The lead guitarist of Swarathma, Varun's journey as a guitarist has been unconventional and pretty straightforward. Without the want of any attention, fame or glamour that comes with being a rockstar, Varun just loves cherishing every moment on-stage.
His simplicity and love for music came across strongly during this interview. Read on to know him better.
1. When did you pick up the guitar? What inspired you to do so?
I picked up my guitar about 10 years ago. The pure sound of the instrument and the vibes it sort of brings inspired me so much that I almost instantly decided I wanted to learn how to play it. I was not exposed to any form of rock, blues or jazz or anything of that sort. Though I listened to a lot of music, it was mostly film music and a handful of western pop artists’ stuff. And it was then I realised, inspiration is not consistent and it is a continuously evolving factor which sometimes changes by the day. And that’s when I started digging for more music to stay inspired to make music my career.
2. How did become part of Swarthma? Tell us about your journey with them so far.
Swarathma happened to me. It was a tough choice because I honestly was not even sure if I wanted to join the band at first. I was invited over to meet them at a common friend's (Anirban Chakravarthy) studio. I wouldn’t say that it went well at all. It was Anirban who suggested there is no harm in trying and eventually our relationship evolved as musicians and we got along much better and well, here we are!
We’ve had our share of good and bad times. Being in a band is certainly not easy due to the commitment it demands. Sometimes each of us fail to keep up with the same and let the other band member down. However, I also believe it is this sort of love and hate relationship we all share which makes our music so dynamic and versatile. It shows in everything we do, be it on-stage or in our rehearsal space or in a studio. Each day is a new experience which commands a different direction in our music as well. We are currently working on our third full length album and I must say this is nothing like how we’ve worked before.
3. Besides Swarathma, which other bands have you played with? How different are their sounds/genres?
I have not really associated myself with any other band ever since I joined Swarathma. Before this, I had a band with my friends in college which didn’t take off for obvious reasons (like career choices). I have guested with a few bands onstage, amongst them I love sharing stage with my friends from Parvaaz. They are very dynamic and their music speaks about them more than words. Recently, I also had the honour of performing with my new friends from Subramania. It’s fantastic performing with such high profile artists who keep me on the edge and push me to do more.
With respect to the sounds/genres they are all different in their own way. Each band brings in a different space, mood, vibe and the reason is we are different people with our own set of baggages (good and bad) that we carry which influences our music and even the way we play our instrument. And I love experiencing such difference. I believe every musician at some point or the other should go through the same!
4. What have been your biggest musical influences? How do they impact you today?
As I mentioned earlier, to me a lot of my inspiration is derived from other’s music. Beginning from Michael Jackson who transformed my idea of music and sound since my childhood days, I grew up to gravitate to various forms of music. I love listening to Joe Satriani and nothing is liberating as much as his songs for me. Some of the guitar players who influence me a lot are Andy Timmons, Steve Vai, Joe Bonamassa, Andy Mckee, Eric Johnson, Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton. And bands I love and keep visiting their albums on a loop are Muse, Dave Matthews band, Metallica, Karnivool, Chickenfoot, Evanescence, Radiohead etc. For the last year I have been spending a lot of time exploring electronic music and even signed up for a Diploma programme from PointBlank, London which I am currently pursuing. That’s an entirely different game altogether.
5. What are the different roles you have to juggle between to help sustain your career as a guitarist?
A: Playing with Swarathma is my first priority over anything else (I have not missed a single gig so far and intend to keep it that way for the years to come). Apart from that, teaching music has been a hobby as well as a job I love doing. I also produce music and help upcoming artists or bands record their stuff at my home studio where I spend a great deal of my time. Apart from that I do session work for movies, bands etc. when I am not busy touring with Swarathma.
6. Who are the top 3 Indie artists/bands you are currently listening to?
Blackstrat Blues’ new album is something I listen to often. I love Warren’s music and his production sensibilities. Other than that, honestly I don’t listen to any Indie artists’ albums. I prefer watching them live over listening to their albums because I don’t think recordings do justice to what they are live and that is also true for Swarathma.
7. What are your plans for 2015? What can we expect to look forward to?
Plans for this year is to manage my life at the moment with the various projects I am involved in currently. Playing gigs with Subramania, producing a college band’s album called D’s Kitchen. Recording demos of my band Swarathma’s third album which for now is called Swarathma III (Working title) and keep up with my Diploma in electronic music production with PointBlank.
8. When and where can we catch you live next?
Honestly, the season has been bad for us and we haven’t done too many gigs this time around compared to what we do otherwise. I don’t have any confirmed gigs on my calendar as of now. But we should be performing very soon in Bangalore. Kindly follow us on www.facebook.com/swarathma and find us on twitter as well to stay updated.
9. Since, we’re in the business of selling headphones, just out of curiosity, which brand of headphones/earphones are you currently using?
I use Sennheiser currently and Swarathma proudly endorses them live and in studio.
10. Anything else you’d like us to know -
I am a huge superhero comic fan boy. I love collecting statues and figures of pop culture characters. It’s a very expensive hobby but then the amount of happiness it brings is priceless. The amount of work that goes into each of these statues/collectibles is fantastic. It’s almost like living a parallel life and thanks to my friend Rishi Walia from Gundam Galaxy who helps me keep it going. Do visit his place at Indiranagar. I promise you that you will feel great and truly inspired. Shall post some pictures of my collection soon.
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