In a tête-à-tête with Postnoon, the guitar virtuoso Ravi Iyer opens up about Indian bands, his love for music and his upcoming album Bends
It is not often that all musicians make good conversationalists. More so when the lack of real facetime and a cranky phone line connection make a constant vacuum in the conversation. But Ravi Iyer, the guitar playing, tube amplifier and hollowbody guitar maker, who also teaches music, breaks the ice by saying, “The most common question I have been asked so far is how my journey in music has been so far.” After the ensuing laughter and the eventual common realisation that John McLaughlin and Shakti made pioneering contributions to jazz-rock-fusion world wide we settle for a good plate of guitar playing, tech gear and the importance of the Internet.
How did you feel when you left a Degree in Physics behind to embrace the strings?
Actually, I did take up a job in 1993. Discontinued music for four years and then I got back into in 1997. And I have been playing ever since.
We have heard that the album of your first fusion music project is coming out soon?
Yes, it is called Bends. It is a live album and has been very much inspired by Shakti. And ofcourse, John McLaughlin.
How right is the audience in judging bands by saying that they all try to sound a lot like their influences? How does a band make original music?
That phase of sounding like a copy is always there. But as we learn to play and explore, we must realise that our aim should better than covers. This transition will happen, with practice over a due course of time. But I never think too highly of the crowd, they have turned into a horde blindfolded by social activity.
Tell us about your gear and a little bit about your fetish for light tube amps.
I play with my Greg Bennet hollow body jazz guitar, a Godin La Patrie nylon stringed classical and also an American Paul Reed Smith 531. Apart from that I have also designed and made my own double neck custom guitar for the fusion music project. I prefer tube amps because they sound very clean, especially the vintage tube amps. I usually record with a Fender 30 tube amp at home and also carry it along to the studios because I dont trust the studios with their equipment. I also use an overdrive pedal that I have designed.
Since you mentioned studios, how good are the recording services so far, in your experience?
They have been alright, but our people should learn how to record live from an amplifier. These days everything is being triggered or programmed. Musicians are fussy about their sound and tone, and one cannot replicate a light tube amp’s sound anymore.
Why is it that local bands slip away into oblivion after releasing a couple of albums?
Right now, the entire music industry is about marketing and PR. It is not about music anymore. Bands that are really good are dropped in the favour of the most noisy sounding ones. And there is no point in releasing albums because they eventually turn into visiting cards and have to be given out for free. Nobody earns from an album, not in India and it takes a lot to get out of this vicious cycle of the trade.
Tell us how Bends is going to be released. Will it be available online?
Yes, thanks to the Internet, there are now websites that allow musicians, artistes to put up their songs for sale. Bends will hardly have more than a 100 hard copies. It is going to be released online. The thing with the Internet is that it has too many things. But the challenge is to stay focused and stick true to your choice.
About the Author (Author Profile)
Tea drinker, imaginary bass player, posterchor, left liberal world planner, star gazer.. and other significant things.