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Cover Story

Making their own music

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GOING SOLO: Fringe bands, like Demonic Resurrection, have given birth to the DIY culture in India

With little support for non-Bollywood music, bands in India have to record their albums, book gigs and market themselves, apart from writing music.


Sahil Makhija is the founding member, songwriter, lyricist, vocalist and guitarist of the band, Demonic Resurrection. In addition, he's the main sound engineer at Demonic Studios, which he owns and where he records his and his band's music. He sells his music on Demonstealer Records, a record label he owns, where he does "everything from contracts to marketing to sales to PR to packing and shipping orders".

If that doesn't leave you breathless, he's also the co-owner of Resurrection, India's first and only extreme metal festival that was started in 2004. Makhija isn't the only one working overtime to get his music out. In the Indian music scene, do it all yourself is the only way for bands to get their music heard. With little support for anything non-Bollywood coming from record labels and companies, Indian bands have not only been making music, but also setting up their own studios, recording and mixing their own music, selling CDs, booking gigs and doing their own PR. Simply because there's no one else to do it for them.

Internationally, the do-it-yourself culture is associated with the alternative/indie music scene, a subculture that is said to have begun with the punk movement of the 1970s. Instead of letting large music labels control everything, bands began recording, manufacturing albums and merchandise, booking their own tours, and creating opportunities for smaller bands to get wider recognition and gain cult status through repetitive low-cost DIY touring. While the DIY record boom, between 1977 and 1982, is considered one of the most influential scenes in music ever, there's nothing grandiose about the Indian scene.

While bands like Indian Ocean, Indus Creed and Pentagram were offered album deals and marketing support from record companies like HMV, Magnasound, Universal and Sony, it's the smaller bands in the metal or indie space who have given birth to the DIY culture in India. "When I started Demonic Resurrection 12 years ago, the kind of music we were making had no takers, " says Makhija. "So right from getting the audience to accept extreme metal to organising shows where we had to arrange our own sound equipment to recording our own music, I did it all. We didn't call it DIY then. It's just what we had to do because we wanted to make music, " says the 30-year-old.

He remembers burning CDs off his computer and getting his mother to help put stickers on them so that he could sell CDs after a gig. The band, which was featured in Sam Dunn's documentary 'Global Metal', is a DIY pioneer in every sense of the word when it comes to metal music in India. "We couldn't afford a recording studio and even if we could there was no sound engineer who could figure out our music. So we recorded our own music, sold our own music, booked our own gigs, did our own PR... We did all of this out of necessity, " he says.

Makhija also runs a year-long consultancy course for bands to guide them through the process of recording and selling an EP. Today, there's a YouTube tutorial for everything, right from getting that chord progression right to figuring out software and hardware and even tips on how to market your band. Vishwesh Krishnamoorthy doubles up as a metal vocalist for Scribe when he isn't writing ad copy or acting or directing TV shows.

"Scribe is a self-equipped band. From filmmakers to graphic artists and VFX artists, there's one of each in the band. Vaas shot our video, Akshay mixed one of our EPs, " says Krishnamoorthy. "If someone in the band can do something, then why not?" he asks. But unlike in the West where indie filmmakers followed indie bands, India is the exception. "We don't have that yet, " says Krishnamoorthy, who sang for the Bollywood blockbuster Kahani in 2012. "I have shot enough within the scene to tell you that even the biggest bands have miniscule budgets for videos and you always have to figure out the cheapest way of doing something. There are not enough independent filmmakers willing to film just for fun, " he says.

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