From being forced to perform on stage for a singing competition in school to having his 12-year old son son accompany him on the bass, Rzhude David, more commonly known as ‘Rudy’, has come a long way. One of the most respected bassists in the country, Rzhude left his fans shocked when he decided to retire as the bass player and singer for the immensely popular Bangalore based band ‘Thermal and a Quarter’ in 2010, focusing instead on his solo career. Two years on, Moment of Zen catches up with the talented musician about his journey, life after TAAQ, organizers in India and of course, what music really means to Rudy.
1) To start off, tell us something about the kind of music you have been playing over the years?
I’m a home-grown Musician. Born into a family that had music on all the time and a Father and Brother and Sisters who played Guitar and sang. A lot of Church music, School music and whatever was on the radio – Western Pop (Abba, The Beatles), Folk and Indian Film Music. Growing up also saw me getting into traditional music of the area – a village in God’s own Kerala where there was a prominence of Temple Music and Carnatic performances, which also had a great bearing on my musicality.
Later I zoned into the likes of James Taylor and other Western Folk and Celtic Musicians alongside the World Genre.
2) When did you start on your musical career? What led you to consider playing music as your full time job?
As far back as in my 9th and 10th standard I remember getting offers (and taking some of them) to play in semi-pro bands that needed a drummer or guitarist or singer. Through college I did gigs and recordings for the fun of it (and certainly for the learning – though that was evident only later).
I never wanted to be a professional musician because I didn’t quite like the idea of playing background music in a hotel – that was the only earning option I saw back then. I chose instead to study Economics and took up a corporate career in Communication Design.
As a result of doing ad jingles I got back into music – since that was an option that didn’t exist back in the day. Performing and composing has always been something I could do without a sweat – so that’s a natural calling I just could not deny.
3) Being a Bangalore-based musician, how has the city influenced your music?
Quite a lot I’d say. I played with TAAQ (Thermal and a Quarter) for 12 odd years – lots of local gigs and quite a bit of touring. TAAQ’s music today is defined as Bangalore Rock, which must say something for all those years I put into it.
4) What kind of an audience do you generally perform for? Has there been a change in the kind of people who come to your performances over the years?
TAAQ used to be mainly clubs and college festivals and some corporate shows into the rock thing. Now it’s more matured audiences, listening sit down folks who come to listen and appreciate rather than yell and head-bang.
5) Tell us about your experiences while performing outside Bangalore.
I think I’ve played more gigs out of Bangalore than in. Music has it’s following everywhere regardless of style and Genre or cultural backgrounds. The shows abroad have been the best since they are well organized and usually don’t have any tension. The Artists are respected and taken care of.
Locally, the experiences have ranged from Good to Ghastly with mostly the event managers to blame for not giving a damn about the performance and only bothering about how much they can make out of it. The audiences have been appreciative and encouraging everywhere. Can’t say the same for Organizers of the events though.
You can visit the artist’s facebook page here: Rzhude and Friends
6) Any gig/ performance that has proved to be a turning point for you?
Opening for Deep Purple in Bangalore was the first BIG show in 2001 – playing to some 30,000 people. Playing with Dr. L Subramanium in Brazil was a recent one last year.
The turning point of my life was probably the first time I was forced on stage by my music teacher to get on a represent my School House in the singing competition. I came out a winner and have never had stage fright since.
7) How different has your experience been as an independent artist after having been a part of Thermal and a Quarter and touring as a band?
As far as I’m concerned I never stopped being a performing Musician. Unlike sport, I reckon with Music you just can’t stop playing – and in cases like Beethoven, even going deaf couldn’t stop the Music, really! The true legends in both Indian and Western Music have continued playing music until to their last breaths. I do believe it’s the music that chose me and not the other way around. It’s a calling that I can’t deny regardless of genre and boundaries that we create in our minds and on the shelves in order to sell music: As I continue to discover, there is more to it.
My first solo album was produced way back in 1994 by John Antony and Paul Jacob, two legends from the Chennai Music scene. At the time I was already performing as a Solo musician and that holds good from as far back as I can remember. So it not a new thing for me at all.
Being solo has its challenges and also it’s benefits. I get to do things at my own pace and chose who, where and what I want to work on, on my terms. Probably the reason it took me this long to get this show on the road – but then again I never had a deadline for it. Now is where its’ at.
8) How has your style of music evolved or diversified over the years?
I’ve played some of the best gigs in my life in the last two years (since my perceived ‘retirement’) touring places like Brazil, Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and across India. I’ve been playing all kinds of music, but now I prefer what you would call ‘fusion’ music. I’ve always had an inclination towards Indian (Carnatic) music which I’ve studied enough to be able to translate some of that learning into my guitar playing and from that onto my bass playing.
‘Fusion’ is such a huge space with so much to do! With this genre of music, if you are lucky you will meet maybe just once before a gig, and most likely you’ll be really working it out on stage. A lot of it is very spontaneous and that is what I like now- because you have no choice but to go into that zone where you really connect with your instrument and the musicians that you are working with. It’s like jazz, in that you have a standard format, but then you count on your musicianship to be able to break that open and make something new out of it.
9) Any upcoming ventures and collaborations we can look forward to?
‘Rzhude and Friends’is a musical journey with the aim to meet up and play with some of the best musicians as well as some completely unknown, that I’ve been blessed to play with in the past 20 odd years. This platform is also an opportunity to showcase hitherto undiscovered artists and give them a chance to perform their own music and step into the world of performing arts. Singer-songwriter (and Architect by day) Priyan, is a case in point, who has been writing his own songs but never had the opportunity to record or perform them. His music was really well received, not considering the gig at CounterCulture was his first ever! He’s now excited about it and looking to do more with it. The other hi-light for me personally, was having my 12-year old son Gautam, accompany me on the bass for the first time live on stage.
It has been a very satisfying result of this first showcase, apart from the fact that all the musicians on stage, the organizers and myself had a blast, as did the audience. It was truly a relaxed magical musical experience that I look forward to again.
This should take me a few good years to finish and document and share as I go along. The internet has changed things for musicians in particular – given the ability to control, promote and share your music among other things.
Besides this, I’ve been active as a music producer and engineer – doing a wide variety of albums and demos across different styles and aesthetic. I run my own project studio here in Bangalore with a niche Brand and Sound Identity design service called Svar Sound System, that’s demanding a lot of my time and effort.
10) What are your thoughts about the Rock music scene in Bangalore as well as India?
Rock has been and will still be around for a while – it’s only about 50 years old if you look at the big picture – Classical music traditions have been around and unchanged and evolved at the same time for 100’s of years. Nothing like a good dose of Rock every once in a while. Bangalore has it’s share of Rockers as does the rest of India. And as long as there’s scope for it to evolve, it will change and continue to grow. We can see a whole lot of Folk Rock and Hindi Rock coming out. Wait and Watch.
You can visit the artist’s facebook page here: Rzhude and Friends