In The Studio: Cassini’s Division
The Kolkata rockers are working on their second album ‘Animal Wisdom’
Recording is a daunting task when you’ve lived with the songs for close to two decades, tell us members of the Kolkata rock band Cassini’s Division. Says vocalist guitarist Rahul Guha Roy, “Now we’re in the process of rewinding an old cassette tape and getting back to the second album.” The task of making it into the studio every day is equally challenging. “We hate studios, man,” says guitarist Sukanti Roy. The band is recording songs for their second album Animal Wisdom at Universal Music Publishing Studio in Mumbai, and tell us that adhering to a schedule is like signing up for a desk job. In fact, Roy and the band — vocalist-guitarist Rahul Guha Roy and drummer Arka Ritoban aka Ludo — tracked five demo versions back in Kolkata in one day and want to finish tracking their parts in Mumbai as quickly as possible. Rahul adds, “It also helps that we’ve lived with these songs for some time now. It’s not taking too much time coming into the studio and making critical decisions.”
Thematically, Animal Wisdom stems from how a lot of species, apart from humans, are in perfect harmony with nature. But Rahul assures us, “It’s not trying to be preachy about the condition of man or anything.” Just as Ringside View took on topics varying from love to murder to drugs, Animal Wisdom is more geared towards storytelling. Adds Rahul, “The basic concept is about how we can look at wisdom by observing animals and how the concept of harmony works. There’s a lot to learn there.” Sonically, the influences range from Sixties and Seventies pop and rock, Nineties alt rock and all the African folk music Rahul grew up hearing during his childhood in East Africa. Says the vocalist, “By that I don’t mean bringing a djembe to the mix, but just in songwriting.”
Cassini’s Division, who got together in 2001, are returning to their back catalog of songs written before their 2010 debut album Ringside View. Their new album includes one of their set staples, “School of Fish,” which is inspired by Ernest Hemingway’s Old Man and the Sea. Another song, “Simba,” dates back to 2001, when Sukanti first met Rahul to form the band. Ludo, who is a trained Afro-Cuban and Latin percussionist, says of the Afro-influenced song with a groovy bass line, “It’s even got a visual comic book-type of story to it because they were originally working on it to accompany the song.” Spending 10 days in the studio in October, the band also included newer songs such as “Wisdom” and “Shape of the Ape,” but are saving more recently written songs for a third album, tentatively titled Black Swan Sunset. Ludo says the band has already started performing Black Swan Sunset songs at their live shows. Adds the drummer, “That way, by the time we hit the studio with those songs, they’ll be second nature for us.”
On stage too, there’s a big change in Cassini’s Division’s sound — bassist John Noel Bose left the band in 2011, moving to Delhi for personal and work commitments. While the band initially hunted for a new bassist, they are now continuing as a three-member group. Guitarist Sukanti performs and is tracking all the bass parts, on his six-string guitar. Says Sukanti, “I looked into the technology, and found I could play bass from the guitar itself. I changed over to hybrid strings — thicker strings on the top — and we got a very interesting sound out of it. It’s still a guitar, but I use a processor to trigger bass.” Additionally, frontman Rahul now plays guitar on all songs. After testing the waters with club gigs in Kolkata and an open-air concert at Jodhpur Law University in October, the band has roped in live sound engineer Bunty Sinha to travel with the band to all their shows.
Back at Universal Music Publishing Studio, Sukanti has got his processor turned to bass settings as resident engineer Devashish Ray tracks his guitar for “Wisdom.” Rahul sends a friendly jibe Ludo’s way, “Drummers have the least amount of work to do.”
Although there isn’t any concrete date set to release Animal Wisdom, the band wants it out there by early next year. They’re also thinking of a special auditorium launch gig. Says Ludo, “It used to be great in cities like Calcutta and Bombay. But that culture isn’t there any longer.” The band plans to host a “proper sit-down concert.” Adds Rahul, “The thing with a sit-down concert is that people won’t be there to do anything else. They’d be there for the music — that’s where you feel good about playing your music.”
This article appeared in the December 2014 issue of ROLLING STONE India.