Every faculty members at Taaqademy is a world-class musician in their own right. The majority of them are actively gigging musicians with their own projects, and put out original music on a regular basis. Most recently, we saw one of our longest-serving guitar faculty members and producer Biswajit Misra release an EP from his solo project Despite Earth called Apotheosis.
We spoke to Biswajit last week ahead of Apotheosis’ highly anticipated release to find out how he started playing guitar, what it’s like to work at a music school like Taaqademy while also being a musician, and the creative processes through which he conceptualised and wrote his EP.
Note: The interview below has been edited for clarity.
Q. Tell me how you started playing guitar, how long you’ve been playing and what kind of genres you like.
B: I started playing around 11-12 years back during my first year in college. A couple of friends of mine were forming a band and they were looking for a vocalist. I used to be just a fan of music and singing all the time. I had a big list of songs on my MP3 player on those days. They were like, “this guy can probably sing a bit, let’s just get him.” I was the vocalist of that band for some time before I quickly realised one of the guitarists couldn’t really keep up with the songs we wanted to play. So I was like, “yeah, I’ll just learn guitar!”
Q. What is it like being a musician who also works at Taaqademy? Do you find that your work helps you with your music and vice versa?
B: It depends. Working in Taaqademy has helped me, even if not directly with my own writing and music. I was a hobbyist before, and all of my friends who I played with were also hobbyists. Getting to a place where you’re surrounded by amazing musicians and run by people like Bruce and Rajeev who are still at it after so many years… it’s just inspiring to be around these people. I think that’s the most important thing. There are so many amazing musicians you meet and talk to everyday that you go back home inspired to get better at your craft.
Q. Do you have any tips or advice for how to manage to balance between work, music and everything else that you do?
B: It gets difficult, definitely. The only way to get around that is to not wait for that free hour or two where you can practise in peace that might or might not happen everyday. Whenever you have 15-20 minutes, it’s better to just pick up your guitar and practice. If you do that throughout the day, by the end of the day you’ve at least done something.
Q. Can you tell me about your creative process? Do you like working alone, or with other people around? B: That actually depends. Initially, I had always been part of bands and working with other people. It was always a collaborative effort and reacting to what somebody else comes up with, and you add something, and another person adds something else. After college I moved out and I was alone but I still wanted to write songs, that was always my thing. So I got into learning about production and getting the hang of DAWs, software, learning how to record myself and producing songs.
It was definitely a challenge to write by myself without any help, but I’m happy that I was able to finish quite a few songs. Then I fell in love with writing alone. When you understand that you can do this alone, it’s an amazing thing because you’ve got everything at your disposal now. It’s become accessible for anyone with an interface and a software to start making music. I still like playing and writing with like-minded musicians, but if not, I still love writing alone.
Q. You initially released a single called 'Akrasia' with your solo project Despite Earth before the release of the full EP. How was your experience writing that song?
B: That song is interesting. I play modern progressive metal which uses a lot of downtuned guitars. After a point, your 6-string (guitar) doesn’t really work and you can’t really get fatter strings, so you have to buy a guitar that can hold that tuning. I got a 7-string guitar and started messing around with new tunings. There’s a D-A-D-G-A-D tuning that Led Zeppelin and a lot of older guys used, so this is like a 7-string version of that tuning which some modern bands like Monuments and Tesseract use. I got inspired and tuned my guitar to that tuning and started writing. I was in a flow state and finished this song in one afternoon. After that it was just about working on the drums and finishing the song up. So the song kind of just wrote itself!
Q. What was the process of putting your EP 'Apotheosis' together and working with the other musicians involved like?
B: This is a project called Despite Earth that started off as me wanting to write my own music and then trying to get a band together to play that music. I haven’t been able to get a band together till now, but I collaborated with an amazing drummer called Sange Wangchuk, who’s actually an ex-Taaqademy faculty. He’s a friend of mine and we love writing together—we even have the same tastes. I usually make a basic drum part and then he comes in, and we pull all-nighters to sit and work on it. It was great working with him. These songs are very guitar-centric because it’s modern progressive metal.
Q. What are your opinions on the metal and rock scene in Bangalore and India in general? Do you think they’re still as popular as ever or have they been overtaken by other genres?
B: I don’t think metal was ever that popular. It’s never been a mainstream genre, maybe now with YouTube and the internet it’s become a little more popular, but it’s always been an underground genre. It is a niche kind of music that not everybody is into, but I feel nowadays that a lot of people are into it. I meet new musicians all the time and I see a lot of people playing progressive metal and playing with bands who play this kind of music. I see it definitely growing in India and Bangalore because there are a lot of bands who are now doing the same.
Q. Since you’ve been at Taaqademy for a while, you’ve seen a lot of the talent that we have and students who go on to start their own projects. What do you think the future of music will be like in Bangalore and India?
B: I think it’s going to be great, actually. There’s a lot of new festivals coming into India, and a lot of people I know are playing gigs around the country, touring, and basically killing it! So I feel like the next few years will be great and a lot of opportunities will come for new musicians.
Apotheosis is now streaming on all platforms—be sure to check it out! Here's Despite Earth's Spotify profile:
You can also watch Biswajit's fabulous playthrough of his song Akrasia here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oMOVHJQSfPc