This time we put our soul on the line in featuring Blues Conscience from Chennai. I have to say they belong to the minority of indie bands, that actually go onstage in suits and yes, hats too. A three member band composed of Anek Ahuja on Vocals and Bass, Aum Janikiraman on Vocals and Guitars and Neil Smith on Drums. They claim it all began at a sister’s wedding. Indian Weddings? Blues? I couldn’t connect but who cares. All it took was a wedding to bring out the blues in these dudes. Voila!
Where they came from, how they ended up doing what they are doing now is better expressed in Anek Ahuja’s own words.
Tell us about Blues Conscience.
We’re a 3 power act, just like “Cream”. Although, we do collaborate with other musicians such as Maarten Visser on saxophone, Siddharth Kumar on keyboards. We also did a stand-up comedy and blues act with Shyam Kumar. As a 3 piece we got our music figured out as base, to let any other musician collaborate easily with us.
How was the band formed?
The band was formed to perform at my sister’s wedding. Although we did not restrict ourselves to blues, soon after the wedding, we thought why not do a blues act. Since all 3 of us really enjoyed, playing and listening to it.
Why Blues Conscience?
‘Cos it didn’t restrict us to authentic blues but rather, we play music which is heavily influenced by the blues.
A Blues Band amongst the rapidly growing punk, hard rock, metal indie scene in India…How does it feel?
It feels great! There aren’t too many blues bands out there. I guess ‘cos all the newer bands are pretty young, and cater to a young audience. The blues has more soul, and appeals to a much more mature audience.
You guys do this full time or have separate jobs apart from this?
We all have separate jobs as you might be aware, of India’s opportunities for musicians. Moreover, we’d like to get richer faster so we can buy ourselves better equipment. I run a graphic design/advertising agency here in Chennai called Whoa Mama Design, Aum runs a similar agency called MMU Communications and Neil works at Amazon.
Major Influences in your music?
Buddy Guy, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Eric Clapton, B.B. King, Joe Cocker, Chris Rea….
Inspirations behind the song writing?
Most of our ‘writing’ is never really written. The words just come, while jamming on a guitar, and then we take it; twist it around and see what comes out of it. Mostly for new songs, the lyrics change a couple of times during a show before it’s properly set. Although Aum our guitarist likes writing his songs with many versus. I like to keep it simple I guess.
How’d you guys managed “blue” and “Barack Obama” to work in the same line for the track Barack Obama.
Barack Obama was not written for him. It was written for an American girlfriend of mine, who at the time, was returning, to the states as he won the elections. I didn’t want her to leave. “So the only way I could make her stay was if Barack Obama comes with me”.
Not forgetting the “interesting” Shaggin’ Ma Dog (????) – How did that came about?
Shaggin ma dog, a pretty popular hit on the Chennai circuit, was originally written to cheer up a close friend of mine, when his dash hound died. I know, it’s dark humor, but it did cheer him up. And then, the song was used once anyone else’s dog died.
Which is harder? Writing a song, creating the music for it or performing live?
I wouldn’t say either of them are hard. Although performing it live really determines how well you’re able to shape the soul in to the song.
How important is clinching a record deal?
I have no clue. Right now to us not too important I guess.
If you could tour with another band, say from the local arena, who would that be? And why?
Well I think “Soulmate” from Shillong, is an awesome band. They got their feet, into the authentic blues with great riffs and amazing vocals, I’d love to tour with them. I guess also cause they have a great fan following, and would help us reach out a bit as well.
Well we have a demo of 8 songs, out of which 2 are really covers. But we have written about 10 songs now, probably write another 2-4 more, and call it an album sometime soon. We also will re-record all the songs from the demo, as that was a rushed job.
We’ll be playing at Counter Culture Bangalore as an ode to Robert Johnson – Ode to the Blues on May 7th. There are other bands playing as well.
Which song from your originals would you recommend for someone who hasn’t heard of Blues Conscience?
Kamasutra, Tipalo, & Shaggin ma dog.
People who love (____) will love our music.
They have yet to release a solid album. But, demo songs and a few cover songs are already up for audience listening. And if you have been around Chennai long enough, you would have heard them perform at a myriad of locations around the Southern Coast.
Kamasutra and Morning After were my favorite tracks amongst their many compositions. Be it any track, the vocalist had the x-factor in his voice to pull you into the track and perhaps get you to groove a step or two. The saxophone accompaniment is an another reason why one should really listen to this track . Blues Santa was another track I sort of liked. But I can’t say it was a favorite. It was not bad in its own way.
That was Kamasutra for you. Fancy their music now? It doesn’t quite stop there. Although my selections here differ from what Anek suggested, you need to get the best of both worlds so I’m still gonna go ahead with my choices.
Morning After was a tad less upbeat but similar to the previous track the vocals were amazing and let’s not forget the instruments behind this particular track. They were the unsung heroes.
Most of their tracks reminded me of John Mayer (but that could just be me) and perhaps Jimi Hendrix for you. Either way, the tracks were definitely worth listening too. Since many of the tracks were demos they were fairly short. No worries, we have been assured that the band will be re-doing some of their demos and we might just be treated to a full fledged album soon.
Red Jam and Memphis Blues are stand alone non-lyrical tracks. They bring with them the beauty of the music these guys are capable of coming up with. It’s a great start for one who has never been exposed to the genre before. I particularly loved the way Red Jam started playing.
One need not be into the entire “blues thingy” to get the feel of it. That’s the thing. You can be a newbie to the entire genre but still groove to it. Unlike metal whereby if you’re not into head banging, you’re just torturing your ears. For starters, because hardly we feature blues here, I’d recommend you guys to go treat yourselves to Blue Conscience.
To keep track of Blues Conscience
Besides the featured tracks you can also check out their other tracks and learn a bit more about them.
If you think you have known all about them and are already a fan, time do what I do and obviously preach: stalk! Simply stalk them on their fan page, (don’t we just love social networking sites) keep track of their upcoming gigs and go attend! And of course return to that same fan page and leave them an encouraging compliment on how much you enjoyed the show. And if the comment boxes on these sites aren’t enough for you, write to us (or mail to: sip[at]gingerchai[dot]com) about your experience and we will feature it.
Ode To The Blues – 100 Years of Robert Johnson
Before you start reading about it, I have to tell you that the event sounds uber exciting. There is a whole range of items arranged for the audience. I’d be more than glad to attend. So here’s the thing, if you are in Bangalore, I suggest you go have some blues fun on my behalf. Now onto the real stuff…
Celebrating the 100 years since the birth of world renowned blues guitarist Robert Johnson, a week of movies, music
and maybe popcorn has been organized. And it starts today!
If you’re around the region, you ought to go catch up on the movie screenings that begins on the 1st till the 6th. Movies that will be screened include Feel Like Going Home by Martin Scorsese, The Road to Memphis by Richard Pearce, Piano Blues by Clint Eastwood to name a few.
And that’s not all!
As previously mentioned by Anek, Blues Conscience is also part of the big performance!
On the 7th of May, Blues Conscience together with HFT, Ministry of Blues, Gowri Jayakumar and a whole lot of other artistes will be performing at Counter Culture, Bangalore as a tribute to Robert Johnson. For more details check out Ode To The Blues.
You will be attending yea? Come on…get off that couch will you!