IMR: Howdy Sidd! How are the things at TOUGH ON TOBACCO's campaign? Could you tell me a little bit about the history of the band? Where did you guys all meet and what brought you together as a collective group?
Sidd Coutto(ToT): We're a band, not a political party. So we have no campaign. Though, if we did, our slogan would be 'mad o vote?'
The ToT bassist Johan played with me in my first band in Mumbai in 1997. We've been friends ever since. We were in HELGA’s FUN CASTLE from 2004 with drummer Jai Row Kavi, who I first met when he offered to be my roadie in Zero. I met guitarist Gaurav when I helped produce a recording for his band Red Cube, 3 years ago. Guitarist Pozy was a Warren/Zero fan and played in its last line-up.
Helga's and Zero folded up around the same time. And I'd been working on the Tough on Tobacco album (at that point ToT was a two man effort between me and sound engineer/co-producer Hans Dalal). The guys came together to take that material on the road.
IMR: Speaking of your “sound”, for those not familiar with TOUGH ON TOBACCO, what genre would you classify TOUGH ON TOBACCO? What are some of your musical influences?
Sidd Coutto(ToT): ToT is a genre mash-up of Pop, Rock and Reggae, with some Jazz/Indian/Metal influences.
I stopped actively listening to music for a few years before I wrote the first album so I would not be influenced by too much of the music around me.
DAVE MATTHEWS BAND, THE POLICE, THE BEATLES, TOTO, PEARL JAM, STONE TEMPLE PILOTS, ALICE IN CHAINS, are some of the bands I listened to a lot before that. But I've grown up listening to Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Ella Fitzgerald, Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals, Michael Jackson, Prince, Seal, Madonna, Huey Lewis and the News and went through a Jazz-Rock phase where I lived on Tribal Tech, Weather Report, Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, & Vital Information.
Also the metal phase (at age 16) of METALLICA, MEGADETH, ANTHRAX, TESTAMENT, CARCASS, CANNIBAL CORPSE, NAPALM DEATH and an endless list of bands with gruesome names and lyrics from hell.
IMR: TOUGH ON TOBACCO's debut records THE HAPPY GOAT has been out for more than half a year now. Can you tell me a little bit about the creation of that record and are you still happy with the outcome or are there things you would have done differently?
Sidd Coutto(ToT): The album was written in the span of a month. (Jan-Feb 2008) I recorded all the drums that month and then the album got sidetracked by work and internal affairs so to speak. By the time the album was finished (Nov. 2009), the band had formed and so the guys came in and played their parts.
I love the album. For me, it’s my best. It ended up sounding the way I wanted it too. Considering, of course, that we had no money to spend on it and the entire thing cost us just Rs. 22,000.
Sure, there are things I would have done differently, but that's splitting hairs, because those are technical issues.
IMR: One thing that, I was amazed to see was the innocent goat out there on the cover-art of the album, was he/she stoned? What is the concept of the cover-art all about or it was just a random thought?
Sidd Coutto(ToT): I don't think the goat was stoned. I should have done some blood work on it, but it didn't seem to matter at the time. It was a couple of weeks before Eid, and that goat was soon to be somebody's biryani.
That's the concept of THE HAPPY GOAT. It's a bad, bad, dog-eat-dog (man-eat-mutton) world and you are going to get eaten. Don't worry about it. Look at the bright side of life. Be a happy goat.
IMR: What is your creative workflow? What comes first, music or words?
Sidd Coutto(ToT): Words and melody come simultaneously with most of my ToT material, which is what makes this my most creative period ever. I'm not force fitting anything. When I'm writing, if what I sing sticks in my head, it's a song. If it doesn't, I drop it almost instantly.
IMR: You guys also made a video recently for TAXI SONG, it turned out great! Who came up with the idea and how was that overall experience?
Sidd Coutto(ToT): Samira Kanwar, the director came up with the storyline and did a fantastic job putting it together. The band and her team brainstormed of course, but I can't remember whose idea was what. But the director is the captain of the ship and it was her baby.
IMR: Are there any particular artists that you are looking to collaborate with on future records?
Sidd Coutto(ToT): There are soooooooooooo many fabulous artists in Mumbai right now, and I want to rope them all in to do a record at some point. Vishal Dadlani, Randolph Correa, Monica Dogra, Suman Sridhar, Paresh and Naresh Kamath from Kailasa, Vishwesh from Scribe, Noush like Sploosh ... I could go on for pages. I doubt, however, that it will be a ToT record, because I think they deserve full songs to sing or play on and not just guest appearances. That said, I have asked a number of them to be a guest on the next ToT album.
IMR: Is TOUGH ON TOBACCO a full-time project for you at this point? Would you do this full-time if the opportunity presented itself?
Sidd Coutto(ToT): Currently, ToT is my main project. Work is on the sidelines. Doing this full time is just not economically feasible. However, when it is, I wouldn't think twice about dropping everything else. Writing and performing my own songs is the greatest thing in the world.
IMR: What is your motivation behind your obvious commitment too, and deep love of this music?
Sidd Coutto(ToT): It's like breathing for me. It happens naturally and it's something I have to do. Without it, I may cease to exist. Music plays in my head on demand. The songs come to me from a part of my brain that I consciously don't control. I open my mouth and let it out. There's something magical and divine about it and I'll be damned if I let that go.
You're deeply committed to breathing, aren't you?
IMR: What can we expect from the band currently, is there any in the store from TOUGH ON TOBACCO?
Sidd Coutto(ToT): We've just started recording our 22 song double album. Drums are done and the rest is in progress. These are the pick of the litter of over 70 songs I wrote since last January. There will be videos for this album too. We also plan on putting up funny sketches online because we're a laugh riot when we're together.
IMR: On a personal note, I would like to know how it was working with ZERO and HELGA's FUN CASTLE. Do you never feel like going back to the past from everything started?
Sidd Coutto(ToT): Both bands were different experiences. ZERO was straightforward middle-of-the-road rock while the priority in HELGA’s FUN CASTLE was fun. I wrote some songs I'm really proud of in both bands and they were both fairly successful at what we set out to do.
I love all the guys in both those bands. They are like family to me.
I've moved forward musically so I don't want to go back to the past. I'm very happy with the music I make now.
IMR: Well that about concludes our interview. I want to thank you Sidd Coutto for answering my questions and promisingly it will give our readers a little more insight of TOUGH ON TOBACCO workings. If you have any prayer requests, please let us know. Let us know as fans, how we can best support your band. Take care!
Sidd Coutto(ToT): If you like our music, spread it. Make your friends hear it, your chachi, your uncle from Dubai, your building friends, the school friends you meet for carrom once a year. Join our Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/toughontobacco, follow me at http://www.twitter.com/siddcoutto for band updates and gyaan, visit http://www.myspace.com/siddcoutto for gig listings and to stream songs and if you haven't yet, hit http://toughontobacco.in/ to get our entire first album for FREE. Thanks y'all. You make my life worth it!
- TOUGH ON TOBACCO
- Sidd Coutto
- Jai Row Kavi
- THE HAPPY GOAT
- CANNIBAL CORPSE
- NAPALM DEATH
- DAVE MATTHEWS BAND
- THE POLICE
- THE BEATLES
- PEARL JAM
- STONE TEMPLE PILOTS
- ALICE IN CHAINS
- Naresh Kamath
- Randolph Correa
- Monica Dogra
- Suman Sridhar
- Pravin Prajapati(LordMessiah)