TAAQ Turn Up the Heat
Bengaluru rockers take ‘Kickbackistan’ to the next level
Interviewing bands over dinner at noisy restobars isn’t the best idea. As Thermal and a Quarter guitarist and singer, Bruce Lee Mani, put it, the recorder would be capturing a whole lot of “exclusive munching sounds” and people “shouting out for beers” ”“ which it ended up doing. On October 19, TAAQ played at Firangi Paani, a smallish venue in the Mumbai suburb of Andheri ”“ their first gig in the city in close to a year. And in this time, lots had happened with the band. Longtime bassist Rzhude David stepped out and was replaced by KN Prakash. The band released a few singles ”“ ”˜Grab Me,’ ”˜Late O’Clock,’ ”˜Kickbackistan,’ They got a new logo and a new online store. And they got more busy and more interactive online. All in all, Thermal and a Quarter seemed to be busier than ever.
“Our community’s really grown, I think, over the last two months, with this whole ”˜Kickbackistan’ thing,” says Mani, referring to the song that was their reaction to the news of financial irregularities that accompanied the build-up to the recently concluded Commonwealth Games. (“In Kickbackistan, let the games begin/In Kickbackistan, let the shame begin,” went the chorus.) “We were really pissed off with all the corruption that was happening,” echoes drummer Rajeev Rajagopal. The song was written and recorded in a matter of days and posted on the band’s Facebook page as a hastily put-together “video” that was no more than the lyrics flying across the screen.
While ”˜Kickbackistan’ got the band a lot of attention, not all of it was laudatory. Some missed the point the band was trying to make and accused them of being “unpatriotic.” “A lot of people thought that this song was for Games-bashing, but that wasn’t the thing at all,” says Mani. “The Games were just a catalyst for us to say, ”˜Man, we’ve been pissed about these things for so long.’ So we wrote this angry song, sorta like a punk riff… I think it’s the fastest song we’ve ever written.”
TAAQ now plans to take ”˜Kickbackistan’ and fans’ involvement with the song to the next level. “We are going to launch an online music video competition,” says Rajagopal. The brief is straightforward: ”˜The theme is corruption. The soundtrack is ”˜Kickbackistan.’ Go make a music video.’ Fans can upload the videos they create to kickoutcorruption.com. The best video, as judged by the band, will then fetch the creator Rs 2,00,000. The band realises that naysayers will question the probability of an exercise like this actually weeding out corruption. “When we did ”˜Shut Up and Vote’ [their 2009 song urging people to exercise their voting rights], people said, ”˜So what, nothing’s changed,’” says Mani. “It’s not going to change. It will take another ten years to change but atleast you say it. You think about it. That’s important.” That, he believes, is the beginning of change.
To illustrate this, Mani tells us about the way things in the Indian music scene have changed from “covers-only” to “originals”. (TAAQ were one of the earliest bands who steadfastly insisted on doing originals.) “I clearly remember, in 1997, we were got an e-mail from a college we were going to play at, saying, ”˜We want you to play these ten covers.’ Now, we get an e-mail saying, ”˜We want you to play these ten Thermal songs’,” says Mani. “But this has taken 15 years of seeding. So it’s going to take that long for any change to take place,” he says.