Singer, composer, songwriter and producer – there are a number of roles that Sanjeev Thomas plays with perfection alongside being Oscar and Grammy-winner AR Rahman’s lead guitarist since 2006. The AVIMA 2010 winner for the Most Inventive, Innovative and Creative Indie Act in Asia, Thomas who is the co-founder and Director of Music at the Springr Studios recently released his new album, Epic Shit. The album features an eclectic mix with contributions from the likes of BaijuDharmarajan, Warren Mendosa, Asad Khan, Sayonara, Roop Thomas, Ralphin Stephen, Maria Tom, SanthoshChandran, PranoyBixter and many more. The album was released online on OK Listen and the first single Chekele went viral with more than 20,000 hits within the first 10 days of its release.
soundplunge_test caught up with the Kuwait-born composer after the release of his latest album. Thomas, who featured in the inaugural season of Coke Studio and MTV Unplugged and is known for his “no-enemy” mantra in life, talks about music, inspiration, AR Rahmanand his life’s philosophy in this interview.
soundplunge_test: How would describe the experience of playing with a maestro like ARRahman?
Sanjeev: Playing with AR Rahman has been an experience of a lifetime. Apart from the time spent on the music and creative ideas, time spent with him as a human being has inspired me and others. Humility in our duties and responsibilities could be one of my greatest lessons from him. I have always linked music deeply with the human mind and I believe the better the human being you are – the better your music will stand for. The more will your story inspire and stand against the rest. With AR Rahman I have had the opportunity to work with some of the best talents in the world, musicians, technicians and artists from different genres and skill. I have played in the biggest venues around the world. Travelled to only come back to understanding myself better. He has changed my life.
soundplunge_test: What are the themes or concepts you wanted to bring out through this album?
Sanjeev: The album EPIC SHIT is a personal journey of the mind. The situations where all of us are tested with our minds. I believe all of us in this world go through a conscious growth of intelligence with ideas and our future. We are interconnected as an idea can be felt by millions all at the same time. It is how attuned we are to our minds that bring us closer to these connections.
“ZamZayo” speaks about a call of bravery in loneliness, “Feel me now” tries to communicate with only the mind and evokes our simple connections as a species, the folk songs in the album speak about overcoming fear as our greatest challenge. So this album is my interpretation of this journey and how the journey is all that matters and not the destination.
soundplunge_test: What’s the story behind the rather unusual name – Epic Shit?
Sanjeev: Epic Shit is a phrase which came up during my days in Springr. It’s a word that evolved from the team, when we passed our hurdles and overcome them. When we achieved something or brought something new to the table, we naturally looked at each other, smiled and hi fived each other shouting out “We do only epic shit”. The phrase is still our most popular greeting and was according to me, perfect in christening my album this year.
soundplunge_test: The artwork of the album looks intense. Can you tell us about it detail?
Sanjeev: Wowmakers has created the artwork from the brief I gave them. They are a great bunch of talented artists. I wanted a Tree of Life meets NoahsArk meets intricate details in the story.TheTree of Life signifies a space of conscious creativity and minds. Life from all races coming towards it where the arts and creativity being the main focus which is symbolised by the eye. The roots of the tree being merged with machinery signifying the use of technology to progress in our thinking and helping us organize it.
soundplunge_test: Having been featured on Coke Studio and numerous other modern music programmes, what do you feel about the local music scene in India?
Sanjeev: The music scene is big in India but only in terms of the film and TV industry. The indie scene has received a lot of support over the years from organisations, festivals and the media yet still the question of sustenance is still a major concern. The finances in the indie scene have not been distributed well and also haven’t been glorified as yet in terms of the music and the art. We, like the West have to device new ways of promoting indie music and disregard traditional methods which don’t work for today. We are slowly getting back to a rich culture of our indie music, and I see a great future in bringing in back as part of the mainstream.
soundplunge_test: Will your new album see any similarities to the guitar tones that you have used in Rockstar?
Sanjeev: Actually, this album has been a total reinvention of the acoustic guitar for me. Going back to where I came from initially. I was always an acoustic singer / songwriter back in the days, and this was when I wrote a lot of my good songs. I have also been most attached to the classical guitar from a young age, nylon strings always bring the magic back to me and so have used a lot of the songs based on my nylon guitar. I have spent a considerable amount of time giving importance to my vocal abilities and tonality.
soundplunge_test: How different is the music scene in Kuwait from that over here?
Sanjeev: There is no music scene in Kuwait at all. Trust me it’s the total opposite. But being in school there has had its share of music programmes, a few outside too. I have been to good schools where talent was always possible to find.
soundplunge_test: Apart from your solo music, one can see that you have worked a lot in the commercial side of things, making the song for Celebrity Cricket League of Kerala and several other TV commercials. Does this require a different approach method?
Sanjeev: Commercial music is a land of variety where you have to understand different styles of music and its genres. This helps me a lot as it has developed my interest in all genres of music and I try my best to get into the culture of all of these genres to really understand them. With working in commercial music I have automatically been fascinated to add the many elements of various genres in my personal music too.
soundplunge_test: In light of your recent release, do you have any words of advice to give to aspiring musicians?
Sanjeev: The life of a musician is hard anywhere in the world. It’s probably a little bit harder in India too depending on the background of music you come from. But I would say, how long will you bear the suffering and perceiver. How long will you believe in yourself to see what only you have dreamt about. To live a life which is not travelled by many, a road of adventure but too many might feel a life of the unsettled. It’s the power of your belief that can take you anywhere – that can help u withstand the strongest winds and overcome.