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Interview: Teddy Boy Kill
A chat with New Delhi live EDM duo Teddy Boy Kill ahead of their China debut on Saturday at Dada as part of Dong Dong Festival...
By Nov 8, 2013 Nightlife


On one hand, Teddy Boy Kill is a band with which I can instantly identify. The influences they list on their Facebook page read like my own music library on random shuffle, and under "Record Label" they simply write: "We are not signed to any record label. Dutty fucking business clowns!" On the other hand, I have no grasp of the context supporting Teddy Boy Kill's music. To my knowledge, the New Delhi-based duo will be the first band from India not doing some form of "traditional" music to have come through China. Considering its members' deep engagement with their medium, I couldn't imagine a better group to send the opening salvo.

Teddy Boy Kill is vocalist Ashhar Farooqui and sound engineer/synth wizard Samrat Bee. Besides TBK, Ashhar has an Indian folk music documentary project that he's been working on for five years, an experimental sound/visual project called Sin;Drome with fellow New Delhi-based sound artist Vinny Bhagat, and a solo project called Toymob. Samrat also does solo work and prodigious collaborations under the moniker Audio Pervert, in addition to paying the bills through more straightforward sound production work for the massive Bollywood film industry.

Ahead of their first trip to China, I asked Samrat a few questions about TBK's music, their local scene, how they see India's diverse youth and arts culture progressing in the wake of rapid commercial development, and how they take it all abroad:


Samrat Bee (left) and Ashhar Farooqui (right), aka Teddy Boy Kill

SmartBeijing: Ok, stock question first: can you briefly introduce yourselves? Where are you from, when did you start Teddy Boy Kill, what do you each do in the band, what gear do you use, etc…

Samrat Bee: We both (Toymob & Audio Pervert ) are from New Delhi. Born here. Currently Ashhar (Toymob) is making a beautiful house in the mountains.

Toymob is the voice of TBK. Lyrics, vocal melodies, stories, and tales are his forte. He is known for his songwriting skills by many in India. Over the years, he has transgressed and transformed his voice in many peculiar ways via EFX, samplers, and loopers. Audio Pervert is the sound designer and synth manipulator of TBK. As a producer and sound designer, Audio Pervert has spent the last decade in various capacities (TBK, Audio Pervert, Producer, Bollywood, TV Jingles... used to be a drummer in heavy metal bands up 'til 1996). Since 1999: synthesizers, samplers, and computers have been the source for his musical vocabulary and production skills. The combined experience and vision of Toymob and Audio Pervert working over the last 5-6 years has resulted in TeddyBoyKill. Over the years we have applied our creative skills to artwork, video installations, and short videos as well. More about us here.

SmBJ: I have to admit that I know very little about the independent music scene in New Delhi. As a band doing live EDM, what can you tell me about it? Is there a "scene" at all? What kinds of venues can you play? Are there bands or individuals booking DIY shows, putting out their own records, etc?

SB: This is a long, winding story. There is a big independent music scene in India, considering the population and growth of middle class aspiration towards arts and culture. Yet the scene remains poised... at the verge of a breakthrough... or a tip over. Bigger agencies and organizers are more keen and attuned to capitalizing the market. Sponsors and brands do the same. Music, be it rock, EDM, experimental, or indie has become a very lucrative commodity in our nation. Yet it does not benefit or support the arts or the artist as such. Mostly based on Western industrial models of music and funds management, the independent scene in our country and New Delhi is on the verge or stands with immense potential, yet oddly with no impact on the rest of the world...

SmBJ: What about other genres? Punk, noise, etc? Do you have any overlap with other scenes or other sub-genres of music?

SB: Punk never made an impact in India. It has not yet been felt as a youth movement, or how it stemmed from the suburbia of UK or USA. Punk bands are rare in India, interesting because it does reflect on how society (the youth segment) would like to react and express themselves. Indian rockers and rock musicians are more prone, over the last two decades, to the glamorous West California image of bands and the sounds they make. Noise? Yea, some artists thrive on Noise. Yet it's a handful and mostly obscure and niche.



SmBJ: From what little I know, it seems that New Delhi is the de facto cultural capital of India in terms of underground or youth-oriented art, music, film. Is this accurate? Where else in India can you find independent music or art culture?

SB: In short, Bombay (Mumbai) is the city which produces technicolor dreams, images, sounds, and dances for the whole nation. New Delhi is a much quieter and older city, and has a vastly different heritage and available resources dedicated to youth film, music, and arts. Delhi is the center of many cultural and linguistic organizations that support and fund such activities and projects. Given the expansion of the city during 2009-10, there has been a surge of venues and spaces where creative arts and entertainment can be combined, which has given New Delhi a very lucrative prospect for outside artists. The city is swarming with expats of all kinds. There has been a marked rise in number of concerts, exhibitions, nightclubs...

Bangalore is another interesting city for experimental arts, technology, independent music, venues, and agencies that are attuned to building a viable cultural and youth-based representation of the city. Pune being a university town has also seen many venues and clubs — yet attuned to technology and traditional arts, less on independent music. Calcutta, at one point long ago, was the cultural capital of the nation, has had many artistic rises and falls, yet it remains small and inconsequential in the larger picture of India. The northeast of India is burgeoning with bands and rock/metal prospects, yet it stays within the region mostly...

SmBJ: Your solo project, Audio Pervert, just released a staggering 20-song album featuring 14 guest artists. Some really great tracks on there. Are all of the guest artists active in New Delhi? Can you introduce some other interesting producers/musicians in your orbit?

SB: Thanks - Not all the artists are based in New Delhi (some are dead - Maurice Ravel and Erik Satie... there is a bootleg song from Ke$ha as well). The featured musicians and singers on the album are friends who I wanted to collaborate with while writing the album. It so happens, as the songs started piling up, so did the number of collaborators. Wrote the album over 8 months in 2012-13...

You should definitely listen to : SULK STATION (Bangalore) - FRAME/FRAME (New Delhi) - Ravana (New Delhi) - SHRI & BADMARSH (UK and Mumbai) - Func International (Mumbai) - Bicycle Days (Bangalore) - KOHRA (New Delhi) - Da-Saz ( New Delhi ) - Ankit Gandhi Lall (Calcutta) - MenWhoPause (New Delhi) - Sky Rabbit (Mumbai)



SmBJ: In a recent interview with the Hindustan Times you said about your upcoming trip to China: "this tour is important as there is no short-term state sponsored exotica peddling going on; no ‘India’ showcases, no expectations of cliched Indian tropes, and no rich government tax funded coffers spent on ‘cultural exchange’." Having gone on US tours with Chinese bands, I can relate to this. Can you talk a bit about what people expect of you when you play abroad as an "Indian band," and what you do to subvert their pre-conceived notions?

SB: Those words got a bit out of hand, hahaha! Yes but it's true without the brouhaha. I don't know what people will expect or react to in regards to Teddy Boy Kill performing to Chinese audiences or people at the venue. We usually do not keep pre-conceived notions about the audience since our performance repertoire has been so varied (from exotic far-away beaches to really dingy squad nightclubs). We prefer the music and sound to speak for itself. By listening to our music, a person should get latent cues and also not really bother about where we are from. There is no Exotica or Snake Charming business here with us, which many Indian musicians mock and use to charm foreign audiences. At TBK, we create music that should and does speak for itself.

SmBJ: Another stock question: what are your influences? To my ear you have an obvious appreciation for bass music and vintage electro, but I can also hear some instrument-based experimentation going on in tracks like "Subterra." Also sounds like you rock a lot of analog gear...

SB: We hear too much music... Too much for our own good. Yet that's the only currency we have. Listening is as important as composing and performing. Our sound is solid and synthetic. The voice or lyrics carry the narrative to the listener, the synths, bass, and beats elevate you to feel the complete experience. Yes we love synthesizer. And there is no end of synthesis... it's a parallel universe of sorts.

Between Toymob and myself we have a few analog toys - namely, a Doepfer Dark Energy Semi Modular, a Dave Smith Mopho, Nordlead Mk1, KORG Monotribes ... We both use Ableton Live and Max/MSP ( our main composing tool). Numerous esoteric plugins from Max/MSP and Native Instruments as well. Ashhar plays guitar as well and has a plethora of efx boxes, loopers, and echoes. Influences - way too many and way too much. Ah yes! Synthesizers...




SmBJ: Sorry, gonna get heavy for a second… India and China obviously have a pretty complicated relationship fraught with border disputes, human rights clashes, etc. As the first live electronic band coming to China from India, you may be seen as unofficial ambassadors bridging some underground elements of these two cultures. I realize the "cultural exchange" aspect is probably not the most important part of this tour for you, but what opportunities for future India/China underground music dialogue do you hope to foster with this trip?

SB: Though our songs may hint at politically and socially motivated themes arising from the status of our country and how we view it, the thing about a given a title or notion of an "Ambassador" of youth culture (even if it's unofficial) is a bit heavy. We are touring China for the first time, our intentions are to spread the music, gather an experience of the nation, and further cultivate future possibilities of musical/arts exchange. We are a part of a music conference in Beijing, and will be meeting many Chinese and foreign counterparts to access the "scene and status" of the Chinese music market. A lot remains to be learned...

SmBJ: On a lighter note, what are you personally most excited about ahead of the tour?

SB: It's China!! We always imagined China, as children or even grown ups. This is like going to a new planet. Well, almost...

SmBJ: Where would someone like me who is interested to find more underground music coming out of India start? Can you recommend any bands, labels, venues, websites, etc?

SB: Wild City, Indiearth and Xchange Festival (Chennai), Rock Street Journal magazine and website, Rolling Stone India, NH7.COM, BorderMovement.com,
Counter Culture (Bangalore venue)...

SmBJ: That's all I got… anything else you want to add ahead of your Beijing gig? Maybe let us know what we can expect from a TBK live set…

SB: Toughest question... Expect a lot of energy and sound and a voice to enamor dance-friendly audiences ...


***
Check out Teddy Boy Kill on Saturday, November 9 at Dada, when they share the stage with Emika as part of the Dong Dong Festival.
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