Parikrama upbeat about first Russia trip

Rock and roll band Parikrama. Source: Alexander Tomas

Rock and roll band Parikrama. Source: Alexander Tomas

Ahead of their first ever concert in St Petersburg, two members of the Indian rock band spoke to RIR about their career and expectations of Russia.

Delhi-based rock and roll band Parikrama (orbital revolutions in Sanskrit) has been on the Indian scene since 1991. On the Russian Orthodox Christmas Day, January 7, they performed at St Petersburg’s Cosmonaut club. A RIR reporter caught up with Subir Malik (organist) and Nitin Malik (lead vocalist) for a candid interview.

Have you ever been to Russia before and what do you know about Russia?

S.M. - No, we have not been but trust us we are very very very very very excited. I have heard about Saint Petersburg a lot. It is one of the most beautiful places on earth. When I told the band about our trip and everybody was excited because you know we have been, not, I will not say everywhere, but we have been to the US, Canada, Indonesia, UK, we did a 25-day tot there and you know we have been at Laos, Vietnam, Bhutan, Nepal, nearby, everywhere we have been and Africa, Ethiopia, Lagos but Russia we have never been to. So it is really really very exciting for us. So that's it, we are really really looking forward to this one.

N.M. - Well, I think the most important thing I probably know about Russia is of the (Battle of) Stalingrad. It is one of the biggest factors in putting an end to the Second World War. Literally the end of Hitler is when Russia took Berlin... and the fact that it is very cold there, the fact that the Kremlin is one of the beautiful marvels of architecture in the whole world and it is snows quite a lot.

Parikrama has been around for about 22 years. Have Indian people, Indian rock fans changed?

N.M. - Yeah definitely, definitely changed. In fact rock music has changed. The whole concept of music itself has changed and it is all thanks to the internet in one way or the other. Thanks to the internet, and I do not know about Russia, but in India, earlier there were no authorised showrooms of any imported musical instruments. So if anyone wanted to buy a really good Ibanez or a Les Paul or any other guitar or a drum guitar or anything, one would have to get it from Singapore but now you have authorised showrooms in every nook and corner on every street and the internet gives you access to hundreds and thousands of different genres of music. You can just listen to anything and decide whether you like it or not. You discover new music which you never knew existed. I have fallen in love with opera and the progressive opera like rock opera. I did not even know that there is something called rock opera which existed.

You don’t do CDs. Why?

S.M. - Yes, see we basically never believe in the concept of albums as such because of the simple reason that that involves money and selling. We have never sold our music, we have never sold our t-shirt, we have never sold our anything. We have always given our fans whatever we could including a CD that we made that was a CD plus with videos and audios. We gave out of about 70000-80000 of those CDs free over five years. We have never charged our fans for anything because we get paid by the organisers.

See the concept was in 1995 and we released our first song on the internet. The internet was still coming into India and we actually sat and calculated that the percentage of Indians speaking in English was under 4 percent that time way back. Out of them how many listen to music and then listen to English music, then rock music, then rock music by an Indian band which was not a very cool thing to do way back then, was almost negligible.

Source: Alexander Tomas

So we realised our market is 0.00001 percent, that time I am talking about, 16-17 years back. So we said instead of coming out with the CD and selling it for 500 rupees and be happy that our 1000 CDs got sold or 5000 got sold, it does not make sense. So what we did was we came up with a plan. We gave out our music for free and people will like it and then they will call us for concerts and we will make our money there. So that is what the concept we followed since 1995 and we are still doing that. Now we have got very used to it. So we do not want to be always feel happy in saying that come and download.

Why don’t you perform in Hindi?

S.M. - See again, when we started in 1991, I will tell you the reason Parikrama was started. See as I told you, I was supposed to join my family business and that was motor spare parts in 1991 and I was playing bass guitar in a lot of other bands before, but a lot of bands that I was playing lately in 1989-1990, early 1991 were not doing classic rock and I wanted to play as I told you Floyd, Zeppelin, Deep Purple, The Doors, Rush, I wanted to really play that kind of music before I say bye to music forever.

The thing was that the day I joined my family business, I will not touch my bass guitar for life. That was what was kind of the plan. So then I found this band playing in IIT in Kanpur, one of the places in India and I approached them and I said, “There is just four-five months left and let's, you know I want to just join you and let's just play some classic rock before I say bye bye to music.” So Parikrama was actually formed for our love to play the bands that we have grown up listening to. So I played in other band in which we did a couple of Hindi stuff also stuff like that but the thing was that the purpose of Parikrama was to play Floyd and Zeppelin and our kind of music and you know we decided a lot of things before the band started like no one touches a drop of liquor before going on stage, not even a sip of beer, we do not do it and we have followed it for 22 years. You know things like wherever you reach, keep your feet on the ground because I have played lot of bands and I had seen lot of people semi-destruct by things going into the head and the day it goes to your head, it is what I call the beginning of the end. So you know we had a lot of meetings and brainstorming before even the first practice session or like the thing was that one of the big concept was that we will never make Parikrama a career. It will always be a passion and it is still.

So it is not really a full earnings source for most of the members now. Couple of people did a lot of things, now like Nitin, the singer, now he earns only from Parikrama but most of us like the drummer, the base guitar player or me or everybody, we are doing a lot of other things. The reason was that in off-season, then pressure comes that if you are not anything else and then you say oh okay, let's do Bollywood, let's do this music, let's do that music which we never started the band for. So all these things as to what is going to happen 10 years or later or something were calculated before, though I told you that we were just a four-month project but these are things that we decided that we will only listen to play the music that we listen to at home or in our car. Unfortunately, we do not listen to Hindi music too much.

What about your memories from the time you performed before an Iron Maiden concert? How are those guys?

N.M. – As for Iron Maiden, I will tell you one thing; these are the nicest bunch of people I met in my life. People who have made it that big, you would expect them to have a certain amount of arrogance to some extent because they deserve it but they are such down to earth, clean people who don’t drink, who don’t smoke, they go to the gym regularly, they go to the church regularly, they are family people and there is just the love of music which is why they are doing what they are doing and very, one thing I particularly like about Bruce Dickinson, the vocalist is that he is a hardcore history buff. He knows everything about the Second World War at the back of his hind. He knows how to fly a plane. He flies the band and his fans all around the world. He is an expert on tanks. I saw a documentary in which he was explaining about the Russian T-72 tank which India still uses. Most of our tanks are T-72s. We still use them. A lot of countries use it and he was giving a lowdown on why this tank will never be obsolete, a whole half an hour documentary and this is a guy who is vocalist of Iron Maiden. He is that knowledgeable. Really nice guy, is very down to earth, very friendly and in whatever time interaction I have had with him, I have not seen them turn down a single fan who had asked for a picture with them or an autograph with them and they were in thousands, trust me. They waited patiently till the last autograph was signed, then they went home, every single time.

Do you have any hobbies?

N.M. - Yes, I am avid photographer. I mean I have had many opportunities of people have asked me to professionally click for them and I am mostly a travel photographer. Wherever I go, I mean I carry my camera kit with me and this is the same with Russia. I keep uploading my albums on Facebook and a lot of processional friends who are doing this for a living, they have offered me to join them as a co-photographer and this and that but my first love of course is music and photography is one hobby and then my second hobby is actually reading about contemporary history starting from let's say late 1930s till now. That is why I answered your question about Russia about putting an end to Hitler's tyranny by taking over Berlin.

Source: Akshayraj Uchil

And as a travel photographer, maybe you would give an advice to your future friends of Russia where to go in India…country?

N.M. - Oh, see from whatever I have seen of Russia on TV and seen in books, the pictures and everything, India looks very very different for any Russian who comes here. He will find every place very attractive like I am sure we will find every place very attractive from the moment we land in Russia. It is like that with every place and yeah, if you really, so I would say that you should keep away from the big cities like Delhi, Bombay, Calcutta, Bangalore, Chennai, the big cities are all the same everywhere. There is a bit of New York, there is a bit of Moscow, there is a bit of Bombay in all the big cities all over the world. There is nothing to click there apart from successful businessmen and tall buildings. So go to the smaller parts, go the remote parts, go to states which are photogenic. Like in India, Rajasthan, it is a state which has lot of cities in it. The hills in India. The Himalayan range, it is out of this world. The north-eastern part of India, you would love the food there. You would love the people there.

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