The world knows him as “The God Of Small Strings”, an ex- MOTHERJANE, WRENZ UNITED lead guitarist, composer, producer and guitar teacher. He twice has been voted as the best guitarist at The Jack Daniel’s Awards (India), and often incorporates Carnatic inspired riffs and solos that don’t fail to experience you goose bumps. Baiju recently released his first studio single with KAAV and also working on his solo album. So here’s an interview with him to gain some insight into his work and his music career.
IMR: Hello Baiju, I was really looking forward to talking to you about your upcoming solo record. Thank you for doing this Interview with IndianMusicRevolution!
Baiju Dharmajan: Hello Indrajeet!
IMR: So currently, you’ve been producing an album with KAAV and working on your solo album, as well. How are the things going at your end?
Baiju Dharmajan: Ye, so far so gud! We are in final stage for KAAV's album, I mean we have finished the recording and mixing and what we need now is a little more tweeking and keep it ready for mastering. That's it!
IMR: Could you please tell us more about your solo album and would it be an Instrumental album?
Baiju Dharmajan: Ye this is my first solo album! And yes, it is an Instrumental album and quite naturally reflects the emotions I’ve been through in the recent times. I’ve already finished 15 songs and chose 6 songs, finshed the recordng and I hope we can release the album by next month end. Now, I’ ve a new band line-up and it is going to be announced as BAIJU DHARMAJAN PROJECT and hope I can tour the country promoting this album.
IMR: How does the songwriting process come about?
Baiju Dharmajan: Hmmm...I don’t knw how to explain it. It’s a natural process for me...composing a song is not really difficult. The hardest part of the process is to record the album. In this album everything was done by me, all the bass lines, drum programming, mixing everything and I am pretty much excited about it!
IMR: Could you please mention the Artists featured on your solo album?
Baiju Dharmajan: For this album, no one.
IMR: Gear you have used on the current album?
Baiju Dharmajan: I’ve used my prophecy custom guitar and Epiphone SST Classic and I’ve also used my Gibson Studio played through ARTSGX2000 pre-amp and Digitech GSP1101 effects processor.
IMR: Currently you’re signed to London, UK based record label COCHYM. But these days many Indie artists/bands don’t depend upon record labels for promotions. What is your thoughts on this?
Baiju Dharmajan: Ye that’s true. I do totally agree wth you. But you know, to operate in a completely satisfying way in the industry you need disciplined, planned and well organised professionals to back you up.
I mean, some one for your CD sales, getting shows, managing your website and maintaining a steady and productive flow in the music industry. So I think a creative person cannot always be a person who compose music and at the same time work for shows, marketing and promotions. Atleast to me that is an impossible task. So in a situation like this a record label can do alot for you. Thank god I've a record label! And thanks to my dear friend Sandy (Sandeep Venugopalan)!
IMR: You first left MOTHERJANE then WRENZ UNITED and now pursuing career as a solo artist, producer. Why so rapid moves within a year?
Baiju Dharmajan: Hmmm...I don't know. Some times things will not go according to your plans. Hmmm...yes I accept the truth that WRENZ UNITED was the biggest mistake I've done in my life! Wasting my time for nothing! Oops...now I am free as a bird and I can do whatever I want. No time constrains, no creative differnces with anyone, no need to teach any one to play bass or rhythm nothing and I don’t have to answer to anybody. So I think some changes come into the life for the good.
IMR: You are referred as "God Of Small Strings" and considered as a cultural and musical icon fusing Carnatic and Rock music. So, what inspires your creativity? Name few Artists/Bands that are responsible for your musical upbringing and also recommend any new one's that got your attention!
Baiju Dharmajan: Hmmm...my life itself is a great inspiration to me. I look around and watch the people, watch the sun going down, watch my little girls. There is something in the TV and news paper...even from my dog Astro. I really don’t know what really triggers the feelings and lead me to compose or be productive.
As a guitarist I’ ve been inspired by John Anthony of KARNATRIIX! I mean because of him I got attracted to "Rock Music"! I started playng guitar very early (age of 13). At that time I was mostly into Malayalam, Tamil and Hindi film songs. So this guy used to play a lot of Rock kind of stuff in Malayalam and Tamil movies. So I instantly got hooked into it. To be honest, I didn't know that other than John Antony there are other guys playing Rock! Hahaha...so he is definitely one of my inspirations and Prasanna, Jimmy Page, Jimmy Hendrix, Jeff Beck, Brian May, Steve Vai, Joe Satriani and my all tme favourite is Ilayaraja!
There are also so many upcoming musicians in India having great talent.
IMR: Do you have any interests other than music? How would you generally describe yourself as an individual?
Baiju Dharmajan: Other than music...yes like any other responsible citizen of India I am intersted in Politics, I am a left supporter and I love Cinema, Cricket, Footbal etc.
Hmmm you should ask this question to my friends or to my students...hahaha.
IMR: Being a music icon, how do you manage to balance both (family and music) aspects of your life?
Baiju Dharmajan: Hahaha...you should ask this question to my wife. I don't plan any thing in my life. You know I always try to be myself, no duality! No two-faced character, family man and musician...that is very difficult for me...thanks to my wife Harida, she is the one who manages all the famly affairs and in a certain point including me!
IMR: What’s the biggest problem you have faced or is facing as an artist in a music industry like India?
Baiju Dharmajan: You know in India, compared to the Film/Music Industry, Rock Music has a very small stake. Any entertainment programme or Tv programme, it is all based on film and film music. So I think living the life of a Rock musician is a risky and dangerous decision I’ve taken and I’ve survived only because of my studio sessions, guitar classes etc. Even in the time of MOTHERJANE we suffered a lot. We signed a contract with a record label and we signed the contract without reading a single word in the name of friendship! The deal was that the label will take care of our recording, video expenses, provide us with a good well equiped practice room, book shows, manage our website, get us endorsements and they will give us Rs.10,000/- per month (in these days with Rs.10,000/- how can you manage a family).
And at the end of the year from the total revenue they will charge 20% and rest of the 80% will be distributed equaly among the band memebers sounds gud, right? But the fact is they deducted all the direct or indirect expenses from the total revenue i.e record label’s office rent, elecricity bill, phone bill, internet bill, petrol bill, salary of three staff, stationary charges etc and the band even payed Rs.80,000/-(flight expence and hotel bill) for the record label director to attend an Indie label seminar in Singapore and they own all the rights over all the songs, name of the band even after the 5 year period of the agreement! What happened is that after two years, as per the accounts, total income was 41 lakhs and the total expense was 70 lakhs.
So total loss was 36 lakhs. And you know, there are so much non-sense written in the contract which even now I don't understand. So that kind of treachery is also there in this Rock Music industry. So you have to be very careful signing a contract wth a label.
And another thing is that so many big festivals are happenning in India but nobody gets paid even among the big names in the Rock industry, except travel and accomadation so that’s a very sad situation. So according to me this is a kind of exploitation of musicians by the organised firms. In my opinion, if you have a good sponsor or some one to look after your expenses you should have to pay the band something. Otherwise despite all these glorified festivals or celeberations the Rock industry and the Rock musicians in India will vanish in the near future. Accomodation in five-star hotels and travelling on business class flight will not help you to feed your family.
IMR: Of all the collaboration you had/ have until today, which one would you consider as the most influential to you in your musical career?
Baiju Dharmajan: Hmmm...I don’t know I love all the collaborations I have experienced and I believe that they all had the uniqueness in their own ways. So I cannot say this is good or this is bad. Talking about my dream project...hmmm am waiting for it.
IMR: What are the changes you can tell us between Baiju Dharmajan 10 years back and today? Also, what lies ahead for Baiju Dharmajan?
Baiju Dharmajan: As an artist I have improved a lot. I mean I’ ve matured both in terms of music and as an individual and what lies ahead that I don’t know. Only thing I know is that I am working very hard. So the God will stand by me!
IMR: So, here we come to the end of the interview. It was a real pleasure talking to you. Looking ahead for some more Carnatic and Rock fused shreds and I wish you all the best on behalf of IndianMusicRevolution team. Thank You!
Baiju Dharmajan: Thanks to all the memebers behind the IndianMusicRevolution. God bless you all!
Indrajeet Deshpande is currently pursuing M.B.A at Pune, Maharashtra. Well, he is more a self-taught guitarist. Passion for Rock, Metal, and Blues started for him when he started to learn Guitar. A hardcore fan of Metallica, Motherjane, Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Yngwie Malmsteen, AC/DC, he aims to start his own Thrash Metal band soon!
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