A musician’s journey from a Mumbai metal band to Hollywood
From brutal death metal to electronic and orchestral, there is no form of music that LA-based Prateek Rajagopal has not experimented with
How does a musician make the transition from a death metal band to orchestral film scores? Seamlessly and deliberately — with a surprisingly helpful detour through the world of advertising, says Prateek Rajagopal.
Over a phone conversation from Los Angeles, Prateek looks back at his last release in October and everything that led up to it.
He also, briefly but excitedly, mentions his upcoming trysts with out-and-out chamber orchestral music thanks to the mentorship by Derrick Spiva Jr, director of the LA Chamber Orchestra. “I will write a concert piece for four instruments, which will be performed by Salastina, one of the most renowned chamber ensembles in Los Angeles,” he states.
In contrast, Prateek is also currently writing for leading brutal death metal band Gutslit, with whom he used to tour when based in Mumbai. He has technically left the band, he states, “but I’m finishing up work on my final album with it.”
Ideally, his work in both genres would have been nurtured simultaneously — at least in the same continent — just like his love and intrigue for them was.
From being born and raised in Muscat to finding his ilk in Mumbai, geography has never been a boundary for his music before. “It was a very seamless transition for me [from discovering one genre to another]. I continued my death metal music while simultaneously mixing for other indie artistes. Then I entered advertising through a friend: it was my first foray into the world of visual medium composing. I would be asked to write Jazz one day, Pop the next, and have no say in it.”
For someone from a purely metal background, it was both a challenge and a learning curve. But it was when he explored further, and began studying and writing sheet music, that he hit a roadblock. “There is no infrastructure for orchestral music in India. But in Hollywood, it has been a tradition ever since the industry began,” he points out. So that is where his journey took him next.
But what he wants to talk about most is Harami, the Emraan Hashmi-starrer that is written and directed by Hollywood-based Shyam Madiraju. The film, which follows a Mumbai-based underage pickpocket’s crisis of conscience, was picked for the New Horizons section at Busan International Film Festival in 2020, and features a climax track created by Prateek.
“I had only two or three days to write and record the track. I was in the US but kept two friends on hold back in Mumbai for vocals and other support,” says Prateek. “Thankfully, I had a lot of experience from my ad days in Mumbai, of belting out tracks quickly. The film got a screening in January before the COVID-19 outbreak put things on hold including festival submissions.
But Prateek’s explorations do not end there. He is intrigued by digital music as well, if his solo act ‘HOIA’ is any indication. “How do you create music using computers and synthesisers? How do you create a mood using electricity?” he asks. The answer, of course, is clear in his creations.