Awards have never driven us: Uday Benegal
Rock band Indus Creed that recently performed in Mumbai has been justifiably credited with pioneering rock music in India. They are often called “India’s first rock band” a tag vehemently denied by lead vocalist Uday Benegal, 50, who explains, “We were known as Rock Machine before we rechristened to Indus Creed and there have been several rock bands before us. At best you could say that we were the first to get national recognition and were possibly the most long-lasting.”
Rock Machine was formed in 1985 but they called it off in 1997. Much to the delight of their fans, they regrouped in 2010. Several musicians joined the band and quit over time. “We are very careful about who we bring in and so far, apart from a couple of hiccups, we have had great guys joining in the fun,” says Benegal.
At present the band puts together Benegal and the two other founding members — guitarist Mahesh Tinaikar, 54, and keyboardist Zubin Balaporia, 51, along with new members — drummer Andrew Kanga, 29, and bassist Adil Kurwa, 28. For Benegal, the changing members bring “new set of ideas and influences” to “enrich your sound and experience”. He also values the fact that the best feedback come from band members. “The most constructive criticism has always come from within the band. It usually has to do with performance — being a well-rehearsed outfit was always paramount to us. Equally important was keeping everyone’s egos at sea level. If anyone was beginning to think he was bigger than another in the band — or even outside of it — that balloon was rapidly deflated by the rest of his band mates,” he says.
The band has always maintained that it is important for them to create original music. Yet, their discography is limited to four albums — Rock ‘n’ Roll Renegade (1988), The Second Coming (1990), Indus Creed (1995) and Evolve (2012). When questioned about this, Benegal quips, “Yes, we’re very lazy. Also, it costs money to record and market albums.” He remains evasive with regards to when their next album can be expected. “When it’s ready,” is all that he gives away.
Benegal points out to one of the dilemmas that perhaps hinder new, original music — the monopoly of bigger music labels. He says, “We don’t think big record labels have much value anymore. Smaller labels, though, can play a great role in shepherding a good act towards success. But they don’t exist in this country.”
Having jammed with international artistes such as singer Jon Bon Jovi and guitarist Slash, and having bagged an MTV award (International Viewer’s Choice Award for MTV Asia) for their track ‘Pretty child’, did Grammy ever seem like a goal? “To be very honest, awards haven’t meant anything to us other than additional hype that we can milk to squeeze more opportunities to keep doing what we do. So we’ve never been driven to get awards. We gained much attention (that still runs) from our MTV award achievement, but we never gave it much effort again,” he says.
Benegal makes the reason for making new music crystal clear. “I love the rush of big guitars, lush keyboard tones, kicking grooves and soaring melodies. It’s a pretty selfish experience for me, and I do that because it feels good. Keeping an audience engaged is where the entertainment comes in, but that’s really just so that they allow us to keep playing in peace,” he says.