“You can’t bullshit the feel man”, he said.

I say he, but I mean Rudy Wallang. Guitarist, songwriter and composer for the world-famous Blues band, Soulmate from Shillong. They were playing a show at the Hard Rock Café in Pune on the 21st of July, and our dfuse.in Photographer, Anurag Banerjee happened to get me the interview with Rudy. Thanks to the ‘convenient’ schedules of The Symbiosis International University, I had to go do the interview alone.

When I got there, I found out that they would be a half hour late, but that was fine. Sitting around on the bar counter reading the menu, at around 4 o clock sharp, Rudy walked past me and started setting up! So I went and introduced myself, and he was very nice and asked me to wait till he set up! So once they started testing the drum microphones, Rudy introduced me to Tipriti “Tips” Kharbangar, and we stepped outside to start the interview.

Now, the thing with Rudy is that he’s been in the music industry for so long, and he’s actually SEEN the music scene in India grow! So Aniket Dasgupta and I took advantage of this when setting up the questions. When we stepped out, the first thing I asked him was whether the surroundings from where they come from, would matter when writing the type of music that they do. Rudy replied saying that it was very essential, and the nature around Shillong helped them to get the feel that they required.

Now Soulmate celebrates it’s 10th anniversary in a few days, and the scene has changed A LOT. So I asked Rudy how different it is now for an entry level musician, and how it was back then. The answers I got from both of them were as follows.
Rudy – Back in the day, we had to carry Ahuja Amplifiers, the drumkit and all the guitars and equipment and load them on one car and try making it to practices and shows on time, and that barely happened! Nowadays, there’s so many different venues in every city for a band to come out and play music. But having said that, they shouldn’t take advantage of that. They need to GROW as a band, dig and find out what music really is.
Tips – You know, back in the day, the sound systems were so bad, and for me to get the right vocal lines and pitches, I had to sometime scream to so loud, and to be very honest, after most shows my voice went kaput. Nowadays I know that the PA system is SO good, and I don’t really worry that much!

On asking them what advice they could give musicians today, they both replied saying

“It’s not about the money, man. If it’s money you’re after, you should probably go and become a part of BollyWood. For us, it’s music first, and money second. Always.”

The next question I had for them was a pretty clichéd one, but I had to do it. I asked them why they named their band Soulmate. Turns out, it was named after the song, “Blues Is My Soulmate” from the Shillong Album.

Now one thing that’s key about Tipriti, is that she clips a butterfly ornament onto her microphone stand for every show. So I asked her whether there was a story, and she replied saying, “You know, I grew up very close to nature. And I grew up chasing butterflies and dragonflies, and I love creatures like that. Wherever I go in the world, clipping that butterfly onto the microphone stand makes me feel at home.”

When asked about what the Blues Scene in India was at this time, he told me that it does have a lot of place to improve upon, and the country HAS the audience to play to, but just not enough bands coming out into the scene.

Now one thing I noticed in the past few weeks is that there have been so many tribute concerts happening all over the country. I asked him what he had to say about that, and his answer was as follows.
Rudy – You know, that’s such an interesting question. I was thinking about the same thing today. In all honesty, I’m going to go ahead and say that tribute concerts are a cry for money. This is a message I want to get out to all the organisers of any event.  Why spend so much money, and have the band spend so much time and effort on preparing someone else’s songs rather than do the same and just make them play original music?

Now this was when Tips cut in and said,

“You know, I hate it when people come up to me and compare me to Janis Joplin. No offense to Janis, I love her music and she’s been an inspiration to me all along, but I AM NOT HER. I AM ME. I AM UNIQUE.”

I was actually pretty stunned by the sincerity of that response. At this point of time they told me that they were on a bit of a crunch to get back to their hotel because they had to start the show soon. So my last question to them was what their future plans were. Rudy said that they had enough material for a new album, and once they finish the tour, they will take a break and start to record the album. And in the new album, there’s a lot of material that Tips has written, so you can probably look forward to that!

Well there you have it, probably one of the most honest and most amazing interviews I have had.

(As part of our GigView, Aditi Dharmadhikari reviews the Soulmate gigthat happened at HRC, Pune. Read it here – http://dfuse.in/music/gigviewthe-blues-are-all-right/)