Formed in 2005, Delhi based Half Step Down is a huge hit ever since its inception as the band is a head bangers` ball that offers a delightful pure dose of Rock to connoisseurs. After having made its presence felt in numerous gigs and competitions across the nation (Great Indian Rock 2007, Channel V’s Launchpad, Jack Daniel’s award for best debutant in 2007), Half Step Down recently launched its debut album ‘Overtures in Outerspace’ on 6th August 2009 in Hard Rock Café, Delhi.
Known for its eclectic music that is a true blend of Blues, Funk, Metal and Rock, Half Step Down simply bowls you over with its adrenaline pumping heady sound. With Dhaval Mudgal as vocalist, Carl Abraham on bass, Shiv Lumba on keyboards, Srijan Mahajan on drums and Karan Dutta on guitars – this is Half Step Down or HSD. In a free wheeling chat with Aman Kanth of Spicezee.com , Half Step Down’s frontman Dhaval Mudgal (classical singer Shubha Mudgal’s son) speaks about its debut album, the band, its journey and its music.
Aman : First of all, heartiest congratulations for coming out with your debut album ‘Overture in Outerspace.’ How exactly do you feel launching your first album?
Dhaval : Thanks a lot! It definitely feels fantastic. We have been working on ‘Overture in Outerspace’ for the past two years. It has been an independent launch for the album and it is getting amazing reviews!
Aman : Half Step Down – is a curious name for a band, is there any special reason behind choosing such a name?
Dhaval : Well, it’s not a serious name per se. When we started way back in college, we considered many cliché names until we came upon Half Step Down – a standard guitar tuning pitch as D#. Incidentally, we often tune our guitars to the same pitch and hence struck the name – Half Step Down aka HSD.
Aman : Well, over the years, Half Step Down had quite a few changes in its original line-up; it seems you guys have finally found your groove?
Dhaval : Yes, there have been quite a few changes in our musical line-up. You see, during our college days, there were quite a few differences and sometimes things did not work. For the past two years, we have a steady line-up with Carl Abraham on bass, Shiv Lumba on piano, Srijan Mahajan on drums, Karan Dutta on guitars and me as the vocalist. Earlier, we used to have Rohan Soloman on guitars, but nowadays he is busy with his business and is working on independent projects. Finally, the current line-up is the essential line-up of Half Step Down until and unless there is a Jimmy Page around! (Smiles)
Aman : Can you tell us something about how Half Step Down all began, how you guys came together?
Dhaval : Well, as I told you earlier, we came together in college where I wanted to make a band that makes original music. Like minded people came together and that is how it began. Basically, it was Srijan, who was part of the original line-up and others joined us later.
Aman : On a typical day when Half Step Down is not gigging, how do guys you unwind?
Dhaval : We are a bunch of normal guys who like listening to music, watching movies, partying and love traveling. Something every normal guy does.
Aman : Tell us something about your musical influences?
Dhaval : At Half Step Down, each of us has its own distinct music style. Karan listens to old school blues, Srijan is into heavy metal, Shiv comes with English classical background, Carl loves the Flea, Red Hot Chilli Peppers and I personally like Eddie Vedder, The Doors, Dave Matthews Band, Led Zeppelin and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers.
Aman : Tell us something about your new album, its songs?
Dhaval : ‘Overture in Outerspace’ has nine songs with some fourteen pages of great artwork. Basically, we do not stick to one thing and that is what reflects in our songs- something which is an assortment of diverse moods. ‘Girls Not Guitar’ is a blues song, ‘Working Hour’ touches upon the transition from college to working life. With ‘Story of Sun’ and ‘Circles’, we have tried to do something musically new.
Aman : Did you face any difficulty in cutting an independent album?
Dhaval : We faced a lot of hardships. In order to support ourselves with making music, finances, artwork and distribution, we use to perform gigs to pay for the label. Yet, in spite of all that, no major label was forthcoming and many wanted us to do our punch lines in Hindi – something for which we were not ready. However, Underscore Records helped us and so did the managers and photographers, who made it feel like a collaborative effort that helped us in putting up the show.
Aman : Do you think independent music labels are doing enough to popularize non-film music?
Dhaval : It is only independent labels who are promoting upcoming talent. Though independent music labels lack mass appeal as there is no commercial support, yet there is a widespread general belief among artists and musicians that independent labels are going to help them.
Aman : What do you think about the Rock scene in India, is it open to Rock genre or still struggling with the Bollywood hangover?
Dhaval : Rock music in India is a niche genre. India still has a huge illiteracy rate and not many speak English. Nevertheless, Rock will always grow in India. Bollywood might affect eighty percent of the people of our country, yet, there are young college goers and professionals who understand and appreciate Rock.
Aman : Finally, after coming out with your debut album, what’s up next?
Dhaval : Currently, after the launch of our debut album, we are touring in Hyderabad and Chennai. In between, we are writing new stuff. We will bring new sounds and definitely come out with our second album. If our first album was a collection of songs, the second album will definitely be more than that and offer something new. But first…with ‘Overture in Outerspace’ just released, let the whole feeling sink in. (laughs)