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Guitarist Prasanna R Teams Up With Testament’s Alex Skolnick for Raga Metal Conversations

The fusion guitarist and the American thrash metal band’s guitarist plan to perform live soon

Anurag Tagat Jun 19, 2014
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(left) Alex Skolnick with Prasanna. Photo: Courtesy of Prasanna

(left) Alex Skolnick with Prasanna. Photo: Courtesy of Prasanna

“In general, in the music world, when you tell another musician you want to get together and play, it usually never happens,” says fusion guitarist Prasanna Ramaswamy. Prasanna, who moved to New York earlier this year, has found a new collaborator in thrash metal band Testament’s guitarist Alex Skolnick. The duo’s shared interest in jazz, however, is what brought them together for their new project Raga Metal Conversations.

Skolnick, who has been equally busy with promoting his first book Geek to Guitar Hero and his new world music project Planetary Coalition, was introduced to Prasanna’s work by artists who had collaborated with the Indian guitarist including tabla player Nitin Mitta, filmmaker and architect Maddy Samaddar and hammered dulcimer player Max ZT. Says Skolnick, “He’d got a concert at the Irridium in New York, which is a jazz club. He invited me down and we hit it off.”

So far, one video of the duo has been uploaded by Prasanna, featuring the two guitarists trying out jazz-influenced improvisations. Says Skolnick about their first jam last month, “It was very spontaneous. When we talked about meeting, Prasanna would like to know more about the metal side and I wanted to know more about the raga style. But when we jammed, we had no plan. It was very free.” Prasanna adds that he will upload more videos from the two-hour jam later on. Says Prasanna, “I have 20 of those [videos]. Each of them are around two-minute segments, which are like haikus. They’re open-ended. Even though cameras usually make people conscious, at no point were either of us trying to show the other what we could do.”

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Prasanna and Skolnick both look up to guitarist John McLaughlin and his collaborations with artists ranging from Carlos Santana to tabla maestro Zakir Hussain. Skolnick says he doesn’t “just want to be that metal guy.” Says Skolnick, “You can have two guitarists, who have very good technical skills, but not very good listening skills. Like I know a few metal guitarist friends of mine who sound incredible on stage with their band, but that’s with their band, playing a rehearsed song, but I don’t want to hear them just with their guitar.”

Both guitarists are working on this collaboration, one jam at a time. Prasanna adds that even though the Internet makes collaborations across borders much easier today compared to the Sixties and Seventies, artists should take their time releasing an album. While Skolnick is wrapping up his album with Planetary Coalition, Prasanna is busy with sessions work and shows. Says Prasanna, “We won’t rush into it. I think we’ll do something together live, though. We were going to do a date together in June in New York, but it didn’t come through, but we’ll do it in July or August, probably.” Skolnick is also looking forward to play with Prasanna live first, before they consider entering the studio or writing material together. Ask Prasanna what Raga Metal Conversations will sound like on stage and he has a quick comeback: “It’s going to be loud, nasty, introspective and thoughtful and all of those things.”

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Watch a video from Raga Metal Conversations:

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