Millennium did it for fun

Published Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Entertainment – simple, you either do it for fun or money or both. Millennium did it for fun. It was a very expensive hobby but it paid for itself, well barely.

There is no other reason to get in to the unglamorous Indian rock music arena other than to have a good time. Or at least that was the case when Millennium started in 1986. We all had other jobs and no illusions that this would be a replacement career so we set out with a heavy metal band that lasted 15 years and now over 20 years latter we will be at it again. How come now? Definitely not for the money… There are many reasons but to get to them we have to get to the whole live music scene first.

The rock music thing is better than ever before. Example, in the 80s Uriah Heap had a ticket of 200 bucks now tickets go for a grand easy, many times more. Also there is a trend of many more international acts taking playing in India seriously. Deep Purple once told me they share the experience they have in India with other bands and so one act leads to many more. They had a good couple of gigs in India and that lead to them coming back and other bands following. That was rock but its also happened in the Pop world too, Beyonce, No Doubt and Shakira have all trekked across the world to play here…

The Asian economy is also not what it was, it now is of high interest to the first world and the interest is not benign. This means the days when the Police made a trip to play in Mumbai it was just to be able to say “we played to India man!”, are over. Now acts plan tours to Asia and there is a profitable logical stop over in India.

I think the whole live entertainment business has gone skywards thanks to companies like Venkat Varden’s DNA who have brought down over half the international acts single handedly. They put on mega shows with International acts and Indian acts have to follow that’s standard. Venkat is an ideas man. He was the one who put show packages together and sold them to the big time sponsors. Shows like the Pepsi Dance connection that ran over 25 gigs each year for 2 years cost a lot but entertained huge free crowds the concept being that you brought a liter of Pepsi and you could come for the show, it was a great package, great marketing and a great show.

Crowds of 20,000 are easy to please but tough to cater to too technically. I remember when we opened for Deep Purple in Mumbai and Delhi to 25,000 each, a one month latter a gig we were doing had similar sound light and stage arrangements, it was mega! And the crowd was huge too. What stared out as a sound system that fitted in to a cycle rickshaw is now a national company owning trucks and industrial size generator sets plus real high powered lasers, pyrotechnics, all the works that a mega show needs…

There is a part of the show that the crowd never gets to see, the back stage part and the sound check. This is the stuff fantasies are made of, scantily clad girls loafing around ready to serve, expensive booze on tap, record company executives with contracts they are dying to get signed, nothing for the band to do except chill soaking up all the glory. The truth is however is different. What really happens is either crazy or sane but always loads of hard work with very little haze of the fantasy most people think of. The sound check is not a dry run, it’s a systematic line check and adjustment of the cores worth of professional equipment to make sure everything is optimized for the performers and crowd. This is not a joke but unfortunately in the 80s and 90s it was mostly treated that way with the only people actually working being the bands themselves and the techs the rest of the hundreds of hangers on getting in the way. With bigger more expensive shows this has changed to the professional approach show professionals have now running mostly to a tight schedule leaving little to chance and everything planned out. You would be surprised how calm the back stage of one of our huge shows actually is.

The show itself has changed also. I look back to the early collage shows we used to do. I remember when bands would perform the song then when it was over suddenly seem to stop performing and spend 5 mins farting around on stage testing guitars and drums and really not giving a damn for the audience. I was always kind of freaked out the crowd put up with this. Millennium always went on stage and performed from the moment we were there till the moment were off. In fact we performed from the moment we left the hotel till we were back in our rooms, that’s what performing is about, commitment, not to the egoistic performance but to the crowd who filled venues like Rang Bhavan in Mumbai during the pouring rain. They deserve a performance and we made sure they got one.

So why are we getting back on stage now? Well there are a lot of personal reasons but for the large part we always felt that we were before our time. That’s not a good thing and amounts to the same as being after time, too old , too new, it’s the same thing really. You still don’t get a mass audience.

But we did get an audience. It never ceases to freak me out when I go to an ad agency or drama club or college or some small town and some one come up and tells me, “you’re Vehrnon… from Millennium!”… The point is we did have an impact where we thought we did not. It’s a very pleasing thing though unexpected. Its what we wanted but thought we had failed.

We wrote and played our own music and it was heavy heavy stuff but it cut through to some. Far from mainstream, we are and were and underground act and proud of it. Its part of the heritage of rock, real rock that the cutting edge new sounds come from would always be from the underground and you cant get deeper underground than the punk metal type of music Millennium worked on. Now that type of sound is over ground. Seems like in the past few years it has surfaced its ugly head and many people are saying “cool”. That’s good for us and one of the many reasons we are back.

So, when you think about it, it all makes sense, not much sense but some sense but then again, when did rock music and the world of arena rock ever really make sense?

This song form our first full album Millennium is called Only Be One… Enjoy… (its not called only be one enjoy, just saying enjoy the song…)