Harshit Misra aka Hashbass performing with DCF_Shapes at Fandom, at Gilly's Redefined in Bengaluru. Photo: Courtesy of the artist
On a cold late afternoon in New Delhi’s crowded but enticing S.D.A. Market in Hauz Khas, Harshit Misra has shown up to an interview in formal wear. You could joke it’s not that kind of interview, but Misra aka Hashbass had forewarned us he was coming in straight from soundcheck at a wedding gig. “Bollyjazz is very close to my heart,” he says, casually combing through his distinctive blue hair.
The ensemble that give Bollywood hits the jazz treatment tapped Misra for the gig in 2016. In the last two years, many more established independent and commercial names lined up to give Misra a call. The bassist, composer and synth artist is an example of how being a session player is not only viable, but also leaves room for individual pursuits.
Besides Bollyjazz, Misra supplies the low-end for artists like experimental pop artist Sid Sriram, singer-songwriters Prateek Kuhad, Kamakshi Khanna and Saby. He recently stepped in to be a part of rapper Prabh Deep‘s live band The One Eight Project just last week (turns out they were neighbors in West Delhi) and he’s become a permanent member of artists as varying as multi-city electronica act DCF_Shapes, Bengaluru-based rock band Suraj Mani and the Tattva Trip and more. Misra mentions he’s also been called in for studio work on multi-instrumentalist Karsh Kale‘s upcoming material. “I didn’t do anything apart from post a video of me playing. Karsh saw me on my Instagram and he hit me up. Next thing, we’re working at YRF Studios [in Mumbai] on his album,” he says.
A student at the SAE Institute in Chennai, Misra was also part of hard rock band 83 Miles Per Hour before heading out to start his Bachelors in Music and Bass Performance at Musicians Institute in Los Angeles on a scholarship in 2009. He says, “I’m a dropout mechanical engineer. At the time, I was like, ˜I just need to get out of this!'” Misra scored not just scholarships, but also a teaching assistantship at Musicians Institute and learned the ropes of being a session player in Los Angeles.
Harshit Misra aka Hashbass on stage with Bollyjazz. Photo: Courtesy of the artist
Misra says, “A lot of people still don’t get it. They think a session player is just a guy who’ll just hang out, show up, play his stuff and smoke a doob and just go. I think it’s a lot of discipline and work.” Primarily, burn out is inescapable, but it’s tough to turn down a gig on account of physical or mental health when you’ve signed papers and have work done on your behalf. He says with a laugh, “My email is like, ˜Flight’s booked, chauffeur will be there. Just come.’ I’m like, ˜OK.'”
That email, scarily enough, arrived just after Misra had finished a whirlwind weekend in December 2016. Ask him for that one story that every session player would have and Misra narrates the time he was booked to perform with the Kamakshi Khanna Collective and Prateek Kuhad at Bacardi NH7 Weekender in Pune, as well as DCF_Shapes’ formative gig at the Goa International Jazz Live festival and a corporate gig.
He says, “On a Friday, I took a flight from Delhi to Pune, played with Kamakshi Khanna. Took a cab from Pune to Bombay where the driver slept halfway through so I drove the cab. I woke him up at the airport. Overnight, I took a flight from Bombay to Goa. Landed early Saturday morning, did soundcheck, played the gig. Hung out with [drumming veteran] Jojo Mayer, drank with him and went straight to the airport.”
A Goa to Mumbai flight and Kuhad’s chauffeur ready at the airport meant he was back at Weekender on Sunday. So detail-heavy is the account that even Misra mixes up Delhi and Pune at this point. He says finally, “Went to Delhi, played a corporate gig the next night and shut off my phone for the next week. That’s how my session life went. That’s the high. I remember telling all three managers, ˜You guys need to put me on a different itinerary all together!’ They respect that.”
With the shows running through most of the supposed low period for gigs right now, Misra spends his down time taking care of his parents. For nearly two years, Misra left Los Angeles in 2015 and returned to Delhi to support his ailing mother, something that’s still a priority for him. Up next there’s the Tattva Trip’s show in Dubai and work on the next DCF_Shapes record, plus (of course) his solo material. He adds with a smile, “I’m going to put out my stuff this year. I have a chalkboard and I’ve written my name on top. Every time I skip it, I cut my name. I have this rule, if I don’t do it by October, I’ll throw the chalkboard out.”