Textual content by Akhil Sood. Pictures by Nihar Tanna
Rishu Singh is a simple man to identify at any punk gig. Hair spiked up right into a mohawk, a punk band’s T-shirt over a pair of shorts and skateboarding footwear. Beer bottle in hand. He’s virtually all the time in the midst of — or on the verge of — a scrap. There was that one time when he was threatening a guitar participant, telling him he’ll by no means play at one in every of Singh’s gigs once more. One other time, at a Bomb Thursdays gig at a pub in Mumbai, a drunk Singh acquired on stage whereas the band was enjoying, and commenced insulting the very band he’d picked to carry out. “It was nothing personal,” he tells me fairly sheepishly. “Maybe it was my state of mind then, at that time and place in life.”
Singh runs the unbiased occasions company Ennui.Bomb. And he’s a punk for all times, the brashest variety — all the time able to battle again towards the system (or no matter it’s that’s pissing him off at any given time), all the time able to take insane dangers. Punk, a type born within the ’70s, stands for anti-establishment values and aggression, traits Singh embodies. The music is straightforward by design, straightforward to play (so many punks have, through the years, taken nice satisfaction in not with the ability to play their devices), and incisive in each musicality and lyrical content material. It may possibly vary from soiled, lo-fi and abrasive to the extra polished pop punk that the ’90s introduced forth (taking off from the Ramones). From the early bands such because the Intercourse Pistols, The Conflict, or the Ramones to Indian bands like Messiah or Tripwire from the mid 2000s, the purpose has, not directly, all the time been to make a press release. The work Singh’s completed on this very small, very obsessive group of punk rock — and in addition various music in India typically — has obtained him recognition as a type of pioneering determine, and maybe additionally a tragic one.
He’s been doing gigs pushing younger bands for ages; Ennui.Bomb additionally dealt with administration and bookings for bands for a couple of years. He has been releasing Stupidditties, a free annual compilation album that includes recent and thrilling indie music from throughout the nation, since 2006. “I started it at exactly the same time Bigg Boss released in India; that’s how I keep track,” he says. Stupidditties is a vital launch within the context of unbiased music in India, typically serving as an awesome level of discovery for listeners, who’re uncovered to artistes vetted by Ennui.Bomb. Whereas it began off merely as an ‘unmetal’ compilation, it’s advanced into one thing extra significant. He says, “Over the years, as I grew up, I realised that the point of Stupidditties is not really just to promote metal or ‘unmetal’ or punk or grunge or whatever. It’s to promote newer bands who have great songs.”
Additional, in 2014, Singh began the New Wave pageant, an annual travelling pageant that brings collectively Indian and worldwide punk and various acts. The primary version of New Wave continues to be probably the most memorable one, and he considers the pageant as one among his biggest accomplishments, talking with nice satisfaction about it. It was held in Goa, on an formidable scale with three levels and a few 70 artistes unfold over three days. The venue was a go-karting monitor, with a skatepark on the aspect (it was sponsored by Vans for the primary couple of years). A spirit of irreverence ran via the pageant. Attendance was restricted to no various hundred guests, however every of them had a blast. Headlining the gig was the Japanese all-women punk band Shonen Knife, who turned cult heroes after touring with Nirvana within the early ’90s. Issues went downhill from there.
The subsequent yr, they shifted the venue to Bengaluru, however a poor advertising technique meant the attendance figures dipped significantly. “We couldn’t promote it enough. I was wasted half the time because there was no turnout. Barely 100 or 200 people must have shown up, and it was really disappointing,” he says. They scaled down after that, internet hosting the subsequent two editions as pub festivals throughout a collection of pubs, in Delhi in 2016 and in Mumbai in 2017. This yr, he intends to take the pageant to the North-East, an unexplored area for him, and one which he’s actually enthusiastic about.
Singh has devoted himself to the underlying ideology, premised on freedom, rebel and significant change. He clothes the half, little question, however he additionally lives the life.
Again in 1994, at a time when his associates have been all moving into metallic, Singh found Nirvana. And thus started a lifelong relationship with punk rock. His native raddiwala performed a crucial position; he’d purchase previous worldwide music magazines from him at giveaway costs, studying all concerning the ethos of punk (that is earlier than the web turned a factor in India, keep in mind). He started to attach with the shape: the garments punks wore, the hair, the best way they spoke in interviews, the actions they have been part of, the issues they believed in. His buddies would flow into previous compilation albums— he recollects the grunge-heavy soundtrack to the ’92 film Singles — and everybody would tape copies. His closest buddies on the time, which included his now ex-wife, Aditi Ghosalkar, began a three-piece referred to as Nipple The Pizza, they usually had songs referred to as Fuck All Elders and Cops Suck.
Ennui.Bomb was born on 7 April, 2004. He based the corporate with Ghosalkar, they usually hosted a present on the iconic and lately resurrected Mumbai venue Razzberry Rhinoceros (higher recognized solely as ‘Razz’) to mark Kurt Cobain’s demise anniversary. It sparked one thing in him and Ennui.Bomb has been selling gigs ever since. Amongst them, there was Punk-O-Rama, named after punk rock compilations that used to exist. He remembers these performances being a blast, although they’d have solely round 10 or 15 viewers members who would pay to enter every time. Bomb.Thursdays, that includes younger inexperienced acts enjoying in pubs, got here alongside a couple of years later. As did the Stupidditties launch gigs. A type of, he recollects, occurred on the now-defunct underground venue in Mumbai referred to as B69 quickly after the start of his daughter. In a celebratory temper, Singh “bought a whole wine shop. It was mad. People were skidding around on alcohol, lying on the floor, falling everywhere”. The newest one was Loud Nights, the place they diligently knowledgeable shoppers that they shouldn’t attend if music performed actually loudly wasn’t their factor.
All of it fell aside although. The primary New Wave pageant was an formidable venture. “We went out of our way, crushed our balls, and made it all happen. And we got fucked,” he says. They amassed vital money owed, which led to them promoting their home. He was broke. Singh’s behaviour in public was getting more and more erratic, and his popularity — already precarious to start with — took an extra hit. He was additionally going via a separation on the time — he and Ghosalkar separated in 2015, and their divorce got here by way of this yr. On prime of that, shut relations handed away, and Singh was reeling from the upheaval in his life.
Given the area of interest area inside which Ennui.Bomb operated — they started life focusing totally on punk rock, earlier than increasing into various music — they by no means fairly rode the indie music wave that happened because of the success of the NH7 Weekender pageant. Singh’s occasions existed parallelly, with a definite DIY ethos operating via them. Whereas a lot of unbiased music in India is now introduced as a elegant product, Ennui.Bomb went within the different course virtually intentionally. The gigs have been uncooked and unpredictable. Typically, the flyers and promotional supplies have been based mostly on irreverent doodles Singh himself had sketched out. They selected to take dangers with unheard-of bands that hadn’t had a lot expertise — wildcards — working to nurture younger expertise within the nation as an alternative of relying on bankable names. Something might go improper at any second, which was a part of the appeal. “I don’t think I arrived on that aesthetic. I think that aesthetic arrived on me. It’s probably why we don’t get work,” he says, solely half-jokingly. Singh remembers a gig he did with a punk band on the Churchgate eatery previously referred to as Not Simply Jazz By The Bay. There have been about 5 individuals within the viewers. “Obviously, the owners were like, ‘Please don’t approach us, don’t come near us. We don’t want anything to do with this kind of music!’” he says. This has been a sample that’s been following Ennui.Bomb round, the place venues have a tendency to scrub their arms off properties they’ve initiated due to small crowds or perceived unprofessionalism. “We’re pitching to a lot of venues,” he says. “But my reputation precedes me, so it’s tough.”
There are many bands who’re nonetheless awaiting funds promised to them for acting at Ennui.Bomb gigs (disclosure: this author’s personal band has not been paid for his or her acts from a few years in the past). And his heavy consuming at gigs has led to many uncomfortable confrontations. Singh is candid about his position in all of this; he readily admits to having made plenty of errors. He’s nonetheless reeling from the monetary hits he took after overreaching, and tells me he’s dwelling “hand to mouth” lately and looking for a full-time job to maintain him going. And he confesses to having a consuming drawback.
At 40, Singh maybe feels the load of the errors he’s made prior to now. And he’s been struggling together with his demons. We discuss how the precise subculture that he’s devoted his life to hasn’t been as rewarding because of bands that aren’t fairly prepared to place within the exhausting work it requires, and apathetic audiences who don’t flip as much as help the ecosystem. He’s not fairly damaged, he’s clear that he’s going to maintain Ennui.Bomb operating — however he’s extra circumspect now. What’s stored him going is the connection he feels with the shape. And he’s definitely not prepared to hold up his boots quickly.