In the City to promote his first solo venture Depths of the Ocean, lead guitarist of Indian Ocean, Susmit Sen, talks about his musical journey and his experience of working with a new team.
The band Indian Ocean was formed 22 years ago and now you have released your first solo venture Depths of the Ocean. How did the idea to start this new album come about?
The dream to bring out a solo album was within me for almost a decade. There were certain compositions that were made even before I joined Indian Ocean. I had composed the title track of the album about 28 years back in 1983. There were certain numbers that I couldn’t do with Indian Ocean since it is a band and it has its own limitations. It was last year that I finally got the chance to sit down and record these tracks.
You worked with a completely different team for this new album. Were these musicians those you had become friends with through the years?
Some yes and some no. I had requested some of them to join me and they did. But they are all wonderful musicians and much more than that, they are all beautiful people. It was a pleasure working with each one of them.
This experience has been different because it is a different set of people and we made some amazing collaborations. Some of them are with some well-known artistes like Parikrama lead singer Nitin Malik, Shubha Mudgal and Papon and Oshima, whom I had recorded a song with way back in 2007. And others were not so well known but brilliant musicians, like Amit Sharma and Nikhil Vasudevan.
On bass, it was actually Clarence Gonzalvez, but unfortunately, he passed away three months back. He was suffering from cancer and at an early age of 27, he was gone. I am dedicating this five-city HRC tour to him.
You were the lone Indian to be invited to be part of the music festival for guitarists, Guitare en Scene, at Geneva. How was it meeting famous guitarists from across the globe?
It was an honour to be invited and be part of the festival. It was fabulous experience; not that I haven’t been to music festivals before but this particular one was really good. They have invited me to perform at the same festival next year. I witnessed some of the really classic acts like G3, Steve Vai, Bernie Marsden, Whitesnake, John Paul Jones and MC5. It was a wonderful experience and I had a chance to interact with most of them. A few artistes who completely blew me away were Steve Vai and Bernie Marsden. Bernie is the most natural musician I have ever seen.
What do you think of the new breed of musicians in the industry?
There are many upcoming musicians who are immensely talented and I am playing with so many of them for this concert. The most important part is that in today’s age, everyone wants to do their own numbers. During our beginning period of Indian Ocean, there was no other band in India which made its own music. There were many rock bands but they did not play their own music. Now, there are musicians in their early 20s playing really mature music. In another 5-10 years, I believe that we will see several excellent acts coming up.
Were there any problems that you faced at home when you informed them that you would be pursuing music?
I worked for 10 years in the corporate world before giving up my job to completely immerse myself in music. I was 28 years old then, so there was no way my family would stand in my way. I was brought up in Delhi and growing up in a middle-class Bengali family, there were a lot of records in the house. There were different kinds of music, from Hindustani sangeet to The Beatles and folk music. Then came a time when I really got involved in listening to Indian classical music. So in my work you will see a lot of influence from this period and the music I listened to at that time. I have never formally learned music and there was my brother’s guitar lying around; I picked it up and started playing. By late school and early college, I started composing.
Nowadays, as soon as a new song is released, it is available freely on the internet. How does this affect the revenue that you make from selling music?
I feel that it is a good trend since this way, the song gets a wider reach and people get to know about the song sooner, unlike how it was before. Most of the time, revenue comes from live performances and not from selling music. Thus, this affects studio artistes and not others.
Which do you prefer — performing live or recording your songs?
I get a major high when I perform live in front of an audience. For me, studio recording is the most boring thing. It is really interesting when you are developing a composition, but once you start recording a song in the studio, it becomes really monotonous. It is very difficult to make it sound alive and interesting.
Unlike earlier, there are a lot of earthy tones and folk music in Bollywood. What do you think of this trend? Do you think the audience’s taste is maturing with time?
Yes, otherwise they wouldn’t be contacting us. It will be an arrogant statement on my part if I were to say that the audience’s taste is maturing. The new generation of film makers are experimenting and not sticking to the typical kind of music that they once did.