Nov 5, 2013

Into the mind of a serial racist

From ‘interview girl’ who was offered free dinner (but declined) to ‘Roro’ by the end of the conversation, it was quite an interesting ten minutes with Russell Peters during his Notorious World Tour. Other than a peaceful side to the guy who’s made me laugh for years, there’s also the discovery that he’s terrified of bugs.

Russell Peters
What’s Russell Peters like when he’s not under the spotlight? Are you always trying to be funny?

I don’t think so. When I see something funny, I’m not going to not say something funny. On stage, it’s like an amplified version of yourself. So where I have to do for an hour and a half straight on stage, off-stage, I might do it every few mintues.

Can you imagine phasing out this profession?

No, I’ve been doing it for 24 years. I don’t think phasing it out is on the cards now.

Do you have a little black book where you jot down jokes as they come to you?

No, it’s all in my head. It’s all memory, observation and I like to talk to people in the audience because that’s how I find out things about people. Depending on who they are and how they react, it could go great or just be all right.

Do you think Indian comedians rely too much on stereotypes?

I don’t know about the other ones but I’m the first guy. Gotta figure I set the benchmark and the tone and the pace of it. So if anyone’s doing anything similar to mine or copying me, that’s not my problem. But if there was nobody else and it was only me, would you be able to say that? It’s my style of comedy – some guys do political comedy; some do whatever they know. I talk about what I know. What I talk about is culture and travelling around the world and stuff.

Have you ever/do you still have days when you imagine the audience in their underpants?

I’ve never done that in my life. I do it with chicks sometimes and picture them naked. But that’s only my own deviant mind doing that.

Then how do you deal with the pressure of entertaining a stadium with 3500 people?

Well, there are nights when I’m doing 18,000 people. There’s always pressure. But I’ve been doing it for 24 years. If you can’t deal with the pressure of your job, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it.

What are the best perks of this job?

Money, fame, chicks.

Wait, aren’t you married?

I’m divorced! But I have a daughter. *shows me the photograph on his phone*

And are you really that much of a pervert as you make yourself out to be on stage?

“It’s obviously not who I am off-stage. It’s like ‘I can’t say this in real life but I can say it right here’. I have my own degenerate behaviour but I’m not forward like that off-stage. I won’t walk up to a girl that I don’t know and start talking to her. I was never able to do that and I still can’t. If I sense that she may know who I am, then I’ll say something but it won’t be like a pick-up line. I’ll say something witty to see if she gets it. If she doesn’t get it, I’m like ‘ah, she’s an idiot. Never mind’.

What challenges do you face?

You gotta continue writing all the time. It’s a double-edged sword – it’s a challenge but it’s also what makes it exciting. If your job becomes not too much of a challenge to you, you should quit. In comedy, you’re never above anything. You can mess up on any night. You’ve never above it. It’s one of those things. It’s what makes it so daring actually. I can go up and I can stink it up. It still happens all the time. It doesn’t matter who you are but you always have the opportunity to fail.

Any Indian stand-ups that you know of?

I know Papa CJ, Tanmay Bhat.

Do you see yourself as better than them?

I don’t really look at it like that because we’re all doing the same job. I see them as all very new. There’s no above or below anybody in this game. You might be more successful than somebody else but it doesn’t mean you’re better than them. There are guys who are not successful who are way funnier than I’ll ever be. But for whatever reason, it didn’t click for them.

Do you look up routines?

No. You never look up others’ routines. The minute you start copying somebody else, you’re not being yourself anymore. You’ve lost your point of view then.

According to you, what’s the future of stand-up comedy?
It’s been there forever and it’s going to stay there forever. It’s not going anywhere – it’s social commentary. You watch the news – they aren’t telling you the truth. The bad stuff will always go away. It’s the same with music – we live in a time when music is shit. Whenever there’s a war going on, the music usually gets better because people are depressed. We’re in the middle of wars and depression and the music has somehow gotten worse. I don’t understand that. It used to be the complete opposite. But then again, it can’t stay terrible forever!

When you’re not doing stand-up, what do you do?

I DJ – I stay home and work my turntables. I play for myself.

Do you ever let the celebrity status get to you?

No, because I don’t really buy it. It’s nice. I like it. I always meet people. I don’t have a problem with it. Even if people ask on the streets if they can get a picture, I say ‘yeah, no problem’. You know what’s going to be annoying – when nobody wants my picture or autograph anymore. That’s going to be five times more annoying than anybody interrupting my dinner.

But that’s a legit fear at this point?

It’s always a legit fear. Nobody wants to not be on top anymore. It’s inevitable but it’s how you fall from grace.

Lastly, how do you keep innovating?

I don’t know. You just keep thinking.

How does your brain work?

I don’t know. If I knew, I would sell it as a blueprint! Or brown print.

The interview was published in Metrolife on November 5, 2013. Here is the link.

Interview: Symbiz Sound

I recently had the pleasure of meeting Buddysym and ChrisImbiss, two brothers who are making some brilliant future dancehall music back home in Germany. Some excerpts from the interview:

ChrisImbiss and Buddysym
Were you always inclined to this genre?
Buddy: Until three years ago, I didn’t really listen to electronic music. I always liked more bass-oriented music like ska and reggae and Chris would hear a lot of hip-hop and dancehall. We didn’t listen to only electronica and I didn’t listen to it at all.

Chris: Our parents (Korean mother and German father) made us play the violin and piano when we were kids. So it was not always like this. We grew up around all kinds of music. When we started to work together, dubstep was a nice way of playing music. So it had a big role. Now it’s kind of something that’s less dubstep, more dancehall.

What’s the dancehall scene back home?

Buddy: It’s quite big back home. It was bigger in the 90s but it plays a big role in our music because it was the first ‘club music’ that we heard. Now, there’s a lot of global local music that’s implemented in what we do.

Chris: There are all kinds of influences. I think the beauty of this project was that we weren’t too into the scene. So we could naively do whatever we liked. We didn’t have to follow rules of what is acceptable or not acceptable in a certain genre.

Describe the chemistry between you two behind the deck and otherwise.
Chris: Depends. We can be very good brothers. We love and we hate each other. Buddy’s the more musical one – he’s good with chords and stuff and I’m more into the technical production-related stuff. As brothers, there’s crazy fighting as one would imagine. But we’re also like best friends travelling the world together. We’re very blessed to have that situation.

Buddy: I just kept playing instruments and studied bass at university. I was more into harmonics and theory but Chris is more of the visionary guy when it comes to this music. There are a lot of songs I didn’t like when he showed them to me first. Later, I started to understand what it meant. So it’s a good combination. Even though it’s really tiring sometimes and we get upset with each other, it really helps having him double-checking.

Chris: The musical conflicts aren’t so heavy. We have discussions and stuff but it’s not like we 100% disagree or are angry or anything.

Your thoughts on Bangalore?

Chris: We heard that officially dancing isn’t allowed. But we expect some rules to be broken. It has to be shut early apparently. We’ve played in four other cities and all the concerts were good. They were up for all the games we play on stage, which isn’t always the case in Europe. Games are part of the great fun for us. We say ‘Do that’ and people actually do it!

Buddy: We have a guitar on stage but we aren’t DJs. There’s production and our custom-made equipment and we really play as a small live band. A concert going good or not is measured by the direction of the audience for us. At the end of the evening, if everyone’s voice is broken and they’re sweating like crazy, that’s a good gig for us.

Best/worst memories of the India tour ?

Chris: There are things that can be very shocking in India like poverty. But this is now my fourth time here since we visited ten years ago. The big culture shock doesn’t come anymore. But you can almost see the change in musical culture. For example, NH7 Weekender was something really unthinkable 10 years. Since we saw India then and we’re seeing it last year and this, we can really see that there’s a scene that’s growing. It’s interesting and really good to see.

Buddy: The slums around Bombay are crazy and it’s shocking how polluted some places are. It’s very strange but you don’t see the poverty so much after a point. I remember the first time I was here, there was a little girl following me and asking for money and it made me cry. But now it doesn’t anymore. People who live here do not cry about this everyday. It’s not because they’re blind or don’t care anymore. But it’s a reality check to see what the world is.

What’s the next step for you guys?

Chris: Our debut album was just released in Germany in May. We have the next one planned though we’re not sure when it’s going to come out. Hopefully early next year.

What’s your process for making songs?

Buddy: It’s very different for each song. A lot of times, we work with Zhi MC, who just became a father so he couldn’t come for the tour. There’s usually an idea, which one of us finishes. And then we start putting vocals and beats on it. In the last album, we had around 12 tracks and 3 skits and on the 12 tracks, there were 11 different vocalists from 8 different countries. We’d send them the beats, they would record something and we could change the beat according to what they recorded. Sometimes we record on the spot or since we travel a lot, we try to record with them and make it part of the project.

Chris: There are no Indian collaborations yet but I’m sure that’s going to work out. We’ve always come here for a very short time but we plan to come back. The plan was to have five off days on this tour but we got just one and that wasn’t enough to record. There’s no other reason for not collaborating with someone here.

Buddy: Collaborating is the nature of this project. Travelling, finding artistes and more than that, it’s about making relationships and friendships all over the world and keeping in touch through the magic of the Internet.

The interview was published in Metrolife, Deccan Herald on October 28. Here is the link.