By Shashi Menon
John Antony is a freelance guitarist, composer and session artist, best known as the architect of the internationally renowned new-age World Music band ‘Karnatriix’. With over 30 years of professional experience in the world-wide music firmament, John is arguably one of the most exceptional guitar players to have emerged from the Indian subcontinent. Known for his virtuosity in incorporating Indian Classical music in his Blues/jazz rooted playing, he has internationally gathered attention to his unique sound, characterized by mellifluous melody lines and technically sophisticated phrases. Through his career he has extensively toured India, China, South Africa, UAE, Europe and Sri Lanka.
What is the difference from say 1980’s to now? I am asking you only about music.
Technology….the kind of stuff you can do in the studios these days is just unbelievable. And sure, the most blessed change is that, we don’t have to bend to Record Companies anymore. Just need to get better at bending the right note.
I see you have travelled a lot and you seem to do more in the months and years to come! Are you and your band more popular abroad then here?
Yepp… as such I’ve had more concerts abroad; nothing much in India.
What kind of influence do you incorporate in your shows? You hate being called a fusion band? What do you like to call your genre of music?
For a musician it`s just music. Wasn’t all these genres a creation for the sellers? Maybe, New Age Space Junk, sounds cool. Please feel free to call it whatever you feel like. As long as we connect, that’s all that matters to me.
You were telling me that you are planning to add more Blues into your compositions. Is it because you want to reach out to a larger audience?
Guitar is surely all about the Blues. As for me, there surely is a lot of bluesy feeling while I play. But then maybe it’s because I use Indian scales and rhythm patterns, people want to slot me as a fusion musician/guitarist. Well then everyone has their freedom of opinion.
Any tours in the pipeline now?
What is the future of your band in the coming years?
Let me live in the present and let the future follow with its own plan.
We know you are happy to play anywhere, as just playing your own music is joy to you. What else does it do to you?
I can get MORE SATISFACTION ……At least people know me around the world as being who I am, for what I play. That’s if I die tomorrow, then the music is still there and maybe there is someone listening to the music and says Oh! I like this emotion in this song and I can relate to it. I have got 2 paintings, one from the US and another from Srilanka, both from youngsters. Both of them painted it while listening to my album. Kathinka from Sri Lanka send me this beautiful message; a part of it says: “Started my realization and began to believe the inner calling of my soul the day i heard kARNATRiix. And for some reason I am blessed to have you in my life and I’m so greatfull to be connected with you and I feel that our souls are connected and touched.” I’ve saved that message because it’s so precious and inspiring. Man! Aren’t reactions like these enough to make my life worth living?
Does your wife like your music you play?
Hmmmmm….. that question should be asked to her. I think lately she switched sides and enjoys my son’s work more.
How come your son did not join you, instead scooting away to USA?
He is also in the art field – seeing music through his animation. Right now he is on a project at the Fox Studio, LA.
Do you and your old buddies A R Rahman & Sivamani meet at all, let alone jam together?
Of course, whenever we get time. Sivamani is coming down to Trivandrum this month and we will meet at home. And we always talk about getting back to do just one show, at least for old time’s sake. So we will again talk about it as usual. Everyone knows how busy ARR is, but he still had time to send me a beautiful gift all the way from LA – a beautiful Harp Guitar. We do communicate when necessary.
Do you see yourself becoming a music director in the near future?
I don’t think I can do justice to somene else’s art form unless I can really conceive it. And honestly, I have always been a musician who wanted to just play in a good band. There’s nothing like being on stage and indulging in what you can call a musical orgasm. But I did have a great time and really enjoyed directing music for the theatre play Prahalada Charitram. The credit surely goes to the director Gil Alon. He really knew what he wanted; just imagine, he was so sure that he wanted only one rock guitar and that too for mythological play like this. I remember all the traditional masters objecting to it in the beginning. But believe me, it was just super. So maybe if Gil or someone like him comes back with a movie, I may think about it.
Who are your top 5 bands / artists from abroad and India?
I can only mention about the music I listen to these days. The favourites keep changing. Lately I’ve been tripping on a cool nadaswaram player at a nearby temple and Allen Hinds, just love his phrasings. My all-time favourite band – Steely Dan.
What is your take on the available talent in today’s world?
I think the talent was always there but in today’s world we get to know about all of them ….thanks to Internet.
Frankly speaking, can youngsters earn well enough as a pro artist today?
It’s pretty tough these days because of the stiff competition. I remember in my younger days there were only 4 or 5 bands in Kerala. The entries to the last Manorama competetion were 85 bands just from Kerala.
What is your next trix for Karnattrix??
Coming out with a few new trix which I’ve been working on for close to 7 years. And also managed to compose 2 tracks using these trix. Will be posting one of them on YouTube as soon as Jaishankar finishes with the mix, and it’s called 4411.