While the priority of us metalheads is the music itself, and rightly should be, we often forget about the real heroes who sit behind the scenes, lending the necessary helping hand in building the band’s legacy. Be it organizing the to-be-most famous and successful tour, signing bands and promoting their all new album, which you’re all so pumped up about, they are the real back bone of the music industry.
So today, I bring to you a small chat/interview I did with my good friend Harsha Vardhan who is the brainchild behind MetalJesus Magazine and his booking agency/PR/band management/event management/promotion outlet Proximity Production. Harsha Vardhan has been working tirelessly and offering more metal to the country of India by coming up with killer tours featuring many Indian heavy weights and often the ones who are budding in the scene. He makes sure to understand the dynamic, structure of the scene and everything that goes into making tours, promote, organize shows and help in the publicity of the bands enrolled on his roster. Proximity Productions is definitely setting the game up for many years to come here in India. Already having done a couple of runs with the Durance Of Hate tour which featured many upcoming bands like DARKRYPT, TRINERGIC, CHAOS etc., he is now ready to steer the Decimation Tour featuring PLAGUE THROAT which commences from this month on the 17th. Also having managed bands like RUDRA, 80s thrash metal biggies ONSLAUGHT his appetite for helping the scene and bringing more metal hasn’t stopped, it in fact has fueled his ambitions.
What goes in inside the business and what is it like? Isn’t it interesting and makes you crave for knowing it? So, let’s get into what went down with me and Harsha, as we talked about his ventures, the difficulties which he has to face every single time he gets his hands in the business, the hardships and sacrifices in just pulling off a simple show and a lot more. I also ask him about his dream tour he’d like to manage. Psht! Buy your local gig tickets and who knows it might happen?
METAL NEXUS: Hey there Harsha! Hope you’re doing great, so, how are things going so far this year?
Harsha: “Hey Tulip, I am doing well. Thank you for this interview. This year has been quite stressful and busy. Being busy is good in a way haha!“
METAL NEXUS: You seem to be the jack of all trades, you’re the founder of MetalJesus Magazine and also of Proximity Productions. Tell us how do you juggle chores between both of them and manage to keep them afloat successfully.
Harsha: “Haha! Those are big for words for a guy like me. Back then, I had a big team for MJM and few other friends in Proximity Productions. Times have changed, right now in MJM, I have around 2-3 people contributing regularly, a small team in Sweden and rest of it is just me on the other side. I have been trying to establish a team in other countries like Germany, USA and even the UK. With Proximity Prods, my team had moved out of the city with their regular jobs and other commitments, so it’s just me doing everything by myself to this day.“
METAL NEXUS: It’s been four years I assume since you’ve been heading MJM and managing bands under Proximity Productions. Tell us, how did this all start?
Harsha: “Yeah, so both were formed more or less around the same timeline, a little over 4 years ago. Metaljesus Magazine was formed with another friend of mine, who was staying in Bangalore at that time. We used to write for another online magazine and then we quit that and later on came up with the idea of MJM. We tried to set up a solid team, so a lot of changes were made. He moved out of the city and then I took over single handed and then we got back in touch after a year (in 2016) and I had to change the team and later realized that handling a smaller team was much better. So that’s how it is so far. I am still trying to set pace by doing what I can. We are planning to cover more international festivals, tours, tons of bands and make a solid portal. We are even tied up with labels like Season of Mist, Napalm Records, Relapse Records and so much more. I still don’t want to compromise on whatever I do. That’s just my way of working things out.
Proximity Productions was started with the sole idea of organizing shows, we had a failed idea and a team that unfortunately didn’t hit well. The guys started moving out of the city with their jobs and personal works, so I was left out in Bangalore. I was managing one band at that time. Later I figured that I needed to grow out of this, so I started doing PR and that’s how I got to work with many bands from the North. Eventually, I came up with the idea of Band Management and organizing tours and shows outside Bangalore and even expand to other countries. That’s when Rudra entered my life. This was a huge break for me. I started signing more bands under Management and PR from Europe and recently signed bands like Onslaught, Chaos and even Primitiv this January. Things are picking up slowly and I don’t want to make those same mistakes; rather work things out with quality than quantity. Currently, there’s Decimation Tour coming up with the mighty Plague Throat spanning 5 cities and there’s some one-off shows in Bangalore and around; there’s also the Durance of Hate Tour III due later this year. I am also working on few tours internationally but we will announce it once the time is right.“
METAL NEXUS: Talking about your artist management label, in a country like India, it gets tough organizing shows, tours etc. You’ve to consider so many aspects of it. What is the level of pressure that comes with it in pulling things of such grandiosity?
Harsha: “The problem has always been the fact that ‘Metal’ isn’t the most widely accepted form of music when it comes to booking and organizing shows in most Metropolitan cities. The main problem is the finance. So many people want to watch so many bands, how many do you think will actually turn up for the shows? If that is the case, I don’t see why promoters and venues would want to risk it and get down bands when they clearly understand the whole scenario. You probably won’t get sponsors too so that’s an issue we can’t change. It’s easier to book shows and do tours for Rock/ Indie bands because the ‘live crowd’ is more promising. The pressure also comes when the promoters/ venues don’t respond on time and do not communicate properly and because of certain people like them, I was forced to cancel another big tour of an international band that was supposed to happen in Feb 2018. It just didn’t look good on my part as well. Some people don’t understand that bands have certain criteria and deadlines that need to be honoured. I can’t have a puppet show with my bands. I understand both sides of the coin from the promoter’s perspective and a band manager but at least, I have moved on from it. We have other things coming up, so let’s wait for it.“
METAL NEXUS: You’ve been signing both top notch Indian and International artists on Proximity Productions roster. I’ve been following them for a while and when ONSLAUGHT joined forces with PP, I was awestruck. Tell us how did this work out and what it’s like to have an 80s giant on your roster?
Harsha: “Thank you for the kind words man. It feels surreal that I have been honoured to manage them from this part of the world. We have been in touch since 2015 until we decided to work things out last year. There’s a lot of things coming up from the Onslaught camp. New album, shows and most importantly kickass Thrash Metal! A lot of things have been under wraps but 2018 should be eventful for the band. Just need the right timeline and schedule for announcing it for you people. You’ll love it!“
METAL NEXUS: Any current bands on your register that you were looking forward to quite ardently prior to signing them?
Harsha: “There’s a lot! Haha! But right now, I need to focus on the current bands and give ample amount of time to them. So I don’t want to sign too many bands as well. I have 2 major signings that will happen this year. Both are Death Metal bands that have garnered a following. Just wait for the announcement.“
METAL NEXUS: In a scene that is rapidly developing and moulding, do your shape your requirements and all the ingredients accordingly before executing stuff like tours, bookings, promotion, artist signing etc., keeping in mind the current nature of the scene?
Harsha: “Absolutely! It’s pretty much like launching a new product in the market. A lot of things like budget, logistics, terms and conditions are all met and understood well beforehand. So far, I have done shows comprising only Metal bands but I aspire to do this with Rock bands as well; though it looks more expensive with numbers, it’s not impossible.“
METAL NEXUS: Given the fact that you surely are passionate and love what you do, how long do you think you will keep doing what you do?
Harsha: “I have a regular day job working as an IT guy post my completion of my Aerospace Engineering. Nothing related to what I studied but I will continue with my Masters soon but does that mean I will stop doing any of this? No. At least, I will carry on as long as I can, practically speaking. Of course, I yearn for holidays which I will take up this summer haha! I think it’s all about priorities and scheduling things right. I think anyone can do this, considering I am a lazy fuck.“
METAL NEXUS: What attracts you the most in a band in order to decide to sign one under your management label?
Harsha: “Firstly, I must personally love the music and the guys must be easy to work with. The bands must understand the scenario. It takes hours of work for anyone working behind the band to understand and get things together. Also, I am very particular about having a borderline. I don’t expect the band to interfere in my work and vice versa. I think you need to respect each other’s ethics and give that work space. I work pretty fast at my end but I get delayed dealing with other third party people outside the band and crew. So it’s infuriating at times but once it shapes up, there’s nothing like it. Like I said, I think it’s a similar scenario overall in most countries.“
METAL NEXUS: I love asking this and you’re no exception as well. Shed some light on other genres you love tapping your foot to, other than metal and rock.
Harsha: “Oh man! There’s a lot. I love listening to jazz and soulful music; very little Hip Hop too. I also love listening to some Carnatic, classic AR Rahman, Illayaraja, some oldies from Tamil and just about anything that sounds good to me.“
METAL NEXUS: Coming to the end of the interview, I’d like to ask, what can the future and most importantly 2018 expect from Proximity Productions? Any insights?
Harsha: “Yes, two important Death Metal signings that will close my roster for the year. Decimation Tour with Plague Throat, a couple of summer tours while I work on some Chaos and Primitiv. There’s also Durance of Hate Tour III due around October 2018. Onslaught’s new album and a lot more from the band. We will make some announcements in due time.“
METAL NEXUS: Ending it on a lighter note, what is the dream tour you’d like to manage here in India?
Harsha: “My dream tour would be Rudra, Melechesh, Demonic Resurrection and Arallu.“
METAL NEXUS: Thank you so much for doing this. Any last messages for our readers here at Metal Nexus?
Harsha: “Thank you very much for having me here. I feel humbled to be featured. All the best with Metal Nexus. Thanks to everyone for their support.“
Proximity Productions has a lot to offer this year as owner Harsha states above, which will be announced as the time comes in this year. But for now, you need to fixate your gaze at this killer tour which begins 17th of March, featuring Shillong based devastating death metal trio PLAGUE THROAT, who will be truly “decimating” five Indian cities unhindered. Get your tickets and the info you’d need from the Proximity Productions Facebook page linked below you fellas, the tour dates are as follows:
March 17th– New Delhi- Cafe Turquoise Cottage
March 18th– Indore- Hi Ball Best Western Plus O2
March 23rd– Jorhat- Only PT headlining at JIST
March 29th– Bangalore- Blue FROG Bengaluru
April 1st– Mumbai- Venue TBA