“Friends from Moon” is the one-man band helmed by an Indian musician, Ritwik Shivam; the moniker, which was inspired by his first hallucination trip under a full moon was born out of his vision to construct a world where every broken soul could dive and feel a certain strength and acceptance.
Inspired and influenced by sounds of the world, a few prominent styles that can be heard in his music are Prog/Symphonic Metal, Alternative Rock, Soundtrack and Electronic/Ambient Music. Some notable motifs found in his work are of fear, escapism & melancholy.
What would you be doing today if not for this interview?
Probably, I would be working on my client’s project. I take up music projects/assignments for a living as of now.
If you were to introduce your music and genre to someone unaware of your music, how would you?
To anybody who’s curious to know about my music, I’d say I translate the motifs of fear, melancholy, magic and escape through a bed of sounds laden with reverbs, echoes, pounding drums, dreamy arpeggiated synths and bold-distorted guitar sounds. “Friends from Moon” is a melting pot of many diverse influences from around the world, major of which are Devin Townsend, Jesper Kyd, Colin Stetson, John Williams. A few prominent genres that can be heard in my music are Progressive/Symphonic Metal, Alternative Rock, Soundtrack, Industrial and Ambient Music.
I identify myself as a rock artist because most of my music and influences are evidently rock-centric. My soundscapes are characterized by the use of long decayed and delayed sounds. I resonate with Phil Spector’s “Wall of sound” technique which utilizes reverb-soaked, multi-layered instruments that together feel wide, majestic and gigantic. At the same time, I also enjoy making music with a minimalistic approach that’s apparent in my classically influenced instrumental tracks.
‘Astray’ is your upcoming album, what can you tell us about it?
“Astray” is an eight-track-long concept album with a heavy existential narrative. It’s a pure reflection of a state of mind where you begin to see through the surface of everything, question your worth, willingly detach from the optimist to embrace the pessimist. The songs transition from a happy to a desolate place in a dramatic fashion which is emotionally impactful for the listener.
“Astray” is a tragic tale of a youthful man and his encounter with formidable portions of his own personality which he succumbs to. The man has an inherent tendency to gravitate towards darkness that he explores more and more as we progress through the songs which initiate from vigorous punk, hard rock and then transform its way from somber prog rock to experimental-fusion to technical groove metal, concluding with melancholic ambient rock and an introspective soundtrack. The central themes are the protagonist’s identity crisis, existentialism and the need for belonging. Every thought and every motive of the man is subconsciously spurred by that. There is an impending doom which is caused by him feeding the darker shades of his personality which eventually consume him.
What has been your non-financial investment in this album? Elaborate.
I have invested time and energy to the extent of being negligent about everything else around me. This affected my personal relationships and physical health so much that I found it urgently necessary to get back track of things.
The making of the album was a rigorous marathon of 6 months. Other than getting the album artwork made, everything else has come to life in my bedroom studio. From composing melodies, producing sounds, programming virtual instruments to recording, mixing and mastering the album; I’ve solely been responsible and involved in the album’s inception and fruition. Surprisingly, I found the need to record in a professional studio redundant and taxing. For me, the hustle involved while recording in a studio is counteractive to the process of production and brainstorming.
How does the artwork and the concept of the album come together in harmony?
The idea for the concept album was influenced while I stumbled upon the movies and short stories of H.P. Lovecraft and his fixation with concepts of humanity’s insignificance and decadence. “Astray” loosely follows the idea similar to lovecraftian plots like ‘The Scientist gone mad in his quest for life beyond the human senses’ or ‘The encounters of the distressed protagonist with eccentric cosmic entities which somehow prove to be the answer to his life’s riddle.’ Just like the culmination of his stories, the protagonist here too meets a tragic end.
Is the inspiration to write the album real? Whether real or fictional, how would you describe the protagonist’s feeling and current mental state after listening to the album?
The concept is very much biographical. For a period of 6 months during which the album was written, there were a lot of unhealthy practices that ran in parallel motion. When I look back, most of it was the result of the aftermath and consequences of the second wave of Covid. The mood of the album is synonymous with that time in my life when everything had come to a halt. Worst situations that an artist could find himself in happened. Creative block, Ill mental health, Social cut off, Family feuds. Cinema plays a huge role for me to function as a musician. I found myself obsessively binge watching films with themes of emotional sterility, existential horror and dreadful loneliness. Although it’s a prerequisite to separate the emotion from intellect in order to not get consumed by these themes, I became a prey this time and that influenced my songwriting.
My mental state after listening to the album now, is that of contentment and catharsis. On the other hand, I imagine, had the protagonist been alive in the story, he would have become a wise but sick grandfather figure who would tell dark fantasy stories to curious children. Actually, the protagonist’s mental state after the chaos is well-told in the song “Riverine”.
A challenge in making this album.
Keeping negative energies at bay. The major chunk of the album needed me to produce and work on sonic and lyrical themes which were overwhelming and dark. Although I have a penchant for the glum and grim, this time it was difficult because the story “Astray” was what I was living during the making. Plus, the album was written during a time when friends and family were recovering from their losses brought upon by Covid. It was really hard to keep the mind healthy enough to function as a creative person.
Though one challenge that was fun and inspiring was working on new sounds through new techniques. Unlearning the old ways of creating and learning new tools such as synths were keeping me on my toes. These new methods make the album stand apart from any other rock/metal records as it incorporates some electronic-industrial based moments.
According to you, what does it take to earn the acclaimed badge of “Established Artist”?
Given the creative power, I think it’s two things. The ability of being able to perceive and reflect every new artistic experience in one’s field not only through mere art but words; and possessing the courage to take their art form beyond the boundaries set by oneself. In my experience, more than anything, the badge is earned by the excellence of your art and being proactive in your approach to sell it. I don’t think everybody possesses these qualities naturally. One might attain it through perseverance and practice.
If I talk about myself, let’s say I am a comprehensive and a creative person, I still feel there are a lot of things that keep me from earning that badge. And one of those things, I believe, is not being too vocal or too confident about presenting myself through my music. We all have these shortcomings that we incessantly try to get rid of.
Your Highlight performance till date and why so?
‘Friends from Moon’ is yet to play live shows and I believe I’ll be seeing the stage soon with a band post the release of the album.
An artist’s Best friend is?
Emptiness. I feel that having nothing in mind, nothing to do, nothing to look forward to; is when new ideas emerge. Sometimes they don’t remember that often being an artist and ‘working’ on your art consists of doing absolutely nothing. So every now and then, it’s important for the artist to detach from everything and become motionless in thought and activity.
A piece of equipment that has been absolutely pivotal in onstage performance?
Because my main instrument is guitar and the sounds I come up with are varied in tonality, I always need a guitar multi-effect processor which essentially gives me the ability to switch to multiple sounds in a live scenario just with a tap of a foot.
How has your place of Origin been an influence on your music?
My place of origin, Patna(Bihar), doesn’t have any strong influence on my music except for a couple of sights and sounds that were impressed in my memory during childhood. There is no resemblance of any cultural influence either. However, I once met a timid local worker in a factory in Patna recently. His miserable living condition glued to the environment of a factory inspired me to write a gloomy song which connects the dots to my memories of living in a despicable and dull environment. So somehow, all my songs that have a grim and industrial vibe to it might have been a culmination of the memories of my place of origin.
It’s just been about a year since I formed this project and honestly there haven’t been as many listeners till now. However, people who admire my stuff have always shown support and even a tiny bit of moral boost goes a long way for any independent artist.
How are the psychological rewards in this career you have chosen?
Most of all, it’s the peace of mind that’s been a reward. I think mine is a really crucial age in terms of development of a perspective. Had I been doing a blue/white-collared job, it wouldn’t have been the same. In that regard, I’m grateful that I’m able to pursue this.
There’s no naysaying that there’s always a constant financial and mental pressure in this choice of career but that’s the story of everyone and we somehow find a way to tread through all troughs. In a way, this constant pull and push is important for me to function as an artist given that there’s always a balance. I need to keep myself just at the edge and always be mindful of not tripping. That’s how we keep winning.
Well, thank you once again for spending time with us, giving us valuable insight into your career. We wish you all the very best of luck in your endeavors. See you soon at a Concert.
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