Exclusive Premiere: Deepak Rao Launches New Instrumental Rock LP With Single ‘Hope’
The Bengaluru entrepreneur, writer and guitarist releases a 22-track album ‘Catharsis,’ dedicated to the memory of his father
Call it a sign from the universe or something similar, but Bengaluru/London-based Deepak Rao knew he had to make music again after a gap of 18 years because there was a connection to the memory of his father Dr. H.N. Raja Rao, who passed away in July last year.
Rao — an entrepreneur, writer and musician previously leading heavy metal band Shrapnel in the early 2000s – says one of the last conversations he’d had with his father was about guitar, when he was sending his instrument away for servicing. “A day later he was in the hospital and very weirdly when we brought his body home I had to also unload my serviced guitar,” Rao says.
Between August and December last year, Rao sat down to revive some of his Shrapnel compositions and pen new ones, helping him process his grief and create a tribute to his father. A year later, Rao is releasing his debut solo record, Catharsis, a double album comprising 22 tracks of journeying, diverse instrumental rock which also leans on electronica and fusion elements. The project has also led to Rao releasing a 40-page booklet comprising poetry, working with writer and poet Chandrama Deshmukh, plus a commentary on his father’s favorite book, the Bhagavad Gita, featuring illustrations and “links to the deeper concepts.”
A day ahead of the release of Catharsis, an exclusive stream of the opening track “Hope” is available below. Appropriate enough, Rao says that the riff permeating throughout “Hope” was the first one he’d written for the double album. Picking up the guitar after long, Rao cites guitar greats like Joe Satriani as well as EDM producer Deadmau5 as his influences. Rao says about the rest of the album, “Each song is named after the emotion I felt while making it and I must also credit Joseph Campbell’s monomyth Hero’s Journey which is a template used time and time again. The birds that you hear were recorded from my terrace at sunrise — you hear the koel and then parrots.”
The song ends on an expectant note, creating curiosity for the rest of Catharsis. Rao also aims to create mental health awareness with the album campaign, specifically highlighting his (and his father’s) bipolar diagnosis. “It was never talked about at home. We knew he was taking something called Lithium but we didn’t know what for,” Rao says. The artist points to hip-hop star Kanye West as an example of a bipolar musician (and interestingly, West’s album Donda is also being released tomorrow).
Through coaching, treatment and a support system, Rao says he’s found his feet and will continue to be vocal about mental health stigmas. “In Shamanic cultures, they believe a mental crisis is actually a manifestation of a spiritual crisis. Having been through it, I totally agree — so I want this album to raise awareness about mental health, reduce stigma and I plan to share everything I’ve learned along the way to anyone who wants to know about it,” he adds.
With the first part of an autobiography (also called Catharsis) also releasing this year, a lot of wheels are set in motion for Rao. Among them, of course, is more music. “I’ve enjoyed the process so much that I’m going to try and put out an album each year on my dad’s birthday,” Rao says. He jokes about how it may not be a double album, though.
There are also plans to revive Shrapnel – who recorded their 2004 album Intellectual Pursuit with (now) Grammy winner Ricky Kej – with bassist Sudeep Sundaram on board. “Once a metalhead, always a metalhead […] I miss playing live, and especially the energy of performing heavy metal to an audience.”
Listen to “Hope” below. Stream the album ‘Catharsis’ on all platforms on August 7th. Find more details at Rao’s website, password is HOPE.