Imagine you are introducing yourself to a room full of children. How would you explain who you are and what you do?
I am Chandresh Kudwa and all I do is playing the guitar and making music so that I can have fun and so can the people who listen to me!
Growing up, did you always want to be a musician? Can you remember the first time you realised you wanted to make music for a living?
I had no clue I wanted to be a Musician till it actually happened! Learning to play the guitar itself was an accident. I started learning because my brother wanted to learn. I started when I was around 14 years of age & took it up seriously when I was 16. I consider myself lucky to have found the right teacher in Mr. Bismarck & his son Christopher Bismarck, who guided me just right & exposed me to Guitar-centric music (Remember, there was no internet!) By the time I was 17 I was offered to play for a Pop band called Bandwagon. We would do play for Catholic weddings. That was the first time I realized I could make money playing guitar. During that time I was also listening to Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Paul Gilbert, Richie Kotzen etc. & trying to learn their songs & licks which would impress my friends. They started asking me to teach and then I started teaching from home. So I started making some more money playing live & teaching. So before I could plan a career in Music, I had already set out on the path to be a professional in Music. And once I realized that I can survive doing music, there was no turning back.
Many artists felt, as though, at some point, certain people gave them “permission to do certain things’.How was that for you – in which way did the work of particular artists before you “allow” you to take decisions which were vital for your creative development?
I reckon, most of the creative development happened very naturally. Certain ideas & techniques caught my fancy more than the others & I end up incorporating those ideas to get to the sound that I was looking for. Over the years, as I matured as a musician, it became easier to figure out what to do and most importantly what not to do in a certain context. The biggest thing you learn from great artists is that the Song is the most important thing and whatever you play or not play should help the song sound better. It doesn’t matter if the lick that you have been working for months, figures in the solo or not if it doesn’t help the song as a whole!
In general, where do you draw inspiration from? Is it based on your personal experiences or influences of other artists?
Honestly, there’s no single place I draw inspiration from. Pretty much everything in my life affects the way I create. Experience & influences work in tandem to give me that germ of an idea which I then work upon and refine. My emotions push me in a direction (which I wouldn’t have otherwise taken to write the song in), and then the influences help shape the song.
What were some of your main artistic challenges when starting out as an artist and in which way have they changed over the years?
Well, when I was starting out, it was very important for me to play a guitar solo note-for-note with accurate phrasing like in the song. As I set about playing shows with bands, I started improvising certain sections of the solos and tried staying within the feel of that particular song. Very soon I realized that it wasn’t important for me to be able to nail all the solos note-for-note, but to be able to improvise certain sections and make it my own. That thought stemmed from the fact that I wanted to have a sound & a style of my own, much like a singer, who you could recognise as a unique voice no matter what he/she sings. And even though I personally feel I have successfully managed to do that to a certain extent, refining it will never ever end.
You already have two albums “A Change” & “Conqueror” to your credit. What do you think triggers the flow of ideas before each release?
As I mentioned earlier, certain moments, certain situations and in fact even certain environments inspire me to express those feelings musically. So I sit with the guitar and begin playing a riff to a drum loop or I’ll just put down a basic Riff and start soloing over it endlessly. Then I work on another idea and then another and then find ways to weave all of them together. Since each song originates from a very different place within you, it has to take its own shape which is different from the other.
With each musical genre having such a rich history and diverse background, do you feel that music means something different to performers of different styles? How does this affect your work with different artists?
Music is a language just like any other spoken language. It is a most useful means of communication. To get some perspective, think of people from different nations. A Chinese national would be comfortable speaking Mandarin, a Japanese national in Japanese & an American in English! Similarly, a musician with roots in Rock Music would be comfortable expressing those feelings playing Rock, a musician who is comfortable playing Jazz will give voice to it using Jazz music and so on. I believe, all musicians feel this way and naturally tends to use certain forms to get their points across. Working with artists from a different background is always very refreshing since music and musicians are always meant to build a deeper connect. So when I work with musicians from a different background it only helps to bring out the best of both the worlds.
You’ve collaborated with the world renowned guitar players like Jennifer Batten (Guitarist with Michael Jackson) & Mattias IA Eklundh(Guitarist with Swedish band Freak Kitchen). How did that come together? What was the experience like working with them?
Working with Mattias was a breeze. I had written to him and he liked the stuff that I did. He was here in India for a gig when I met him and fortunately for me, he showed interest in playing on a song I was working on during that time. Once he got back he recorded his parts and sent it to me and I had a super track with him!
Working with Jennifer was fantastic and a very surreal experience. We did a 10-day tour of Nagaland. She is not just a great player but also is a very kind and humble person. I have grown up listening to her debut album – Above Below & Beyond. So obviously, I was starstruck!! I was asked to judge a guitar contest in Nagaland, in which Jennifer was one of the judges and that itself turned into the 10 day Tour. We had an amazing time!
What are your thoughts on the indie music scene in India? Do you agree that barring a few of the better-known bands/musicians, there is a lack of live shows here?
The majority of India has grown up on Bollywood music. It’s just now, in the last decade or so, that there emerged a few bands with some visible following. Ultimately, everything boils down to business & everyone has to survive including the venues. If venues see profits in hiring Indie bands I didn’t see any reason why there would not be more shows. Indie bands do not have that kind of support base because there are not enough followers who will come and support the band and ensure that the venue makes good business. So all of us, Indie artists, will have to work doubly harder to ensure that more and more people like the music we create and turn up for our shows and buy our music & merchandise.
Usually, it is considered that it’s the job of the artist to win over an audience. But listening is also an active, rather than just a passive process. How do you see the role of the listener in the musical communication process?
In today’s time, a lot of importance is given to the genre of music. Back in the days, when I was growing up, it was far easier. There was Pop, Rock, Funk, Country & Jazz. I never bothered what genre that music was in & still today I don’t. I don’t even know how many such genres exist in today’s time. If it was a piece of music that enchanted my senses, I would listen to it and maybe then sit and figure out what genre it was. I believe, if the listeners start listening without trying to decode the language and the genre, we would definitely have a more respectable audience for every single genre.
Are there any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?
For some reason, I always have issues with Guitar cables on stage!! Either I step on it really bad or they seem to get magically screwed during the most important part of the solo. Haha..
Music for music’s sake or music for life’s sake?
I always believe in doing what I love to do and also believe in what others do. If you do something that you do not love, chances are you will not last too long doing it or may end up depressed.
What should we look forward to in the coming days from you?
Right now I am enjoying the film themes that I am doing, the recent two being the Game Of Thrones & The Godfather. I am receiving such a phenomenal response and I can’t express how humbling this experience is. I might end up doing a few more themes. I am also in the midst of completing a couple of Original Instrumental tracks, they will be shortly out as well.
You can find more about Chandresh Kudwa at the following links: