[Aditya Ashok unveils ‘OX7GEN Live Presents: Dimensions’ tonight at Blue Frog, Mumbai. RSVP here. And show up. It will be well worth your time.]
Aditya Ashok’s aural aesthetics are as versatile as his myriad influences, and the genres he’s dabbled in over the years. Whether he’s been creating some alt-rock goodness as part of four-part outfit, The Colour Compound, wreaking havoc in the more amped-up metal scene as part of Rosemary, or introducing audiences to the layered, percussive melodies of liquid drum’n’bass under his only solo endeavour, OX7GEN, his music has always been less about causing forgettable dance-floor seizures than it has been about intelligent production, or paying detailed attention to creating a mood with his tracks; traits that have found solace in more personal spaces for Indian audiences. Simply put–it’s the kind of music that you’d enjoy in multiple surroundings.
Ashok is now launching a brand new live band project, OX7GEN Live, a far more organic re-imagining of his solo avatar, which also happens to feature some of the most exciting musicians in the indie circuit. OX7GEN Live will perform tracks from Dimensions, the new EP he’s launching this month, as well as songs from 2012’s Any Minute Now. The latest five-track EP has Ashok further exploring the distinct drum ‘n bass-heavy sound that he is known for, also being the first of his releases to feature vocals.
Says Aditya, “Being a drummer first and foremost, it was only a matter of time before I left the decks, sat behind a drum kit and got some of the city’s best musicians to reinterpret my music. I’ve always been fascinated with recreating dance music with instruments that are not conventional to electronic music. I haven’t really seen bands do something like this, and I think it’s a great aesthetic to add to a live dance music performance. All of this will be complemented by a synchronised lighting and visual rig.”
Tonight marks one of the biggest moments in his career trajectory so far–the unveiling of this new project at Blue Frog–mostly because it’s also one of his most ambitious. Between this and what looks to be a mammoth month coming up ahead for the young artist, we took some time out to dissect the blocks of his past that have stacked up in order to make him the artist he is today. For all thematic purposes and intent, here’s a brief timeline of Ashok’s evolution as an artist, with pictures to boot.
Feb, 2005 – First rock concert experience at Channel V’s Launch Pad.
“This was the first time I was exposed to the infectious energy of a real rock concert. I had always been into music and I used to sing now and then, but I didn’t know how to play any instruments at this point – no drum set, no guitar. Five bands including Them Clones, Pin Drop Violence and Zero played and I saw them onstage as a part of a 7,000 odd crowd. A lot of the songs really stuck with me, and the funny thing is, over the next few years, I went on to collaborate and play with a lot of the artists I saw onstage that night.”
April, 2005 - Guitar lessons with Ravi Iyer of Vayu opened up new doors into music theory.
“Ravi Iyer, who has been involved in the rock music circuit since 1985, was someone we all really looked up to. The classic rock band that he was the guitar player for, Vayu, was really big in the mid-2000’s, and they mainly did covers but also had a few original compositions. He used to teach two of my closest friends Adil and Jishnu guitar, and I started learning from him as well. I only learnt from him for about a year, but a good amount of my basic music theory come from him. Since I’ve started composing, I’ve gone back to the guitar a little bit in terms of coming up with melodies – I’m not so proficient that I’d play onstage but it helps me come up with ideas. The minute I started the drums, though, my focus shifted completely.”
Feb, 2006 – The first drum kit makes its way into his life (even if it is his older brother’s).
“My older brother Arun is also a huge music buff, and as kids, I used to emulate him a lot. I used to end up playing whatever instrument he picked up. I didn’t have any friends who played the drums, and I started playing on his drum kit and just sort of started picking up how to play it on my own. I’d listen to easy songs, some Pink Floyd tracks, and try to teach myself. Arun used to play the guitar, before drums, and he also plays the sax now. “
- Formed his first band, Social Suicide (The SOS), with Adil Kurwa, Jishnu Guha and Rahul Pais.
“A couple of school friends of mine, Adil, Jishnu and I formed the band, and Rahul Pais joined in a little later. We realised that all three of us were all guitarists so we started experimenting a little, I started singing. We tried out a few people for drummers, but I ended up switching to drums from guitar and Adil switched to bass at the same time. We wrote a bunch of songs together. We weren’t very well integrated into the local scene at the time and we felt a little intimated to ask seasoned guys to play with us. We were only 16 years old then and it was a great initiation into the scene.”
November, 2006 – The first ever live gig at Sophia’s College with The SOS.
“I remember sitting backstage and being extremely nervous; this was an inter-college singing competition that we were performing at the end of. Our audience included about a hundred students with some disgruntled staff members thrown in for good measure. We played two of our own songs and four covers. I remember performing ‘Where the Streets Have No Name’ by U2 and ‘Wish You Were Here’ by Incubus. At the time, we thought we pulled it off. The gig got over by 1PM so I guess we must’ve gone out and celebrated by having lunch or something. The nuns at Sophia College had a problem with the word ‘suicide’ and that’s when we became The SOS.”
– Played his first ever live gig in front of a public audience at HRC, Worli.
“We played about 30 songs to an audience of 700, with six of our own songs and covers of artists like RHCP, Snow Patrol, Maroon 5 and U2. It was actually crazy, they shut entry half an hour into the gig, and we played the next month as well because they loved it.”
November, 2007 – Descarta is formed with Jash Reen, Devesh Dayal and Adil Kurwa.
“Jash is one half of Wolves now, while Devesh (the guitar player of Skyharbor) was a very young, prodigal musician who now studies at Berkelee College of Music.We started hanging out and jamming and I actually started listening to post-hardcore because of Jash and Devesh. We’re all good friends now and have collaborated quite a bit over the years.”
– His first metal gig with Descarta at D’Ultimate.
“I have always loved playing drums for a metal band, it’s challenging and fun, skill-wise. This gig was at Andheri, with a standard metal line up of six bands; I remember hanging out with P-man who was there with Khiladi. A lot of people dug our music, we did two covers and three of our own songs. Our sound, as a band, was a little different, since it was post-hardcore – we were inclined towards a more Underoath, The Devil Wears Prada kind of sound. We had Devesh and Jash on guitar, Ayan De on keys, Adil on bass, Christian Beck on vocals and I was on drums.”
- Played at Malhar as part of the St. Xavier’s band & won his first ‘Best Drummer’ award.
“In hindsight, playing as a part of the Xavier’s band for Malhar has been one of the most important key moments of my career. I met a lot of great musicians whom I work with now, like Bradley Tellis, whom I went on to work with as a part of The Colour Compound and now, OX7GEN live, as well. I also met Rhys D’souza, who plays the saxophone, whom I play with in Mikey McCleary’s The Bartender now, as well as Sanaya Ardheshir AKA Sandunes. The award was really great, it sort of reassured my parents about what I was doing in life as well, and it was because of this that I got my first own drum kit. I hadn’t considered music as an actual career choice. I definitely started taking music more seriously after this point.”
November, 2008 - Joined psychedelic/grunge band Rosemary.
“Rosemary was this new, young band at the time that had been winning a lot of competitions. It was these three dudes with long hair, getting on stage, playing heavy-ass energetic grunge, and leaving without saying a word. Their drummer had left for Singapore, and they saw me playing with The SOS at a HRC gig - they just walked up to me and asked if I would be interested in playing with them. Looking back, this is how people even began getting to know of my existence in the circuit - because of Rosemary.”
2008 – He played his first gig with Rosemary at NLS, Bangalore, for Strawberry Fields and, in addition to the band winning the competition, he also won the Best Drummer Award.
“I started travelling a lot and performing with Rosemary – we had a tanpura in our set, with a Nirvana-esque grunge meets psychedelic feel, very drone-y and post-rockish. I got lots of exposure and met a lot of musicians around this time. At NLS, we performed in front of a 4000-strong audience. In all, Rosemary must have done some 15-16 gigs including IIT Mumbai, and got some amazing response from audiences, as well as people in the music circuit.”
December, 2008 - Won the Best Drummer award at IIT Mumbai at the Mood Indigo fest.
February, 2009 – The awards kept rolling in – he won the Jack Daniels Annual Rock Award for Best Upcoming Band with Rosemary.
“Generally an artist would win from a bunch of nominees, but the winner for this award was given by a jury. This was also the first time the award was being given, if I’m not wrong – we’d just returned from the finals of Campus Rock Idols at Hyderabad, and it was definitely a confidence-booster, but also made us realise that we needed to up our game.”
- Formed The Colour Compound with Adil Kurwa, Bradley Tellis and Rohan Mazumdar.
“Comprising of Adil Kurwa on bass, Rohan Mazumdar (Baycity Lights) on vocals and acoustic guitar, and Bradley Tellis on vocals and electric guitar and me on drums, TCC didn’t start off with any preconceived notions of what the sound of the band would be like, we went in only as individual musicians and the chemistry was mind-blowing. We would come out of every rehearsal with a new song, and we had a lot of similar interests. We’ve written 45 songs till date, and they don’t really have a particular sound, we’ve used all kinds of styles. It was all very organic and we just experimented until the point when everyone agreed about what to put into each song. Our debut album has a more cohesive sound, compared to our earlier stuff. Back then, we had blues songs, heavy rock-ish songs, pop songs – we were always growing. We were all friends before we formed the band, and honestly – playing and travelling with your friends as a band is the most fun an artist can have. There’s no ego, and no matter how much you work, it never, ever feels like work.”
November, 2009 - Played his first ever TCC gig at Celebrate Bandra.
“We played some indie originals and alternative pop covers at our debut gig as TCC.”
December, 2009 - Won IIT Mumbai’s Mood Indigo with Rosemary to open for Porcupine Tree and Won ‘Best Drummer.’
“At that point, this was the absolute highlight of my life. Porcupine Tree was one of the best, biggest gigs at the time. Us winning that year was announced quite unceremoniously – backstage and after the gig was over – due to some logistical issues, but this has been one of the most memorable gigs as a part of Rosemary.”
- Won the TOTO Award for Music with Rosemary.
“We got a call telling us we were finalists for the TOTO Award and were called down to Bangalore, where we found out we had won. We got to meet the late Amit Sehgal here, founder of Rock Street Journal, who had quite a few nice things to say about Rosemary. The prize money we received from here was used to release Rosemary’s only EP, later on.”
September, 2010 - Released his first ever single as OX7GEN - Northern Lights.
“I had never tried song-writing, production or mixing before. I convinced my folks to buy me a Macbook and just started experimenting and applying whatever I’d learnt over the years. I started listening to drum’n’bass in 2008, and something about it really struck a chord. Northern Lights was a straight-up drum’n’bass track, which was received quite well, and I started exploring the sonic qualities of a lot of instruments. The sound of an electric piano really stuck with me, it’s very dreamy and is a strong motif in the single.”
December, 2010 - Won the Best Drummer award at Hornbill, Kohima, Nagaland.
“I feel like it’s only because I look like I have a lot of fun on stage that I have been picked for Best Drummer awards over contenders who are probably more deserving. It was really exhilarating experience, being there in a massive stadium filled with metalheads and rock fans.”
May, 2011 - Released first and only Rosemary release - A Legacy of Ruined Days - May 2011.
“Before Rosemary dissolved, we put out one 6-track EP that got a lot of really good reviews and responses. 80% of the credit for the musical direction of ‘A Legacy of Ruined Days’ goes to Achint Thakkar, who was the guitarist, vocalist and songwriter. Incidentally, the independently-released EP was recorded and mixed by Jason D’souza, ex-drummer of Rosemary.”
- Played his first ever OX7GEN DJ set.
“Sohail Arora of Krunk really liked my sound and I opened for Bay Beat Collective at Cool Chef Cafe. Although I started at 10PM, there was quite a crowd for the gig and they really dug the music. It was at the end of this gig that Sohail asked me to sign with Krunk as an artist.”
– Joined Krunk as the only drum’n’bass artist on the roster.
- Joined Mikey McCleary’s musical project - The Bartender.
“I met Mikey McCleary through Rhys D’souza, who works with him a lot. This was the first corporate set-up I ever played in; Mikey reworks old Bollywood music to give it more of a lounge feel, recording with sessions musicians. It was a really important part of my career as I got to work with the highly successful and professional Mikey, and learn about how to respect your musicians and their time, respect the art - give the art the time it deserves. He’s become sort of a musical mentor. It’s also given me a chance to work with a lot of other incredibly talented musicians like Kishore Sodha, Vinay Lobo, Rachel Varghese, Saba Azad, Ramone Ibrahim, and Shibani Dandekar to name a few.
• Headlined Dub Station at NH7 Pune.
“Literally my third DJ set, two months after my Cool Chef gig, I was worried initially as the slot was clashing with Bassment Jaxx. It was packed though, and with DJ Mocity on MC duty, the energy was amazing.”
• Played his first ever gig with Shaa’ir + Func.
“When I was first called to play with Shaa’ir + Func, it was unreal because these guys were really big at that point, both Randolph and Monica being highly respected artists. I was filling in for Jai Row Kavi (Indus Creed), the drummer, and was terrified of not doing the gig well initially, as we had a tiny window for rehearsal. I’d record him playing and try to play the parts note for note. The gig at Counter Culture in Bangalore went off really well, though. It was made a hundred times scarier because Indus Creed walked in right before the show started and I had to play in front of Jai. I think I played without mistakes, though, and it’s definitely one of my proudest moments.”
April, 2012 - Played his first ever international show with Shaair + Func at Chill Out Festival Dubai alongside De La Soul, The Kooks, etc.
November, 2012 -
Played with Pretty Lights Music artist Michal Menert at NH7 Weekender Pune.
“I actually got introduced to Menert at Penthouze in Pune, after my performance with Dualist Inquiry. He asked me to play drums with him the next day when we were hanging out over a few drinks at about 4AM that night. It turned out he was actually serious about it, and sent over a car at 8AM to pick me up for soundcheck and we pretty much took it from there.”
Dec, 2012 -
Released his first ever solo EP OX7GEN - Any Minute Now.
Feb, 2013 - Opened for drum’n’bass legend, London Elektricity, at Bass Camp Festival.
“I was introduced to the music of London Elektricity by Sohail Arora, and this was the first drum’n’bass artist I had ever heard. His Essential Mix from 2008 has been my bible for drum’n’bass and it was surreal travelling with him to Delhi. I’d be sitting in a car in Delhi, listening to him explain how he came up with the name London Elektricity and how he helped Netsky form his band. Before the second gig in Delhi, he gave me some really important advice – he said to stop using Ableton to DJ if I was serious about it, something I had been told before. Being the CEO of Hospital Records, the biggest drum’n’bass label, I reckon he had a point, though, and switched a year later.
June, 2013 -
Became an official endorsee for Zildjian Cymbals & Mapex Drums.
July, 2013 - Played his first International OX7GEN gig at Home Club, Singapore.
“Sohail hooked me up with this gig, and it was quite daunting actually because I didn’t know what the d’n’b scene there was like. It was a nice, small scene and everyone was into the music. Ideally, I want to go and play in the UK – that’s something I’m really going to push for in the years to come.”
Jan 2014 - Started monthly property #strictlydrumnbass with KRUNK.
“Krunk really helped me out here – since I was the only d’n’b artist on the roster, they asked me to be the resident, and promote it. Every one of these has been a great experience, and we’re creating a community for this kind of sound. We’re trying to bring new sounds to people, showcasing different styles of drum n bass. We follow a lot of podcasts and try and keep our local community updated on the latest international sounds.”
May, 2014 -
First ever full-length album release with a band The Colour Compound - From Where We Stand.
“It took us two years to make this happen, with a lot of hiccups in between. We put in some money ourselves, had some help as well – all in all, whatever reviews or responses we heard were all good. It was an album that made for easy listening.”
June 2014 - Played Glastonbury Festival, UK with Shaair + Func.
“I wouldn’t normally say this – but it’s Glastonbury. It was a life-changing moment in my life. I’ve been to international festivals before, but experiencing Glastonbury was something else. I got to see literally every single artist I’d like to see live – my favourite performances were Massive Attack and Jagwar Ma. We were camping for four days – there was Tej Brar from OML, the Shiva Soundsystem boys, Randolph’s friends..the best way to really experience a festival though, is to get lost and wander around alone, discovering artists.”
October, 2014 - First OX7GEN Live gig.
“I’ve been meaning to do this for a while now. A few of us were a part of Krunk All-Stars last year and that’s when I looked at the idea realistically, since I already had a blueprint of how it would work. We want to play a seamless set for an hour with the aesthetics of a band – I’ve realised the importance of stage production, and I’ve invested a lot of time and money into the show. For OX7GEN Live, I’m teaming up with Bradley Tellis (of The Colour Compound) on guitar, Rohan Rajadhakshya (of Spud In The Box) on keys, Suraj Manik (of the now defunct Rosemary) on bass guitar and Donn Bhat on guitar, while I takes over the drums. The band will also feature guest vocalists including Siddharth Basrur, Rachel Varghese and Rohan Mazumdar. The release of the EP Dimensions will be accompanied by a multi-city tour by the band, with stops in Mumbai, Pune, Delhi and Goa, among others, beginning on the 30th of October. Let’s hope for the best.”
Words: Aditi Dharmadhikari
[Aditya Ashok unveils ‘OX7GEN Live Presents: Dimensions’ tonight at Blue Frog, Mumbai. RSVP here. And show up. It will be well worth your time.]