Long hair. Tattoos. Police records. Rock n' roll. Rockstars. Chennai.
Yeah, admittedly, Chennai does seem like the last place to harbour, let alone breed, rock stars. The Thomas brothers — Arjun and Ameeth — have lived life on the edge — on their own terms.
While many rock musicians settle for regular jobs to fit in, these guys are comfortable in their own skin, standing out from the crowd. But then, Ravi Thomas, the father — is the dude himself. He had played Jesus in ‘Jesus Christ Superstar' when it opened first in the Madras of the seventies. Arjun went on to reprise the role a generation later.
“We couldn't have asked for cooler parents,” says Arjun Thomas, RJ with Chennai Live 104.8 FM, frontman for Molotov Cocktail (formed in 1999) and manager for his brother Ameeth Thomas' band Junkyard Groove.
“They said whatever you do, do it in front of us. So that we know what you are up to,” adds Arjun.
Arjun dreamt about singing all his life, failed his exams, sang at funeral processions for money before he found a job that let him be close to what he loves most — music. And, he still makes sure his band Molotov Cocktail performs at least once a month. “We are one of the most versatile bands in the country — we can perform anything from Sinatra to say, Pantera. Hey, that rhymes,” he smiles.
Ameeth and his band Junkyard Groove (formed in 2005) played at Desert Rock, Dubai, 2007, with bands including Iron Maiden, Incubus, Prodigy, Led Zeppelin and also opened for Megadeth and Machinehead in Bangalore for the Rock in India festival.
“It was so cool to be there with Prodigy and Incubus, just chilling and having a drink,” grins Ameeth who also launched his solo single ‘Movie' over the internet earlier this month. He made a quick $300 within the first two weeks of putting it online. “For me, the band comes first. I don't want to take up any job any more. I did that once and realised I wasn't cut out for it.” He used to do somersaults at work, literally.
Growing up together
“We never used to talk to each other,” says Ameeth. “We used to fight,” adds Arjun.
“We didn't have a swimming pool, so I opened the overhead water tank and jumped in. I used to bully him a lot. But when Ameeth loses his temper, he goes mad. I have to go hide because he throws anything he finds.”
Recalls Arjun: “Ameeth took my air rifle and was playing with it and shot his best friend by accident. The guy had to be hospitalised and Ameeth was arrested.” The case went on for three years.
Being the older one, Arjun was the first to take to the stage. After college, he got a gig at Hotel Park Sheraton and learnt sound engineering at SAE. He kept himself busy with music, managing bands, sounds and lights, worked with Paul Jacob and even worked as a creative director for a publishing house and launched a Book Monster Club and worked on audio CDs for children's books.
“I wanted to be a leg-spinner like Shane Warne but had to give up sport because of a back problem. Because of Arjun, I started listening to rock,” Ameeth begins his story.
“He was creative,” Arjun adds. “So he wrote his own songs. I don't know how. He has never read in his life and he's very bad at spellings. If I was bad at studies, he was a notch lower than me. His writing is a gift.”
Ameeth continues: “I got guys who actually wanted to play. For us, Junkyard comes first.”
Unlike Molotov Cocktail, Junkyard does not play covers. “If you are calling Junkyard Groove, you get Junkyard Groove's music. If you want Aerosmith, call them,” laughs Ameeth, who also is now rather tired listening to classic rock, having watched Arjun perform a thousand times.
Does this rock star attitude come naturally?
“It's not like I behave like this because I have to be a rock star,” says Arjun. “What you see is what you get. Ameeth can pick up a conversation with a stranger and talk for four hours. I wear colourful hairbands and some people call it gay, but that's me. I wear that because I know I am not gay. I don't care. Everybody has got something original about them.”