INTERVIEWS

Cosmic Rock

(photo credit: Return To The Pit)

This sunday night on Cosmic Rock.com we have guest Indrayudh Shome from the group Queen Elephantine. Indrayudh and his band are starting a tour this week and have an upcoming new album entitled “Gorgon” on Argonauta Records. Check out this very interesting conversation about his music, background and thoughts on many subjects. – G

 

1. Hey Indrayudh its good to speak with you how are you today?

Hi Gideon, thank you for having me. Everything is in its right place, more or less. Hope all is well with you.

 

2. Tell us a little about your background. How did you get into playing music?

I have my family to thank for getting me into music early in my life. I was born in India. My mother is an Indian Classical dancer, and I toured with her as a baby, and rolling in the rhythms of the sacred temple percussion must have left an impression. My dad on the other hand loves Floyd and the Doors and Miles, and he and gave me my first walkman when I was two. I’m very grateful for that. I remember loving music at a very young age as well as having very clear tastes and visions. I started playing guitar around 4th grade, and in 5th grade we recorded our first band and album. Luckily the tracks were destroyed when my friend’s hard drive crashed, and now it remains a fond memory. My musical coming of age was playing in bands as a teen in Hong Kong.

 

3. You are originally from Kolkata, but also grew up in Hong Kong, now live in Philadelphia. These different locations must have given you a series of perspectives on music and experiences. Tell us about your musical journey over the years and travels?

Man, life has been such a trip. People are so interesting. Being 7 years old, seeing life in India one moment, China another moment, and the US the next, I noticed how people believed so much to be so true and solid, but a lot of it actually didn’t hold up outside of their local contexts, in the bigger picture.

People live life so vastly differently. It helped me realize it’s valid to live my life the way I want and shed a lot of bullshit that society tries to pile up on you. I learnt to be curious and open minded, to not judge others, to have compassion and empathy for every being, and also, to be confident in your own power. You kind of see the Wizard of Oz behind society once you start crossing borders, and then you can ditch a lot of the Wizard’s rules.

Like, what is trendy really doesn’t figure into the equation. You’re free from people’s opinions, to think for yourself, and question walls. And related to that, I feel a lot of empathy for people and hope I can alleviate some suffering while I’m here on this fleshy plane. I feel like I really connect with people as human beings.

The experience goes for life in general but also for my musical upbringing. I think it totally broken down a lot of my barriers. The kids I grew up jamming with and the musicians I watched in Hong Kong were from all different countries and naturally people were really making music without borders. The challenge, if anything, at times, is fitting in. I am a perpetual outsider. I am from nowhere, and so is my music.

4. Any classic concerts you saw back in the day that inspired you and in what way?

For sure. One of the early concerts that really blew me out of the water was watching Pandit Jasraj sing in Kolkata. He had a lotus flower arrangement of tanpura players surrounding him, and he sat like a giant at the heart, and just transported the whole space with his vibratory power. He was so tuned in and so masterfully just shook the air in the hall. There was no big amp or effect, it was just him vibrating like that. Very heavy.

5. What were some of your favorite classic albums over the years?

Here’s a few that come to mind as far as classic albums, sticking mostly to “rock” music.

Queens of the Stone Age, first three albums.

Pink Floyd “Pompeii”

Miles Davis “Bitches Brew”

Om “Conference of the Birds”

YOB “The Unreal Never Lived”

Burning Witch “Crippled Lucifer”

Harvey Milk “Special Wishes”

Oxbow “An Evil Heat”

Radiohead “Kid A”/“Amnesiac”

Hamid Drake & William Parker “Piercing The Veil”

Six Organs of Admittance “Dust And Chimes”

 

6. I know you had been the first singer for Bevar Sea, now you are the guitarist for the group Queen Elephantine and also active in the bands Rope Trick and Ayahuasca Dark Trip. What can you tell us about your musical projects?

It’s been really fun and truly invaluable to play in so many projects with different visions and members over the years. But being that I grew up in an international city and have moved around a lot in my life, it feels as if either me or my friends are always moving, and it’s a been a bittersweet dance.

I wanted a long-term project after playing in a bunch of bands that broke up because of members moving. So when I was 17, I started Queen Elephantine was started as a long-term experiment that could shape shift and travel with me, as a balance to the projects with shorter life spans. I felt a natural urge to express a certain tonality and explore extremes, and I was happy to be able to do that without any compromise.

It’s the same even now honestly, but geographical location seems less limiting… I have a new psych band We Here Now, which is releasing our first album soon on Elektrohasch (Colour Haze) and hitting Europe all Summer (Swamp Booking). I live in Philadelphia, Pedro (of Necro) lives in Brazil, and Panchito (of Montibus Comunitas) lives in Peru.

 

(Photo credit: Dave Bellard)

7. What are some of your favorite films and books?

Keeping it to English language films for simplicity, I love classic soul-seeking rock n roll journeys like Apocalypse Now and Easy Rider. Probably my favourite filmmaker is David Cronenberg. Naked Lunch, eXistenZ, Maps to the Stars… Really next level movies that taught me a lot of reality. For next year, I’m pretty excited to see next year’s adaptation of HP Lovecraft’s “The Colour out of Space.” Nick Cage stars and it’s the return of the reclusive director Richard Stanley. It gets more complicated when you include international cinema, but I at least want to include Suna No Onna (Woman In The Dunes) Hiroshi Teshigahara and Devi (The Goddess) by Satyajit Ray.

As far as a book, I would recommend The Blind Owl by Sadegh Hedayat to any fan of Queen Elephantine. It’s one hell of a ride if you like dark, existential, mystical vibes.

8. Are you in touch with the music scene in India and any thoughts?

I have a number of friends in India who play music and are involved in the scene there, like the guys from Bevar Sea and Djinn and Miskatonic, but I haven’t been to many shows out there. Members of Queen have been out there before, but we’ve never set up a proper set of shows. Our Indian fusion project Bismillah played in Gujarat, with Srinivas Reddy on sitar, Ian Sims on drums, and myself on guitar, and Brett Zweiman came down from Vietnam where he lives now. I’d really love to get more involved, and my new band We Here Now might try to stop over for a mini-tour end of 2019.

Like everywhere else right now, electronic music is really big in India, not least because of how economical it is. I don’t listen to much faster metal, but there are some pretty brilliant death metal bands coming out of the subcontinent. I don’t know if they’re around anymore, but Orator from Bangladesh was one that really impressed me. I don’t love all the band’s output, but this track has been really doing it for me recently. It’s called “F*k All Religions, Equally” by Heathen Beast. The leading Indian metal label is Transcending Obscurity.

 

 

 (Photo courtesy Brooklyn Vegan)

9. What is one life skill you think everyone should have?

I think it would be cool if we went over the basics, like breathing. Takes people a lot of time to finally grasp the breath, if they do at all, and I think it could have a lot of positive effects for kids and society at large. Breathing, circulation, posture, thoughts and emotions, atonal improvisation in the cosmic symphony, all the good stuff.

10.How do you feel about the music business today with social media and the current era of underground music? What advice would you give a new artist just starting out?

Well, I grew up in a DIY community and feel that the best art often comes from serious amateurs, so overall I think things are great. It’s hard to sell records these days, but on the other hand, fuck the music industry, so to speak. I am less interested in fortune or fame than I am a world where people are decommercializing, experimenting, creating and sharing across the globe. This is all a transitional space right now, so let’s see where things head. I hope it equalizes in a way where musicians can earn a living while still allowing everyone to access the infinite power of music. I am just so thrilled to live in a time where I can listen to a gazillion dope records from the edges of time and space. The world has never had such a global conversation as we’re opening into now.

 

10.Any other creative activity you are interested in? Art, writing, etc?

I love it all and a major growing pain for me over the years has been letting go of certain things in order to go deeper with others. I have worked in film, mostly with documentaries and music videos, and I’ve also been getting into design. I designed Elder’s website.

I also composed my first film score recently, for the indie psychological thriller Higher Methods, directed by Nathan Suher. I’m really excited about that and I believe we’ll be bringing out a soundtrack album at some point. It’s pretty wild dark synth stuff.

I don’t manage to write that much outside of music these days, but I have published a couple of things recently under a pseudonym.

11.Do you guys have some shows coming up?

Yes, indeed! We are playing 10 shows in the Northeast US, ranging from Virginia to New Hampshire. I moved to Philadelphia about a year and a half ago, and a couple of members became fathers, so we took a break from shows. Very excited to get back at it and debut some songs from the new album Gorgon.

Here are the dates. You can find more info at http://facebook.com/QueenElephantine.

APRIL 2019

12: Washington DC

13: Richmond VA

17: Brooklyn NY

18: Northampton MA

19: Providence RI.

20: Portsmouth NH.

21: Boston MA.

25: Baltimore MD.

26: Philadelphia PA.

27: Kingston NY.

 

12.Do you write songs with your bands and what inspires your songwriting?

I like leading bands as well as playing other people’s songs. For Queen Elephantine, the songwriting process is open to experimentation like any other aspect. For certain records, I’ve come with a full skeleton or structure, but in other cases we’ve improvised or composed layer by layer in the studio. I love the feeling when a group of musicians really start gelling, when concepts fall apart, and sounds stop sounding like instruments, and you fall upon golden accidents.

That said, Queen Elephantine has always been steeped in a specific image and vision, and for me it comes from the synthesis of spiritual yearning and heavy metal abandon, two things that feel very intertwined in my understanding of the universe. I’m deeply inspired by the left-handed path, of clashing dualities into truth, and by the wisdom in the frightful face of Kolkata’s mother deity, Kali. The mother goddess stands with a garland of skulls and a skirt of limbs, blood dripping from her tongue. The world is burning, but it’s all a beautiful part of the cosmic dance. I am dying, but after all I am simply returning to the infinite womb. Face your fears, enjoy the ride.