A Passage From India

This week Tushar introduces us to Mumbai’s Goddess Gagged…

There is an inherent danger in wearing your influences too obviously on your sleeve. Part of the struggle of getting a band’s voice heard involves creating some sort of niche, some unique selling point. Brighton-based proggers, Maschine, realised this early on when they changed their name from Concrete Lake to avoid the inevitable comparisons to Pain of Salvation. Of course, this is just a rule of thumb and one way to avoid the pitfall is by entering an unrelated genre- very few people, I imagine, associate Between The Buried And Me with the Counting Crows’ Ghost Train, from which they derive their name. Or Radiohead with Talking Heads’ True Stories.

Which is a slightly long-winded way of reintroducing a band to which I alluded in the last installment of Passage From India, Goddess Gagged. Their name is derived from the last song on Protest The Hero’s sophomore LP, Fortress. While the influence of Protest The Hero and bands of their ilk is evident, it is merely the starting point, the ground state on which further explorations and innovations are constructed. Noticeably less frenetic than the music of their eponym’s, the band’s debut (and till date only) full-length album, Resurfaces, is a cogent and confident statement, which indicates that there is much left untapped. Unfortunately, circumstances are such that a follow-up is not on the cards any time soon, with members scattered all around the world. A shame, as the band seemed on the verge of something, having even received a mention in the Guardian’s Music Alliance Pact four years ago.

‘It’s the kind of album in which every song has its own vibe, so I hope people can take something from each song’, says co-founding member and guitarist Arman Menzies. The opener, Modern Machines, sets the tone for the forty five minutes to follow, with its combination of heavy syncopated riffs and lighter, ambient moments. The highlight of the album, for me anyway, is the next song, Rosemary’s Baby. An absolutely inspired introductory riff thrusts the listener into this complex and layered song which, despite all the ideas it contains, clocks in at less than five minutes. A quite inspired piece of songwriting, it also ably demonstrates why guitarist Devesh Dayal and bass player Krishna Jhaveri are such a good fit in their new home, Skyharbor.

Speaking of which, I ran into Arman at Skyharbor’s recent show in London, where, among other things, the past, present and future of Goddess Gagged inevitably came up. Having moved to London shortly after putting Goddess Gagged on ice, Arman is currently studying music production and sound engineering. ‘Since the band wasn’t playing, and wasn’t going to play for a while, I started focusing more on producing my own stuff. After the band went on break, I started enjoying creating electronic music, where all of the ideas came from me.’

With more and more bands these days being able to put music out together even if members are on opposite sides of the world, the option to reopen the book on Goddess Gagged is not contingent on everyone returning to Mumbai. It’s a sentiment echoed by Arman. ‘I’d be happy to have everyone sitting in different parts of the world but still creating some music for us to work on together. That’s what I think was most important for us. It would be a much slower process, but I would still be willing to try and make that happen.’

One hopes that a reunion and follow up album will see the light of day at some point in the not-too-distant future. And there is no doubt that the ensuing album will benefit greatly from the experience that its songwriters have gained in the meantime, with Devesh touring the world as part of Skyharbor, Arman’s time in London working in a completely different genre of music, and vocalist Siddharth Basrur’s many years in all areas of the Mumbai music scene, encompassing alternative, punk and even Bollywood. Arman continues, ‘I haven’t been writing much heavy music recently, to be honest. But I’m feeling the urge again now. I’m also missing the feeling of writing with other people.’ Promising words, indeed. Goddess Gagged is simply too good a band just to be remembered as ‘the band that the guys in Skyharbor were once part of.’