Meet the newest guitar hero in town, Deep Phoenix, featuring a guitar technique known simply as freestyle or fingerstyle - a music style well known across the globe but unheard of in Kolkata. Popularised by the likes of Andy McKee and Newton Faulkner, this style involves using the guitar as both a harmony/rhythm instrument as well as a percussion instrument. Usually the acoustic guitar is used for this purpose and played with fingers alone - no plectrums. Deep Phoenix has brought this style home and given it an Indian touch in his 2012 debut EP "The Infinite Monkey Theorem". Over the last three years he has performed avidly across the city and made a name for himself. He started off when he was a kid, toying away at a keyboard and graduated towards the guitar overtime. Lately, he is expanding his musical works by forming an instrumental oriented band, unnamed as of now. Here's a one-on-one with Deep Phoenix himself, which you can enjoy with his debut EP.
BongRong: Greetings from BongRong! Tell us a bit about yourself.
Deep: Hello! I'm Deep. 21 years old. I'm in my second year of college and I like making music.
BongRong: You started playing the keyboard when you were really young: what got you into it?
Deep: Boredom. I had this toy keyboard at home and I figured, why not try? So after returning from school every evening, I'd sit and try and pick up tunes that I heard on the radio. Also, my mother knew a little about music so she showed me how to play one scale. That's how it began in my case.
BongRong: So it was a pastime at that point? When did the interest become serious?
Deep: It's still a pastime I imagine! But I started learning formally from teachers when I was in class 11. That was in 2011, I think. Until then I'd been learning from friends and elders who used to play brilliantly or had on and off teachers. And of course the internet, which helped tremendously.
BongRong: Yes, the internet has completely changed the way people learn music! You started on the keyboard so what drew you towards the guitar?
Deep: A mix of boredom and an absent social life here. I was really into keyboards when I was in class 8. I keep saying keyboards but I only ever used the piano tone and only ever played piano based songs on it. Well, I used to frequently jam with a friend from school, Avrajit Mukherjee, and he showed me basic guitar chords and I started from there. I had a Hawaiian guitar lying around at home that was beyond repair so obviously that didn't work out very well, but I got hold of an acoustic within a few weeks and started learning from there.
BongRong: Absent social life ?
Deep: I mean when other kids my age used to talk about who won yesterday's India - Australia ODI, or when they went out for para football, I used to be home playing video games and listening to music.
BongRong: Was it that you lacked social life or were you disinterested in the usual things?
Deep: No no, I wanted to go out and play! But there were no kids in the neighbourhood. There were just three of us and when we did meet, it was to play video games.
BongRong: Tell us a bit about your style of guitar playing.
Deep: Discovered it via Newton Faulkner. He covered Massive Attack's "Teardrop". I was trying to pick that up when my teacher, Soumik Roy (of Yonsample) introduced me to Andy McKee. I was a huge fan of Mark Tremonti then and this seemed like the logical next step. At first I blatantly tried to emulate what McKee did. But then I figured out HOW he did it. As in, how you'd think of the bass and the drums and then the melody and how you'd try to incorporate everything into one little bit. I'm nowhere near to achieving that level of brilliance in song-writing but I hope with enough time and experience it'll happen.
BongRong: Freestyle guitar is a never-heard-of-before style in Kolkata: how was the reception?
Deep: That's probably because I got the right opportunities. I'm sure there were others before me but I imagine, like me, they'd never have thought that they'd get to play THAT kind of music live in front of an audience. At least I always felt like it wouldn't appeal to people much and I'd never get through anywhere.
But with my first gig in May 2012 and then Char So Bees in April, it all took off and people actually appreciated it and I was ecstatic. And it carried on from there.
See, initially just after my first gig or so, all I really wanted to do was to promote the style. Which is why I pushed out my EP really fast. And played everywhere and anywhere I could. I wanted more people to discover Andy McKee and Don Ross and so on, and I just wanted it to go somewhere. I don't know if it did, but I'm happy with knowing that there are WAY more people who TRY to incorporate their own style of playing now. At least, I know people have heard Kaki King or Faulkner or the hugely popular Jon Gomm.
BongRong: Apart from guitar-based music, what music are you into? As a listener?
Deep: Lots of epic (?) music. At least that's what it's called on YouTube. It's mostly orchestral stuff. Like the kind you hear in cinematic trailers.
BongRong: Are you into a lot of Western classical music?
Deep: I started off with Western classical music. I've strayed from that path somewhat. I don't listen to the greats as much anymore but I do revisit Yanni sometimes. I think he'd qualify as contemporary classical.
BongRong: I heard that you are working on a new project, a band. Could you shed some light?
Deep: Yes, since before I started writing acoustic songs, I had written some material for a full fledged band. Minus the vocals so possibly an instrumental setup. I hadn't touched any of it since I started playing solo but I figured I might as well try and get it going. So I'm basically polishing up on everything I had written then. Also I’m playing with two awesome guys who also write so we're basically coming up with some songs. Most will be instrumental but some might have guest vocals on it. Also I’m avidly looking for a full time drummer.
The band has been something I wanted to do since before the solo thing took off so I hope it works out in the end. I hope it ends up being fun anyway.
BongRong: And what about your solo career?
Deep: This one is tricky. I don't think playing my music will be a viable career choice. If it works out, brilliant but I don't expect it to. So as a full time career, maybe not. But I'll definitely keep playing. I have around 5 or 6 unreleased tracks ready. But everything will remain on hold for a while a) for the band thing because whether it works out or not, I'm really enjoying writing for the band and b) because I'm saving up for a really good (read: slightly expensive) acoustic guitar that'll have everything I need so until that happens, I don't think I'll launch an album or an EP. A badly produced single, maybe.
The Infinite Monkey Theorem (EP) --> Click Here
The Soundcheck Project - The Proposal (original)
Bistro Fada (cover)
Things Will Get Better (original)
Feluda Falling In Love (original)
Oraanu Pi from the album Cartographer by E S Posthumous.
City of Rome as Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood OST by Jesper Kyd.
Bratja as Fullmetal Alchemist OST by Michiru Oshima
It Don't Mean A Thing (If You Ain't Got No Swing) by Duke Ellington
Atlas Novus from the album The Migration by Scale the Summit
A Black Minute from the album Juggernaut: Alpha by Periphery.
Hell Below from the album Juggernaut: Omega by Periphery
Median(Single) by Yonsample
Language by Contortionist
Insides by Jon Hopkins
Death of a Dead Day by Sikth
Thanks to Rajat Mitra for the beautiful feature image of this article. Click here to follow his work.