He was recently announced as the drummer for Skyharbor which has Keshav Dhar handling the guitars and Nikhil Rufus on the bass. They play their debut gig and release their first full length release at the NH7 Weekender on the 20th of November. Here’s what Anup Sastry had to say in his chat with Indian Drummer.
ID – Hey Anup! How’ve you been?
Anup - I’ve been great!!!! Thanks for asking!
ID – You’re now officially in the Skyharbor line up, how does it feel to be working with someone like Keshav Dhar?
Anup - It feels absolutely amazing! Keshav writes very beautiful music. And me being the sucker I am for epic melodies and chord progressions, I couldn’t be any more thrilled!!! The material is also very challenging on the drums!
ID – What’s the work ethic like with Keshav?
Anup - Well I haven’t actually worked with Keshav in person yet, but based on what we have accomplished just through the internet may give you an idea. Its nice because we both have experience with recording, producing, mixing, etc, so I think that will definitely be useful in the near future seeing that majority of us working together will be over the internet!
Anup - We haven’t really been focusing too much on new material. I’ve had a lot on my plate the past couple of months. Im just trying to prepare my self for the NH7 as best as possible! Im sure we will tackle some new tunes as soon as we finish up with the festival though! Me and Keshav have been talking very frequently back and forth about possible future plans for Skyharbor, but I think we will be more clear minded after the NH7!
ID – You’ll be playing at the NH7 Weekender in November, how has the preparation been for this debut show?
Anup – It’s actually not as stressful as you would think! haha! I’ve just been doing my best to learn all of the songs in our set. We decided to give our selves a good week of rehearsal time as a group before the show. I’m positive that we will be ready for the show and feel extremely comfortable playing these songs together as a group! I’m unbelievably excited to be playing these songs with actual people as supposed to just a click track!!! hahaha!
ID – When did you first start drumming? Who are your major influences?
Anup - I first started drumming when I was about 11 years old. I remember I used to play the clarinet in the middle school concert band. My best friend at the time played drums. I remember him playing a really simple beat one day in band, and it completely blew my mind away… hahaha! And thats when I started playing drums! Some of my influences are Tony Royster Jr., Eric Moore, Travis Orbin, Jojo Mayer, Chris Coleman, and Matt Halpern. I could sit here listing off a whole bunch of drummers, but these are just a few that for sure had something to do in the way I approach a drum kit today!
ID – Your videos on youtube are quite a hit, especially the Skyharbor ones. What do you think makes the music special?
Anup - Well like I was saying before, I think the music is really epic in a way. It has a lot of different builds, dynamics, and emotions going on to make it really interesting to listen to. Also, one Skyharbor tune in particular called Aphasia has to be the hardest song I have had to learn ever. Also, a lot of the songs I think have a nice contrast between beauty and technicality!
Anup - In a lot of my solo material, a lot of the grooves and patterns are usually formed from just improvising. A lot of times, I will hit record in Pro Tools, then go to my drum kit and play for an hour or so. I then come back and mark out the grooves and patterns I really liked. Then once I have an idea of what I want to do, I start forming a song. Then I will start recording it! Another little trick is to take a pattern and completely mess with it. So basically, you take a pattern, and make it so weird that it’s almost nonsense. Then you learn how to play that same nonsense under an actual back beat that someone can actually grasp! So you have this transition from something that sounds extremely technical to now sounding extremely groovy, even though it’s the same exact pattern! haha! Another thing is to think about your phrasing. I usually like to take a small phrasing of (for example) four bars, but make it sound like a sixteen bar phrasing. The way you make it sound like a sixteen bar phrasing is to maybe leave out a different kick drum hit during each phrasing… You can get more complicated by actually writing four different four bar phrasings, but that’s just an example.
ID – Any advice you want to give to the drummers out there who play in bands which compose music on similar lines?
Anup - I would say to be as diverse as possible in what you listen to, and try to be even more diverse in what you practice. Its completely fine if you want to write a specific style of music, but that doesn’t mean your mind can’t take ideas and be influenced from other styles. In my opinion, diversity is a big part of developing your craft.
ID – Another thing one can see while watching your drumming is really good use of ghost notes. Any pointers you’d like to give to the readers on how to develop them and also on how and where to use ghost notes?
Anup - A lot of basic ghost note patterns are just different variations of singles and doubles that alternate or “dance” around your kick drum pattern. In fact, you can even apply rudiments to ghost note patterns. A simple example is a paradiddle. The sticking is normally RLRR LRLL. Instead, turn it into KLKK LKLL (K being kick), and add an accent on the second left hand hit… Hold eighth notes on the hi hat over top of this and you have a simple pattern that has ghost notes! Ghost notes can really help to fill things out a little more. It also helps to introduce more dynamics into a groove.
Anup - Ghost notes can be hard! haha! To be honest, I never actually sat down one day and said “I’m going to work on ghost notes today”. It was something I would always do just out of habit. Over the years I started to pay much more attention to ghost notes, which helped me develop a lot more control over them. So to answer the question, yes they were very difficult when I actually thought about them! I feel like after a while though, I started getting very used to certain ghosting patterns. Even better, I started being able to throw around each one of these different patterns in a more “free form” or improvised sense!
ID – You also write your own music apart from the Skyharbor stuff you work on, describe the kind of music you create.
Anup - Well I usually like to refer to it as groove metal, but I’m not really sure what to call it. haha! A lot of the music is based around playing and recording real drums while programming and sampling the guitar. This wasn’t something I did out of retaliation for so many guitar players programming drums. In fact, the sample libraries and programs today that make it possible to program drums I think are amazing. It really makes producing that much easier for someone who can’t play or record real drums. Unfortunately, there really isn’t too much for someone who wants to do the same with guitar but doesn’t know how to play guitar (like my self). I actually bought a guitar specifically for this idea of sampling and programming the guitar in my music. I had been messing around with this idea for almost a year before I actually had the confidence to start composing anything. You can think of it the same as programming drums, but there is no midi information triggering a sample library. Instead, I take my own samples that I want to use for that specific song and arrange them to my drums!
ID – Writing an entire song by yourself, how hard is that and different compared to writing something with a band?
Anup - It is for sure difficult because you are in control of everything that happens in that song, so there is a lot to think about! But this is also the beautiful part of it. Having that kind of creative control I think is a really good outlet to unleash your mind! I think that’s one of the biggest reasons why I started trying to write my own material. To be honest, I think I would go crazy if I couldn’t make the music I wanted to make! hahaha! Also, I have learned a lot about guitar even though I am sampling/programming the parts in my music.
ID – You mix the drums for your videos yourself, how was the process of learning how to track and mix drums? Any common mistakes you’ve seen drummers commit?
Anup - The process was actually really interesting. I’m glad I started making videos because the people who would watch them gave me important feedback. I think I have improved a little from my drum mix on my first video. Of course, like majority of other things, you learn a lot from experience! So I was able to refine a lot of my mic’ing techniques and the way I go about mixing drums. I’m still learning though! I’m not one to point out any mistakes in other mixes and videos. That’s how their ears interpreted the sound at that point in time. And everyone hears things differently! Its just one long learning process!
ID – Cymbals is another area of interest, especially capturing the cymbals’ sound while recording. What would an ideal relationship between the cymbals and the rest of the kit be?
Anup - It really depends I guess on the cymbals, mics, the kit, and all of the other gear in the signal chain! haha! I like to get the focus of my overheads of course mainly on the cymbals, but I do actually like mixing in some of the drum sounds I get from the overheads also! So I’m really careful as to where I start high-passing my overheads. I usually use a little trick that a good friend of mine had introduced me to. I’m pretty sure it’s a common trick, but it works for me. I basically turn down my mix until the audio is just barely audible. Then I will adjust the level of certain tracks in my mix. I just listen to see if I can hear everything clearly. I want to make sure nothing stands out at that low of a volume, because it will probably stand out that much more when the mix is turned up again!
ID – Give us a description of your setup. Any brands you’re currently endorsing?
Anup - I use a Shine Custom kit. The drums are made of Keller Maple. I have a 22×20 kick, a 10×7 high tom, a 12×8 left tom, and a 14×14 floor tom. My snare is a 14×5 Pearl Masters Studio made of birch wood! I use Paiste cymbals currently. I have a 19″ Signature Series Power Crash, a 19″ 2002 Wild Crash, an 18″ China Rude, and 14″ Signature Series Sound Edge hi-hats. My stack is made of an 18″China Nova on the bottom and usually a 16″ A custom on the top. And I use Pearl Demon Drives for my bass drum pedals! I am not endorsing any products right now…
ID – What does the rest of this year and the future have in store for you? Will we be hearing more of original work from you?
Anup - You will definitely be hearing more original music by me. In fact, I am getting pretty close to having an album done, so hopefully I will be able to release that anytime between December and January. If anything, I will be uploading drum videos of some of the music before the album is out!
ID – This is your space Anup, feel free to say anything to your fans, friends, family, etc..
Anup - I appreciate all of the support I have gotten so far. All of the kind words, criticism, and feedback I have received so far has really helped me to improve as a musician!
Thanks a ton for doing this interview Anup! We wish you the very best and can hardly wait for the Skyharbor show on the 20th of November!