John Leckie

Charlie Ashcroft | Tuesday, 26 May 2009

John Leckie

Having worked with the likes of John Lennon, Pink Floyd, Radiohead and Muse in the past, legendary producer John Leckie has now turned his hand to a new project funded by the British Council, called India SoundPad.

The project saw Leckie travel over to India and hold auditions in Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore. He then picked out four of the country's most promising alternative rock bands to take into the studio with him, to work on a specially-commissioned album. The process made for an eventful, but rewarding week away.

"It was pretty full on," he tells Daily Music Guide on Brighton Pier. "All in all I think we auditioned 36 bands, twelve in each city, starting from ten o'clock in the morning. We'd see all the bands, sometimes go to a show in the evening and then head off again the next day."

The series of auditions provided Leckie with a deep insight into how Indian groups have been inspired by their western counterparts. "Although a lot of the bands I saw out there write their own material, very often you'll see that they're influenced by English indie guitar bands and American rock like Guns 'n' Roses. We're talking baseball hats on the wrong way round, feet up on the monitor and those kinds of things.

"When I first went out there I was looking for bands that were able to perform in the studio and not have too many limitations. I also wanted them to have an Indian influence - it'd be crazy if I brought them back to tour the UK and they sounded like an American rock band or a mediocre English guitar band."

Despite many of the artists having apparently shed their Indian identities to a degree, Leckie has still been able to pick out four wonderfully diverse groups, all of great quality. He says that Bangalore collective Swarathma are a real "celebration band", and immediately caught his attention for being "happy, bouncy, unusual and totally unlike anything you'll get in Britain."

Admitting to have never heard anything like Medusa from Mumbai before, he proceeds to explain how they struck him thanks to "their tunes, attitude, naturalness and originality."

He also describes Delhi band Advaita as "a real fusion of Indian and western influences", like something akin to Crosby, Stills & Nash infused with Indian classical singing, as he refers enthusiastically to the great harmonies they worked up during recording.

Finally, Advaita's Delhi brethren The Indigo Children are a band who, according to Leckie, have shed all their 'Indian-ness': "If you were played their music and were asked where this band came from, you'd say something like Camden, Seattle or Manchester. They've embraced English guitar music and made it their own, and are probably the only band I saw that really rocked out. In fact, their bass player is probably one of the best bass players in India."

The songs of Swarathma, Medusa, Advaita and The Indigo Children can all be heard on the recently-released India SoundPad album. With two of the bands having been signed up by major labels in the past year, who's to bet against this new wave of Indian musicians catching the attention and imagination on a wider scale than ever before?

With a successful UK tour now behind them and one of Britain's top producers giving them a hearty seal of approval, they're certainly all headed in the right direction.