ARUN SHENOY & THE GROOVE PROJECT
A Stagey Bank Affair
(Narked Records / Arun Shenoy Music)

 

Singapore-based composer-producer and guitarist Arun Shenoy made his breakthrough in 2012 when his debut CD Rumbadoodle was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental Album, a genre which was later renamed to Best Contemporary Instrumental Album. In 2016, Arun is once again making news in the jazz-rock music world with his new concept album A Stagey Bank Affair by his band Arun Shenoy & The Groove Project. As a guitarist, Arun stakes out some unique sonic ground on A Stagey Bank Affair, leading his band through a range of instrumental music that quite tastefully combines jazz-rock, world groove fusion, funk, neoclassical chill, soundtracks and more. Arun describes his music as being “Bansuri Funk”, indicating a solid affiliation with his South Asian roots. Speaking about his 2016 album album, Arun tells mwe3.com, “The new album was written and recorded in 2015-2016 and released in July 2016. Right from the onset, it was designed to be a concept album. The album has multiple facets to it and the title itself was derived from one of them – a metaphorical reference to Stagey Bank, an agricultural fair in the North East of England that over a period of time became notorious for drinking, gambling and was eventually closed down in the 1920s. The phrase “Stagey Bank Fair” passed into common parlance to indicate a mess in general. Fact or folklore, we do not know, but it has given wings to our imagination to create a concept album around fairgrounds. A Stagey Bank Affair, is thus a metaphor for a place which used to be a fun fair, and now means a messy affair, kind of like adulthood is. Growing up just means we stop growing and stop having fun.” A Stagey Bank Affair is a collaboration between Arun and the group called The Groove Project comprising of 13 artists, which include heavyweights like Jazz legend Jeff Coffin, orchestral composer and arranger Don Hart, acclaimed flautist Ravichandra Kulur among others. There is also a guest appearance by keyboard player, Uziel on the opening track For the most part, this is Arun Shenoy’s show and the entire CD packaging is a sight to behold with two booklets providing intriguing artwork espousing Arun’s philosophy. Arun Shenoy’s jazz-rock opus A Stagey Bank Affair will surely be of interest to jazz-rock fusion guitar fans. www.facebook.com / www.arunshenoy.com

 





mwe3.com presents an interview with
ARUN SHENOY

mwe3
: Can you tell us about life in Singapore where you’re from originally and where you live now? Do you spend time in the US these days? What towns and cities in Singapore and other countries are among your favorites to live and visit? Do you have roots in India?

Arun Shenoy: I was born in a small town named Manipal along the Western Coast of India in the state of Karnataka. I spent my childhood in Bangalore, the state capital, where I completed my schooling and my pre-university education. I returned to Manipal for my university studies and graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science in 1999. After this, I spent 3 years in the Corporate World with TCS and IBM in Bangalore.

At the age of 24, in late 2012, I moved to Singapore to pursue my post graduate studies at the National University of Singapore. This is also where I met Roshni, my wife who has been the art director on all of my projects up to and including the latest concept funk album, A Stagey Bank Affair. I graduated with the Master’s Degree in Computer Science with my field of research being Computation Audio in 2004.

In 2008 I became a Singapore citizen. I am also a US Permanent Resident and travel frequently to the US. I do look forward to having a home in the US too; and to setting up a presence for my publishing firm and label there in the coming future.

mwe3: Your new CD is called A Stagey Bank Affair and it’s credited to Arun Shenoy & The Groove Project. When did you write and record the music on the CD and how did you decide on the title? The title of the CD sounds very U.K. influenced in a way as you say in the liner notes. The whole album creates a kind of circus like or carnival like atmosphere in the music and with the art work. Did you record and create A Stagey Bank Affair as a kind of audiovisual extravaganza, a feast for both the eyes and ears and also how would you compare the new album with your earlier recordings?

Arun Shenoy: The new album was written and recorded in 2015-2016 and released in July 2016. Right from the onset, it was designed to be a concept album, and while I worked on the music, Roshni worked on the visual theme which was based on the art form of vintage carnival poster illustrations.

The album has multiple facets to it and the title itself was derived from one of them – a metaphorical reference to Stagey Bank, an agricultural fair in the North East of England that over a period of time became notorious for drinking, gambling and was eventually closed down in the 1920s. The phrase “Stagey Bank Fair” passed into common parlance to indicate a mess in general. Fact or folklore, we do not know, but it has given wings to our imagination to create a concept album around fairgrounds.

A Stagey Bank Affair, is thus a metaphor for a place which used to be a fun fair, and now means a messy affair, kind of like adulthood is. Growing up just means we stop growing and stop having fun.

The album was designed to be an audio-visual experience of music, artwork, packaging and animation. I personally believe this is my best work to date and would not change a thing even if I could.

mwe3: Speaking about the artwork of A Stagey Bank Affair, you really pulled out the stops. How did you link up and partner with the graphic artists who helped create such an appealing looking project? Did you have a set goal in mind when creating the artwork to match the music?

Arun Shenoy: The music and artwork were two independent projects that were happening around the same time. Roshni, I do recall, was inspired by some of the early demos I was working on for the song that eventually went on to become “High Striker” on the album.

Then we also had the typography, packaging and the creation of 2 animated music videos with the same theme. I also have to add that I love the text blurbs that Roshni has penned in the CD booklets.

In the end, the artwork project actually took longer than it actually took me to finish the music on the full album.

The execution of the artwork was done by the team at Actuality Films in NYC headed by Robert Capria, who incidentally is also credited as an Art Director alongside Roshni for his contribution. This is the same team we have been working with in the past, and who had created the visuals and animation for the debut album Rumbadoodle in 2012.

mwe3: The production credits of A Stagey Bank Affair is quite impressive. What was it like working with co-producer Duke Purisima and the other arrangers and engineers? With so much music to fit into the album were there specific challenges when it came to the engineering and mastering the music especially as the album i so dynamic sounding?

Arun Shenoy: Yes. I have been fortunate to work with so many wonderful people on this project. The Groove Project has 13 members credited as part of the musical group, and then we have the string section, the horn section, all of the engineers and a few guest artists.

Despite the scale of the production, the whole process was rather smooth and really enjoyable. Having collaborated with most of the artists on past projects, it was rather easy for everyone to understand my production direction on this one. The music was mixed by Jerry who has an excellent ear for engineering and understood the precise sound I wanted for the final mixes. Incidentally he is also the drummer and a real good one at that!

During the early stages of the production, I had anticipated some issues with the projection of the Bansuri flute over the rather dense arrangements for most of the tracks, but again it was surprisingly easy with Ravi’s superb flute work, cutting through the mix really well. So all of the sonic elements came together rather well and just as I had hoped.

Working with Duke has always been interesting for me. His funky bass playing has been a big inspiration for me, and he has a very interesting ear for arrangements often putting together sections in ways I had never imagined.

For the writing itself, a large part of it was done by Ravi and me, where I would send across songwriting scratches based on a drum and bass groove, or some guitar harmonies and melodies and he would build on it. And then we had other members of the group who would then contribute their own ideas to the basic structure that we (Ravi and me) had put in place.

The typically workflow after this would then be me completing recording all of the parts with the members of the group, and arranging the music based on ideas I had. I would then pass my projects to Duke who would then add his own spin to the arrangements. Sometimes little changes that make a world of a difference, something big changes that take the song in a whole new direction. Once we have agreed on it and also factored in the feedback from the rest of the team, Duke sends it over to Jerry for the mix and master.

mwe3: You have a number of great musicians with you on the CD including a number of guitarists, horn players, string players, keyboardists and drummers. How did you decide on choosing these fine players to appear on the CD and can you tell us where the album was recorded and how the whole band was recorded on different tracks? These days I guess tracks are blended in from all over the world.

Arun Shenoy: I suppose I have already answered a part of the question here in the previous response. With most of the members of the group, the recordings where done individually at their current locations (Owen in the UK, Felipe in Italy, Jonathan in India, Ian in Canada etc) save for the string and horn orchestration which was recorded with all of the players together over the course of a few days in Nashville by Don Hart.

mwe3: You describe your sound as “The Bansuri Funk Sound”. Is that name inspired by your native Singapore? I know you work with a great flute players, Ravichandra Kulur. What can you tell us about Ravichandra and did his Bansuri flute inspire that descriptive title?

Arun Shenoy: “Bansuri Funk” is a stylistic term I have used to best describe the sound of the music on the record. It is a sound stylized by the fusion of Funk, Jazz and Rock with a spicy hint of Worldly Pleasures, the latter being a reference to the blazing performance on the traditional Bansuri by acclaimed flautist Ravichandra Kulur. So it is not a Singapore reference but rather a reference to the traditional Indian World music flute called the Bansuri.

In 2014, Ravi, Duke and me had released an eponymous debut single as a trio under the moniker Soul’d. The music on “Soul’d” introduced the Bansuri Funk music to the world.

Inspired by Ravi’s brilliant performance on the instrument, the direction for the production has been a rather interesting one for me – to project the traditional World Music flute as the lead instrument in a rather atypical setting, thus giving Kulur the top billing as the soloist across the record.

mwe3: When did you start on the guitar and can you tell us some of your big influences, both composers and guitarists and multi-instrumentalists? What’s your background like as a musicians and what are some of your favorite guitar albums by other artists?

Arun Shenoy: I started on the guitar way back in 1993. Some lessons in the summer and then hanging out with other musicians. This led to me playing in various rock bands and I guess things escalated rather quickly. Ha.

Very often people ask me what instrument I use to compose music. For me it is a combination of the guitar and I guess, a lot of stuff I just keep hearing in my head. Ha.

I have had a lot of diverse influences over the years, and if I had pick just two at this time, it would have to be Joe Satriani and Slash.

mwe3: How many guitars are you playing and recording with on the CD? What can you tell us about your favorite guitars and what you look for in a guitar as well as your favorite amps, strings and effects and pedals?

Arun Shenoy: There are actually 4 guitarists across the songs on the album. For me I compose, produce and arrange the music and as far as recording itself goes, I am a part of the funky groove section. All of the flashy guitar work is done by Felipe Praino, Owen Gurry and Jim Kimo West.

In terms of pedals/ effects processing we kept it really simple not just for the guitars but for the rest of the instruments as well. Every element we add in the chain introduces some new sounds into the mix which could potentially interfere with other parts of the mix. By itself it would sound great, but in a production like this, given the density of the mixes, we needed to keep each instrument as pure as possible tonally, for the mix to still have room to breathe.

For instance, for the main riff you hear on “Sad Clown”, it was just a G&L Stratocaster direct into a Hughes & Kettener TubeMeister 5 with a DI out. That’s it. Absolutely nothing else in the chain.

I also use a Gibson Les Paul Standard and a Breedlove Atlas acoustic. No particular preference for strings through I tend to use Ernie Ball strings a lot.

mwe3: What’s your thoughts on musical cross-sections and creating hybrid forms of music, say combining jazz with rock, funk, classical and World Music sounds? Is the future of music in its ability to adapt to not only technology but in engineering new concepts and global styles?

Arun Shenoy: I believe that it is important for any given musical style to keep evolving to stay current and relevant. I love the pure forms of each musical style of course. As you will notice, I tend to use a lot of old school sounds in my music. But I also like to experiment with new and interesting sounds created by fusion of styles.

mwe3: How are you planning to bring your music to the attention of the world wise listening audience? With the rise of the internet this past 15 years, is it more challenging to reach so many people all over the globe? What roles do you see yourself and your music playing within the scope of the vast global music market?

Arun Shenoy: That is true. The changing landscape of the music business and the “new normal” of music consumption (CDs giving way to digital downloads that are now giving way to streaming) has posed some rather interesting challenges. But rather than look at it as hurdles, I tend to try and find new opportunities in the larger scheme of things. But I still try my best to have a solid foundation in place in terms of having a traditional PR campaign, marketing and radio campaign, etc.

mwe3: Are you constantly writing new music and as far as regarding new production and writing and performing, have you given thought as to what directions you’re thinking of going in next?

Arun Shenoy: I am taking a break from writing or creating new music at this time. A lot of time, effort and resources have gone into the creation of this album, and now I just want to sit back and relax for a short while. So I have no immediate plans for new material at this time. But with me you never know!




Thanks to Arun Shenoy @ www.ArunShenoy.com and to Beth Ann Hilton of The B Company @ www.TheBCompany.com




 

 
   
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