Music composer Varun Rajput’s brainchild - Antariksh, which was born out of an experiment, is rated by MTV as one of the best Hindi Rock artists from India. The premier Hindi-Rock project based out of New Delhi, recently released their latest single 'Quest.' Featuring popular guitarist Marty Friedman, it is an out and out Progressive-Rock meets Fusion track, where Antariksh seamlessly blend their Indian as well as western Influences.
In an exclusive conversation with The Free Press Journal, Varun Rajput spoke about the inspiration behind 'Quest', their upcoming album, collaboration with American guitarist Marty Friedman and more.
Here are the excerpts from the interview:
How did you come up with the name - Antariksh?
Honestly, there’s no fascinating story behind the name. I always joke about it that the name Antariksh stemmed out of our inability to come up with a better, non-cheesy name.
Antariksh’s inception happened in 2012 when I set out on a quest to fulfill my dream of becoming a full-time musician after quitting my job as a management consultant in the corporate world. When my friends, Mridul, Gurtej and I tried to name the project, we came up with some absolutely ridiculous options - I mean some of the names were way too serious and the others a bit too lame. After a lot of dilly-dallying, I literally put my foot down and we decided to go ahead with the name, ‘Antariksh,’ which I felt resonated with our ideology.
To me, Antariksh meant boundless, infinite and all encompassing, and that’s how I imagined our music to be - not limited or restricted by any particular style, form or language. I guess that was probably the only thought and logic that helped us finalize the name back then.
Tell us something about the inspiration behind the lyrics of the bi-lingual song 'Quest'.
Generally, I have a knack of writing lyrics which are a bit more on the questioning and introspective side of the spectrum. It’s something that happens organically and I feel there's a lot of honesty in it as most of the lyrics come from personal experiences or analysis of real-life situations. If someone asks me to write something humorous or let’s say a love song - I think it’ll be a struggle.
The inspiration behind the lyrics for 'Quest' was incidental. I remember being stuck on the road, where the traffic was stopped by the cops to allow some VIP’s vehicle to pass through. That feeling really irritated me as I felt that someone out there had the audacity to think that their time is more important than everyone else’s. To me, it felt like a misuse of power and almost as if the person inside that vehicle was exercising dominance and authority. I’ve always been of a very strong opinion that there should be absolutely no VIP treatment for politicians so that they witness and understand the problems an ordinary citizen goes through in their daily lives, and hopefully get inspired to do their jobs better. I mean, isn’t it their job anyway to work for the development and welfare of the society rather than becoming privileged and turning a blind eye to all the problems that exist?
Well, one thought led to another, and I had this realization that no matter how much authority or control one may try to exercise, we really do not have control over our lives in the true sense. Come to think of it - we can’t even control the number of breaths we are supposed to breathe or what’s coming up in our lives tomorrow. Most of the time, life is just happening and we’re a mere witness to it. To me, the feeling of being in control is nothing more than a thought - a mere illusion. I guess, we’re just too scared to look at it that way. So, with that thought I came up with the lyrics for 'Quest', which talk about how our brain, ego, lust and desire fool us into believing that we’re in control and how it’s just a mirage. The fact that the song is set in an arena Prog Rock space where we experiment with nuances from both Indian classical as well as Western Rock music works really well as we’re able to explore a lot of unique and eclectic soundscapes in line with the lyrical idea.
Next up, I’m coming up with an animation video for 'Quest', which will hopefully help take the audiences deeper into the concept and the theme of the song.
How did you approach guitarist Marty Friedman for the collaboration?
Oh! This is one hell of a story. I was returning to Delhi after performing at the 2019 edition of Bacardi NH7 Weekender festival in Shillong, where Antariksh had played on Day 1 and Marty was the headliner on Day 2. It was almost surreal to find Marty and his band sitting two rows ahead of us in the aircraft. I got a chance to interact with them when we landed in Delhi and while we were waiting for our equipment at the luggage belt. I spoke to Marty about his experience of playing at the festival, some of his recent music and his collaboration with Keshav Dhar of Skyharbor a few years ago.
Ever since, I had heard him play live, I'd been imagining how epic it’d be if he were to play on our song, 'Quest', which we were in the process of recording at that point in time. After playing the thought almost a hundred times in my head, I finally went ahead and asked him. He asked me to write to him.
Once he returned to Japan, I sent him some of our music including 'Kaahe Re' and a few songs from our first album, 'Khoj'. Marty not only took the time to listen to a lot of it - he even liked and appreciated. It was when I sent him a demo of 'Quest', he agreed to play on it. It took him less than 5 days to send across his guitar part.
The phenomenal musician that he is, Marty’s played one of the most amazingly constructed and unique guitar solos I’ve ever heard and I firmly believe it’s taken the song to another level.
Were you always a fan of Marty Friedman? How did he inspire your journey?
Oh yes! I was introduced to his music with Megadeth and Cacophony back in 2003. Over the next few years, I spent a lot of time listening to his music as a solo artist as well as analyzing his guitar playing technique. In fact, during my early guitar playing days, two instructional DVD’s I used to swear by were Marty’s Melodic Control and John Petrucci’s Rock Discipline. I think I’ve learned immensely from his unique style of playing as well as his approach towards writing music where most of the emphasis is always on writing an interesting melody line.
What's next for Antariksh?
2020 saw us putting out a lot of music with consistency and I’m so grateful for the amazing reception and all the love we received for 'Raahiya', 'Fanaah', and 'Jee Le Zara'. I think I’d want to continue the streak in 2021 and put out new music throughout the year with a similar consistency.
We have a really cool animation video lined up for 'Quest' in February. Thanks to all the appreciation 'Quest' is receiving, it has made it to a couple of really massive international metal playlists on Spotify as well some really cool playlists on Apple Music, Gaana and some of the other streaming platforms. I’m planning to follow it up with another one of our heavier singles called 'Kaisi Ye Jeet' and then the full album.
On the concerts front, we’re just aching to get back to playing live again. Have our finger crossed, hoping that the pandemic situation improves soon so that we can get back to tours and gigs to promote our new music. I guess until then we’ll have to make do with digital concerts.