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Chat In The Cafe With Drummer Virendra Kaith, On How He Made His Passion His Paycheck

 They say ‘a musician dies only when there is no more music left in him’, but Mumbai-based drummer Virendra Kaith is a different story – he has so much music in him that he plays in multiple rock/metal groups to channel it out! Outfits like Demonic Resurrection, Scribe, and Sparsh are some of them. You would also be surprised to know that this phenomenal musician never considered doing music professionally!

Read on to find out how this groovy house quit a comfy job, and then went on to pursue something he always had at the back of his mind – his love for music and the thrill to perform to a live audience. This is Kaith’s story of how he made his passion his paycheck. This is also why you should listen to your heart.

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 Let’s start from the very beginning –How was life growing up in Bombay? What are the things that helped you in your creative process?

Oh! You can call me an NRI – Nepali residing in India! (laughs) Jokes apart, I was exposed to many things while I was growing up in Bombay. I fondly remember myself as a kid playing cricket all my childhood, like all the other guys in my neighborhood, with the dream of becoming a cricketer. I was a left-arm fast bowler, FYI! I was also one of the quietest kids in my class, sitting on the back bench.

Further, I wasn’t someone who would get everything at his disposal. We lived in a joint family back then. Though I was pampered as a child, with lots of stories from all my uncles and aunts, I was never a ‘spotlight kid’ and neither am I now! I have two uncles and aunts who are creatively inclined – one of my uncles (Dilip Kaith) was a drummer, who played in various musical groups in Bombay (he played Bollywood and Hindi music), and my other uncle had keen interests in photography and bikes.

Creativity to me was/is freedom, and I get that sense of freedom when I play drums. Through the drum, I found like-minded people in college, and things just connected from there.

 From all of the instruments at a teenager’s disposal, any particular reason why you picked up drums? How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and cool career?

As I mentioned earlier, my uncle was a drummer – he was not only into drums, but he was also into playing different percussion instruments. I remember seeing him fiddle with his kit and all the other instruments he had around him. I was not allowed to touch them, but I could sense the difference between a djembe, a congo, and a drum set, by their distinct sounds. He would let me play these instruments only if I seriously sat and spent time with them. He taught me discipline at a very young age. This is one of the reasons why I picked up drums, of all instruments.

Another reason for this is because I met my friend, a guitar player named Mithun Poojari, (with whom I was a part of a band called Pin Drop Violence many years later) when we were in college. His father was a concert organizer, and he had all the instruments at his disposal. This is where Mithun introduced me to genres like rock and metal music, and my life changed forever. I remember skipping my classes to go to Mithun’s place and trying and emulating whatever we heard. Further, the idea of playing live fascinated me, and rock and metal music gave me a platform to do just that.

 What were you doing before you found your true calling?

Truth be told, I never wanted to be a musician. I mean I did practice every day, but the thought of taking it full-time never crossed my mind. I don’t belong to a family of renowned musicians or a family who could even afford sending me to an institute – local or international – for formal education in music. Then, there were things like family pressure on pursuing educational degrees and the usual rigmarole.

After finishing my degree in Commerce, I thought about assisting a charted accountant or becoming an accountant myself, but that didn’t happen. I was also interested in being a statistician (because of my love for cricket), but then, life had different plans. The call center boom happened, and my aunts convinced me to give it a shot, and I did. That is how I got the job of a chat supporter. I was still playing small gigs during this time, but since my work had rotating shifts, it was hard.

Eight to nine months in, I found out that I was not enjoying my work as much – since I left college, I had craved for something to do with music. This is when I gave up my job and started assisting in a studio as a sound engineer. I worked there for about three years. Soon, I found out that I was not doing something for myself – Yes, I was producing music (and learnt a lot too, about the technical aspects of music), but for others.

All my jobs so far were more about finding stability and attending to my living expenses. Then, I got into content editing for music. It was basically editing and feeding the right lyrics for various songs. This too (after about five years) became stale.

I am not good at emoting, but a sense of freedom embraced me each time I played live during all these years. This is when I decided to take up music full-time. Yes, the first year had its challenges, but my family helped me a lot during this phase, especially my brother, who convinced my family that I had the will to take the road less travelled. I remember my brother telling me to explore and experiment as I wished (when I was 30 and he was 26).

Music has always been there with me, but it took me time to give it a shot as a full-time profession. After that, it was all drum rolls! (smiles)

 What did you learn along the process? How does it feel when you look back at the choice you made?

Well, there’s one thing for sure – this doesn’t feel like a job any more (laughs). There is so much room for creativity, and I don’t have to fight for things. I don’t have to chase targets any more, and there is so much freedom.

This too, like any other job, is not easy. This too comes with deadlines and schedules, but if you love something, it doesn’t take a toll on you.

This profession has taught me a lot about making choices and then following them, come what may.

Last, but not the least, I learnt how indispensable family can be!

 You started out with groups like Khiladi and Pin Drop Violence, and you are now the drummer of Demonic Resurrection and many more. Could you tell us a little about how you got the gig with them?

When I was in college, the only place that played metal music (every Thursday) was this place called the Razberry Rhinoceros at Juhu Hotel. I had seen them there. Then, there was the Independence Rock competition. Sahil Makhija (the band leader of Demonic Resurrection) had already started Demonic Resurrection (DR) by then. This was the time when we had no internet access and music got passed around through tape trading. That is how we knew each other back then and not by sending friend requests on social media (smiles).

Since I knew Sahil, I used to visit his place to get some new music. That said, it was not until 2002 when I was asked to play for DR, at the Independence Rock gig, because their drummer could not make it.

Then in 2007, DR was looking for a full time drummer, and that is when Sahil approached me again. As I had performed with them before and I also knew the guys from the band, they were also quite comfortable in welcoming me into their band. I nailed all the songs quickly, and was then officially in.

 People in India still think musicians do not make enough. Your comments on this?

Becoming a musician is a long process, really. In the independent music scene, for example, DR has been in the scene for more than 15 years, and people are still discovering us. I would say there is lot that goes into promoting and putting your music out there. Also, merchandise helps a lot in this process. We noticed this ourselves when we toured the UK and Europe. One person wears it, and so many people talk about it!

Independent musicians have to struggle a little longer in India, but I am sure it all pays off in the end if you have the rigour to follow the path of your choice. See, here I am!

I am thankful for the people who attend my shows; I am equally thankful to so many people in this community who keep referring my work which, in turn, pushes me to another level.

It’s an amazing feeling to be occupied most of the time, with such brilliant artists around you. (smiles).

 What are the challenges that you faced as you started out as a musician?

Managing my finances was definitely one of them. I remember going to people’s houses to give them drum lessons, for some extra cash!

Also, it was difficult to own musical instruments back then – they were so expensive! I had to go that extra mile for all the gear that I proudly own today.

Support from my family kept me going, as well as the fear of having to go back to my day job, which I did not want at all.

 Are people sceptical to follow their heart in India? Your views?

In my father’s time, they were, yes, but not now. I think the culture in India is changing. For instance, my father, even without knowing how good or bad I was in my studies, wanted me to be an engineer. He only realised I would not make it after he saw my 10 standard mark sheet! (smiles) He understood, but I don’t remember parents back then supporting their kids to look for a career in something other than studies.

Nowadays, though, parents are far more vocal about these things. For example, one of my drum students – one day he learns the drums with me, the other day he has a karate class, the next day he is participating in football matches. His parents are looking for various things he can do to see where he fits in.

So, I think, times are definitely changing.

 What are you working on right now?

I am now playing drums as a freelancer, and am associated with most genres, be it Bollywood, rock, or metal. After the overwhelming love and support for being Demonic Resurrection’s drummer and amongst the best drummers in the Indian Metal scene (with an award to prove it!), I am also associated with Bollywood artists, studio projects, and independent bands.

This helped me not only better myself with different materials of various genres, but also helped me be more versatile.

With DR, we have started work on a new album, which is due this year end. We have already started working on a few scratch demos. Other than that, I have been playing gigs with as many new artists as I can be associated with.

 

 

What are your plans for the future?

I am looking forward to collaborate with various musicians of different genres, of course! Drumming has always kept me going, so there I am always looking for something new to find there, too.

I keep saying to myself “I always want to play live!” (smiles).

What are your views on Virendra’s journey to pursue the thing he loves the most. Do you find his story of chasing his passion inspiring? Tell us in the comments below. Tell us in the comments below.