With the release of their new album Snow White and the Seven Bungalows, Bombay Black are back in the game, something they started working towards in March 2015 with their first reunion gig in 10 years. The seven-track album itself is a weird, almost unpredictable trip, going from funky grooves to all out club-banger electronica. In addition to the core members Samrat Bharadwaj (Audio Pervert, Teddy Boy Kill), Paresh Kamath (Kailasa, Hipnotribe) and Randolph Correia (Shaa’ir and Func, Pentagram), the album’s collaborators also includes drummer Lindsay D’Mello, bassist Jaideep Thirumalai, drummer Vibhas Rahul, multi-instrumentalist composer Abhijit Nalani, bassist Naresh Kamath and guitarist Tyrone Fernandes.
You can buy the album on OKListen.
Anurag Tagat: What was it like getting back together with friends and bandmates that you've know for decades?
Samrat B: It was crazy. It was January 2015 and we were all together and it was complete accident. The need, which is a loaded word, was felt. It wasn’t planned. We all felt it was 15 years, which is an era of sorts, to make music together and be as we were in 1999.
Randolph Correia: It’s not like we’ve been meeting after a long time. We meet all the time. It’s just that one day Naresh and I were hanging and I said, ‘Dude, we keep meeting for drinks and joints and stuff, why not just jam at the same time and get the most out of ourselves. We were doing nothing with that high. Back in the day, we used to get high and jam. Anyone who’s a musician knows what that’s like. So it was fun getting back into the jam room. Samrat was here in Mumbai for a while. Paresh and Naresh used to meet at my place and Naresh’s place.
Paresh Kamath: It was fun all the way. After the jamming process, it did become a little bit of a producer thing, i.e. One person mainly finishing the song. Playing with the guys once we started giggling again was a little new. We had to forget we were friends and concentrate on making a live set. But that took a day. We recorded ourselves at rehearsal and then heard it back and it was like "Ok maybe I shouldn't be singing it like that...hey, you keep forgetting that part...etc"...then it was all business!
AT: What was the recording and composing process like for this album?
Samrat: We wrote many tunes, and had a few intense jam sessions which got recorded at Randolph’s home studio. Further, we scattered in different directions, in Spain, Holland and France and some of the boys being in Bombay, Over the next 6-8 months a lot of the tunes were trashed and what finally emerged were certain tunes which we all had a go with - most of the songs feature all of us in various roles - a lot of the work was back and forth online.
Randolph: I think for the most part, it’s just begun. A lot of madness is yet to come. Right now, we’re just testing the waters. We’ve been trying out what we can do and it’s more of an experimental phase right now. It’s fun. Late last year, sometime around October was when it started moving full swing. But there’s still a long wat to go. Right now, it’s one album – but we could put out 10 albums this year, you know? It doesn’t matter. It’s a process that we can keep going. It’s a lot more important for us and the audience to stay in a zone like this, rather than do… because we’ve all been in other bands and we’ve done songwriting and arrangements and all that. We have our ‘pop’ sets where we play a song and people clap, then we play another song and people clap. Format wise, we’re also looking at a lot of different ideas.
AT: How have the first line of gigs gone so far, after the release of Boing Boing? What is the most noticeable change from back in 1999 to now?
Samrat: The Mumbai gig at Blue Frog was quiet mad. it was a potboiler of sorts. A bit chaotic too. Personally, I love the results more than the effect. For the change from 1999 till now – that’s a mad story by itself. Everyone involved in Bombay Black has had tumultuous if not blazing careers in music - We all digressed into various fields, genres and works yet remaining independent in our bands, projects, collaborations and works. Some went into the hit-making machine of Bollywood, while some strived for an indie rock scene while others opted for electronic music and the technical side of sound engineering.
Paresh: The gigs have been going well...getting better with each one. We're still building up the set, adding a couple of songs with each gig. By the time October comes around, this shit will be cooking!
The difference between '99 and now is negligible. The main difference being how people access your music... there was no social media and YouTube then for example. Back then things were a lot to do with word of mouth... Street cred taking precedence over say the number of likes your fan page has received. But eventually the proof is in the pudding, people see you live and if you ain't got it, no amount of hype helps.
AT: What was shooting the video for ‘Boing Boing’ like?
Randolph: That was actually hilarious. That was the most fun I’ve ever had. It was literally like ‘What the fuck are we doing man?’ I think the lovely part of it was that it felt like we were thrown into something 20 years ago, by doing our first music video. That was sweet, you know? Everyone was not being serious for even a second. The director knew what she wanted – it looked like she wanted to relive a fantasy in her video, tie us all up and do all this nasty shit. We were just getting high in the green room. It was a blast.
AT: Bombay Black has always been collaborative, even with earlier material - does it never feel like having too many people can dilute the sound?
Samrat: Sure, many people can dilute a sound or idea. Yet in Bombay Black since the chemistry is matured over the years. The three main, producers Paresh, Randolph and myself worked with all the featured members on very specific ideas and roles. That way the songs remained producer driven with a stunning line up of percussions, drums, bass and keyboards.
Paresh: Well, the songs are quite different from each other on the album owing to the fact that three different producers with different sensibilities worked on them separately. But that's how Bombay Black always was. I think it's cooler that way rather than, say, three producers working on one song. That way compromises creep in… "I would've had the bass down by two dbs at least" kind of thing. Here we produce and share and critique all the way up to mix time, so it's never one way traffic or too many cooks.
AT: There's an overarching sense of this sexual lyricism in the songs that do have vocals. Where does that influence originate?
Paresh: The sexual influence? Well, it's all around us right? We are sexual beings, yet very few songs deal with sex here in India. We tend to be a little prudish about it. Writing prosaic romantic lyrics was never my forte. I'm just expressing whatever I feel at the time I'm writing. Having said that, I fear I'm turning into a dirty old man!
AT: What is a regular Bombay Black set like?
Randolph: It’s divided into three sections – one part is a funk jam, another is more of an electronic, drum and bass rendition by either me or Samrat. We’re still in that festival set of 45 minutes to an hour, so it hasn’t got to that two-hour state where it would take us half an hour to warm up. For now, it’s just nice to divide the band and let them do whatever they are experts at. But it’s still evolving. We’re just having fun with the idea – mixing and matching. Almost all of us play different instruments, produce music so we figure out who does what.
ÄT: There's going to be a remix album that's out in April/May - how is it coming along so far? Which producer's remix are you most looking forward to?
Samrat: Some of the remixes are blazing! I would say that some of them are better than the originals. Most of them are done – Madboy/Mink, FuzzCulture and Frame/Frame are some of the known names - yet the remix of ‘Aphrodisia’ by Shantam is whack! Modular synthesis over the top.
Paresh: I second that. Shantam has killed it with his ‘Aphrodisia’ remix!