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|May 20, 1997||
Every Mother's NightmareWendy J Bisht in New Delhi
Some things never change. I take in the blue jeans, tumbled hair, love beads, the whole gamut that is Every Mother's Nightmare and
"When we started our first group, Kramash, in 1995, all we had was a small amp (amplifier), a broken guitar, a broken drum set, a ketli and no money," says Ankur, with the precision of a quartermaster totting up troop supplies. "We still have no money," breaks in one of the others.
In June, 1996, the quartet broke away from Kramash to form Every Mother's Nightmare. Sheesh! What a name. The explanations tumble over one another.
"No, there's no special significance, we chose the name at random."
"But we wanted the word `mother' somewhere in it," says Arunabh, the wide-eyed innocent.
"Yeah. We started with Mother India, but that didn't sound right, so we went to Mother Dairy and then we started searching in all the big thick books we could find. We even went through a medical dictionary," says Ankur, coolly flippant.
"And then we thought, Every Mother's Nightmare does have a certain something to it and... that was it."
And are they -- every mother's nightmare, that is?
Amit, who played bass for five months, till Sameer joined the group, has been playing for a long time, "I bought my first guitar when I was in class six." Obviously, his mother has had time to adjust.
Arunabh, on the other hand, feels sorry for his mother, "It was a nightmare for her, especially when my exams came around." He's only just finished high school and, since the board examination does stranger things to parents than to their offspring, that's understandable.
"As long as you know what you are doing," say Ankur's parents. No doubt, their philosophical attitude comes from experience. "When I was in school in Poland," says Ankur, "music was compulsory. I took up the piano and left it in a hurry. Then I tried the strings, with not much luck. The sax was as bad. So I went on to the trumpet and then, in desperation, the xylophone. One day I sat at the drumset, it sounded nice," he finishes.
Vikrant's father would like to see him involved in the family business but his mother, a singer who has featured on All India Radio, is happy to see her son following his Muse. Likewise in Sameer's case, "My mom is a classical singer. My brother used to play the guitar. I started with playing the tabla, before I chucked it for the bass guitar."
Their big break came eight months down the line -- a surprise that wowed them with all the finesse of a sledge hammer. They were invited to feature on MTV. "A Talk With Evil on MTV just happened." It made them more visible. Musicians called to congratulate them and rap about music; equally gratifying were calls from friends and fans who had caught them on the tube.
They also went the usual route with rock concerts in the university; in fact, they still perform at college festivals. But all the world's a stage and they attracted enough notice to sign up a couple of roadshows in their earlier avatar as Kramash. In May 1996, they performed as the opening band for Gravy Train and Nirvana outside Priya Cinema, at Appu Ghar, Saket, Rajouri Garden and Model Town (all in Delhi).
"We wanted the publicity. They don't let you get into show business so easily. We don't charge too much, not like some bands we know. In fact, we even had to pay to perform as an opening band for Nirvana, can you believe it?" says Vikrant, who doubles up as the vocalist and the band's manager.
It can be a rocky business, he's discovered, what with late payments, no payments and unscrupulous organisers. They are particularly sore about competing in and winning a rock competition held at Jesus and Mary College, December last. It gave them a high, plenty of thundering applause and a neatly calligraphed certificate but not a sou of the promised prize money. Ensuring that organisers live up to their word takes not a little haggling and heck of a lot of follow through.
And what of the audience -- are they uncomfortable with all this sound and fury that signifies something, but for the life of them they can't tell what? "Delhi is bad," they mourn. "India is bad enough but, if we had to choose between east, west, north and south, we couldn't have picked a worse place. It's a 90 per cent pop crowd. They'll turn out full strength to watch a Daler Mehndi, but they can't begin to understand rock."
Yet, there is a core of rock afficionados in the capital who form the last bastion for this and other beleaguered bands. There is even a rather modest tradition of rock. "Gravy Train was good. Parikrama is a good band... in general, there are good musicians in Delhi," they agree.
Much as they would like to give a completely virtuoso performance, they can't afford to leave out the crowd pleasers. Originality doesn't pay with an undiscerning audience. So, they serve up a mix that suits the conventional palate. And there lies the acid test. Can they cope well enough to stick it out as a band or will this heady start soon be a fading leaf in a schoolboy album?
"When the crowd doesn't want your music, it depends on how well you can cope," says Sameer earnestly.
"We try to get a total feel of audience expectation. We are playing heavy metal and, sometimes, it's an advantage. We use Hotel California as a plank to take off into self comps or we use a trash version of Smokey's Alice -- the crowd loves it," explains Vikrant.
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