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Bantering Ram (Unscene)

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In the past decade of blogging, I’ve mainly interviewed bands and recently also records label owners. Starting this week, I will be featuring the individuals that work behind the scene to make shows happen, the organizers.

Earlier this year, a new series of gigs called Unscene was launched in Bangalore. Each month founders, Abhijit Rao (Escher’s Knot) and Bantering Ram program a killer lineup of artists, which makes me wish I lived in Bangalore instead.

I wanted to know about Unscene spoke to Ram about the origins, memorable moments so far and their plans for the future.

Hi Ram, you’ve just wrapped up the 6th edition of the Unscene series of concerts. How does it feel looking back?

Reasonably satisfying that we’ve managed to keep it going and that we’ve brought in a number of bands that have been ear-openers for our audience. Bu it’s never enough, man. We could always do better.

For those not familiar with Unscene, do tell us about its origins and also the motivation behind starting the series of shows?

Back when I used to be a frequenter of Bengaluru gig venue, CounterCulture (no longer operational now) a few years back, I used to talk to Abijith Rao (musician/sound engineer/biker and very good friend now) who was part of that setup then about reviving metal music gigs in the city, which had gone into sharp decline. I’m not even a metalhead but I thought it was an unfortunate state of affairs and in an extreme way epitomised the difficulties in the independent music space in India. The more I saw gigs, the more I realized that it was a problem for even non-metal bands. Lots of good bands but not seen and heard enough. However, it remained a thought and a few well-meant conversations for some time. After the Progworks On Wheels tour in 2016, though, I thought I was sufficiently prepared to actually do something about it. I broached the topic with Nikhil Barua of The Humming Tree, Bengaluru who was very open to it. After talking to Abijith, we then pitched it as a rather ambitious monthly series of back-to-back to Metal and non-Metal music nights. Nikhil loved the idea of expanding the space for genres and bands and backed us to the hilt on this.

The name, Unscene, is hardly original; it’s a fairly obvious and in my opinion, a mildly pompous, play on what is called the ‘scene’ and going away from ‘scene’ things as also on the unseen or rather, less seen, nature of the musicians. However, I will stress that this is NOT a platform for newbies nor an open-mic gig. The bands that have played and will continue to play are formed of solid musicians. e.g the Anand Bhaskar Collective has been around and done well before playing on the first edition of Unscene. But it was the first time the band played in Bengaluru despite having tried to get a gig here for a long time.

This is not a living for me but it gives life to some of the things I want to do. I do it because I want to. It’s as simple and perhaps, as selfish as that.

Unscene is over 2 days, one metal and the other alternative. What was the reason behind splitting the bands and audience over 2 days?

The second day is not just Alternative. Let’s say, it’s non-metal. Part of the answer is in my response to the previous question. As much as it appeals to my subversive mind to have an ambient, jazz/R&B/electronica-influenced band like Signal W smack in the middle of the Doom/Death Metal of a Primitiv and the Prog outpouring of a Pineapple Express, it might just get a little too much for an audience to deal with. The 2-day format allows us to have more bands play in an edition and widens our audience.

How do you select the bands that will perform at shows?

That’s quite simple. It’s not just about how about good they are – that’s always such a relative measure and we don’t claim to being final arbiters of what constitutes ‘good’ music – we have to like their music. No point in doing something that lacks personal conviction. Then it’s a question of fitting in with what we’re programming on an edition while also keeping cost in mind. And yes, if we get to know that a band is a bunch of jerks to deal with, they can be insanely talented but I can’t have them on Unscene.

What have been the memorable moments so far? Any funny incidents?

It’s only in the 6th Edition and a bit of the 5th Edition that I’ve been able to spend a fair deal of time watching and listening to my bands since I usually am at the gate (that’s changed now thanks to the venue). I just feel very gratified when a number of people come over thrilled and happy with us for bringing over many of these bands that have impressed them. It has happened very frequently and that makes it worthwhile.

Related to that bit about my hardly getting to see these bands, in response to Siddharth Nair’s (of the Prog Metal band, Tangents) query on what I thought of his band’s performance, I let it slip that “Can’t say much because I usually come for about 5 minutes”. That didn’t come out quite right and so now “coming in 5” has become a standing joke. And I don’t think it’s going to go away quickly. 

I really like the artwork for the posters for each edition. You also give away some pretty cool stickers at the shows. Tell us about the inspiration behind this.

The artwork is all Denver Fernandes. He gets what we’re trying to do and I let him do his thing. I think some of his best work (and this is just my opinion) is seen on what he does for Unscene.

When Abijith and I were sitting about throwing out possible names for this gig series (I had pretty much made up my mind on Unscene but we still wanted to see if we could come up with anything different), we came up with a few ‘scene’ phrases that one gets to hear all the time; things that we cringe at, that we feel epitomize much of what’s wrong here. Since then, I keep coming up with these and note them down. We wanted to give something away to folk that would come for these gigs. Stickers seemed like a good idea. So now I say often in half-jest that I organize these gigs just so I get to put these stickers out.

What is next for Unscene? What are your plans for the coming months?

Next? I continue doing these gigs. Although there’s been talk of taking it to other cities, it makes no sense to me. I’d rather focus on getting this in better shape, get more people to come for these shows, make it financially viable, increase the geographic spread of bands that Unscene brings in.

Thanks for answering all my questions. Do you have anything else to add?

It’s been my pleasure. I have plenty more to add – not for nothing is that Bantering Ram moniker. But I’d rather end with a cautionary note. It’s easy to get caught up in the hype and hoopla but the independent music space in India is not in great shape. For it to change for the better, everyone – organizers/promoters, venues, bands and audiences – has to mature. A lot. I’d love for us to not have to make those snarky stickers. And for the name, Unscene, to be done away with for valid reason.

Bonus question. What are 5 Indian independent bands that the read should check out?

There are quite a few – 5 is too small a number. But still, without meaning any disrespect to the bunch not listed here and in no particular order, here are 5 that you could do well to check out.

– Dossers Urge

– The Minerva Conduct

– The Circus

– Kaihon

– The Uncertainty Principle

The album that I’m really looking forward to this year is the new one from Blushing Satellite. I’ve heard it at different stages of its production and it is such a beautiful piece of work! Yup, I couldn’t resist sneaking that 6th one in.

Check out music from all 6 bands below

 

Written by trendcrusher

June 24, 2017 at 3:03 pm

Posted in Interviews

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