Gypsy are a breath of fresh air in the South Asian underground music scene right now. While most bands concern themselves with the extreme end, exploring the harsher climates of the metal terrains, Gypsy take us back to the era of catchy hooks, party-singalong choruses, wild solos and general extravagance of the “glam” scene. There’s more though, Gypsy incorporate a traditional South Asian instrument – the sitar – into their sleazy sex-themed music, giving it a local touch. Listening to Gypsy is like going to a party where everyone’s wearing “foreign” clothes but drinking local booze. They’re loads of fun to listen to, and their sitar player Swarnabha Gupta is definitely a fun lad to talk to. Check out my interview with him.
– Hey Swarnabha. How goes it?
Hey Hassan! Everything’s fine..but….Such heat, much pain, need child bear to survive!
– Introduce Gypsy and the lineup.
Currently, we’re five. Shanky, the vocal powerhouse..loud as fuck! Budgie, probably one of the most hard-hitting and energetic drummers in the city. Soumya, who has a pretty subdued presence, but you can always hear his low octaves pounding you right there on your heart! Soumalya, the crazy little monster who shreds till he drops. If you dun see his amp volume cranked up to the max., understand that he ain’t in the right mood! And then, there’s me, who adds the oriental flavour and reminds people that there’s still an ounce of India left in our veins. Gypsy is the highest level of escapism ever seen by the people of India. Larger-than-life stage setups, tons of hairspray and makeup, weirdly painted instruments, flashing lights, graphic lyrics about sex and drugs, loud riffs, blazing solos, and of course, the traditional Indian touch which reflects our rich heritage…we’re everything that reality’s not. Actually, most of the people living here have a boring life. They’re always looking for security and missing out on the fun part of life. 10-5 jobs, regular haircuts, fitted formals…BLEHHHHH!! If you’re gonna live life, live it king size. Be flamboyant, be loud, don’t be afraid to be brace. We help them run away from this harsh and oppresive world, even if it is just for an evening..but trust me, they have the time of their lives at our gigs! We remind them that there’s something called having fun. That’s why we’re here!
– You guys are a rare breed – a band dedicated to playing 80’s hard rock/heavy metal.. with the inclusion of a sitar. What exactly drove you guys to the creative pursuit of such music?
All of us are big fans of acts like Ozzy Osbourne, Alice Cooper, Iron Maiden, Van Halen, The Scorpions, Motley Crue, WASP, Poison, Warrant..we’ve always had a thing for the ’80s. They are not just about making kickass music, they are about putting up a HUGE show, ensuring that every single person out there in the crowd, who’ve paid for the tickets, have a fuckin’ great time! Thus, Glam Metal. The perfect amount of hard rock, the right grams of Heavy Metal blended with a cup of theatrics and an ounce of badassery! Nowadays, most of us have given into Western culture so much that we don’t remember our own traditions. Well, the sitar’s here to remind them how rich we are culturally. And I had always wanted to play heavy music with my instrument, and change the wrong notion people hold about it. It’s a VERY flexible instrument. I’ve heard people telling me “You can never play Heavy Metal on a sitar. Try playing some commercial fusion..or just stick to classical itself.” But that’s not what I wanted. I wanted to be someone like Slash, someone like Jimmy Page. Someone who’ll not just be a great musician, but someone who’ll inspire millions to take a sitar up and play it! People are afraid of classical instruments. That fear needs to be done away with. That’s what I’m trying to do. I want kids to say “You can do THAT with a sitar? COOOOOL! I wanna play one too!” rather than “A sitar’s too boring and difficult. I’d rather play a guitar” too boring and difficult. I’d rather play a guitar”
– You put out an EP which was pretty well recieved. Are you doing anything new anytime soon?
Of course. We’re writing new songs. One’s already done. It’s called Rock Your Heart. It’s in our usual setlist too nowadays. It’s one of those ’80s’ish Rock n Roll anthems! Here’s the song- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RQrxpzATpI0&feature=youtu.be
– How does it affect the dynamics of the live sound, when having an electric sitar in the sound set-up?
Haha, the sitar makes our music louder, contrary to popular belief. We’re one of the loudest rock and roll bands in the city, and we ain’t compromising with our loudness for anything! So, way out? If you can’t tone the volume down, make the sitar louder! So, we got dual EMGs for my sitar! Loud enough yet? Judge it yourself folks! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XIds9euMim4&feature=youtu.be Balancing is a tad bit tough though. One tiny error with the sliders and the sitar starts screamin’ like a baaaaaad bitch! So, we balance the sound really carefully, so that it minimises unwanted feedback from the sitar, at the same time preserving the dynamics.
– How is the metal/rock scene in Kolkata nowadays? Any local favorites?
It’s developing well. Much of the old-school-new-school hostility is gone, people are working together to organise gigs, the turnout’s good these days, people are ready to pay 200 bucks for a gig, they’re buying local band merch! We witnessed it with our own eyes at the Wacken Metal Battle, where we opened for German Folk Metal band Suidakra along with Djent band Noyze Akademi and Alt. Metallers Ashencore. Guys from KOSMA and Brutal Bengal headbanging together to our songs. It was a treat for us! Almost all the upcoming gigs are featuring bands from both the circuits too! That’s great in my opinion. eg: Slam-Death Metallers Evil Conscience are launching their debut EP, and guess who’re playing alongside ’em on the same bill? Noyze Akademi as well as our Brutal Death and Blackened Death brothers Purgation and Imperial Cult! Hell even we’re playing on the same lineup with veteran Metalcore band Chronic Xorn, Groove metallers Damagera and some other modern metal bands at an upcoming gig called Headbangers! So currently, we’re pretty content with the scene..but it would be great if there were more venues in Kolkata who’d allow Metal gigs. Local favourites: Rock- The High Crook (Blues Rock and Hard Rock), Das Hubris (Blues Rock and Hard Rock) Metal- Steelbird (Classic Heavy Metal), Deadbolt (Thrash Metal), Mortar (Thrash Metal), Armament (Thrash Metal), Imperial Cult (Blackened Death Metal)
– What are your expectations for the upcoming Devil’s Coven gig?
They’re bringin’ down some sweeeeeeeet bands! If it’s done properly, it’ll be a benchmark gig for Kolkata. Ugrakarma and Plague Throat on the same bill? Dayeeeeeem that’s one gig no one would wanna miss! (Alas, I will be missing it. I’m leaving the city on the 28th for 3 long years)
– Since you play Sitar and are well acquainted with classical South Asian music, who are your favorite musicians in that area of music?
I’ll give you my top three inspirations. 1) Ustad Shahid Parvez Khan, 2)Ustad Shahid Parvez Khan, 3) Ustad Shahid Parvez Khan. Not just because he’s my Ustaad, but also because there never was, is, or will be someone as badass as him!!! If I’m givin’ you my top 5 inspirations, I’d say 4) Ustad Vilayat Khan and 5) Pt. Ravi Shankar. Damn, I wish I could even place Ustad Rais Khansahib here. I absolutely worship him.
– Plan on doing a solo sitar album some day?
Pretty soon bro, pretty pretty soon. Stay tuned.
– Thanks for the time, any advice for the people reading this?
Listen to good music, play good music, attend all the local gigs, support the local bands (only the ones you love, of course). Dun lose yourself to the cold world out there. Remember, Rock n Roll’s gonna keep you warm forever!