Pentagram, the four-member alternative/ electronic rock unit from Mumbai will perform in the Capital
Bands, no matter how well-travelled or known, are identified with their hometowns in spirit and accent. That way, Pentagram is to Mumbai, what a Parikrama or Indian Ocean is to Delhi. Formed in 1994 by Randolph, Shiraz, Papal and Vishal, it's one of the oldest bands in the country, whose growth has run parallel to the transition of the country's band scene from cover music to home-grown lyrics and influences. It's Sweet 16 now (if a rock band doesn't mind the adjective). On Thursday at 9 p.m., Pentagram will be performing at Hard Rock Café in the Capital.
For this alternative/ electronic Rock band, 2011's starting on a busy note. Their new album, “Bloodywood”, is under production. As Vishal, Pentagram's lead vocalist, informs on the phone from Mumbai, it would have released this month had a fresh burst of creativity not lead to the inclusion of new songs. “In fact, we'll be playing a lot of the new songs at Hard Rock Café as well,” he says, adding the album represents the “alternate urban culture that exists in India that doesn't get talked about so much in the media.”
It's been almost four years since Pentagram's last album, “It's Ok, It's All Good” released. There were two albums before that — “Up” (2002) and “We Are Not Listening” (1996). The band's music, according to Vishal, has been evolving with each album. “It always has… Our first album was alternative rock, our second was more electronic. Our third album was a combination of electronic and alternative rock, with lyrics that were closer to home. Now, of course, it's heavier — in that sense it's back to roots. And it's also as edgy and electronic as ever with a completely new sound,” he says.
While PentaTV on the band's website offers fans and followers a personal look at their gigs, gags and production processes, Pentagram has also formed its own events/ festivals company, Motherswear. While Motherswear was behind the NH7 Weekender festival that took place in Pune in December, what they're now waiting for is English electronic dance music group The Prodigy, which will be headlining their ‘Invasion' festival in Mumbai later this month. “It's going to be one of the biggest shows you've ever seen,” says Vishal, adding that Pendulum would also be playing a DJ set at the festival. And, of course, there's Pentagram. “So, yeah, it's going to be crazy.”
He admits that playing in Delhi is not the same as Mumbai. “Living in Delhi is quite different from living in Mumbai. Everything, from the people to the weather to the food, is quite different. So, of course, the songs are different. But I think the basic fundamental, the ethos, the urban angst, is the same,” says Vishal, who's also one half of film music composing duo Vishal-Shekhar.
With the online platform increasing in importance, and with more and more bands seeing the feasibility of providing music content on the Internet, many times for free, is it the death knell for the tangible music CD?
No, says Vishal. “Bands at this point of time are selling more CDs than mainstream records because people buy CDs at the shows; they want to keep the CD, they want to see the inlay, they want all of that. But, yes, definitely the revenue models have changed. The music business has changed,” he says. “Even the biggest bands in the world, like Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails, are giving their music for free online. I think, definitely, there is the future.”
He envisages a scenario when the middleman marches out. “People and bands will relate directly. Record labels will be eliminated and bands will make money just from the interest the music generates. Say when, for example, if somebody wants to see an Indian Ocean concert or a Pentagram concert, a sponsor will pay for that or an entity will pay for that to happen, rather than a record label charging people for the music. I think that will definitely be the future of the music industry.”
Now, going back, what's the relation between our Pentagram and the 1970s American heavy metal band of the same (considered one of the leaders in the “doom metal genre)?
Vishal clarifies, “To be honest, when we named our band we didn't know about this band. We never heard them or of them. We only heard about them many years later when we started, when I personally got into Pantera. And Pantera is listed as one of the influences of Pentagram. This must have been in 1999-2000. So, by then, we were already well-known and we'd already released an album and so on and so forth, so it was already too late to do anything about it.”