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News |  09 Oct 2013 10:31 |  By RnMTeam

We have never performed 'Unplugged' before: Vishal Dadlani

MUMBAI: To paraphrase Calvin, ‘First there was nothing. Then there was Pentagram’. One of the pioneers in the indie music scene in India, the electro-rock outfit is now in its 19th year of existence. With front man Vishal Dadlani, guitarist Randolf Correia, bassist Makarand ‘Papal’ Mane and drummer Shiraz Bhattacharya, the band has four albums to its credit. The foursome will be seen going acoustic in their debut appearance in the third season of MTV’s flagship music show, MTV Unplugged. One half of the dynamic film music producing duo, Vishal-Shekhar, speaks to’s Disha Deshpande about Pentagram’s experience on MTV Unplugged Season 3, drugs, a sneak-peak into the band’s jam-room and what Pentagram means to him.

How has the MTV Unplugged experience been for you and Pentagram?

It was very unique for us. We have never done anything like that. We have been around for 19 years but, never did we play an unplugged set. Of course, we have messed around with our songs. Acoustic guitars, being an electro-rock outfit, have never been used by us in gigs. So this is unique and pretty cool. Being 19 now, we know what is to be done on the stage. This was an entirely new approach to the songs which was quite refreshing.

Anything similar on the cards in the near future?

Definitely. I want to put out an album of the recordings and we have been talking about taking it on the road, something like a ‘Quiet Tour’. Pentagram shows are normally so energetic and heavy. I think doing this might actually expand our audiences, bringing in people that we never expected would be into our kind of music. So that is exciting for us.

Are you looking at putting out an acoustic album?

I would like to, because the songs sounded that good. I don’t know if we will, but conceptually it is interesting. It is not about whether it will work in our favour, it is about enjoying. And we did enjoy ourselves. We have never done anything with a commercial consideration. It has always been about taking music to new people and getting our vibe to people in different ways. It is never about the number of people who get into it but it is always exciting to see lights go on in new eyes.

Which were the songs you performed for the episode?

We did a fair representation of all the albums. We did the Ignorant One from our first album ‘We Are Not Listening’, Drive from our second album ‘Up’, Voice from ‘It’s Okay, It’s All Good’, and Must I, Human Failings, Tomorrow’s Decided and Nocturne from ‘Bloodywood’.

Apart from talks about your acoustic album, are you planning to launch a new album anytime soon?

Yeah. We are starting work on our new album. 2014 middle is a bit ambitious but by the end it would definitely be out. It is always the same. The four of us get into a room and start beating stuff out and it, kind of, happens. There isn’t really a defined process. At times, Randolf would put down a beat, sometimes I put out a melody and some words, Shiraz will come up with a groove or Papal would come up with a bass line, so it is completely free-flow.

What is Pentagram’s process during a live gig?

There really isn’t one, because it has become a sort of second nature to everyone. So we do not think about it. In fact, 2013 was a big year for us because, for the first time in 18 years, we actually played with a set list, once, just to see what it is like. Otherwise it is always spontaneous.

Where does the band have its jam-sessions?

A wonderful thing is that there are a bunch of new jam-rooms in the city and we use all of them. But I guess the most convenient one is a Bandra.

What is your opinion about musicians being associated with drugs?

That’s ridiculous. If you go to a club, you will find doctors, insurance salespersons, cricketers, actors, poets and philosophers, everyone doing drugs. It is personal choice. It is a pretty dumb cliché to say that musicians are associated with drugs. The thing with musicians probably is that they do not subscribe to the social norms or concept of thinking that anything they do is wrong, because, at the end of the day it is a matter of personal choice. If it is illegal, that is the government’s problem. I personally don’t use drugs except for light herbal therapy and I have never been under the influence of any substance while making music or performing. I am under the influence of life.

Your announcement about Pentagram preparing for MTV Unplugged, on facebook, had a very insulting statement toward mentally challenged people. Being so socially aware and active yourself, what do you have to say about it?

Look. Here is the thing. I even work with mentally challenged people on occasion, for whatever it is worth. But you use certain terms in a humorous context and I think you should take them humorously and if you feel like you want to generate a sort of brouhaha about it, feel free. Doesn’t bother me.

The band members have an active Bollywood career. Do you think the indie scene, alone, isn’t fulfilling enough?

Nobody has an active Bollywood career except me. Shiraz makes ad films and music videos, Papal plays bass with a lot of other bands and Randolf plays with a lot of producers and is with Shaa’ir and Func as well. If anyone does alternate things, I don’t know if it is about the indie scene being fulfilling or not, independent does fairly well, in terms of money. The simplest way to put it would be, ‘you have to live life to write about it’. You have to do things. You can just live life being holed up in a room writing songs, because where will your material come from. You have to live life, experience thing, interact with people and understand the world and all its various philosophies to write a song that actually matters.

Lately you have been on Rahul Gandhi and Asaram Bapu’s tail. Whose case do you plan to take next on twitter?

You find that funny, I find that fairly morbid. When I want to be funny, you make it morbid and when I want to be morbid you find it funny! I think these people are the scariest things to happen to the nation, Rahul Gandhi, Narendra Modi, Asaram Bapu.

Do you think that if people in influential positions raised their voice, the process of convicting criminals will speed up?

I hope so, which is why I am so loud and blatant about it and put my thoughts across in a very forthright manner.

How do you guys chill when you are not working?

For whatever it is worth, Pentagram is not work. It is chill. We have the most absurd and ridiculous time with the band. Never once, in 19 year, has it felt like work. We take the piss out of everything, we make fun of everything, and we are laughing all the time, literal hysteria. Delirium, almost. So, I have never really needed a break. I always say, really simply, “Pentagram is who I am; everything else is what I do.”