Bombay Showcase

Raving and runting

“I try to do something musical every day. Right now, Runt is helping me do that. I can’t justsit around and wait for music to come to me. I need to make music all the f**king time.”  

He’s the runt of the litter. Or at least he used to be. “This runt has kind of grown up,” laughs Siddharth Basrur. But he still connects with the underdog, so the name just sort of stuck. Runt is what he’s calling his new solo project, the latest in a conveyor belt of bands and solo things that Basrur — a well-established singer in the indie rock and commercial space — has been involved in over the past few years. Scribe, Goddess Gagged, Last Remaining Light, Library (a band that hasn’t released anything yet), Siddharth Basrur the acoustic, mellow singer-songwriter, a host of collaborations, playback singing for Bollywood films, advertising jingles: it’s a long list. He’s got a problem, he admits. “I’m trying to minimise that. I’m not actively pursuing anything [more].” His existing bands are also moving along at a leisurely pace or are on hold.

Unlike all his other ventures, Runt is entirely his baby; it’s the first time he’s written everything for an album all on his own (with Aditya Ashok, a.k.a. Oy7gen, playing drums on the recordings). Adhiraj Singh from Pune-based band Noiseware will mix the record, with Vishal J. Singh mastering. “It’s going to remain a solo project for all intents and purposes. I needed an alter ego to release this stuff.”

Basrur has composed the vocal melodies, the guitar parts, the bass parts, even programmed the original drum sections. Writing on his own was a challenge, but one he enjoyed greatly: “It’s tough, but it’s liberating. You know you’ve put everything into it; you’ve done it all on your own. It’s that feeling of accomplishment. I don’t care if it’s sh*t; it’s my sh*t.”

It began around a year-and-a-half ago, stemming from a desire to write alone, “Early-2015, or late-2014 maybe, is when I started writing just the riffs.” Plus, he was getting tired of sitting around and waiting for people in all his other bands — most of whom are also full-time musicians — to get free from their hectic schedules.

He’s finished 10 songs already, but the EP, tentatively called Cunning — thanks to a joke too graphic to repeat here (something about smart dwarves and track teams…) — will only feature the latter, peppier five songs. The original five, he tells me, are far darker in spirit and he’ll release them separately at a different time.

The bass, vocals and drums have already been tracked. He’s still wondering whether to head to a studio or record the guitars on his own, but that’ll happen only once he’s back from Dubai, where he’s going to visit his niece for the first time.

Cunning should be ready for release by early July, he says, but adds a crucial caveat: “You know how these things work. You plan something, and then you give a month’s buffer.”

Basrur describes the music as a bit of a goulash. “I don’t even know what to call it. Let’s just say it’s alt-rock, for lack of a better genre.”

He’s been discovering a lot of music from the late ’90s and early 2000s, which forms the basis of the sound he’s aiming at.

Based on the home-recorded scratch demos he’s sent me, the songs have a feverish urgency to them, jumping from open grungy bits to progressive sections, and straight up garage rock every now and then.

There’s a faint sense of pride, understandably so, as he tells me about the proggy guitar parts that he’s written: one in 11/8 and another in a 19/8 time (or 19/16?), a not-common-at-all time signature for western music to be composed in. He’d toyed with the idea of releasing the whole thing as a dirty home recording at first, but then thought better of it. “Come on, man; I’m turning 35. How long will I keep doing that?”

Given how prolific he tends to be with his output, there’s a temptation to wonder about Basrur’s creative resources and ability to constantly shuffle between styles and sounds.

He’s had a difficult past, one where he dabbled in heavy drug use at an early age. He’s been sober for over 13 years: “It’ll be 14 this November.” So it’s easy to find a connection between his output and maybe a predisposition toward obsession. “It’s totally there,” he says. “What I learned in rehab is that the reason we do something so heavily is because we have an addictive personality. If we remove the drugs, and focus on something that makes us happy, it’s a good kind of addiction.”

That sounds, to uninformed ears, like an oxymoron; is there such a thing as a ‘good addiction’? “There is, definitely. I’m a living example of it.”

He’s dedicated himself to music, and he tells me how he’s constantly trying to write. “I love my work. This is what people do: they get up and they go to work. I try to do something musical every day. Right now, Runt is helping me do that. I can’t just sit around and wait for music to come to me. I need to make music all the f**king time.”

The commitment to his craft is something that helps him approach his day job — relinquishing control and singing already-composed songs for jingles and films — with optimism and freshness. It might be what sustains him financially, but there’s no demarcation; he doesn’t like to separate his ‘creative’ endeavours from his so-called professional ones.

“It’s very natural. I go for a jingle or film song, and I know it’s not my song. Some of the music directors, producers, and composers are very cool, but some are super control freaks. When a guy tells me I should curve my lips in a certain way [during a song], he obviously has something in mind. I’m not going to learn anything if I think he’s an idiot. Intelligence isn’t about how much you can read or something; it’s about learning how to adapt. If I look at it any differently, then I’ll take less pride in what I do. I try to make it my own. I try to give my heart and soul for everything I do. Okay, 90 per cent of the things I do.”

The writer is a freelance journalist

Is there such a thing as a ‘good addiction’? “There is, definitely. I’m a living example of it.”

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Printable version | Apr 23, 2021 6:41:08 AM |

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