Know the Musician: Shardul Mehta

Shardul Mehta is a drummer who plays for some of the most well-known bands in the Indie circuit like Superfuzz, Joint Family, Midival Punditz, SundogProject, Still Dirty, etc.

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Birthday: January 20

Place of birth: Delhi

Hometown: Delhi

School: Modern School, Barakhamba Road

College: 1 year in DU(BSc Comp Sc) then shifted the same degree to Deakin University, Melbourne

Which was your First Band Ever?:

First ever, was arguably the school assembly where we played ‘Save Tonight’ by Eagle-Eyed Cherry. My fellow guitarist from Joint Family, Rahul Sainani was there too. Later on, we were all part of the official school band, Cyanide.

What, according to you, are you most known for?:

I guess mostly for the commercial work. It’s really hard to see what you get known for. The work is so varied and you just get known as the hired gun. “Kisi ko session karna hai to iss ko bula lo”. So maybe that’s what im known for..as the hired gun. Right now I’m known as the hired gun.

What are your current projects as of now?

Total I think about 8 projects now. There’s Joint Family, Superfuzz, SundogProject, Still Dirty, MIDIval Punditz, Grain. We do a lot of contractual work also where we form a group temporarily for the fashion week. I’ve been in the fashion week entertainment block for three years now, so we form groups temporarily. Also, the members in Joint Family, Superfuzz and all keep changing. All members of Superfuzz have played in joint family sometime or the other. All members of Superfuzz have played in joint family at some point or the other. At the end of the day, We’re just a bunch of friends who play together.

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Joint Family

Name the best and worst thing about Delhi:

Traffic, man! I get to be late for everything and then I have to be late for everything.

Which is your favourite movie?

I’m a huge sci-fi fanatic. Recently my favourite movie, oddly enough, still are the new creations of Star Trek. I am a huge Star Trek fan. I like the new remakes.

What is your favourite pastime activity?

I play games now a lot. There’s this game called Starcraft, it’s a strategy game. I’m really into that game right now. A friend of mine bought me the account after me protesting, and now I’ve become really good. He spent 5k rupees, bought me the account and said you have to play it and now I’m hooked. Now every third day when I find nothing to do I play Starcraft. I’m hooked.

Name one song you can’t stop listening to:

It changes man. There’s this band called Haelos. For the past one week or fortnight, I haven’t been able to stop listening to this band.

When did you feel you wanted to become a musician?

I don’t know, man. When I was 12-13 and I started picking up drums, man. After 2 years, like I sucked for two years. My father thought there is construction going on in my room. After  two years, when I started putting one plus one into two together on the drum kit, then I thought this is what I want to do at least even if it wasn’t going to earn me any money, I knew I would still be doing it regardless  for the rest of my life.

If 17-year-old Shardul were to write a letter to the future Shardul, what would he say?

Well….. considering the current state of the music industry, because the 17-year-old Shardul, all he wanted to do was to play music, I would say just be really really smart about it, and.. like.. basically I wouldn’t have gone and studied IT. I would have given music more of a chance in terms of a professional career, not close myself out..like..I used to only play with Joint Family.. and obviously friends.. which would be Superfuzz.. but any other band that I joined would take a backseat and I’d be like I can’t do this, I want to go back to JF and give it a full-bore for that. But then university came in and then I had to leave the country to go to Australia that is why JF ended also. I would basically just tell myself to be smart about it and do as much work as possible that time coz I didn’t … like… only in Australia did I realize that all I wanted to do was music. Because sitting in a desk job and being assistant developer somewhere was really not the thing I was looking forward to. I was like …I have to be involved in music.

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Shardul playing with Superfuzz

Which musician or musicians do you idolize?

I idolize a lot of musicians. I mean obviously, a lot of them are drummer centric, but I mean it changes..people pop up everyday..like its been Dennis Chambers…like people who are made famous right now..like Anika Nilles, you’ve got Benny Greb who’s got famous recently, you’ve got Matt Garstka, all the new cats who are popping up abroad, you have this guy Suyash Gabriel from Delhi who’s become like, a phenomenal drummer, as a pop drummer he’s amazing man. I’m like “iss bande ne meri bhi gaand faad di”. At one point, we’re just talking and then we meet and he’s shot off in a completely different direction. Abhi aage nikal gaya hai wo. Whichever drummer I meet, I find I idolize most of them like…they’re either good in their own right or their approach to what they do. Jai Row Kavi who’s from Bombay, who’s awesome, you’ve got Gino Banks, who’s again awesome for different reasons..  I mean if you see Jai and you see Gino.. Jai has learnt a lot of stuff from Gino Banks but their playing style is totally different. Jai is a lot more explosive when he plays and he’s always been like that..  I mean I’ve known him since we were doing shows, me with JF and him with PDV( Pin Drop Violence)..  and I’ve seen him being a powerhouse drummer since then. And he’s only gotten better and better and better. There are other guys too. There’s this guy Vinayak Pol..and there’s this guy named Yadu.. I don’t know his last name but he’s from Bangalore.. like.. he’s my height and goddamn, he plays well dude.. and there’s this guy named Manoj Mavely.. who basically taught all of us.. in Delhi at some point of time.. like any good drummer you find in this city.. you’ll find that this guy Manoj Mavely has taught us.. so most of the drummers I know in Delhi is because we went to classes to this guy.  So I’ve taken like 12-13 classes from Manoj.. and that has helped me throughout my drumming career.

What are your practise patterns?

Currently I’m not practising that much.. my practice involves learning songs. I basically memorize the songs I have to play beforehand. I mean I’ve played these songs a number of times but you have to keep switching your mind so just remembering everything is a pain. And most of the stuff is with some electronic equipment so you have to be bang-on all the time.

How do you start your compositions?

I don’t know man, the bands I play with right now, only one act or two acts are the people I actively compose with. The rest of the work is already done for me. I just show up and they tell me the beats of the song.. if you have anything to add, you can add, otherwise sleep on it and come back tomorrow. Still Dirty is one act I compose with when I joined the band they were very blues oriented and I liked the whole rock and roll heavy kind of style, so I imparted that so we had to rewrite some songs so I went through the entire setlist and I was like ye change karna hai they were like do whatever you want. So I made new parts for the songs so that the drumming could fit in. That and JF are the only two groups I write with. Superfuzz is one group where I’ve been given some kind of leeway but since Sanchal and Rufus are very strict in terms of songs so even if you want to add some stuff it doesn’t fit the pop set were doing. When the part is simple you think you’ll do something extra but As a drummer your purpose is to serve the composition. It does happen that we go on stage and 30% of the song is different kyunki mujhe feel aa gayi!

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Still Dirty

 

Which is your favourite time signature?

It has changed over time. Back in the day it was 7/8. Then, when I was into Dream Theater I was like bro !19/16! Which is three 16th notes at the end of a 4/4. Now, it’s pure four on the floor. Nowadays all these dance music in 4/4, it has made a cultural revolution. You hear it in all forms of music. There are 40-50 genres based on a 4/4 beat. 40 genres with same fucking beat and the drummer had nothing to do with it. So it’s a kick in the nuts for every percussionist. It’s a cultural fucking phenomenon for the past 40 years and a drummer had nothing to do with it. The power of that basic syncopation is something I really like now.

How different is sundog project different from your other projects?

Very different. I mean, I don’t compose in it, except for 1 part in ‘Witching Hour’, otherwise, everything was written by Rahul Das, from the ground up. Then, it was passed on as a complete piece of music. Even before, I worked with the MIDIval Punditz. I worked with Rahul simply because he was a part of JF.  So I knew he was a good guitarist and he was a good writer for songs and a good composer. I heard 2-3 songs from the project. And I told him, if you’re getting a drummer, I am going to be the guy. Because I reallyyyy loved the music that he wrote. When you play it in India it doesn’t translate into many people’s life.  So if there’s a crowd of 100, one person will get it. One person, it will hit in the fucking nuts! Rest have just a blank expression on their face. In the band, we had this long-standing joke that many times we keep feeding people this kind of music, very rare cases when people get it. But once they get it, they really like it. It hits them in the spinal cord zone like whoa! Trippy music bruh! It’s very different. We try to do everything live with SundogProject. So only some random bakwas noises are from the laptop or groove box or whatever. Rest of the stuff, the drumming and everything is absolutely live. It’s very strenuous. You won’t get a chance to fuck up. And if you do, it’s very apparent because the laptop doesn’t stop for you. So all the noises and backing vocals will continue and you have to keep in sync with it. It’s a tough job. We’re only getting better, as we keep doing it.

Is there any room for improvisation in SundogProject?

Yeah. We improvise a lot actually, because we’re doing all the stuff like only some basic stuff from the laptop so it’s basically a rock band. If you had a budget and we had a show we’ll get four more people instead of keeping three or four people on the stage we’d have like 8 to 9 and do like the whole Slipknot thing where percussions ke liye bhi do bande hai, issliye we’d have that but we don’t have the budget. If you or somebody said ki six lacs for a performance then I can say ki Okay! We can hire the equipment, we can pay for everybody’s travel and get them to the show wherever they have to and get 7 to 8 people on stage at the same time to do singing to play guitar to do everything ’cause right now if you watch a Sundog show it’s Rahul doing the keyboard, the guitar and singing and controlling the laptop all together so….  ek workstation laga diya uss bande ke peechhe jaise woh studio ke andar baitha hua hai and the say bass player is only handling the bass now earlier it used to be Anupam, the bass player. He would handle a lot of the bass parts a lot of the bass synth from the bass to Axe FX and stuff like that and continue to swap tones and do stuff and whatever not .But now we got to streamline the process where everybody has a main task and a side task. So I think the bass player and I are right now who continually just do our bits otherwise Rahul Sainani and Rahul Das do multiple things simply because budget is not there.

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SundogProject

If you are were to be the brand ambassador of a company which one would it be?

Ummm…I would love to say Sabian right now, but they don’t really giving endorsements. At least, not to Indians. they’re not really paying attention to the subcontinent. I tried approaching Sabian for an endorsement earlier. Even though I have leverage …like some of the commercial work I have done, but they’re still not interested in people over here, directly as a company. The distributor might be but the company itself doesn’t really mind us doing a lot of work. But musicians nowadays really are just alcohol salesmen if you noticed all the gigs are sponsored by some alcohol companies like Kingfisher. So that’s what we are basically selling at the end of the day. Even I have done a lot of commercial projects like Blender’s pride, Signature, McDowell’s. We also did Johnny Walker recently and 100 Pipers ka Play For A Cause bhi chal rha hai. We did something with that also. So far all the brands I was working with were alcohol companies. Pick one and we’re cool I won’t mind brand repping.

And if you could dictate the music industry for a day what would you ban?

What would I ban? Bacha kya hai logo ke paas karne ke liye ban kya karenge? I won’t ban anything I’d just say do whatever because people are anyway doing pretty much anything under the sun that they can. Like either earn money or do something creative and sometimes both are combined together and makes a really good effort makes a shit ton of money and that’s great. So, I won’t ban anything I’d be like just go for it man! Nowadays music industry is looking for a good business model so people who make creative music can actually live off of it, make a living out of it, and make money out of it so whatever under the sun you can figure out like right now music industry has no client service. That’s the only thing the music industry has no client servicing. Make an album and you hope to god somebody buys it! And if they buy it, great and if they don’t buy it, chalo hit nahi hua hutta do. There’s no feedback, there’s no follow up . I mean you buy SAMSUNG phones, SAMSUNG will contact you at some point and they’re doing service they’re updating your software. You have an interface with SAMSUNG as an entity there’s no interface with anybody apart from social media stuff  that is happening. So they just do some social media so that’s like an entry into client servicing that is  knowing how any product is, what people want out of your product. There’s a huge cycle which the music industry doesn’t do. I think only thing I would ban is non-sincerity. Please don’t do this as a weekend job ’cause you’re ruining it for everybody else. Every time someone is doing a weekend job they’ll do a gig for 10,000 rupees . If you just want to actually  play music, do it with an actual budget .If a great person is doing gigs for their livelihood and only this then they’ll say I won’t do this show for 10,000 rupees because it doesn’t meet their costs. But any random band which is just doing it mazze ke liye because at some point they have like a day job and they want to play music at night. It won’t be good because you would practice your ass off whole day every day of the year to be that good ’cause you have a day job. You can’t be a doctor, a psychologist or some kind of advertisement person whatever and hope that music will also come out of that calibre because you’re doing both good. You won’t be good at this or that . I mean if you spend all your time playing guitar you’ll be a fucking kickass guitar player. So that’s basically, don’t enter a job if you’re not gonna do it full time. That’s what I think should be banned.

What is your best onstage memory?

I have a few actually. Past shows with JF were really funny. A show with them was at a bar. Somebody got thrown out of the bar because he started a mosh pit pta nhi kuchh ho gya tha. There were bottles everywhere we had Amit Sehgal and Lall holding the PA because wo girne wala thha mosh pit mein. That is a fond memory of those days . Recently, also, happened with Rahul Sainani, somebody threw a bottle on stage a plastic bottle. So he’s singing the backing vocal “Sing to me cla…”doing the backing vocal and he sees the bottle coming. While he is playing his guitar, the riff, he moves a little bit off the mike kicks the bottle back to the guy who threw it and comes back to the mike without missing a single vocal line nor a beat. He’s just like kuchh hua nhi hai. The bottle is not lying on the stage mid air he caught it mid air he kicked it went back. We even have it on tape.

Then there is also another memory when we were in school. We were pretty young in Campus Rock Idols with Joint Family and Superfuzz so Clarence Gonzalves was jumping around on the stage and he fell mid-song without stopping the playing. So he fell like someone trips on a banana peel like swweeep the body goes up in the air and you fall ass first on the ground still playing his part so I mean that got us 2nd place! We got extra points for that which was really funny.

Another fun memory with JF was during Independence Rock. For the first time, we went to Mumbai to perform any show somebody screamed Rahul Sainani’s name on stage and we all heard someone screaming “Sainani Sainani” and Rahul was like Somebody knows me?!  ’cause we were like 19 and it was amazing ki koi mujhe janta hai? There was this guy screaming his name and then the guy said “Teri maa ki choot!” and then Sainani just got psyched out! He kept saying ki yeh gig bohot ganda jaayega. Usski phutt gyi thi he was on stage pehli baar Mumbai mein baja raha hai 10,000-15,000 logo ke saamne and some random guy completely punked him.

There are a lot of fond memories actually but I am not sharing them they might not be legal!

When can we expect Joint Family’s second album.

I think most probably by next year. Because we have like 4 songs which are like half complete like most of the parts are done but the vocals aren’t there and we’re basically gonna re-record everything rewrite everything and work it to the new members of the band Nikhil Rufus(Superfuzz) and Shashvat Pandit(Grammy Winning Effort). So we are going to work out everything hopefully the recordings will be done at home and all the writing will be done at home so there’ll be a lot of work.

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Hotbox(2007) was Joint Family’s first ablum

 

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