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News |  02 Mar 2016 18:32 |  By RnMTeam

Workshop to shut down, and here's why you should care

MUMBAI: To create a band that could lead to a loyal fan base has never been an easy task for metal musicians in the country, and to do so for a sub-genre that the 'metal community' does not usually associate itself with, is a bigger deal. But trust Sahil Makhija to create trends and paths that provide the metal scene in India with a new element to look forward to, while publications and agencies continue to judge the genre's worth in the market.

Sahil Makhija aka Demonstealer formed Workshop in 2007 - seven years after the inception of his maiden project - Demonic Resurrection. Workshop was founded at a time when Makhija could afford 'experimenting with sound', and the decision to end the journey has the completely opposite cognition. "Lack of shows for the band is the primary reason," justifies Makhija. Workshop last performed at a gig in May 2015, and Makhija believes the time to shut Workshop will only help him and other members focus on their respective projects.

"In the last ten years, metal music managed to find the level of respect and importance in the alternative music scene, thanks to some of the venues and colleges that continued to entertain metal acts, regardless of the outcome. In Workshop's case, the band's music has not gone down really well in the metal community, let alone the independent scene," informs Makhija. Workshop falls under the Humour Metal/Comedy Rock genre, and the genre never received a welcome with open arms. "For metal musicians and the fans, the sound or our music was not serious enough. The community never took Workshop seriously, and I can understand and respect that. On the other hand, the 'indie' scene that usually acknowledges similar acts (for example- Alien Chutney) never took Workshop seriously because, for them, the music was too heavy," adds Makhija.

Certainly, organisers intend to play safe, and the commercially viable factor has played a vital role towards the scene's growth and then stagnancy. Providing Workshop as an example to convey his experience, Makhija elaborates on the devils that haunted Workshop's journey for almost ten years. However, it was not forever gloomy for the band that usually sings about 'Cookie Monster' and 'Bunty aur Babli'. With the release of the first album 'Khooni Murga', Workshop announced the band does give a shit about its existence and the scene. The original line-up included Coshish's Hamza Kazi (on drums), Albatross's Riju Dasgupta (on bass) and Sahil Makhija (on vocals and guitars). In a year, the band stopped its hunt for another guitarist with Raj completing the jigsaw for the band. For the next four years, Workshop used the witty lyrics and unique compositions that led to the band perform at four gigs per month on an average, a pretty impressive stat for the band with a genre not appreciated by the metal elitists.

The inability to find the necessary audience to help the scene grow in a country with 1.2 billion population does not find a spot in Makhija's list of reasons for the slow death of Workshop. "Audience is there," assures Makhija, however, "the lack of loyalty or the inconsistency amongst the regular concert audience has acted as an obstacle towards any band's growth. Bands like Demonic Resurrection and Bhayanak Maut, too, face similar problems. The fans you witness at any band's gigs today, may not be present five years later. Sure, they will be replaced by another set of fans, but the replacement does not lead to increase in the number." Throughout his journey as a musician, Makhija noticed how that aspect has played a key role towards the contrast the metal scene in India provides compared to the west.

"Norway might have the population of the size of Bombay, but the nation has over 25,000 metal bands competing against each other. In India, one would find 25 bands performing on a regular basis," said Makhija. But Makhija offers a silver lining - "Change is slow. It will happen. In Bangalore, for example, older audiences return to the gigs. Adding to the count is the newer generations that connect to metal in ways more than one. It's essential to retain the audience, and one of the factors to execute is the venues."

Finding permanent venues for the genre of metal has provided the metal community some sleepless nights, and more often than not, these venues fail to offer permanent shelter to metal music. Lack of planning, long-term goals, and the locality add up to the set of obstacles the community has faced over the years. "In Europe, the gigs are never organised inside the city. Fans, artists and organisers prefer venues set at the outskirts. In our case, for example - B69 or Richardson Cruddas, the venue fell in the 'no-noise' proximities and the lack of planning resulted in the sad fate for the venues and the fans. Metal belongs to all classes and sections of the society, but how often would you see a carpenter or an electrician attend a gig at Hard Rock Cafe or blueFROG? Such is not the case in Europe," explains the frontman of Workshop.

Workshop will create an atmosphere at blueFROG for one last time tonight, and of course, the band's journey needs to be celebrated. Starting tomorrow, the current members of the band - Aditya Kadam (bass), Hamza Kazi (drums) and Sahil Makhija (vocals/guitarist) would continue to focus on their priorities and respective projects. But the question remains - Is Workshop's end just the tip of the iceberg? Is it alarming when one of the most important faces and voices of the metal scene in India cannot change the band's future? The community pondered upon this question briefly when one of the biggest metallers in India - Infernal Wrath - disbanded. Of course, the reasons were surely not similar. Of course, Workshop's defunctioning may not entirely affect the scene altogether, but could similar fate extend to a more established and successful bands in the country? The 'humour metal' band will cease to exist, however the joke is on us.

For a band that terms "musical comedy of sorts" as the best way to define their creative power, it'd be unfair to end the piece on a serious note. To sum up the Workshop experience, Makhija calls it "mad", and recollects moments of (metaphorically) pushing the teachers and professors of Shah and Anchor to dance to the band's compositions as one of the highest moments.

Makhija hopes to extend the "farewell gig" for Workshop beyond Mumbai, and although the band might not have satisfied organisers and metal elitists, tonight's gig will prove the band's popularity never diminished - partly for the fact that the band dared to experiment.