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Have Hard, Will Score

Scribe has a few surprises in store on their latest album

Deepti Unni May 10, 2010

Marked as one of the flagbearers of Indian metal, Mumbai-based Scribe have come a long way from their harum scarum beginnings. Now on the eve of the release of their second album, the band have already had an eventful year. They played their first international shows in Norway a month ago and also landed a slot at the Summer Storm festival where they will open for Lamb of God. And in keeping with Scribe’s penchant for surprises, their new album, Mark of Teja, sees them moving further from their hardcore sound and incorporating everything from pop choruses to spoken-word interludes. Guitarist Prashant Shah spoke to Rolling Stone India about the band’s new turn of sound, their Norway experience and the band’s decision to part ways with drummer Niraj Trivedi.

The whole concept behind ”˜Mark of Teja’ was kept very hush-hush before the album release. Can you now tell us the story behind the album?

Mark of Teja is a concept that Vishwesh [Krishnamoorthy, vocalist] originally penned down but everybody had their inputs on it. It started off with a very small thing, taking inspiration from the movie Andaz Apna Apna because we’re all really big fans of it. I wrote the entire song ”˜Mark of Teja’ around one of the main licks from the soundtrack of the film. This was originally [guitarist] Akshay [Raj Purohit]’s idea but he didn’t take it any further so I wrote the song. Then when I played the scratch track to the band, everyone was like, “This is awesome, we have to call the album Mark of Teja,” and from then on we began developing a story. But that’s where the similarity with the movie ends.

The story is about the guy named Singhania, which is something Vishwesh decided to call me, who controls pretty much all the world in the 1700s. Like how Atlantis was a civilisation way before its time, they had technology that was supposedly far advanced, Singhania had this technology that he stumbled upon and he had a plan to create these clones. Now the experiment had a flaw that for every clone that was created, there would be another sort of evil clone that bears the mark of Teja and nobody knows what the mark does except that it’s something terrible. The mark starts spreading and there are no survivors except for the one person who’s documented the tale and that’s Colonel Hons who’s played by Anupam Roy. Singhania’s four close confidants and the only people who knew about the experiment ”“ played by Vishwesh who’s Malhotra, Vaas [Srinivas Sunderrajan, bass] who’s Jindal, Akshay who’s Chopra and Niraj who’s Jaitley ”“ have all mysteriously disappeared. Colonel Hons has documented everything but it’s in a language that can’t be deciphered. It’s a long drawn-out story. It might be a trilogy or even a quadrology, I don’t know, that depends on Vishwesh. But it’s a concept album only for the story, there’s no actual relation with the music. There are no period pieces or medieval parts, it’s still Scribe. We do but this is just a story that people can read instead of reading lyrics.

So there are no lyrics on this album again, like with Confect?

No, there aren’t and that’s half the fun of it. Vishwesh’s done some crazy stuff so it should be interesting for people to try and decipher what he’s saying. Maybe we’ll have a contest where we ask people to decipher the lyrics.

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What did you do differently this time around?

With our previous releases and shows and stuff, we’ve always been a pretty careless band ”“ our last CD came in a sloppy pocket. This time we were forced by our dear manager Shashwat Gupta. He said, “You can’t give your CD free, otherwise what am I gonna do?” So he made us do this whole elaborate thing. We would have done it anyway, but we would have given the music away free but now it’s out on Grey and Saurian records.

But this album was in the works for a long time”¦

We started on this record about a year, a year and half ago. At one point, I wanted to kill everyone in the band because they took their own sweet time with it. I delivered all these tracks I’d written for their scrutiny and feedback like a year back and we’ve even played these songs live ”“ at least four of them ”“ but it was only three months ago that  everyone woke up like, “Oh, we have an album to do, it’s been over a year.”

You have some very whacky song names on there. Where does ”˜I Love You Pav Bhaji’ fit into the scheme of things?

The song came up because I actually love pav bhaji a lot. I had to write this track and record the song on this particular day and I was like, “Dude, it’ll be fail if I don’t have pav bhaji on that day.” So I called up [Workshop drummer] Hamza Kazi, whose house we were recording at, and made him find me a good Udipi place for pav bhaji and only then did I finish recording that song. Also, once the band asked me what would be my ultimate dream and I was really hungry at that time so I told them I wished it would just rain pav bhaji, so I could lap it up. It’s kinda gross but yeah, I like pav bhaji.

Does any of this tie into the concept of the album?

No, the only song that relates to the concept is ”˜Mark of Teja’ but musically it’s doesn’t really go with the concept. The thing is that most of the songs on ”˜Mark of Teja’ were written one and a half years back. At that time, we didn’t have the slightest clue that it was going to be called Mark of Teja and that we’re going to write a whole story around it. Maybe in the next album, we’ll tie it in better. Maybe we’ll make it like a soundtrack and have a dialogue, like a movie, like an audio play. I don’t know how it’s going to pan out but we’ll see.

There is a lot more melody on this album too”¦

There is. We’ve sung a lot on this album. Initially, when I wrote these songs after Confect, I wanted to write something that was all out. But you can’t keep making Have Hard Will Core over and over again. It depends on the mood, the kind of mind frame you were in when you wrote the song. I was expecting a lot more brutality on vocals because I’d written slightly toned-down guitar parts thinking that Vishwesh would probably come in later on and do the mad stuff and it’ll be excessive. He’s done a lot of aggressive vocals but he’s done other stuff as well. Initially, I wasn’t too happy with but then it grows on you. Then you start understand how intricate and complex it is and how many different things he’s thought of. ”˜Judge Bread,’ which is one of my favourite songs, I think he’s totally outdone himself on that one. That song is actually a play, it’s a courtroom where this guy is sentenced and he’s completely crazy. So there are dialogues between him and the judge, there are dialogues where people in the room are talking.

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It’s also the different backgrounds that everyone in the band comes from. Like Vishwesh comes from alternative rock, I’m a complete metal boy, Akshay’s all ambient soundtracks and a little bit of metal here and there. Vaas I don’t think listens to music at all, he handles the business end of things and Niraj is more of a funk and electronica boy. It’s a very weird mix of people trying to make heavy music.

Speaking of which, you’re now parting ways with your drummer Niraj. What is the reason for his departure?

It’s just between the band really, and we’re just going different ways. The band is not going to stop; Scribe is obviously going to go on. Obviously that personal touch, that flavour is different when you replace a founding member but then it’s okay, it changes and I’m sure we’ll adapt to it. We’ll keep making music and having a lot of fun in the process.

You also just came back from your first couple of international shows. Tell us a little bit about the Norway experience.

When we first got there, it was dark, grey and fucking cold. But once we reached our hotel where all the bands were staying, we were like “wow.” We walk in and the next thing we know Atilla, the vocalist of Mayhem, comes up to us and says, “So you’re the Indian band that’s come down.” Our first gig at the Inferno Festival was pretty decent; we had a few sound issues on stage. But it was great fun. Initially I thought the crowd was going to kill us because they were all these hardcore black metal people, dressed completely in leather jackets with their long hair and all in black clothes. In the beginning the crowd was little aloof but after like three songs it became a normal Scribe show. We got two of these huge Norwegians to come up on stage and headbang and do the windmill and it was really crazy. Our second gig was at this tiny fishing village called Kristiansand and it was the perfect day to play. The sun was out which made us all happy. About 80 people showed up for the gig which is a hit by Norway standards. By the end of the show we had 25 people up on stage and we had to stand down. It was awesome fun. During the show this chick tried to flash me but I turned away because I’m committed. Akshay was approached by this other hot girl who asked him if he had a hotel room, but he said “No” and bolted. Then there was this huge guy that Vishwesh tried to start a mosh with but he picked Vishwesh up by his pants and threw him across the room. It was the craziest time we’ve ever had. I can’t wait to go back.

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