The Rolling Stone Interview: Raghu Dixit
“Last year we spent about Rs 39 lakhs and earned back about Rs 11 lakhs…”
Tell me about about your first band Antaragni”¦
It was band I formed with my friend HN Bhaskar in 1996 after I met him at a competition. Bhaskar and I started jamming and we started liking what we did. And we thought we should put up a show. But that didn’t happen for a long time. For a year and a half we were just jamming. He was mostly in Chennai learning under MS Gopalakrishnan. He would come back to Mysore only to meet his parents and that’s when I would steal a day or two with him to jam or refresh what we had worked on the last time. We wrote about 10-12 songs, which we thought were good. All of them in English. None of them in Hindi or Kannada. I had that one melody for ”˜Mysore Se Ayi.’ I remember in 1996, I travelled alone to represent Mysore University at BITS-Pilani and I had entered the Western solo competition. And it was on the train journey that I hit upon this melody, which is why you will hear that Rajasthani flavour in the song.
Soon afterwards, you moved to Bangalore?
I moved to Bangalore, in 1998, after my MSc, in search of a job. By then dance had kind of faded off, simply because music gave me the release I was looking for. I had grown up in a strict family which was all about rules. Dance, too, had to be done by the strict guidelines of the Natyashastras. You were only talking about gods and only telling stories from mythology. There were no stories about today. Music gave me the liberty to express myself. I started writing songs about my own heartbreaks and my own surroundings and all that.
What was happening with Antaragni then?
I moved to Bangalore. I got a job in a pharmaceutical company as a microbiologist. And Bhaskar became busy with his Carnatic classical concerts. So our meetings became rarer. And whenever we had a show, I would ask him to come but it was very rare. Bhaskar and I performed in 1997 at National Law School’s Strawberry Fields festival. Bhaskar got the best lead instrumentalist award, and I got the best vocalist award. This was an immense endorsement of the fact that we were doing something right. From then on I met a lot of other musicians and Antaragni became quite a well-oiled machine. We then went on to win the Radio City Live competition and got to open for Bryan Adams in 2001.
But Bhaskar was drifting away. He was getting invited to play with the big artists like Ravi Shankar, Bombay Jayashri. It was cruel of me to expect him to come back. There was another violinist with us then – Manoj George. There was Allwyn Fernandes on guitars. But again all of them were very experienced and senior musicians. I would always be intimidated being in their company. I was the youngest and least musical when it came to technical knowledge. And they were not that ambitious as I was. And then in 2005, I finally said it’s not working out for me.
That’s when I thought I should collaborate with musicians who are equally serious and passionate about music, and come across as good human beings first. I stopped looking for the best musicians. I looked for the best human beings available. And that’s how I met Gaurav Vaz. Gaurav was tuning his bass guitar in a coffee shop with his band and there was something about his smile and demeanour. I found a confidante for myself. I can invest all my time on making music and let him handle all the business. I don’t questions his decisions, he doesn’t even tell me about some decisions. I just know that he will be taking the right decisions. And eventually I made him quit his high paying software job and said, “You can take a percentage of my profit and you can take care of my business.” And he was more than willing to do that. Within a week, without flinching, he quit his job and said let’s do that. And that kind of support from him has helped me move forward.