How live is live electronica? Interview with Audio Pervert Samrat Bee
Just how live is live electronica? Somewhere between The Fat of the Land and Untrue, a lot of people sold their synthesizers and bought Macbooks. What ensued was a half-decade of slouch back MIDI loop triggering. The laptop turned tracks into monoliths sculpted elsewhere, put in front of crowds to gawp at like art museum exhibits. Gone were the outbursts of spontaneity treading from one moment to another. The guys on stage never made eye contact.
When I ask Samrat Bee, who some refer to as Audiopervert, part of self-described beat punk outfit Teddy Boy Kill what’s been up, he lights a clip on the stove and tells me his bandmate Ashhar is writing software for Microsoft Kinect which makes music when you move. Fifteen minutes later, he’ll say, “Around 2006, I felt there’s sense in playing this kind of music live rather than just sticking to the studio and admiring it.”
Teddy Boy Kill began in 2007, around the time Jonny Greenwood announced the new Radiohead album would see a pay what you want release. Back then it was just Ashhar and him. “We’d known each other for a while so we decided we’ll try and take on electronic music as a core,” he says. “But nothing happened till about middle 2008 because we were just sitting at home, making music, trying to create an identity for the band so as to say that tomorrow if we had to go out and play, what is it that we should do and shouldn’t.” He calls this their teething period.
What do Teddy Boy Kill sound like? It’s dance music to soundtrack excursions to the wrong end of town. Steady rhythms tense enough to split sinews hold Ashhar’s borderline snarl on their backs. It’s neon tainted with grit. “If you compare the music of Sigur Ros to that of The Prodigy,” says Bee, “you’ll know one comes from a beautiful place and the other from a dark, hardcore place. It speaks for itself. Me, I live in one of the most chaotic and busy places in the world.”
The pent-up discontent the music exudes is reinforced by the words sung over it. “Lyrically, music is a reflection of what you see in society or what bothers you, what makes you happy or what doesn’t, what frustrates you or what puzzles you. For instance, we wrote a song for Wild City called FuckZION. It’s a clear message against the whole Zionistic policy of certain people of holding wealth and not making it accessible to the people.
“Another track of ours, Busy!Pimp is about how society always tells you that you gotta be busy and proactive and show the world that you are worth something otherwise we don’t want you. Even if you take the band’s name, Teddy Boy is a slang or slur that denotes somebody who is uptight and does not believe in having fun or treating people equally. How what we think reflects in our music, you can hear it I guess, there’s no point in explaining it, which is what I’m trying to do right now.”
As they stand today, they’re a trio with brain-like duplicity in function. What you hear over Soundcloud is the conscious half — tracks devised, designed, sculpted under optimal studio conditions. They key word here is ‘tracks’, these don’t cross the seven minute barrier. What you hear on stage is the subconscious. Deconstructions of their own compositions that sprawl on sometimes beyond the sixty minute mark. Member number three, Akshat, plays live drums during these.
“We got Akshat in because there came a point where Ashhar and I felt that we saturated the bandwidth of the band in terms of electronic output. It was like, ‘You guys are same in the nightclub as you are on a Sunday morning on stage.’ We thought, ‘Why should we be the same?’ And since we’ve had a close association with Akshat, since he’s a filmmaker and we’ve worked with him before, and he wanted to move into stuff which was away from post-rock, which is his background, to stuff closer to what he’s been listening to for the last three or four years, it just kinda came together.”
“The drum kit is a very loud and powerful instrument. We started writing music around it and tried to control this beast within our circumference. Now, where we’ve reached is we write songs which, when you’ll hear for the first time, you might think we’ve moved to a different sound. But if you hear us live, you’ll hear that with a drum kit — an acoustic instrument with such loud dynamics, the music kinda takes another step.”
“So when Ashar said, ‘I’d like to play’, we said, ‘That’s great!’ I remember this one afternoon we saw a three-hour documentary on Soulwax. They’re a pretty rocking band out of Belgium, they used to be called 2manydjs. There were four or five musicians who loved DJing and they used to go on stage and DJ, so people were like, ‘Why don’t you just do what you do best?’ So they kinda turned it back, and they have a drummer, a bass player and two or three guys using five or six synths. When we saw that, we thought we could do this, we could at least try. So once we tried, it turned out to be a lot of fun. The boundaries of our music got expanded.”
As is apparent, every creative maneuver the group makes is a boulder hurled at the wall in today’s electronic music scene that stands between musicians and crowds. They turn the immediacy and fervency of their immediate surroundings into soundwaves which they then take apart and reassemble on stage. Teddy Boy Kill is as live as electronic music gets, it’s the future sound of Delhi.
written by Ritwik Deshpande