Cranknob, the alter ego of Ahmer Khan, is an electronic rock-crossover project based out of New Delhi. Back from London after a spell abroad for a few years, Cranknob burst onto the scene with his debut EP ‘Electronic Experiments’ in 2014. A delightful 5 track listen, it set the tone for Cranknob’s next EP, the recently released ‘Black to White’, perfectly. Ahmer’s second EP deals with the five stages of depression, with which he dealt with himself, and each track represents one aspect of it. Melding live sounds and electronic elements perfectly, the release is a truly stimulating listen. We could go on about both this great release and the immensely talented artist, but we’d rather you check out the EP and see what Ahmer had to say about it, and his journey as an artist over the years, himself.
From the frontman of Overdose to releasing a great crossover, concept EP; what has the journey been like?
Wow, I’m getting nostalgic! As far as the evolution of my own music is concerned, it has been nothing but incredible. The journey has taken me from strength to strength and to greater maturity in creating the art that I want to create. In totality though, it has been a mixed bag. When you’re part of a growing independent music scene you are bound to face a multitude of challenges. I think since starting off in 2003, I’ve been in more than 15 bands!
Overdose, a Thrash Metal band that I fronted, took off in 2005 with us gigging all around Delhi. I still love how the scene was between 2005-08. There were so many good bands making such great music. Overdose had to disband in 2010 after changing line-ups started crippling the progress. After a little hiatus, I was motivated to start experimenting under my moniker “Cranknob” in 2011 when I moved to London, mostly because I wanted to keep making music as a solo artist without having to rely on having a band. I have never been more excited making music.
Being an independent musician is a tough journey, so I try to focus on doing it solely for the music and for the joy of creating, because I feel the rest is just fluff. I’m just happy I can create, share and hopefully keep transfiguring my perspective into music.
Could you tell us a bit about each track from the EP? Which one are you especially proud of? Were there any significant challenges you faced while recording the EP?
The recently released Black To White EP is based on my personal journey of overcoming depression and grief over a period of two years. In human psychology, it is noted that a person in grief or depression usually passes through five stages. For me, these stages were – deep depression, anger, false recovery, relapse and finally transformation. Each of these stages that I went through, transfigured into five songs that I wrote over the two years of my dark journey: “Pulsate”, “Shedding Skin”, “Throw Caution To The Wind”, “Relapse & Redemption” and finally “Metamorphosis”.
Though each song has been created from a very honest place, I especially find “Pulsate” and “Shedding Skin” to be a fascinating outcome of what I was personally going through.
I believe that when art is created without too much thought, the creator is able to conjure a sub-conscious catharsis that brings out something very true and previously unexplored. Perhaps the state of mind I was in when I wrote these songs brought out a new ideology for my own songwriting and self-expression.
Recording the EP was a lot of fun. I produce and perform my music at my studio, so there were no hitches in infrastructure, but I just wish I had got this music out sooner. The mixes were sitting on my system for more than a year before I actually put it out. I guess the more you know about production, the more you become a slave of the desire to seek perfection. I will try to be more spontaneous the next time!
What is the process behind creating your music? How do you make the live elements gel so well with the electronic aspects in your tracks?
Being organic is the key. I don’t care much for a fixed methodology or to limit myself to certain instruments. I like writing lyrics and writing phrases/riffs separately. I usually glue elements together later, instead of writing lyrics for a piece of music I made or vice-versa. That’s my way of writing in an unbiased way. The selection of instruments has always been emotionally driven for me. I would usually try a bunch of instruments before zoning into a sound that best describes the emotion that I’m trying to communicate.
I’m a pretty big analog and hardware junkie. During the last couple of years I’ve gone even further away from a typical Computer/DAW driven production. So, I guess the sound for Cranknob comes from the ideology of how each sound element becomes something like an instrument of it’s own. I steer clear of using any loops or any additional software crutches. I like knowing that each aspect of the song is played live and has a sense of “humanity” in it.
What is your opinion about the indie scene in India at the moment? As a musician who has witnessed the scene firsthand both here as well as in England, what are some striking differences you find between the two? Do you feel that your stay abroad has affected you as a musician in any way?
The indie scene in India has evolved like anything. Back in the day, the goal was to somehow play at Hamsadhwani at Pragati Maidan, Delhi, or at OAT IIT-Delhi. That’s how a band “arrived” in the scene. And boy, the scene has come far from that! The sheer talent all around is amazing and promising. The only thing I however feel is that certain promoters/organisers/venues and even artists/bands are creating “camps” in the scene which benefit only those artists/bands. This is counter to what is actually needed to sustain the indie scene here. Trying to create monopolies and pulling others down is surely going to plague the scene instead of helping it. I hope that will change.
Bands/artists in the UK certainly get far more opportunities and audience, but I’ve also seen them working harder and persevering more than most Indian artists. Sure, they have a support system, acceptance and access to gear, but they leverage all this through their discipline. As far as the audience is concerned, Indian concert/gig goers have always been too judgmental (haha). Maybe it’s a cultural thing, but I found the audience in the UK to be far more open and far more intuitive while consuming music.
My stay in London was such a blessing! I firstly got to dig deeper into the journey of some of my favourite bands of all times – Black Sabbath, Pink Floyd, Iron Maiden and Jimi Hendrix. In addition, the UK underground electronic scene in 2011-13 was booming. Dubstep, Drumstep, DnB, Grime, Garage etc. was doing the rounds around town every night. In fact, I got to see Skrillex and Flux Pavilion at a small club before they got big! So just being there and witnessing this whole explosion first hand was a rush. My ideology of crossing rock sensibilities with new electronic sounds got fortified by hearing great music all around me.
What/Who influenced you to get into electronic music? Who are your main influences? Are there any from the indie scene here?
The UK underground mainly influenced me to get into electronic music. I was frequenting clubs in London such as Koko, Fabric, Funkyzeit, and Cargo etc. I had never seen such talent before. Dubstep, Industrial and Big Beat became instant favourites of mine and artists such as Noisia, Skism, Flux Pavilion, Skrillex, Prodigy, Chase & Status were constantly playing on my iPod together with Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, Megadeth, Sepultura and the likes. Complete blasphemy as per Indian “methcul” fans! (haha) I’m also inspired by other crossover/industrial acts such as Nine Inch Nails and Modestep.
My list of Rock/Metal influences is endless, but at the top is Black Sabbath. Tony Iommi inspired me to pick up the guitar when I was 10. I don’t have any Indian electronic music influences but I have grown up listening to some amazing bands from our country, most notably Zero, Millennium, Indus Creed and Motherjane.
What are some of the key differences between working as a part of a band and as a solo artist? Are you open to the idea of getting back into a band setup sometime in the future?
After having spent years being in bands, working alone is such a relief! The music creation process for me got simpler with less stress, less delay and more overall productivity. Also, as a songwriter my vision stayed intact without having to face ego trips or childish discussion about who will play which part! Another great thing I feel is that there is no one else to blame but you. I know how stressful being in a band can get when everyone is busy trying to ascertain who is to blame for the collective failure of a gig or a song.
I would love to put together a live band for Cranknob at some point. There is nothing more exciting than performing live with amazing musicians. No synths or drum sequencers can replace that feeling. However I think actively writing in a band and relying on other people’s commitment is something I don’t think I have the patience for as of now. I need to get shit done, and being a part of a band has proven to be unproductive for me. People come, people go, and the music suffers. At least that’s how I feel right now.
What have been some of your favourite moments as a musician so far? What are some personal milestones you would love to achieve?
Ah, there have been so many! Some notable moments are – touring Siberia (Russia) with my now defunct band Dilligate, getting featured by Akhil Sood in the print edition of The Hindu for the story behind Cranknob’s Black To White EP, winning the Got Talent show in London in front of a huge crowd, having young bands cover Overdose’s songs and winning the IIT competition with Gulaal, another one of the bands that I’ve been a part of.
Now, I really want to set out to create more music and plan more frequent EP/album releases, to play national and international festivals and to collaborate with some great musicians live as well as in the studio.
What’s next for Cranknob?
Much frequent music releases, more performances and endless experimentation. I plan to continue to stay out of my comfort zone and keep kicking it up a notch with everything I create. One step at a time.
A big thank you to Ahmer for that great interview! Like Cranknob on Facebook and follow him on Instagram and Twitter to keep up with the latest updates.
Buy the Black to White EP on Bandcamp.
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