Lift the great Indian rock frock and you’ll find many pleats where Delhi-based band, Parikrama fit. Six scrawny young adults - Subir Malik (keyboard), Nitin Malik (vocals), Sonam Sherpa (lead guitar), Saurabh Chaudhary (guitar), Chintan Kalra (bass guitar) and Srijan Mahajan (drums) - met in 1991, jammed on Pink Floyd, made a song (the recently re-released Xerox…), played the fool and ended up touring the Indian campus festival circuit religiously. In fact, they still play 160 shows every year. The nation’s original independent live act have never released an album or an EP, despite which, they have opened for Iron Maiden and Porcupine Tree. Subir takes us through their 20 years.
Playing back in 1991, did you ever think that you’d be a professional musician when you grew up?
I was 20 when we formed the band. I’m 40 now. I never thought this was what I would end up doing, but Nitin, Saurabh, Chintan, Sonam, Srijan and I have lived it out. We still feel like college kids who played their first gig.
Why have you never released an album?
What’s the point? We were the first band to go digital in 1995. We would always put out music online for free download. We were doing this when labels were still big and the CD was new. Still, we didn’t feel the need. Now everybody is doing it. We don’t like recording studios, even though we have enough material for five albums.
After 20 years of playing rock in India, how do you look back at the criticism you’ve faced?
It’s funny, but we’ve never had an issue with being bad. We just always wanted to play music. What bands grow out of eventually, we still do. We still play the same songs over and over again. If we play 80 times, chances are we will get it wrong 20 times. We still play at college festivals like in IIT, IIM and NIFT. We love it. That’s really our USP.
Are you going to be doing a live tour commemorating your 20th anniversary?
We are planning something in September. We will be doing three nation-wide tours, the details of which are still being finalised. We will also be re-releasing our first song, Xerox… that we wrote in 1991 on Artistaloud.com.
We played for Iron Maiden for the first time on March 17, 2007. They invited us for a seven city UK tour in June that year, including the mainstage of Download Festival, Donnington Park. We later opened for them when they came to India and became their official opening act for Asia.
Live and loud
We bought www.parikrama.com and immediately released all our originals for free download in 1995. We suddenly got a lot of gigs to play post that. In 1992, at a concert in Luncknow, we introduced pyrotechnics and fireworks in our show. Since then all our gigs include setting the entire stage on fire.
This year, we represented India at the Kennedy Centre, Washington DC on March 11. We were worried about how the serious diplomats would receive our loud sound. We got a standing ovation.
Accident prone debut
We made our first train journey to Chennai, in a second class, non AC compartment in 1992. It was also where our first accident occurred. Srijan, our drummer, fell head first while playing at MCC, Madras. He turtled over the drum-kit in the middle of a song. A year later Chintan, our bassist electrocuted himself playing at our first gig at a girls college in Miranda House, Delhi. We were distracted.
We released our first corded single Till I'm no one again… while playing at GIR, Delhi in 1995. Sonam suffered a panic attack after we finished recording because we played non-stop for 24 hours in a run-down studio with no headphones. Our violin player, Sharat kept us in time by moving his hands like a conductor. It was a crazy experience.