Guitarist, producer and songwriter Donn Bhat's making a strong comeback, eight years after releasing his first solo album, One Way Circle.
This time around we see the Mumbai-based musician bringing together a live band for some music he's been putting down for a new album that's set to release this year.
Calling themselves Donn Bhat and the Passenger Revelator, the band was recently in Bangalore, playing their new tracks live at the Humming Tree, Indiranagar. We caught up with Donn Bhat for a short chat.
"After One Way Circle, I shifted cities in 2006. I was writing new material consistently but always wanted to get together a band to play it first in Mumbai. So I kept waiting to assemble a group of people, to play the material out, while I was writing all the time. I never did end up finding the right people to play with, so this kind of propelled me to find a way to be more self reliant, which meant being a more capable producer. So I spent many months holed up in the studio," says Donn Bhat.
"Every song of mine has a different sound or production. I don't stick to one sound, I get bored easily, which makes it easier to go wrong, but also more rewarding and enjoyable as a producer and song writer," Donn Bhat says.
While the first album was recorded in his bedroom, we wondered if the second one would make its way to a studio.
"The new album, Passenger Revelator, is also being recorded at home, though the studio now is also called Bedroom Studios; it is a pretty well equipped room with a lot more gear and recording capabilities compared to One Way Circle, which was just a bare room with one mic.
Donn says that his song writing process is pretty free and that there is no one method, though what one has to do is wear different hats at different times.
"That is the tough part. and for me requires time to get into and get away from producing or writing or recording a tune and see it from different points of view as a producer or a singer or a guitar player or a drummer or a mixing engineer, because those are all the little bits that add up and they're all done by one person in my case. So I try not to rush anything or get attached to only one hat too strongly. Lyrically, of late I just hum out a melody and then just juggle about to find the right words, the ones that fit best and go with the flow. Sometimes you have something written out that then you write music for," explains Donn.
While Donn Bhat is in fact a solo musician, the new album tours with a live act supporting him. The band includes Ashwin Andrews on drums.
"He's pretty much the only drummer I've really played with for an extended period. We go way back to our college band days and along with being a brilliant drummer he's also got perfect pitch and plays the guitar/bass/piano etc so he's perfect to bounce ideas off," says Donn.
The band also features Sankarshan Kini who's a multi-instrumentalist and plays trumpet, violin, bass guitar and can rap as well; and Sarosh Nanavaty who sings and also plays the xylo.
“I found people just by sending out the music. Sankarshan I found right before our first gig at Ziro. I sent him the music and he liked it. We rehearsed twice and hit the stage. Ashwin moved to Mumbai sometime back and it was just understood between us that he’d play if I had a gig. Sarosh I found right before our Sri Lanka tour a few months back. I was looking for someone and a common friend got us in touch. I also jam and write frequently with Aashar ‘Toy Mob’ Faroqi who is one half of the act Teddy Boy Kill. Also Suhail Yusuf Khan from Advaita is a frequent collaborator and we write a lot together,” he says.
When asked to describe his sound in three words Donn says organic, electronic and free, and its right on the mark really. Tracks like 107 featuring Malabika Brahma, Stars Align and Samson Delilah, each entirely different in genre and composition from the next, they sound like sounds of the earth but infused with dreamy instrumentals and a very new age electronica vibe. “From the new stuff, my favorite track is the one I completed last week called Disco Disco. Its my first attempt at sampling an old Hindi film sound, with two songs from ‘70s Bollywood being used. It’s unlike anything I’ve made before,” says Donn.
The album is due to release towards the end of the year and for now Donn Bhat is happy touring the country with his entourage.
“To a large extent I do consider myself a solo artiste. Though it makes collaborating with other musicians all the more enjoyable and desirable. However when we play live, the band interprets the songs the way they want,” he concludes.