming from an Indian act. It was when I sent him a demo of Quest, he agreed to hop in on the project. Coming to think of it, it really is one of those dream-come-true stories for sure.
I mean, just watching your heroes play live and meeting them is a big enough thing, let alone have them play on your track – I am just ecstatic and absolutely in awe of his humility and the fact that he found our music worthy of playing on. Also, interacting with him during the course of this project has been a really pleasant and enriching experience.
Q2. What is the story behind the track Quest?
VR: Well, fortunately or unfortunately, I really enjoy writing on topics that are a bit more on the serious, reflective and contemplative side of things. I’m not sure whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but that’s who I am and these are some topics that come naturally to me.
As far as Quest is concerned, it questions our existence as a species, the ego, lust and greed attached to our personalities which almost make us believe as if we’re in control of all situations we face in our lives, while in reality we barely command our actions and are mostly responding/reacting to stimuli around us.
Musically, Quest is set in the arena Prog Rock space fused with various elements from different styles of music I enjoy listening to. If you dig down deep enough you can find nuances and elements inspired from prog, carnatic, funk, hindustani classical and alternative rock music.
Take us through the process of production of the track?
VR: Quest was quite an elaborate project. Not just because there was Marty on it, but also because it’s a 6 minute long song and there were a lot of things we were experimenting with for the first time including featuring a Sitar section.
I remember, ever since I first brought the idea to the jam room and shared it with Shrikant, Dan and Joshua – they were super excited to work on it. It took shape through the standard process of working on it in the jam room before we actually got down to tracking it.
Dan tracked the drums for it in March 2019 at Quarter Note Studios with our recording and mixing engineer, Gaurav Chintamani before I and Shrikant recorded the Guitars at my studio (Antariksh Studios) and Josh tracked his parts and sent them over.
I got Sonic to play the bass and Dhruv Bedi to play the sitar before I tracked my vocals at Quarter Note Studio. Our mixing sessions with Gaurav are a lot of fun – I’m usually very specific and clear about the kind of sound I’m going for and I push myself really hard to get to it.
And then, during the course of the project there are so many cool and different ideas that pop up everytime, which is where a lot of magic happens. If you were to ask me, production and mixing are probably my favourite parts from the process of creating a song.
How did you manage to create this masterpiece amid the pandemic situation?
VR: Thankfully, most of the studio recording work had actually been done prior to the pandemic. However, the final few mixing sessions happened during the pandemic remotely over the internet. Sometimes, technology really amazes you. I remember being a bit worried as to how I would be able to finish the mixes once the lockdown happened.
But then, our mixing engineer, Gaurav figured out a way to stream the high fidelity audio from his DAW across to me while we were on a video call over zoom. To my surprise, working on the mixes remotely was much smoother than I’d expected and of course, there was not time being wasted in traveling to the studio, which in a way was quite nice.
What was your process of writing the lyrics for this song considering it is introspective and deep?
VR: There’s actually an interesting story behind how the lyrics for Quest came to be. The idea for the lyrical theme for Quest actually came to me while I was driving. We had laid down the structure of the track and I was playing the instrumental demo in my car while driving to a rehearsal and remember seeing something on the road that triggered a thought which turned into lyrics for Quest.
My car along with a bunch of cars were stopped to let a politician’s car pass through and I got really irked as I was getting late for the rehearsal. That to me felt like misuse of power, inflated ego and control and the fact that some people have the audacity to think that their time is more important than anyone else’s is just so ridiculous.
I have always believed that politicians should actually not be given any VIP treatment so that they actually witness and understand the problems a common man has to go through. Only then can they truly understand the pain points of citizens and hopefully be inspired to do their job well.
That thought triggered another one where I had this realization that no matter how much power and control one may have, we still do not have any power or control over our lives in the real sense or number of breaths we have left. So all in all, the feeling of being in control is only a thought – a mere illusion. Only that we are just too scared to look at it that way.
I distinctly remember coming up with most of the lines of the verse as well as the chorus sitting in my car and humming along to the song with this thought going through my head. That was the foundation and then of course, the lyrics evolved over a bunch of iterations.