Musicians With Many Hats – In Conversation with Nitin Rajan
“In my high school days I happened to watch the live video of Metallica’s ‘One’. That massive energy they exuded made me decide that I need to get into a band – a METAL band someday. I picked up the bass guitar to be a utility bass/vocalist à la Tom Araya, but soon I realised I was better off growling away.”
Extreme metal vocalist of old school metal band Primitiv, Nitin Rajan is no stranger to the familiar juggling act that many independent artists have to master – between a day job, one’s career as a musician, and one’s personal life. In addition to being a musician, he is also a digital media professional with a radio station, promotes metal gigs, and is the co-founder of India’s oldest metal fest ‘Domination – The Deathfest’.
Indrajeet Deshpande spoke some more with Nitin about the life of a musician wearing these different hats.
Indrajeet: Give us a quick rundown of your weekly work-life routine.
Nitin: My working days are Monday to Friday. At work, it’s ideation, execution, lots of meetings – completely buzzed. Thankfully it’s all about music. I look after programming and content in the digital media space and we have been pioneering web radio in India – so it’s fun and engaging. Weeknights I do my own ‘learning and practicing the songs’, we play and manage the social media platforms for Primitiv and/or the fests we are organising. I am constantly in touch with my partner in crime Riju Dasgupta, and we plot new gigs, explore more ways to promote Primitiv. We are constantly working with ace producers and design artists from the scene for our single launches. On weekends I mostly jam with Primitiv, as well as my new extreme metal project.
Indrajeet: Maintaining a balance between your corporate life, musician’s life and personal life must be tricky. How do you do it?
Nitin: Balance is tough but manageable. Corporate life funds your passion. There just isn’t a critical mass in India to survive just by playing metal. Hell, it’s difficult in countries with evolved metal scene too. I have ensured somewhere the twain meet – music, corporate life and personal. I work for an organisation that is in the music business, and have been fortunate to have been able to propagate independent music in some ways. The people I have chosen to be around do understand my passion for music, so time management is the key over here. The challenges are that increasingly your friends circle becomes your band mates as you have to spend truckloads of time jamming and practicing – so it is difficult to keep in touch with your older mates. From a day job and corporate life point of view, most of our jams or gigs are post office hours or on weekends. So that’s how you manage it.
Indrajeet: Making that frequent transition from a corporate job, to playing music – what changes and what stays the same?
Nitin: The get up changes. For some it may seem like Jekyll and Hyde. For me, I’m used to it. My work ethics at any front are pretty much the same. At the heart of it I am in the pursuit of creating good music experience for those who are interested – be it in corporate life or live on stage.
One just has to prioritise. You may have to give up some gigs here and there when there is an important conference or project you are involved in at your corporate job.
If you are involved in a corporate job you like then the rush is pretty much the same. You are creating something which has to be well received by the audience. And that rush is pretty much the same. The kind of music I play it is not for monetary benefits – it is for pure creative satisfaction. Whereas the product I create – first has to be well received and second has to be monetised.
Indrajeet: Does having two parallel careers work to your advantage in some way?
Nitin: I feel it does. It helps you plan your work better. Understand the value of time better. Your people skills, presentation skills and approach goes a notch above as a musician when your corporate grooming is done the right way. Also you understand consumer behaviour, media planning and marketing slightly better. All this will still be zilch if your product isn’t up to the mark. I have donned my corporate hat here.
I have for instance helped launch an indie radio station for which being a musician in the scene for so many years did help immensely. And my digital media skills honed at work do come handy in helping promote my band and events.
Indrajeet: Having been in the independent scene for a while now, how would you say things have changed?
Nitin: Internet, superior and cheaper software and hardware access, ready availability and affordability of superior music equipment and instruments has brought an indie revolution and an amazing DIY culture.
Back in the day, access and knowledge was a major challenge for an extreme metal band like us. None of the music stores in India kept double bass pedals. The jam room culture was non-existent. Live sound was primitive. Recording facilities were exorbitant. All that has immensely improved. The average age of metal enthusiasts has come down. They are getting into the scene early.
In terms of improvement, we still need a critical mass of audience for each and every sub-genre. We need more indie enthusiasts embracing the live gig culture and not taking it up just as a fad – which is the case in most of the genres. And more people who are metalheads for life. The older generation has to contribute more to the scene for it to grow. This is the only way we will get to see more people at gigs, buying merchandise and music, which in turn will encourage the promoters and venue owners to invest more.
Indrajeet: And finally, what advice would you give to any upcoming independent musician who is also juggling different careers at the same time?
Nitin: Just don’t give up. Keep at it, pursue your interests wholeheartedly and stick to the DIY culture.
Photo credit: Varun Kodolikar