22 years- this is how long Parikrama has been carrying the flag of Rock music in India. They have seen the industry inside and out. To commemorate this long and eventful journey, the band recently embarked on a multi city Parikrama @ 22 Tour. In Indore for their gig, IMR had an insightful chat with Subir Malik, Keyboard player and manager for the band, on all things Parikrama.
IMR: Welcome to Indore! How does it feel to be here?
Subir Malik: Thank you very much. It feels good. As a band we have played here several times in the past and each time it was a different experience. Parikrama has played in Indore for Levis and RSJ, and many shows besides that. Personally, I have been visiting the city for over 20 years now.
IMR: Oh! How is that?
Subir Malik: Yeah I have been coming here since long as we have a family business here at Maharani Road dealing in automotive parts. Parikrama was actually a 4 months project. I was supposed to play for 4 months and then join the family business. I just wanted to have some fun and that’s why Parikrama was formed. I used to come to Indore every 2 months to Maharani Road. So I have been visiting Indore even before Parikrama was formed. Even today we have 50 year old ties with shop keepers in that area.
IMR: How has the Parikrama @ 22 Tour been so far?
Subir Malik: After Indore only 2 shows are left. Indore is the 12th city of our tour. There was a gap between the 1st leg and the 2nd leg but the next time we want to have them all together. The 1st leg included Mumbai, Pune, Delhi, Bangalore and Hyderabad. 2nd leg had Vishakhapatnam, Kolkata, Chandigarh and Jaipur. We want to take Rock & Roll to places where it is not much established. The idea is to establish this tour as an annual property. There are still some barriers. Like this venue is allowing only couple entry. They don’t understand that Rock & roll does not work like that. These are thing we have to sort out in the next edition. This venue is intimate though and that is good because it allows the band and audience to bond together. The idea is to have fun, not make it an elitist thing.
IMR: You were just awarded the Dewarist title, which is given to those who have made a difference to the Indian music industry. What are your thoughts about it?
Subir Malik: Frankly, awards and functions don’t really affect me too much. You will never see us asking for votes or likes for a competition or something. We don’t do that. So yeah it’s good but after you have been in this field for over 22 years, you stop thinking about such things. Its good but it never gets into my head.
IMR: 22 years is a long time to have been around. A lot of your fans are not even 22 years old. What have you observed about the Indian music industry in all these years, and what would you say are the good things and bad things about it?
Subir Malik: Overall, what is good and bad is what you make out of it. Thing is that now there is not much of radio, and airplay especially for indie bands. But you have to look at things from the point of view of radio and TV channels. They have to make money as well. If they don’t show what people want, how will they earn money? India being a Hindi speaking country, there is simply no market out there for English bands. They are doing our job we are doing ours. We are happy with the 100 people who come to our gigs because they are dedicated fans, not like the Bollywood fans who go to concerts to see the stars, instead of listening to their music. So even though the fan base and market for rock music and even English music is small, it is much more dedicated and true to the music itself.
IMR: Parikrama hasn’t launched a single album till date. Why is that?
Subir Malik: All our music is free. You can download it from our website. The idea is to make music, not money. In the sound check that we just did, we played 6-7 songs that were never recorded or even played live. We write regularly, but we don’t like going to studios. If I make a list of songs that we have done live, there will be 80-90 songs. 9-10 albums can be made out of that right now. A lot of fans constantly ask for our albums. A lot of people say we want to see your artwork, we want to hold your album in hand. We have given out 85,000 albums for free. The thing is that, we always considered ourselves to be a live band. For Indore specially, we are doing a couple of covers.
IMR: What are you covering today?
Subir Malik: Highway to Hell by AC/DC and Baba O’ Reilly by The Who. Covers are important. You have to play something familiar for the audience because many people are probably listening to you for the first time and they don’t know your original compositions.
IMR: Are record labels relevant anymore?
Subir Malik: Labels are dead now. Most have gone bankrupt. You can’t stop piracy in any way. No matter which label you are associated with, in a few days your album, your songs will be on internet for free. It’s human nature. That means there must be some flaw in the model. People don’t know what Intellectual Property is. Many people don’t even know that piracy is illegal. Moreover, labels tend to constrict the creativity of an artist, as they want them to make what the listener wants, not what the musician wants. That is very destructive for both the artist and eventually the audience.
IMR: So have you been approached by a label?
Subir Malik: Yes, many times, but we preferred to stay away. As I said, It constricts you. Parikrama is not a commercial band. We play for the love of Rock & Roll, not to earn money. If you come down to selling, you have to do a lot of hard work. You go to a major label and record an album; that will cost around 10-15 Lac rupees. You’ve got to recover that cost right? That puts an additional burden on everyone. Imagine how much additional marketing and gigs we would have to do simply to make that much money. Instead, why not give away music for free? That way we are saved the headache, and the fans get to listen to us for free.
IMR: There were rumours that you are the official opening band for Iron Maiden. What was that all about?
Subir Malik: That is a rumour. There is no written contract or agreement between us and Maiden. Even though it’s true in principle, it’s not true professionally. We have played with Iron Maiden but there is no deal as such. We are in touch with their management. In fact we just had a talk with them before coming here, about another tour this summer. So we are at good terms with them and in constant touch, but we are not their “official” opening act.
IMR: Which song is closest to the band?
Subir Malik: There are many. Till I’m No One Again was the first song we recorded in ’95 so that is special. In The Middle, Tears of the Wizard, Am I Dreaming are all close to our heart.
IMR: Is it true that Am I Dreaming is based on a Lord Of The Rings character?
Subir Malik: Yeah Nitin loves Lords so yes it is based on the series. Tears of the Wizard is based on the character of Gandalf.
IMR: What are your plans for collaborations in the near future?
Subir Malik: There are lots of plans. Parikrama and Friends Tour is a huge collaboration. In the 1st year we worked with 54 artistes who bought in different styles and varieties. This year we collaborated with Rahul Ram, Agnee, Ehsaan Noorani, Rabbi and Vir Das to name a few artistes.
IMR: Parikrama your main source of income?
Subir Malik: No not at all. The reason this band was made was to enjoy music, not to earn money. In summers when there are no shows we get busy with our jobs or businesses or whatever. In 1991, just 4 months before Parikrama was formed, I was about to join my family business. I thought let’s cover some legacy bands in the meanwhile. The idea was to jam for 4 months and then go on to sell motor parts.
IMR: So what happened in those 4 months?
Subir Malik: We did our 1st gig was in Delhi which was a super hit. Next day our photos were published in the papers. In those days, it was a very big thing to have your photo coming in the papers. Everyone came and congratulated us and from that we got one show after the other. We did our 1st gig on 15 Sept 1991 for 500 rupees. By 18th march, 1992, we were charging 18,000. Demand for good music was very high, but there were only a few bands to fill that void. That worked in our favour. Being from a business background, I knew marketing skills which I used here. Morning to evening I would attend my office and in the evenings we would jam. In 2006 I left my family business. Karte karte 22 saal kab ho gaye pata hi nai chala!
IMR: What are the bands that have influenced you?
Subir Malik: I used to be a bass player. Steve Harris is my biggest influence. I learnt slap pop from a Madonna song (Get Into The Groove). So you can say I’ve had a pretty wide range of influences.
IMR: Has Parikrama got offers from Bollywood?
Subir Malik: We have, but we will never accept any of them. We don’t want to sacrifice our style of music for the sake of just one or two songs for a movie. Our style simply does not suit the tastes of Indian cinema goers. Nitin and Sonam have done a side project right now for a parallel movie industry. But as a band we will never do it.
IMR: What would be your message to aspiring Rock & Roll bands?
Subir Malik: Start small and build up. Don’t expect overnight stardom. In fact, as an Indian band, never expect mainstream stardom. Be true to your genre, and don’t get into the field for money or fame. In the world of Rock & Roll, you can survive only if you are in it, for the love of it.
A rock devotee from Indore, with strong inclination towards Alternative, Punk and Progressive rock. He is presently pursuing his bachelors degree in IT. His main influences are Foo Fighters, Creed, Green Day, Nirvana and Beatles. He is the vocalist and guitarist of his band, 1000 Watt Sun.
His aim is to bring deserving bands into limelight, specially from the central India region. Their are many hidden gems which he believes have the potential to be at the top in India, but due to lack of promotion and commercial opportunities, they are lagging behind. His motto- Indie is the way to go!