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Pentagram Turns Introspective

Why India’s biggest rock band felt the need to look inwards on their latest album

Bobin James Apr 05, 2011

On ”˜Bloodywood,’ you seem to have gone a bit easier on the electronica part of the sound”¦ I mean, it’s seems more rock than electronica”¦

V: I think this time it’s a little more instinctive. We just went very organically with whatever came. So there was no thought process. And at the core of it, when the four of us are in a room, we are a rock band. And also, I think Randolph’s got a little sick of hearing that Pentagram doesn’t sound the same on CD as it does on stage”¦

S: Yeah, that’s why we tried to keep it very similar to what you hear on stage.

V: And I think Randolph took it to the next level. When we were learning to play these songs now, we found we had to catch up, match and better the CD. So that’s a pretty unique place for us to be over all these years. But I think, that’s why the album is so strong – because it’s got the electro [vibe] yet it’s not overpowering. It’s about the rock, but the space is shared really well between the two worlds that we inhabit simultaneously. And production-wise, I think it’s a fucking masterpiece – I think Randolph has just outdone himself.

R: Yeah, see, how I look upon the electronica thing is like how back in the days, when Jimi Hendrix used the distortion or the fuzz pedal or the wah pedal. If he had electronics, he would have used electronics. So for a rock & roll musician, the sounds that you get out of electronic instruments [offer] the same thrill, the same joy that he would get out of that distortion pedal at that time. So it’s not really electronic music. We’re just fucking around with new tools, and embedding them into rock music. We’re using new tools to make new rock music.

The earlier albums were a step in experimenting with that sound, and going all out with that sound – just to make our own statement with rock music in this country. And by that we were telling a lot of people who were just aimlessly following metal or classic rock and the Joe Satriani, Yngwie Malmsteen kind of stuff to just do their own thing. This is our statement in rock music. We were like, “This is what we believe in and this is what we are doing.”

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This album has defied all the laws of music production and how you are conventionally supposed to make an album. I’ve been following the same pattern for all the albums in fact. Right from using Sony Acid Pro software as my main digital audio workstation ”“ a lot of people use Nuendo or Logic or Cubase – to using cheap mikes, cheap soundcards, cheap plugins [that are] not so state-of-the-art”¦

So lo-fi in a way”¦

R: Yeah, lo-fi. We can make it sound hi-fi. So even the process was a very rock & roll way of working. Why should I use that big board or a small board, [just] because Metallica or Soundgarden or Rage Against the Machine uses that board? We were being who we are, being completely honest in what we do and how we are comfortable working; what we are comfortable working on. And that was what Bloodywood was about. We said, “Let’s just strip everything down. Let’s just be honest.”

I didn’t want to make it sound like production was what was selling Pentagram. I wanted Pentagram to be Pentagram when people heard it. So for me, having grown as a producer that was a challenge – keeping the rawness of music [intact]. That’s who we are. We’re not trying to make very complex music, we’re not trying to be anyone else. So I wanted to production to reflect that. It’s like ”“ the word I like to use is ”“ “unproduction”. The philosophy behind the whole thing was to make it sound like there’s no production.

If we can rewind all the way back to the very beginning, you guys, Shiraz and Vishal, started it off”¦

V: Shiraz is the sneaky fucker [laughs]. We had this other band, which was a really shit band. Shiraz formed it with the intention of meeting these women”¦

That band would be Nostalgia?

V: That’s right.

S: How do you know that?

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It’s on PentaTV.

V: Yeah, one show, one night only – never name it again [laughs]. So once we were riding to rehearsals on Shiraz’s bike and he says, “Hey man, you can really sing dude, and I can really play the drums. So let’s form a real band.” So I said, “Okay, it sounds like fun. Let’s do it.”

This would be in 1993?

S: Yeah. 1993

What was your motivation back then? And more importantly, did you, at that time, imagine that you would still be playing after all these years?

S: No”¦ we didn’t want to go to college [laughs]. So we were like, “Fuck it, start a band.”

V: Have a good time”¦

You weren’t looking at it as a longterm thing?

S: We didn’t know where we would go”¦

V: Yeah, not a clue man”¦ We never knew where it would go but we never doubted it either. When we got into it, we got into it and we gave it our all.

S: We started writing originals from Day One”¦

V: From Day One literally. The first day we all met, we just said, “Let’s all write our own music.” And that was exciting. It’s great to be able to hear a song that four people, five people in the room have come up with. And it’s the first time anyone in the world is hearing that song. That was exciting, that was a trip.

R: The motivation was to just keep fucking at it. Just keep spreading the vibe. It might sound really cheesy, but it’s true love. You really really have to love what you are doing. We just love playing together, and we still have that same old thing. And Bloodywood, more than any other album represents that. It’s literally the fun of us coming together and playing together as a band.

Music for the sake of music”¦

R: Yeah, music for the sake of music, man. There’s nothing to prove. We don’t have to prove that we are great musicians, or that this is a great sound coming out of India. This is one of those albums where we are like, “Let’s just be.”

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