By Aniruddh ‘Andrew’ Bansal
Even though I do my best to spotlight the most deserving rock and metal acts from around India, the vastness of the country means there’s bound to be unexplored territories, no matter what. The city of Gangtok in the state of Sikkim, located in the Eastern-most corner of the country, is one such territory. Very recently, I stumbled upon a YouTube video by a band called Girish And The Chronicles, recommended to me by a good friend who simply said, ‘Check out the vocals.’ The song was a live rendition of Led Zeppelin’s ‘Black Dog’ and my friend was absolutely right. Frontman Girish Pradhan’s vocals blew my mind, and I was amazed to discover that there’s such talent devoted to rock ‘n roll, even in a country like India. I researched his music a bit more, and discovered that he’s also the singer in Guwahati-based progressive metal band called Silver Tears, whose music is pretty impressive too. I decided to contact him immediately for an interview, and he was gracious enough to come up with these greatly detailed answers. Read the comprehensive chat below, check out the videos and mp3 embedded within, and visit him on the web using the links at the bottom.
After listening to your music and watching your YouTube videos, I’m convinced that you are one of the best singers in India. So first of all tell me, what inspired you to start singing and how much effort has it taken for you to get to this level?
Thanks a lot! It’s a privilege to hear that. There were a lot of factors that got me started. My mom being a classical singer herself, she would practice Raags and stuff all the time. It surely got into my unconscious mind.
As a teenager, I would listen to bands ranging from Eagles to Bon Jovi to UFO, Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden. I had a tape recorder and would extensively record myself with a guitar and wouldn’t stop until I found it similar to the artist I was trying to cover. Now that I think about it, it was such an important step. Soon I was covering all of those artists, atleast in the room where I used to jam with my younger brother, Yogesh, who is also the present Bassist of GnTC. He used to be on drums made of buckets and I would attach a chain to the end of an acoustic guitar trying to make it sound distorted. I seriously had no idea there was anything called a processor, Pedals were a far away concept. So yeah that’s how we learnt music. Believe it or not, we would belt out songs like symptom of the universe in that set. Those two years or so must have been the most important years in shaping my singing, my attachment with guitars and eventually, the genre of Hard rock/Heavy Metal. I’d say we were seriously dedicated in whatever we were doing and like anyone else, disturbing the whole neighborhood. We would listen to the stuff we’d record on the tape for hours and try our best not to repeat the mistakes we made. I practiced singing a lot. Of course, it was in my later stages of life where I refined them and learnt a variety of other styles. I don’t think I would have ever achieved this level the easy way.
What has kept you attached to the goal of pursuing hard rock and metal music? Was there ever a temptation to go towards full-on pop or Bollywood music?
I was addicted to Hard Rock and Heavy metal music since the school days and never got out of it. The Riffs and solos, The Vocals, The Drums, The Bass… I got fascinated every little minute details of it. It was also certainly the way we learnt it. It is so close to our hearts. I have never had any second thoughts about it. I feel I’m doing something real. I could never give up on something that made me who I am. However I am interested in recording acoustic stuff too. Blues at the very heart of the songs they would have the feel of rock songs. I have never released them though but I’m pretty sure any rock listener would accept it. About Bollywood, I guess it’s just not my thing.
Currently you have two projects, the progressive metal band Silver Tears and the classic hard rock project Girish & The Chronicles. The two bands are quite different in terms of the musical style, so how do you manage to give equal devotion to both?
With G&TC, I have always performed the kind of stuff I had been doing since School. Old School Hard Rock and Heavy Metal. Actually based on some documentaries about rock music, we could say that we are a Heavy Metal band with an old school sound. Even our originals are mostly influenced by the bands we listen to most of the time. We do have the capacity to create out of the box stuff, but chose to stick to the sound that such bands created. That is the kind of stuff I mastered myself in, especially my vocals. The vocalists and singing styles I was influenced by or rather trained myself in were Bruce Dickinson, Steven Tyler, Axl Rose, Eric Adams, Sebastian Bach… Well, all such names. I learnt a great deal of vocal control listening to Bon Jovi too. The Cassette player I had was my teacher. So, I knew what I wanted from my band. So this eventually gave me confidence when I first listened to tracks by ST.
Silver Tears was totally an out of the blue thing. Both the band and I had never planned or even thought about working together. Infact, both GNTC and ST had competed in a few fests too. However, there was a time when the band was separated and they were looking for a new vocalist to participate in the Wakken Metal Fest auditions. They gave me a call and GnTC was in the middle of a vacation. I thought it was a good idea to try something new and moreover I used to listen to a lot of stuff by Dream Theatre. I have to say that it was not at all a problem in terms of singing, tones and stuff, but it turned out to be quite a challenge when it came to following technical stuff, especially time signature. However, no matter how new it was for me, the knowledge I had about Heavy Metal singing greatly helped me. The band was totally dedicated in what they did. I was sure I wouldn’t say no to this new dimension in my journey. We got through the North East region and faced the finals in Bangalore. The release of the EP “Ensnared” was a memorable one. Then Yamaha Asian beats in Seoul was certainly a big experience.
Then I moved to Hong Kong for about a year to gather some more knowledge and experience on what I do. So I was away from both the bands.
For about six months, then I called in G&TC to the city realizing that it would make the band much more experienced. Its been about a month since I came back. I did lose a lot of time and didn’t plan anything much with either of the bands. We did have a concert in PEC fest, Chandigarh right on the second day of my arrival, no one could make it due to some factors, so I performed hard rock unplugged gig, all by myself.
So its been about two months since that. G&TC has been recording a lot of new stuff and soon enough I hope catch up with ST for the same.
You, as well as your two bands have been winning several awards and competitions across the country, and outside India as well. What effect does that have on you? Does your confidence build up further or do you feel pressurized to keep up to that reputation?
I think participating in and experiencing festivals is the best way to shape a band and get exposure at the same time. Meeting up a lot of other musicians is another positive factor about it. I learnt a lot about leading a band and diving into opportunities. Most of all, it was about having a free good time on stage though. Yes there came a point specially after “outside the country” experience, we all were highlighted quite a lot. It was about maintaining the balance between feeling confident and dealing and coping up with the reputation as well. I don’t know, maybe we could have used it a lot more, but I guess we really lacked in stuff like a proper management and all such stuff. Frankly speaking, I guess we, especially G&TC were just unaware of a lot of stuff regarding technical stuff like that. I think we have a great package but, somehow need to work on Management. We have done everything on our own so far. The only thing that has ever mattered to me is performing on stage, but I think we could certainly go the next level with a proper technical approach.
Along with vocals, you also play guitar in Girish & The Chronicles. Why did you decide to do that and not be just the singer in that band?
I guess I’m just too used to it. We were crazy fans of iron Maiden and I always handled the Rhythm and twins. I feel much more comfortable with the guitar in my hand and I love playing the riffs and counters, even when I was in high school. We were crazy fans of bands like Iron Maiden, Megadeth, Guns and Roses and would cover a lot of their music. I always handled the Rhythm and twins along with vocals. I never felt the need for a rhythm guitarist. However I do leave the guitar at times when I feel like running on stage/towards the audience or when I feel that a tune needs much more concentration. I do admit though that singing goes to a higher level of perfection for me without the instrument in some of the songs. I have been having discussions lately with my band members as to whether we could do some new changes, like introducing a keyboardist. Finding a perfect head is whole another story though.
Your cover of Led Zeppelin’s ‘Black Dog’ is fantastic. But it’s interesting that you’re covering it as a two-guitar band, whereas obviously Zeppelin was a one-guitar band. How do you work out the song arrangements in such cases?
About that, if we listen to the original records, Led Zeppelin always have a running rhythm guitar in the background, which of course, is not present in their live performances. Same is the case in Black Dog. There is a constant rhythm guitar in the background. You can notice it while listening to Jimmy Page’s solos. Moreover, I feel two guitars make the sound much more powerful and we got used to that while we would jam tracks specially by Iron Maiden, during school days. So balancing is normally not a problem.
I was checking out the song ‘Loaded’, and in addition to the vocals, I’m digging the music as well, specially the bass. So actually, despite the band being named ‘Girish & The Chronicles’, it’s more of a combined effort of all four musicians and not just centered on you, is it?
Well yeah, I believe every band member should have the opportunity to showcase themselves otherwise the whole point of following the old school rock concept would go away. Yogesh, apart from being an excellent drummer and a guitarist, is a great bassist too. The bass line in loaded has a slap concept, which was a wonderful idea. Its not about highlighting my vocals, its about highlight that form of music, where we can test the art of keeping a balance in between extremes and finesse.
I read that you’re working on a full-length album. When can we expect that to be released, and will it be a complete set of originals or some covers as well?
We are recording a lot of songs. We will compile an album with about 15 to 16 songs. We will probably divide it into a double album as the old songs and the new would have some variations. Well how are we going to release it is something I just don’t know. The album will be ready by the last week of March. They will all be originals. The release procedure and dates are yet to be confirmed. Since it will probably be an independent thing, we can only be sure after the whole thing is ready.
We are recording some more stuff and compile a full length album first, which we will probably start after March. Then we will update about gigs.
I’ve never been to the North-East of India, but I constantly come across great talent coming through there. Would you say the scene over there is more geared towards hard rock and blues-infused rock rather than straight-up heavy metal?
Well, you would find most of the genres alive, but like any other place in India, its heavily influenced towards metal of course. Actually there are a very few bands geared towards hard rock and blues–infused rock in my knowledge. There are a few though. I would say that there are a variety of bands. Well, again, that’s in my knowledge only.
In your opinion, why are bands in your area so isolated from the rest of the country? Why is there such a lack of opportunity from the organizers’ side?
There are a lot of factors. I think its only recently that this part of India has progressed a little bit when it comes to having a proper accessibility, organization and a scene. Everyone was totally about only music before that, but not the other stuff surrounding it. I myself came to know about the scene in the whole region only at around 2009 -2010, when I became a part of it through fests, but I had heard about the scene and bands in the rest of the country since school. So the advancement must have been slow and a factor like accessibility would have a great role in that. The musicians had a lot of music but had no idea where to land it, lack of promoters being a big factor. I don’t think most of the organizers are even aware of so many bands out here. Lack of a proper media is certainly another factor. If I give my own example, all of the people who have listened to me other than in a live performance is through the Internet alone. I haven’t even been covered by any leading Rock Magazine till date, except for the ones this region. Despite all the efforts, somehow the media which could really be of help to us, is just not there. When Magazines such as TNT and Eclectic covered us, it did make a lot of difference and gave us a lot of exposure in the area in our initial days. I am sure the rock community and the press/media are aware of us, but maybe it’s the lack of promoters and stuff like that. There are so many great musicians around who could certainly do great. All these factors slowly take away the life of a band or an artist. Soon, the bands just dissolve because of stuff like financial conditions because they wouldn’t get shows. In just a few years, the whole scene is just finished, just like that. Well, the good news is that, that concept is slowly becoming a history now, because I can clearly see the dawn of a new era in the music scene in just a year or two.
A Bridge is needed to unite the whole thing and its not going to happen without a combined effort. I am sure the world would be surprised to know what kind of talents we have in our country, if that could happen.
You’re clearly influenced by some of rock ‘n roll’s greatest legends, when it comes to the style of singing. If given a chance to perform with any such band of your choice for a one-off gig, which band would you most dearly love to sing for?
They are simply irreplaceable. However, If I did get a chance to jam with one of such bands, Guns and Roses/Slash would be a dream come true. Frankly speaking there are so many other bands and artists in my mind as I answer this question!
Anyway, since this was the last question, I would like to thank Metal Assault for this interview. Cheers and Long Live Rock and Roll!
Girish Pradhan Facebook Fan Page
Girish And The Chronicles Facebook Page
Silver Tears Facebook Page
Girish Pradhan YouTube Channel
Girish And The Chronicles Reverbnation
Silver Tears Reverbnation