In conversation with Asxem Dlean on going from loving music to making it a career with nowhere to go but up-Part 1


Sunil Mantri: Tell us about yourself

AsxemDlean: I am a simple guy – I keep my head down, speak when spoken to. No complicated equations no hang-ups. A lover of the little joys life throws me – football, swimming and most of all music.

Music has been at the center of my existence for as long as I can remember. Academics were never my forte and I have always loved the outdoors andbeen enthusiastic about sports.I spent6 years in a boarding school following which I went to Hyderabad for higher studies at an IIT training academy. That was not where I saw myself ever being happy and I soon quit and came back to Bombay. I’ve had the most supportive and wonderful family but as is normal with parents there was a phase in my early adulthood when they wanted me to become a Pilot. At this crucial juncture I made sure I didn’t waste their hard earned money on something I was not and would never be interested in.


I can now gladly say that I was a confused teenager who didn’t know what he wanted. Becoming aprofessional football player seemed like the only thing that would make me happy. Until one day Itruly discovered music. From there on out there was no looking back.



Sunil Mantri: How and when did you discover your love for music?   

AsxemDlean: I have always loved music.I have gone through every possible phase in the musical journey most people just skim through. The ride has taken me from pop music boy bands like Backstreet boys,Westlife, Blue, Five, Nsync, Boyzone, to hip hop artists like 2Pac, Dr.Dre, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Bone Thugs n Harmony etc. My initiation to Clubbing got me into electronic and dance music. Stuff like Paul Van Dyk, DJ Tiesto, Judge Jules, ATB etc. I kept subconsciously integrating these genres in my own musical taste and appreciating the ever growing variety of musical genres.

Eventually I got introduced to rock music.

The first rock tracks that blew my mind were Jump by Van Halenand When I come around by Green Day which my close friend and big brother Captain Akshay Kumar introduced to me. The first song I heard another childhood friend and now one of my mentors Ryan Medera play on the guitar was the song Two Steps Behind by  Def-Leppard. That was the moment I knew I wanted to play guitar. I asked him to teach me. I would watch what he played and tried to do as he did blundering while he laughed affectionately. Finally the first thing I ever taught myself to play on the guitar was an Old Vodafone (then Hutch) ring tone called “You and I in this beautiful world”. The guitar just felt right in my arms, and I have not put it down ever since.




Sunil Mantri: What was your first musical project?

AsxemDlean: It was in 2006 after I had just started learning how to play the guitar from various friends. I was at the stage where I would watch my friends Vishwanath and Gaurav jam a lot then go home later, borrow Ryan’s Guitar and try to play what they did at the jam. I never missed a single jam of theirs.

One day the drummer Vishwanath had a gig with another band for a college competition and I decided to go watch him perform. We were chilling backstage with the organizers and were surprised to hear that out of the 24 bands that had registered only 7 had showed up.The Organizers asked us to form a band and play to help minimize the damage due to the miniscule attendance. Gaurav and Vishwanath were happy to oblige but I had never rehearsed with them before nor had I ever laid hands on the electric Bass guitar they wanted me to play on.  To my horror, Vishwanath borrowed a bass guitar, which he then proceeded to hand to me saying calmly “You’ve seen us play these.  Just follow what Gaurav does, it’ll be fun”.I followed them on stage scared out of my wits and still wondering what to do. We ended up doing a full cover set starting with Green Day, Puddle of Mud, etc.

It was one of the best feelings ever because I managed to pull it off without ever rehearsing or ever using a bass guitar before. After the rest of the bands finished playing I asked Gaurav “What if we win this competition?” he said “then you’ll officially be part of this band”, and would you believe it? We won. “The winner is RED-CUBE” they said. Still disbelieving, Vishwanath actually went up to the judges to confirm”did you’ll say Red cube?” And they said “yes Congrats you guys won it”. No words could describe that moment and feeling that we shared. We won 8000 Rupees and blew it all up just like Rockstars.The name Red Cube came up randomly because we jammed in Viswanath’s bedroom, which was cubical and had a red light that lit up the place. RED-CUBE was the first band I ever played with. 





Sunil Mantri: How did things progress from there?

AsxemDlean: Red-Cube played a couple of gigs for the underground music scene that we have here in Bombay and since I did not own a bass Guitar I had to keep borrowing someone else’s. We got good responses and eventually started working on fresh material. This was at that point when I had just got back from Hyderabad and was in between college admissions through sports quota. I could not give enough time for the music. Some time passed and Red Cube moved on. Out of the blue I got a call from Akash offering me the opportunity to play Bass for his new project Freak1C, which would predominantly focus on playing nu metal. Completely stoked, I immediately responded “Yeah totally bro let’s do this!” We played just one gig but killed it at good old Razzberry Rino in Juhu our venue for all the undergrounds gigs back in the day. We are remembered for covering crowd  favorite bands like Slipknot, Il Nino, Deftones, Staind’ and Drowning Pool. We were good, if I may say so myself. Our drummer Swastik pulled off Slipknot – Surfacing on a single peddle which blew everyone’s mind considering it is meant to be played on a double bass peddle. It was a lot of fun but that was short lived.


Sometime later Akash told me about another project he wanted to launch in Hindi. This project was called SAFAR. So for our first jam on 1st Jan 2007 Vishwanath my drummer from Red Cube and me left for Akash’s. We reached and met the vocalist Jimmy and once we set up and started playing. From playing the first song Yaari (Friendship) to strumming the last chord we all locked in and the music just spoke for itself. That saw the rise of SAFAR. So our lineup was Vishwanath on drums, Akash on Electric guitars, Jimmy on acoustic guitar and vocals Jugjyoth on vocals and me on bass. Our first gig saw a lot of positive feedback from the audiences and the guest celebs that were present. We signed up next for a college competition for metal bands. Being a Hindi alternative rock band it’s not so easy to make a mark in a metal dominated scene. The organizer came up to us saying “Why are you’ll playing here? We were confused at first, but then he said we should play for the pro night they would pay us double. We were all shocked wondering whether he was joking. He wasn’t. We did play for the pro night and did get double the amount the winner got for the competition. Being put out as a pro band where we thought we were just amateurs was a very special feeling. Soon the pace picked up and almost every college competition we played we won. Before we could fully digest what was happening, wesuddenly found ourselves with a Band Manager.In what felt like the same breath we were presented with the opportunity of composing the music for the new Sprite ad campaign. Not only were we to create the music and track but as a band Safar was also acting in the ad.


Things were going super smooth until Vishwanath and Akash had to leave for Dubai to pursue a course in sound engineering. Things with the manager weren’t working out as well. That was they first time we felt like things weren’t going as per plan. Things started to go downhill. Even though it felt like we were slowly drowning, Jimmy and I refused to give up on Safar.We found professionals who would fill in and continued playing wherever we got shows. We had some major one’s opening for big acts such as JAL, Euphoria, and Strings etc. Eventually Akash came back as a full fledged engineer ready to take over the Bollywood industry while Vishwanath got a job in Dubai itself as a broadcast engineer deciding to settle down there. We continued playing until we decided it was time to make a music video to enhance Safar as a band of Professional musicians.


The response to the Video was amazing. We reached over 100,000 views in less that 6 months and we mainly played corporate events and as Headlining acts for college festivals. Slowly we released our 2nd video, playing live with our new line up.


Till today we get messages over Facebook from Fans saying they love us and our songs, which they consider evergreen. Slowly things stared to fizzle out again that was when I decided it was about time that I started working on the independent material I had been planning for years.  




Sunil Mantri: Tell me about the artists that have inspired you over the years?  

AsxemDlean: I hate to categorize music. It’s just one language for me.Either you like it or you don’t. While learning the guitar I loved Mark Tremonti’s style of playing. He was the guitarist of Creed, currently playing for Alter Bridge. With the rise of the Internet I discovered some amazingly talented artists such as Andy Mckee, Guthrie Govan, Victor Wooten, Dennis Chambers, Marco Mineman, Billy Sheehan etc. These guys were from another planet, each mind blowing in their respected instruments. My taste finally evolved as a musician and I got into technical and groove metal. That’s when MESHUGGAH just blew my mind. I was yet to find the perfect idol until I stumbled over BULB ‘aka’ Misha Mansoor of Periphery. This guy at the time made everything and was yet nothing. I knew for a fact that he would be the next big thing. He had over 120 free tracks up on Soundclick, all produced and done by himself. This truly made me want to kill myself (Hypothetically). I spoke to him once but as a crazy fan I asked him “Hey Misha how are you so awesome? Can you teach me? and can I be just like you?” He said “Thanks a lot, really appreciate you digging my stuff. I would suggest just work smart and be yourself. You’ll find the path you are destined to be on.” So with that said, *don’t be me* was the advice I got from the person I idolize. I could go on and on about him. I watched him closely as he grew to become the pioneer and apex of the new wave of groove melodic metal (since people need to categorize. ha ha) Again I say the Evolution of Music.  




Sunil Mantri: What are your plans for the future?  

AsxemDlean: I just want to live my dream and make all of them a reality. I can have a clear vision of what I need to do and I can feel the fire burning inside me just like a Dragon. I want to be an Apex and Re-define the Music industry to get the real musicians and talented artists who slog their asses off to where they need to be and ensure we all rise together as there is no limit to growth. Music is Love, Peace and serenity. I believe in taking everyone with the same vision together to the top, as I don’t believe in Competition. As George Bernard Shaw once said “If you have and apple and I have an apple and we exchanged it. We’d both have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchanged it. We’d both have two ideas each.”




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