Dropping Ennui Bombs: In Conversation with Rishu Singh (Part 2)
We continue our conversation with Rishu Singh, co-founder of ennui.BOMB and a champion of the indie music scene in India. In Part 2 we talk to him about the Stupiditties compilations, the New Wave Music Fest 2014 in Goa, his latest show on ‘The Ride’ on Pepsi MTV Indies, and more.
IndiEarth – Tell us about ennui.BOMB, and how it all started in 2004.
Rishu Singh – Basically it started out with my love for compilations. I think it’s a great way to cover music with a playlist or a mixtape. It always makes it easier for the listener, and for me as a listener to just keep skipping the things I don’t like to get to a band that I finally like – then I can get into discovering that band some more. So that’s where it started it off from. The idea was to put together something that was happening in the scene at that time. Whatever was going around at that time. Like Bhayank Maut was not even the big juggernaut that we know them as now, they were just a bunch of young kids starting off. Same thing with Devoid, Tripwire. That’s how it started off – it was a representation of that time in India.
IE – And the Stupiditties concept came along after that. What was the idea here?
RS – What happened was that at that time Sahil (Makhija of Demonic Resurrection) started doing the Resurrection Series of CDs, which was anyway covering the best of the metal scene that was happening all around. I felt like there was massive lacking – for example, the Control Alt Delete we did last time was a metal edition and it saw a record turn out at BlueFrog and we made the highest amount ever – all the bands got paid the highest amount of money.
So I wanted to put all of that together, in a compilation of music that I was listening to at the time and liking, which wasn’t metal. It wasn’t really a fight or anything, but it was an attempt to make an ‘indie scene’, like an alternative kind of scene happen and show people that there are some insanely beautiful bands out there, and that they should be checking them out. That’s where it came from.
IE – It’s an increasingly difficult job to get bands to record their music and then to tell them ‘be part of a compilation for us’. So, how did you generate that amount of inflow, in terms of demos from musicians?
RS – Well, it was a two pronged process, which we did till Stupiditties 5 or 6. One is your social media, word-of-mouth, all of that. You put out the word that something like this is happening. Even with Stupiditties 1 – people knew We ARE the Scene, this was the generation of Gigpad, there were all these forums like RSJ forums – people were aware that such compilations were happening, and that I was doing it. So, when Stupiditties 1 happened, we put out a thing asking people to send in their music.
And then we started calling up bands that we knew – like Medusa (now known as Sky Rabbit), Split, Human Abstract, Tripwire. We called up bands we really wanted to be part of the compilation – like Skinny Alley and SuperFuzz – we were calling them and emailing them and telling them what was happening, and that we’d love for them to be a part of this.
If you see the tracklist for the 8th compilation, it’s very, very fresh music. They’re not really bands you would have heard of, which is what I’m happy about – that it’s reached this stage where I don’t really have to call a band and I don’t really have to have a big name on the CD for people to listen to it.
IE – People can directly download the entire compilation for free from the ennui.BOMB website. So what about copyrights and permissions?
RS – See, what we do is we send out an email to all artists who are part of this, saying ‘you own all rights to your song, this compilation is a free compilation, it’s only for promotional purposes, every thing else is owned by you’. So they give me consent to use their music for the compilation that is going to go out for free. There is no question of money changing hands at all. It doesn’t work for me to monetise unless it works out for the band, because it’s their music after all. I don’t want to sit here and make money off that while the band gets nothing. And this monetising for me would be too much headache. I’m a small company, I don’t have that much bandwidth to do all that. Which is why we want to keep it free – just avoid the complications and just keep it as a straight up, simple thing that it is.
IE – For Stupidities 8 did you have any particular idea in mind – the quality of band or the quality of music – or was it just the idea of fresh music, different genres – together on a single playlist?
RS – The beautiful thing about Stupiditties is that because there’s no money involved, there’s nothing commercial involved with the compilation – I can be autocratic with it. I can put out something I like which is not necessarily a great recording or superb song as per public opinion.
Also, since Stupiditties 5 – when my daughter was born – the vision, the thought in my head was that one day when she grows up, I want this to be a ready reckoner for her. This is what was happening in that generation when I was growing up. That was the only thought at the back of my head, there was nothing else. So anything that I listen to and love, is on the CD, it’s as simple as that.
IE – Give IndiEarth a lowdown on New Wave Asia – in terms of the line up and the challenges you’ve faced in Goa, hunting the correct venue down and the location.
RS – It’s so far been a very beautiful effort. Obviously the biggest challenge is getting the money in, getting brands to believe and even getting artists to sign up. It is an ennui.BOMB festival so the two things you can be sure about is that it will have superb music and it’ll be damn cheap – alcohol prices, F&B, merch, everything. The line-up is superb and Shonen Knife (from Japan) is an achievement for me. I still won’t believe it till I see them in front of me and shake their hands, but it’s a dream come true because it’s a band I’ve grown up on. Such humble and beautiful people who have no hang-ups, and still stand for the punk rock ethic that they originally started. Plus the support we’ve got from the industry has been fabulous. All artists performing here and their managers have been damn supportive in terms of cost, travel arrangements and everything. Nobody’s looking at this as a money making thing – no ‘give me my standard performing fee, give me a 5-star hotel’ – everybody’s going out of their way to accommodate us, promote the festival and the vibe of the festival.
Art Escape is my co-organiser and they’ve been fantastic with everything in Goa, helping us find the venue and everything.
We’ve started the pre-gigs at Baywatch with Art Escape. It’s a great vibe to finally to break that notion that Goans only like blues music or cover bands. They’re getting to see all these punk bands like Punk On Toast and post-rock acts like As We Keep Searching, and they don’t know these terms. All they know is that they’re hearing something new, and if they like they’re going to stay for the gig, if they don’t like it, they’ll walk out. And so far, my audiences have been growing and it’s been very positive.
IE – Now you’re also on Pepsi MTV Indies, tell us something about your show “The Ride”.
RS – That show – I don’t know, some supremely creative minds at MTV have come up with it. It’s called ‘The Ride with Rishu Singh’ and it’s where I’m talking to people who don’t have any kind of backing in the industry and profession they are in – who’ve done it all on their own and are now finally at a stage where they can talk about it, and maybe people will get inspired. Some kid sitting somewhere in Ahmedabad who probably wants to become a director, definitely has some take away from each episode that I’m doing. For example, Kalki will tell me on the show that ‘you can’t become an actor by just sitting at Coffee Day and looking good and muscular or beautiful, I would rather do plays for free because that keeps the actor in me alive’. That is such great advice to youngsters. It’s a superb vibe talking to these people who are finally killing it and getting rich and famous and sharing their enthusiasm and their passion with everyone else.
IE – IndiEarth XChange is coming up this December. How was your experience last year?
RS – I love IndiEarth. I was just talking to someone in the morning about IndiEarth. I had a great time over there and I’m sorry that I missed that panel. It was a superb experience. It’s a very brilliant thing you guys are doing, reaching out and this whole knowledge sharing that happened there and the networking bit that happens over there followed by the showcases – I think it’s a perfect combination to really put this indie music scene into an industry perspective. I really think it’s a superb job and I had a really nice time.