AT: When did the idea of putting together a band that does tributes not just to one band, but multiple bands come about?
Daniel Rego (guitars) : I remember discussing the idea with Hamza (Kazi, drummer) a couple of years ago - putting together a band of musicians who love the music of Porcupine Tree, to just play the material for our own satisfaction, because the music meant so much to us. This was around the time they had gone on indefinite hiatus, and it seemed like there wasn't enough Porcupine Tree in the world. This needed to be fixed.
Hamza Kazi: Daniel and I have been a part of several projects for a while now and in almost every rehearsal, he would play random riffs by Cynic or Meshuggah or Porcupine Tree (PT) or A Perfect Circle and I’d join in. It was meant to be just that until he seriously considered doing a proper PT tribute. Once we decided to do the PT tribute, we realised that we had other common influences. They also happen to be bands that everybody loves but nobody seems to pay tributes to. We took it up, almost like a challenge, to be a band that’ll do justice to not one but multiple bands that have made us who we are.
Rohan Rajadhyaksha (vocals, keyboard): I just got a call for Hamza one day asking me if I'd like to do something like this, and I said yeah, sure. From my point of view, it forces me to learn the material of a bunch of different artists/bands that I respect and helps me grow as a musician, singer and writer in that way.
AT: Why specifically did you choose to cover Porcupine Tree, and later Radiohead?
Daniel: Every one of us in the band is a huge Porcupine Tree fan, to begin with. We grew up on these albums, and they've been instrumental to our development as musicians in some way or the other. The idea to also work with Radiohead's music came as a natural progression to this, since that was the other shared influence that we all have.
Veljon Noronha (guitars): Growing up, one of the most influential bands, sonically and production wise, was PT. You can say it was my first intro to progressive music that I really fell in love with. Later came Radiohead, another monster of a band. PT made sense to be done first since we have grown up with those songs for so long, they hold a special place for me.
Hamza: It started off with us just wanting to do a PT tribute. However, during some random conversation with Daniel, he mentioned how he was a huge Radiohead fan (which came as a surprise to me) and I thought it would be cool to get the same PT band to pay tribute to our other major influences. Also, I remember Ashwin (Sharma, band manager) saying “So why don’t you guys do a Radiohead tribute also?” but I can’t seem to place when that happened.
AT: How did you go about recruiting band members for this project?
Daniel: Hamza was the first person I spoke to about the original idea, there's no one else I know who'd do a better Gavin Harrison impression on the drum kit. Hamza, Aditya Kadam (bass) and I work together on a lot of session and freelance live projects, so we didn't even have to think about who'd play bass. Near the end of 2014, we played a cover gig with Rohan Rajadhyaksha and really liked his voice, versatility and keyboard playing, and we knew we had to have him onboard. Aditya and I have known Veljon Noronha through other live projects, and he's also one of the biggest Porcupine Tree fans I know, so that was another easy decision.
Hamza: If I remember correctly, Daniel, Kadam and I were part of a PRS Guitar Workshop at Furtados, sometime in early 2013. During one of our rehearsals we were fooling around with ‘The Sound of Muzak’ and Daniel suggested that we should do a PT tribute. I agreed instantly but couldn’t imagine learning 15 PT songs and hence never brought it up (It would take Daniel probably a couple of days to learn them). Later when the three of us started playing for Jonita Gandhi and Armaan Malik, we’d regularly discuss this at jams and gave it a serious thought but put it on the backburner again for the lack of a vocalist who could pull this off. That was until we played a New Year’s gig with Rohan. I remember telling Dan, “Dude… he’s the guy!” without even knowing whether he liked PT. Finally, Kadam recommended Veljon, as the biggest PT fan, and he seemed to be a perfect fit, cause not only does he look like Daniel but they both use PRS guitars, which also happened to be the brand that PT uses (laughs).
AT: There's obviously a difference between being a cover band and being a tribute band - what is the difference, according to you?
Daniel: One way to look at it is that we aren't just doing this to make a quick buck or entertain some people on a Saturday night in a club. No disrespect to that line of work in any way - we've all done it and still do, from time to time, and it's a basic reality of making a living as a full-time musician, for most part. But with this project, it's all about our love for Porcupine Tree, and the main reward for all of us is just how much we enjoy playing these songs together. We just had our first jam in a proper rehearsal space - Benchmark Studios in Thane - yesterday, and you just had to see the smiles on our faces. We just love doing this.
Hamza: Anybody who’s seen us perform can tell how we’re clearly influenced by them. In return, we decided to pay tribute to these legends by learning to play their songs but also adding a bit of our identity to them. I’m sure when you see Daniel play Steven’s solo in ‘The Sound of Muzak’, you’ll be able to tell it’s the exact same solo but played by Daniel Kenneth Rego, which I think is a really cool thing.
AT: I heard that the next Fake Plastic Friends gig will be a Radiohead tribute, sometime in June? What other plans are on for this project?
Hamza: Rumour alert! We’re playing a PT tribute in Pune on June 16th. Radiohead will definitely happen but we’ve got a lot of work to do before that. Sonically speaking, Radiohead is a band that’s more difficult to cover than PT. So yeah, it’s on the cards but not any time soon. We might actually consider doing a couple of other tributes before Radiohead and here’s the best part… all those bands that we’re considering happen to be in your favourite band list (laughs).
Rohan: Haha any sort of announcement on that front will be preceded by a few jams to see if we can actually do justice to Radiohead's material. Depending on how this goes, let's see!
AT: What is your setlist going to be like?
Veljon: Song-wise, I believe we have selected a good mix of the songs you would want to hear at a PT tribute and songs of our choices which aren't that well known.
Hamza: It’s a 100 minute set. We don’t want to give the setlist away but here’s an insider tip, we’re playing five songs from Deadwing, three from In Absentia, two songs each from The Incident, Fear of a Blank Planet and Lightbulb Sun, one each from Nil Recurring and Stupid Dream and a couple of obscure songs. Let the homework begin.
Rohan: Way too many songs for me to learn the lyrics of! (laughs) It's a long set, with close to 20 songs but that allows us to do not just the hits, but some of the more obscure songs we connect with.
AT: I remember your screenshot of messaging Gavin Harrison but getting a reply saying he didn't have the charts for ‘Fear of a Blank Planet’ - how did you manage?
Hamza: So the funny thing is that the reason I can play the middle section of ‘Halo’, is because, way back in 2008, I’d written to him on Drummerworld and he was awesome enough to actually write it out, scan and upload the thing for me! I’ve got his Rhythmic Compositions book which helped me figure out some of his signature rolls and a few of the complicated patterns. For FOABP, I just had to sit down, slow the song down, count, then tab it out and learn how to play it (laughs). Watching live videos of PT helped but he makes the patterns more complicated, live, so I was actually depressed for a while. But yeah, eventually, I think I’ve got most of it down.
Fake Plastic Friends perform at Hard Rock Café Andheri on May 26, 2016.
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