Finally, No More

Today is the day! My band Collage is releasing its second, self-produced single ‘No More’. Here it is: https://soundcloud.com/collage-3/no-more

Collage logo

It has been a wonderful journey so far. One that started in 2007 and continues, in spite of the thousands of miles between us band members. On the occasion of the release, I thought it would be fun to ‘interview’ my very talented bandmates. And thankfully, all of them obliged. So here goes!

Special shoutout and thanks to the very talented Kamakshi Rai, who was our vocalist back then and was involved in the composition of the song.

A Blues-ey song?

Yashodhan: We didn’t really start off with a Blues-ish composition in mind. As far as I remember, we came up with the first chord riff and Kamakshi came up with a vocal line, with Omkar adding the lyrics. From there, we just kept building on the song, and it turned out the way it is today.

Kaustubh: Yes, we didn’t really know what Blues music was back then! The song was mainly composed and built around a guitar riff by Yasho and Kamakshi, which was canned because it was sounding remarkably similar to another song by a well known band! We decided to go for a shuffle-swing kinda feel for this song which (according to us) gave it that Blues-ish feel.

Uma: Collage has never limited itself genre-wise, but our previous two singles had a similar feel to them. While I personally was not involved in the composition of any of the singles, I had the honor of witnessing the revamp of these songs. And I saw No More grow into the peppy, jazzy number that it is now. And with that in mind, performing this song always came with a different set of expectations that I had to try and live up to.

Nikhil: We used to come up with random riffs and tracks in our jam sessions. Some of them were good, many were bad. ‘No More’ was one of the good ones. So we decided to go ahead and develop the track.

Uma: And besides just how I felt performing this song, the response from the crowd was always great. It’s a song that you can tap your foot to, and just really get into the groove with, and you could always see that in the audience. Personally, I’ve always loved doing this song.

Nikhil

Nikhil goofing off as usual during the recording.

Into The Studio

Yashodhan: It was great fun recording guitars! I had anticipated the guitar recording process would be challenging and complicated. The tracking of the acoustic guitar involved experimenting with different mikes and mike positions to get a balanced and full sound of the acoustic guitar. We also experimented with the lead guitar sound, especially with the wah effect.

Nikhil: In fact it was way too much fun to record each and every part of the song and then praise yourself for the effort :P. Also it didn’t take us that much time as Kaustubh and Yashodhan had a good understanding of the recording process.

Kaustubh: Yasho and I have recorded a lot of our music before. We had a basic idea about recording songs but we still had to learn a lot of fundamental stuff; about sound, capturing, mixing amongst other things. He did a certificate course in audio recording and I have been to a lot of recording sessions in big studios and live concerts and sound checks in Mumbai and Pune where I got to learn a lot of tips and tricks just by observing (or by asking foolish questions :P) some top sound engineers and musicians!

Uma: Typically, we record all the instruments first, and use that track to record vocals. Studio recordings have always been an adrenaline-filled experience for me (who needs skydiving?!). I was always a nervous wreck, but so excited that I’d have this ridiculous grin on my face the entire time. Being in the studio always felt surreal, with my bandmates in a separate room, watching; definitely not like the comfortable shoulder-rubbing of a good old jam session. But the nerves always made me push myself a little more and with the guidance of my bandmates it’s always been a learning experience.

Yashodhan during an acoustic guitar recording session.

Yashodhan during an acoustic guitar recording session.

Kaustubh: The process has helped us a lot. All this experience gave me a good starting point. Eventually, I decided to build a recording studio and transformed two rooms at my home into one. Fortunately it’s big enough to record live drums! And that’s what we did: our first ever drum recording session, that too at my own home studio!
We started by recording some acoustic guitar strumming as a trial track, and the same “trial” track was used on No More later! 😀 Then, on the same track we recorded the strumming, guitar lead, bass, drums and organ lead. We programmed a pilot track to record Uma’s vocals before she left for the U.S., to pursue her Masters.

Nikhil: I was also really excited about our new studio at Kaustubh’s place, and was looking forward to our first ever attempt at drum recording, all by ourselves. It took me a while to understand the recording process like the cue in the headphones and miking on the drum heads; how to make the best use of the limited number of mikes. After I got the hang of it, it wasn’t that complicated. The recording process was great fun. I learned quite a few things and cherish each and every moment.

Performing Live Vs Recording

Uma: Our biggest focus when we’re performing live is coordinating with each other and really getting our music out there to the audience; to give out the joy we feel when performing. And you only get that one shot, and we practice as hard as we can to make the best of that one shot.

Kaustubh: You have to get your notes, sound, tightness, dynamics right in that one chance on stage. When you are recording in the studio you can take your own time to do these things. There’s only one thing common between a live performance and a recording: your musicianship, which is the most important thing.

Nikhil: While recording you are with your band mates whom you know, so there’s always that comfort level and you know you’re not being judged on that performance.

Uma rocking it!

Uma rocking it!

Yashodhan: Live performance is more about the ‘performance’, the chemistry between the band members, the overall set list, how you manage to keep the crowd interested, etc. Recordings are more focussed on the song itself. Of course, playing your parts to perfection is a part of both, there is no escape from that 🙂

It’s Been A Long Road

Yashodhan: Releasing the song online does justice to all the hard work the band has put in, right from composing the song with Kamakshi, to practicing it over and over again and performing it so many times, changing little things here and there (change from A to D scale, the chromatic chords at the end of the stanza), and finally working hard to record it in the best way we can. It feels great to have your music online and get feedback from people.

Nikhil: You always feel good when you create something, whether it’s a painting, a dish you’ve cooked or a song. I always feel proud to say ‘This is my band’s song!’ and to be a part of Collage.

Kaustubh: This song is special because it’s one of our first few compositions and also because it was produced at my home studio. The first production at my studio :).

Kaustubh in a pensive mood during a practice session.

Kaustubh in a pensive mood during a practice session.

Uma: By the time we were ready to record this song, all of our lives were being hit by major changes, a result of which, the band hadn’t performed in quite some time. Our bassist had been in the United States for a year already, I was gearing up to do the same, our guitarist was busy applying to schools in the USA, our keyboardist was really beginning to make it big as a photographer, our drummer was stepping up to take over his family business. You can only imagine what these changes did to the band.
But, we rallied and decided that we absolutely had to record our singles. And so we hit our first roadblock. I was due to leave in about 2 months. There was no way we could record the final track in time, especially with the bassist away! So we recorded vocals to the pilot track! After that came the drums recording, followed by the bass recording, when our bassist returned on vacation. By this point, our guitarist was due to leave for the States and they managed to get all of his work recorded just before he left. Kaustubh worked on the mix after that, something that Yashodhan and I managed to contribute to when we visited home on vacation recently.
And so, after two years of squishing in work where and when they could, the band has come to this point where we can release this song. It really is a happy moment for us.

A Few Thoughts Of My Own

So many things have changed since this track was composed; I wasn’t even playing the bass back then! Hats-off to Kaustubh for managing the lower frequencies on the keyboard during our live performances at the time. And then there’s the evolution of the bass-line as I started learning more about the bass. The bass-line in this recorded single is drastically different from the one that used to be played even as late as 2011!
Recording at Kaustubh’s place was a great experience. Especially because we didn’t have the thought ‘We’re paying a lot per hour/day just to be here!’ at the back of our mind. And it was a new experience for us as we had never recorded bass in a studio before. So quite a lot of things were unknown. But we did it anyways. Whenever we used to perform ‘No More’ in our live shows, people would often say ‘hey, I really liked that foot-tapping number’. Comments like these used to (and still) make us smile like crazy 🙂

Personally, it is a wonderful moment sharing our creation with everyone outside of live performances. The journey from creating the track way back in 2007, to performing it live in shows and competitions, to finally releasing it has been a great, emotional one.

Collage is:
Uma Phadnis – Vocals
Yashodhan Karandikar – Guitars, Production
Kaustubh Joshi – Keyboards, Guitars, Production
Yours Truly – Bass
Nikhil Deshpande – Drums

Looking forward to recording and sharing more of our music with you! Do checkout and like our Facebook page!

Hope you guys liked No More and a glimpse into how it was made. If you liked it, please spread the word and the share the link to the track – https://soundcloud.com/collage-3/no-more – on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Google+, (Ello, anyone?) and/or any other social network. Any support would be much appreciated 🙂

Collage with Remo Fernandes

Collage with Remo Fernandes


As always, thanks a ton for reading! Stay tuned for an exciting travelogue, coming up next!

– Omkar

Advertisements

A Wonderful Evening With Yanni

In March, I happened to stumble upon the fact that Yanni was going to perform in San Diego. Yes, in proper San Diego; not in LA, not in Orange County or any other place nearby. Ticketmaster showed that the tickets would go on sale in a couple of days. Even though September was quite far away, I knew I was going to get tickets right away.

Yanni has touched a lot of people’s lives. And so there are quite a few of his fans among my friends. I called up a couple of them right away. While they liked Yanni, I honestly didn’t think they would agree on spending more than a hundred dollars for a concert six months away. And I was prepared for it actually. Prepared to attend the concert all by myself if it came to that. But thankfully, they were all in; and requested me to book a ‘+1’ each for their friends. And so I booked the tickets in March, within forty-eight hours of them going on sale.

The excitement was palpable on the perfect, scarlet San Diego evening. In a sea of well-dressed people, we stood outside the San Diego Civic Theatre, waiting for a friend to arrive. The friend, also a bandmate, was one of the ‘+1’s (friend’s friend) I mentioned earlier. A fact that reminded me how quickly things change in life.

The stage is set! Image from http://sandiegotheatres.org/press/

The stage is set! Courtesy: http://sandiegotheatres.org/press/

Out seats were in row M, the thirteenth row from the stage, in the Orchestra section. My first thought was how many people had booked their tickets before us, the moment they became available. But we were very happy with our seats. They were close to the center, slightly to the right (facing the stage). Despite not being an expert on the subject, I thought we were in a good spot acoustically. The theatre filled up quickly. We saw people carrying small wine glasses as they squeezed their way through the packed rows. The two balconies above had narrow, tapering arms that extended along the side of the theatre.

The stage was set. I was actually a little surprised to find that the curtains were not drawn. Yanni’s piano and keyboard station (I don’t know what else to call this large structure that contained eight keyboards!) were in the front, on stage level. A multi-level platform was raised behind them. On the first level we saw a line of chairs. Violins, cellos, horns, trumpets and harps were present. The second level had precession, bass, a large drum kit in the centre, and another keyboard station (with just six keyboards). A deep, dark blue light illuminated all of this.

8:00 PM. The house lights dimmed and went out. Showtime. A huge round of applause went up as the orchestra members appeared on stage from either side of the setup and started taking their positions. The stage lights were still dim, but I was able to recognize Samvel Yervinian (violin), Charlie Adams (drums), Ming Freeman (keyboards) and Victor Espinola (harp). The musicians took about a minute or so to adjust their positions and instruments, and started playing an intro music of sorts. And there he was, dressed in white; running from the stage entry at the back into the spotlight. As the intro music played Yanni ran on the stage, waving to the crowd and high-five-ing some of the people in the first row.

Amazing ambience and lighting, poor quality photo!

This was my view. Amazing ambience and lighting, poor quality photo!

And what an evening it was. Voyage, The End Of August, Marching Seasons. For Nightingale, Lauren Jelencovich accompanied Yanni. What a voice! I could not believe it was possible for a human being to hit such high notes! For Felitsa (‘mother’ in Greek), Yanni mentioned how the word love is overused in our daily lives. He went on to explain that there are twelve words for love in Greek, of different magnitudes. Felitsa was written by him for his mother, with love of the highest magnitude (I forgot the Greek word).

Of course, Samvel Yervinian blew us away with his violin solo. Yanni introduced him as the best violin player on earth twice, and it was clear why. Although having watched the Yanni Live! concert video (recorded at Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas), I wasn’t surprised by the solo. The drum solo by Charlie Adams, however, was a huge surprise. For starters, it was a twenty-minute long solo! And a superb one! There were different sections of the solo, each having its own crescendo of sorts. And that guy knows how to please the crowd. Before the solo, he slipped into a San Diego Chargers jersey! Yanni mentioned that he wears a different shirt for every show on their world tour.

The songs went by quickly. It was just an amazing evening due to a (expected) legendary performance and a very loud crowd! Yanni came back on stage for two encores after bowing and leaving! Though I’m quite sure that was planned, it was nevertheless an amazing moment – the audience cheering, clapping and yelling for him to come back on stage.

A truly wonderful artist!

A truly wonderful artist! Courtesy: Yanni’s Official Facebook Page

Yanni has a ‘One world’ cause that he advocates quite passionately. He mentioned how music is something truly international and knows no boundaries. Yanni’s music is truly international I believe; one can pinpoint the multiple styles of music that have influenced him and yet it is hard to classify his music into a particular style. The record labels put it under ‘World’ or ‘New Age’ music. He waved at the orchestra and called them his mini-United Nations! Both NASA and the Russian Space Agency have allowed Yanni to visit their restricted areas and interact with the astro/cosmo-nauts. He mentioned how his music has never been censored in any country and how he wishes the man-made boundaries would just disappear, and the Earth would be just like how humans from space see it. “That is my dream”, he concluded and started playing One Man’s Dream, the last song of the evening. Magical stuff!

An amazing Saturday night. I wish it had gone on and on. Yanni promised he’s coming back to San Diego next year. This time I won’t wait forty-eight hours to book the tickets!

I would like to leave you with the song that introduced me to Yanni, and is one of my favorite Yanni tracks. Apologies, if Spotify is not available where you are.

– Omkar

No Donut For You: A Remembrance

Back in 2005-06, things were different. Birthdays were remembered; photo sharing happened at someone’s place with people crowding around a monitor; and friends generally didn’t say wonderful, flattering things to each other’s face. That was life before Orkut, the first social network for many in India.

Was Orkut the first social network? Nope, successful ones like MySpace already existed by the time Orkut came along. But it was certainly the first one to gain a large user base in India. And boy was it popular. Of course, its popularity was rather short-lived due to the quick, tectonic shift to Facebook by a large number of people. But for me, and many others I’m sure, Orkut was the first social networking experience. And now (unsurprisingly) Google is shutting down the deserted social network on September 30th.

Orkut

As a teenager just out of high school, the impact of the social network was substantial. A lot of new acquaintances suddenly became ‘friends’ and started sharing stuff. Posting ‘scraps’ on each others profiles became a thing. A very weird thing actually. Why did I have to say things to a friend ‘in public’, where everyone could eavesdrop? I didn’t have to, but I did, just like most of my friends. Many people (I’m guilty as well) had weird profile names; a crazy fad where you used the first and last name fields to write messages. I think this continued even after Orkut added a status field. Fan groups were also quite popular with Orkut. People created pages for everything and everyone; a trend that still continues in Facebook today.

And then there was the rating system! If I recall correctly, people ‘rated’ friends on three ‘parameters’: friendliness, attractiveness and coolness. If that isn’t cringeworthy, I’m not sure what is. But people did it anyways! No wonder Google hasn’t been too successful at social networking (even though they did take down the ‘ratings’ feature). But the most important, and fun feature was the ability to write testimonials for friends. And of course, having your friends write one for you. In fact, testimonials were so popular that back then there were Facebook add-ons for testimonials! Not that they became popular (thankfully).

Orkut tried. Maybe not too hard, but they changed their interface, style and privacy controls to stop users from moving to Facebook. It was born out of the ‘20% project time’ at Google where employees can work on something other than their job responsibilities. And you somehow got the feeling that Google always treated it that way. It would have been interesting if Google was serious about social back then. But they weren’t, and they’re still paying the price for that today.

Social networks have certainly had an impact on our lives. And Orkut was the first one for many of us. While it won’t be missed, it will be remembered for sure. So if you want to download and save those first, awkward social moments, pictures, and other things, Google has provided a way to do so. Save them! They’ll be fun to look at a couple of decades from now. After 30th September, there’s no donut for you 🙂

– 0Mk@r ~ OrKut R0cK$

P.S. – That was never my profile name on Orkut.

Hello … Again.

This post is for those 17 of you who actually used to read my old blog.

So why a new blog?

  1. I feel like starting from scratch. I do!
  2. The old blog layout was too complicated for what I have to say.
  3. The above two points.

I’m hoping to write regularly on a wide range of topics but mainly technology related stuff. Since I’m also into photography, gaming, music, world politics, app development and poetry, you may see posts on any of these things!

Anyways, I hope it’s ‘third time lucky’ for me!

– Omkar