Interview with ‘VISHAL.J.SINGH’ of AMOGH SYMPHONY
Vishal J Singh is no ordinary guy when it comes to creating music, born in 1986 Vishal is not only a acclaimed Sound Engineer by profession he is also a fantastic musician who has mastered several Instruments. Better known by his solo project name ’Amogh Symphony‘ , Vishal released his self produced debut album titled ‘Abolishing the Obsolete System‘ which has been making waves in the ‘ Underground scene’ worldwide and also on mainstream media as well . Ashwin Sharma (of ATMOSFEAR ) caught up with Vishal J Singh for this awesome interview .
Ashwin: Hi Vishal, congratulations on the album release. Amogh Symphony, unique name for a unique sound, how did you come up with the name? When did you form the band?
Vishal : Thank you Ashwin. First of all , I really apologise for being late for this interview . I am working on different upcoming film projects at one time and its pretty hectic schedule everyday . I hope I didn’t waste your precious time . I am really happy to see your interest in my music.The name “Amogh” was given by my Father when we were discussing about music writing . Later , i added the word “Symphony” because of my relationship with western classical symphonic music . Also , during those days , i was a huge fan of Mahavishnu Orchestra . I always wanted to keep a name like “Mahavishnu Orchestra” which symbolise spirituality . “Amogh Symphony” is basically a combination of a sanskrit word and an english word which symbolise “Old concept meets new concept”.
Originally,it was formed in the year 2004.
Ashwin : Ashwamedh EP, your debut release was released on a UK label, how different is “Abolishing the obsolete system” from Ashwamedh? and how do you categorize the genre you play ?
Vishal : Well , Ashwamedh was a 4 tracks contained EP which was released and distributed in the year 2005 by Kollosal productions( they stopped functioning after 2 years ) from UK along with EP’s of few other Progressive Death Metal Bands and One-man Projects from other places. The EP was recorded , mixed and produced on a very basic studio set-up and i was studying Audio Engineering during that time . It was more or less like a mixture of Progressive Metal with 40% death metal and lots of fusion with indian elements . The honest reviews from fans and critics from every corners of the globe really helped me a lot to develop my compositional ideas . Being a member of a family of music background , I grew up listening to different genres of music at home since childhood . I realized mostly jazz/rock artists/bands from Europe , United Kindom and United States visit India or work with Indian classical musicians to make a “Fusion” sound and this concept actually started in the late 60s ( Beatles , John Mclaughin etc ) . Later , modern jazz players from India and other countries improvised on this concept but the idea was same . It’s because mostly jazz musicians do lots of improvisation on the spot and the overall music goes like a bullet where fusion elements(Hindustani Classical,Western Classical) make the full sound more interesting and pleasant to ears . The improvisation method in Metal is a bit different and not clearly visible , though old jazz players still thinks there is no improvisation in metal but just power chords and noisy high gain distortion , I opposed to this thought . The idea was not to make a complex and technical music but to make Metal fused with genres which are way different than metal , keeping the weight of each genre perfectly balanced and equal as one song . When we say “Technical Death Metal” , its again limited to “Death Metal” where one can use the odd time signature ideas from Progressive Rock and Harmonic minor and Diminished elements from Neo Classical keeping the same old brutal sound of Death Metal . Obviously , It will sound funny if you put a funk strum in the middle of a brutal death metal riff . But once the dimensions are clear , you know the perfect placement .
Here my attempt was to work on the next step ahead Technical Death , Math Metal , Progressive Metal and Avant-Garde Metal , not to show-off technical fretboard wizardry and overly produced composition , but to make a “World” reincarnation of Extreme Metal . So , I combined the elements of Progressive Rock , Guitar oriented music , Electronica/Ambient/ Psytrance / Drum n’ Bass , World music , Jazz , Hindustani and Western Classical , Soundtrack and more with Technical Death and Math Metal . This experiment is still going on . The process is more like the never ending scale of Negative integers , Zero and Positive Integers where Zero is an equilibrium and the other sides are endless and that’s what I tried to keep in my music as the main element . So even if there are many things going in the music , I make sure that different sets of instrumentation in one song will get their maximum individual space in it , without affecting the balance . Here , Metal is not symbolizing Brutality , Anti-socialism , Anti-God , Nazi or Punk philosophies . Its trying to symbolize Strength , Open-mind philosophies , Limitless Knowledge , One-ness for Humanity , Future and also abolishment of old concepts like “Metal should remain metal..purely unadultered and underground….we hate pop and other genres and their supporters” .
Ashwin : Tell us how you composed the songs for “Abolishing the Obsolete System” and the ideology or theme behind the songs.
Vishal : There is no strict way to compose any song in this world but sometimes if you already made a plan chart/graph , then you have to take care of few things and write some basic steps before start composing . In this album , I made a chart diagram ( maximum and minimum number of patterns in one song , time duration of the album , selection of genres and playing techniques , patch selection etc ) of making the album and remembered the whole sheet before start composing . This helped me not to get diverted while composing the songs . Firstly , I composed the riffs in straight 4/4 . Then I started working on the odd time signatures and breaks in the riffs . To make them sound little more interesting , I worked on tempo changes at some places where they require . One thing I made clear to myself that like “Ashwamedh” and my previous singles , there won’t be long extended guitar solos in this album . I believe there is no need to put long solos in any song if you compose the guitar solo properly . A 15 seconds solo can be made much more interesting than making a 30 seconds or 1 minute long solo. Also , too much of solos over attracts the ear more towards the guitar and as a consequence , other instrumentation parts loses their importance which is a big drawback in any good songwriting / composition . The riffs are already doing their best in the songs so guitar parts are balanced with solos at their right places and time duration . After setting the guitar tracks , I worked on the drums . Being an experienced drummer myself , I tried to keep a balance between progressive rock and jazz drum patterns and brutal death metal drum patterns . To put some more flavour , I added some Latin influences in the groove . Technically speaking , I took the ride accent from jazz drumming technique , hyperblast accent from technical death metal , bass drum pedalling accent from progressive rock drum techniques and few groove accents from brazilian music , latin music . I recorded the drums with the help of “metronome click” and it was one of the toughest jobs in making the album . After Drums , I composed the bass parts . I always wondered why most of the progressive bands and artists don’t let the bass sound more interesting and a bit louder ? I always loved funk bass playing because it makes one feel like tapping his / her legs on the ground and sometimes a bass guitar can creat much stronger groove than the drums . I took the idea of slap funk bass and recorded the bass parts . Lastly , I sat on the programming and sampling , to put the ambient/electronica/drum n bass/soundtrack sound in the tracks . Final stage , I mixed and mastered the whole project .
Well , I work in a field where you don’t know what kind of music or artist you will discover . This album is more or less like my first Diary of experience in the music industry till date . Also , music composition for short films , jingles and ads is a part of my job . From here , I learned how to make music based on scenarios and human emotions when vision is provided . It was one of the toughest challenges I have ever faced as composer and player because there is nothing to do with complex music composition . Its about how can you create a perfect atmosphere of a fiction with your music . I used this idea in Amogh Symphony’s new sound .These things inspired me a lot to think and work harder on this album . Also , there were many ups and downs and critical to strange situations in my professional and personal life . The biggest teacher of a music composer or a song writer is no one else but his / her experience in life . I think whatever strange things happened in my life automatically affected my composition abilities in the years .
Abolishing the obsolete system is basically a concept album based on one of my scripts/stories I am writing since an year . I work with a group of creative friends/partners where there are film-makers , scriptwriters , directors , actors , actresses along with music composers like me . I am still learning film script writing and I think it will take atleast 4-5 years more to get developed .
Ashwin : What were the challenges with completing “Abolishing the obsolete system”? I bet there were many hurdles…
Vishal : Well , it was a great experience . A test of patience and hardwork . You know , It sounds strange that even when my job revolves around music , I have to follow a strict time-chart and discipline to follow my routine and to make my own music . Out of seven days a week , i spend 6 days inside the studio on client projects . Sometimes , it becomes too hectic that I don’t get time to even sit alone for an hour . The only time had to finish this album was midnight to morning . So I kept a deadline for myself that I have to finish the album in two months ( 1st month for recording and 2nd month for arranging and mixing ) Whenever there are guitar recording sessions in client’s project , I do warm ups for an hour just before making and recording the guitar parts and that is the only time when I practise my licks .
Ashwin : The new album is getting international accolades, how’s the album sale so far? And please tell us how can fans get this album in India and overseas.
Vishal : Oh well ! its decent so far . I didn’t expect at all this whole thing before . Orders from overseas is slightly higher than the orders from India . That’s probably because myspace is an american site . I am an unsigned artist . This album was supposed to get released under a british label but we cancelled the deal under a logistical situation . In these years of my research , I came to know about the exploitation of record labels . For example , most of them takes the full copyright authority from the band/artist and in return they give very very less royalties to the them . About the album distribution in India , there are individual distributors in different cities from whom fans can buy the album directly by contacting him or her . I am going to re-post the detail infos of distributors in India . Hopefully , Sahil ‘Demonstealer’ Makhija (Frontman of Melodic Death / Black Metal band Demonic Resurrection) might help me in putting the CDs in all the Furtado’s Stores across India . Its still not cofirmed yet but I will post about this in my blog . Sahil showed great interest in helping me to distribute which is surprising yo me because I have grown up listening to Sahil’s music in DR . I must say it’s mostly because of Sahil , Metal is still existing in Mumbai . He tried his best in the past to save the local metal bands here . Please respect this man .
The distribution of the album in United States , Brazil , Germany , United Kingdom ( Limited copies already sent to London for distribution ) , Japan , Czech Republic , Poland and few other European areas will start from June . I really apologise to all the great , supportive and wonderful friends and fans from overseas for postponing the international distribution date from May to June due to my financial issues . But I promise CDs will be available on time . I have already ordered the prints and it will ready in a week or so ( large number of copies for international distribution ) . Thanks a million times for your patience and still supporting me . I hope I won’t let you all down . Trust me .
Ashwin : You have played for live audience, any plans to make Amogh Symphony a stage act and not just a studio project? Any upcoming shows?
Vishal : At the moment , Amogh Symphony is a studio project . I still haven’t found musicians to form a proper line-up yet . I have tried earlier to make the line-up for live but just like five fingers of a hand can never be same , it’s complicated to work with musicians of different tastes in music and songwriting . In these 5 years of existence of this project , I auditioned and also jammed with different musicians and discovered many great things . Like , a jam session between two or more musicians and a songwriting/composition session between two or more musicians are two different things . The chemistry setting between two or more composers takes lots of time and it also affects the basic or initial concept of the project and thus things never follows the plan/graph chart . Ego clashes happens a lot when it comes to progressive music songwriting and that’s what exactly happened in my previous band “Infinite Ashes” . If we give a look towards the history of progressive metal , we can see legendary progressive death/experimental/fusion bands like Atheist,Cynic etc survived for a very short time . Things worked perfectly for me in this way so I sticked to the plans.
From day one , I made it sure that everything must go according to the Graph chart and plans . I started meeting musicians with a hope to find musicians to form a line- up but things worked in a very different way . Working with clients/musician/artist friends of different genres didn’t help me to make the line-up but it helped me a lot to understand and study many genres and as a result , it upgraded and developed my playing and music composing abilities . But yes , I am still open minded with the idea to perform this project live someday , only if I get some sponsorship and a management team which require financial support .
Ashwin : From drums, santoor to guitar, you have mastered several instruments, tell us about the first time you picked up an instrument, your teachers, how it all began?
Vishal : Thanks again for your appreciation , Ashwin . I started playing drums and guitar almost at the same time . But by the time , I finished my 10th standard , I started playing the guitar more seriously . I don’t know how to play santoor but it is one of my favourite instruments . I am aware of the language and accent of santoor though . I am basically self taught . But I must tell you that my mother helped me a lot in learning scale modes . My elder brother taught me the basics of Guitar when I was 13 and when I started improvising , my father helped me to develop my solo playing ability . He was a guitarist as well . I learned to play drums by myself . When my father saw me playing the grooves , he introduced me to advanced drumming by lots of video cassettes on jazz and rock and roll drumming lessons and exercises . Piano is another favourite instrument of mine but I wish I could play it properly ( laughs ) . Also , I used to jam with different musicians everyday in the garage (I still do) . I learned innumerable things from them . This learning process never ends . I think I will keep learning till last breath . I think that’s the reason why I can never critisize an artist/band because you never know what good thing about his/her music you will learn which you never knew before .
Ashwin: Tell us about infinite ashes and what exactly happened with the band? Tell us about your bittersweet experiences with ‘Infinite Ashes’?
Vishal : I got my first big break when I joined a pune based Thrash Metal band called “Infinite Ashes” . We were four Assamese metalheads based in Pune ( except me …who used to travel from Assam to Pune To and Fro ) . I met Diganta ( Former guitarist-Infinite Ashes ) during garage jam sessions who was handling guitar for my sister’s band Touch and Tune and later he told Vedant ( Currently fronting Delhi based Death Metal band IIIrd Sovereign) who liked my drumming after audition and invited me to join his band in Pune . I am 23 now . Those were my teenage days and just like any other teenage metal musician , I was hot-headed , alcohol addicted , overly proud and an aggressive/drumkit thrashing drummer ( laughs ). We were known for our wild stage act and good originals . We made some great friends and fans in and around North East . But due to differences in ideas and ego clashes because of the hunger of more individual popularity in the band , things turned worse and after a big , ugly fight in a party , I left the band and decided to move . Rest of the members got settled in different cities and the band got disbanded . But that was one hell of an experience . Sex , Drugs and Rock and Roll . Wise man said you can never enjoy the feeling of becoming saint without experiencing the feel of wickedness .
Ashwin : Originally you were destined to become a dentist, but now you are a Sound Engineer by profession, do you have any regrets?
Vishal : Not at all . I am thankful to God and the decision . I am among few humans on this planet who always looking forward to work more in his profession even after 10-12 hours of work . There is no saturation point . Struggle requires in every field , I agree . But one must love his/her job only if he/she wants to achieve both success and satisfaction .
Ashwin: Name some of your favorite bands from India that you generally follow or inspired from?
Vishal : I liked the old indian bands and musicians a lot since I was in school . Among classics , I like Colourblind ( Ram Sampath and Siddharth Achrekar ) , Chakra-view ( Dhruv Ghanekar and T2 ) , Millennium ( Can’t forget Roberto Narain’s crazy drumming , Rio’s riffs and Vehrnon’s powerful vocals ) , Indus Creed ( Mahesh Tinaikar ) , Mojo ( Rudy Wallang ) , Chlorophyll Dreams ( Vikramjit Banerjee ) and Dorian Platonic ( Rajiv Borbhuyan ) . Among modern bands and artists , I like Avial , Eccentric Pendulum ( I recently heard their song on myspace and liked it very much) , Floyd Fernandes ( what an excellent player….words cannot describe his incredible magical fingerdance on the fretboard ) and Something Relevant .
Ashwin: What do u think as a musician and as an engineer about the music industry in India and the world in general. Mainly the metal scene.
Vishal : After completing my sound engineering , I worked as Assistant Engineer under few big people who taught me many things about music production in a technical way . Its sad but true , Artists and music producers from the mainstream music world treat sound engineers like Chefs or Cooks . The fact is , you can’t put a composer’s memory inside a mixing engineer’s head and vice versa . An artist must understand that a sound editor is not a magician who can make a remix of Kishore Da track sound like Kylie Minogue’s production . A sound engineer or designer need some space to use his / her own phonetic creativity to make a track sounding good . I hope someday our artists will understand this .
I think both Underground music and Mainstream music are pretty much same . You don’t see Underground artists or bands in your favourite music channel and you are sick of watching the music videos of the same old Mainstream artists , that’s the major difference . On the other hand , if we give a look on both , theories are same . Just because one is sell-out doesn’t mean his / her music is not good . We judge them on the basis of number of fans and supporters which is wrong . Fans also judge a band by its genre . I think if we talk more about genres , a limitation orbit occurs inside our mind and if the artists / bands are not falling under our favourite genre category , we hate them . One must atleast try to be open minded to all genres of music . Metal symbolizes a life of pride , self victory and strong attitiude …..not hatred and racism .
Fans never see or may be they never want to see or hear the truth behind the Godly image and critic supporting image of Heavy Metal bands and artists . I am in an everyday “never ending fight process” in the mainstream music world and its political issues . Being emotionally attached to metal , I cannot be harsh in metal . Sad but true , politics is existing everywhere . Even people associated with Extreme Metal scenario are no saints . That’s because every single person wants to gain more power and money than the others . They call it “support” and when things goes wrong , they won’t even talk back to you . What happened to Chuck ? Why his fans couldn’t save him by raising funds before the case turned worse ? What happened to Vitek’s family after his death ? What happened to Blaze Bayley who sang for Iron Maiden for a short time . Why he didn’t get paid and why is he broke ? Thousand questions and zero answers .
Ashwin: What’s next for Amogh Symphony and Vishal J Singh? Do you have any future projects that you’d like to share with us?
Vishal : Well , pushing towards extreme is the mantra . So I think I will work more on Amogh Symphony and hopefully after two years or may be later another new album will be released . At the moment , I am trying to make two music videos of Amogh Symphony . Those two will be singles with videos . And as I mentioned earlier , if I get proper musicians to form the line-up , I will perform live with a full fledge band . But its still a second priorty for me . I have loads of work to do in the music industry and my attempt is to make things a little better here . Experimental and Metal musicians abuses and dislikes the mainstream considering it “rotten and dirty sell out stuff” . But nobody even tries to get inside and make things clear . I hope I am doing the right thing .
At the moment , I am engaged in a couple of studio projects with different artists/clients . Apart from all , I am working with Drummer/Programmer/Instrumentalist Roberto Narain in a special project which is going to be totally live with lots of new things . I am pretty much excited about this project but I can’t say more about it right now . I met Roberto when I was searching for a drummer in Amogh Symphony . But after lots of jam and duo-composition sessions , we realized that we must form a new project . This project is something which we both never tried before in our individual musical experience .
Ashwin: Is there someone you like to thank for the emotional or may be financial support?
Vishal : I am thankful to Baba ( My God ) , my Father ( Late Jitendra Singh ) who came up with the idea and concept of Amogh Symphony , my Mother Kasturi Singh for teaching me every big and small things about music theory and for telling me to be open minded to all genres of music which really helped me in developing my music composition skills . My friend Director/Film-maker Tushar Ajgaonkar for helping me in printing the inlays and stickers for the album . And thanks to each and every friend who helped me to survive in my critical days . Last but not the least , I am thankful to all the fans from every corner of the globe for their trust and support . Its really great to see music fans still supporting unsigned bands and artists like me .
Ashwin :Any last words?
Vishal : . Thanks for this interview , Ashwin . I have only one thing to say to every music listeners on this planet.
Try not to support piracy . Buying the original stuff is definitely not a loss for any listener . Remember , every single band / artist pays a lot to make a record . Its not just money but friends , girlfriends , mother , family , wives , children , brothers , sisters etc . Sometimes they don’t pay their bills just to invest more money in the production . They perform in cheap shows to collect more funds and in the end , its upto you how you help your favourite artist / band . Free download , Rapidshare upload and letting your friends hear your favourite local or international band is NOT support . If you won’t buy the CD , then who will buy it ? Because of your free download habits , bands / artists are not getting signed by record labels and it’s a big loss for any record company to manufacture CDs . You are not going to buy them anymore . And if you still support piracy , then stop complaining about “lack of good artists these days” . YOU have to find out the good artist and help them to make more good music for you .