ANYLOUDER recently caught up with bass prodigy ” MOHINI DEY ” for an interview and having toured recently all over India with Guitar Great Guthrie Govan and having played in Guwahati , it was apt that we got to hear from her and get to know what she has to say on her music , life and how she makes bass playing look so damn easy !!!
Hey Mohini Welcome to Anylouder. How have you been ?
Thank you . I have been touring a lot , travelling overnight , taking bus rides and was doing shows over the past one month.
So how was Guwahati ?
Guwahati was great. The whole tour was amazing specially with Guthrie , it was delightful.
What have you been doing lately on the music front ?
Well i have been working with AR which is always the first priority as i have been working with him for the past 5 years and just came from a show day before yesterday from Sharjah in front of 30000 crowd. It was amazing. And then did some sessions for Bollywood movies and some collaborations both here and abroad .
What attracted you to the bass guitar and music as a whole ?
My mom is a singer and has sung for a lot of movies and my dad is a bass player as everyone knows . When i was three years old i began learning the bass and whenever my dad used to practice at home , he used to put the headphones on my ear so that i knew what he was playing and so when he played i enjoyed it so much i would start padding on the bed and he was very amazed and to see a three year old give the right tempo was kind of God gifted. It dawned on him to give me proper lessons and nurture me and it was a different thing if i wanted to pursue it or not . He just had one bass at that time and thought i needed a smaller bass as i was small right ( laughs ) . So he cut pieces of wood and he made a bass out of it which i started using . I started serious lessons by six and was already playing professionally by 10 . And that happened because i used to go to all the venues he used to perform and the recording studios . My dad has played in over 400 movies and every time he went for recordings i used to tag along to get a feel of the atmosphere and how the process is and he wanted me to know what it was like to work with different people and its a matter of experiences which polishes you with time . Every time i used to go with him i used to meet new people and i would play to them .
At the age of 12 when i went to Ranjit Uncle’s studio , he was blown away seeing me play and he used to play with me. At that point he was not playing drums as he took a break from it . But when he saw me playing he started considering playing drums again and we used to jam and that really got me going and i got a lot of information . I used to go there for about 3 days a week and started thinking of playing live and that’s basically how people came to know about me and that’s how my journey started.
You have been hailed as a bass prodigy , but more than that there are young girls and boys who are amazed at your playing skills and want to do what you do. What’s the routine or lets say what’s the secret ?
There’s no secret as such. Its just pure humanity , just my heart and soul . I am a very simple person and the least demanding person you will ever find on this planet ( laughs ) . I know nothing apart from my music , i talk less . Its my parents who taught me how to be a better person everyday , take good from others and impart good , like maybe i’m talking with you and if i like something i will take it and implement it so that i can get better everyday and so same goes for music too. I get a lot of offers for work but i have to choose the right ones because if i say yes to everyone i’ll be dead ( laughs ) . I do it because i want to see , learn and get a feel of different things . Like in India i am a part of 7 to 8 bands and every band is different .The hunger has to be there and you need to push yourself . But if you think you are big and stuff nothing will come your way . People will associate arrogance with you . You just need to be rooted and find the right note.
With having to soak up so much at such an early age and also being constantly on the road , how do you keep up with the stress and workload ?
There’s one thing you need to know about me – i don’t drink , smoke , take tea or coffee , don’t even eat veggies , milk . I just eat meat ( laughs ) . I am a pure Carnivore . I love food though . And i love sleeping . Every time i get time i just sleep. Last time i got to sleep my heart out was years ago. Now i hardly get four hours of sleep .
When you are making music or working with guys like AR Rahman , Steve Vai and the likes , what’s the music making process like. How do you guys work it out ?
With every musician its different . With AR we don’t get to make much music now as he is very busy and can’t get the time to sit with the band . Like with Guthrie for example , we started playing and both have abilities that not everybody might have . Everybody has their own thing. And so when i started playing he saw things which he thought i couldn’t do and he was impressed and got to talking and discussing more and came up with ideas as our playing was similar in terms of those grooves and things. We would sometimes write it down . With Guthrie it was easier as he was open to ideas and i already knew his tunes . We only jammed for two hours for the whole tour , all 11 songs and then we would innovate on stage . Sometimes people make mistakes on stage and it ruins the show but to still not panic and keep it together comes from experience like in the Mumbai show the sound guy unintentionally hit my head stock and the tuning was off and i had to tell Guthrie to mellow it down while i kept grooving and he understood. You need to know how to cope up .
( When asked about the sheet music flying to all parts in the Guwahati show )
( Laughs ) Yeah my God all the papers were flying all around , Guthrie was picking them up . So much went wrong in the tour which has never happened to me and i even posted about it . Musically it was amazing but mishaps happen ( laughs ).
But with Guthrie , he is so open to every kind of music and we can fuse up things where he can feature his stuff and i can feature mine in my space . With AR its completely different as he is not open to instrumental stuff and his music is very vocal oriented and you cannot overdo it as it would take the sting out of it . You have to compliment the vocalist and decorate the music.
The drummer and the bassist basically forms the groove in a band and you having played with some great drummers , how do you approach or talk about the basic things you guys need to do ?
It quite subjective from person to person. When i am working with Gino for example it becomes easier as i have been working with him for a long time and we speak the same language basically as he understands Carnatic and i do as well.and know Tihai , Konnakol and stuff and we always meet at some point even if i don’t know something and he starts playing , we still meet at the same point . But with international drummers who don’t know the language , its a tad difficult but when we do Konnakol and stuff which are unique they do want to learn it but at the same time we get attracted to the stuff that they do. So when i am working with these international drummers i let them speak first and try to know what they want and once i understand i just apply myself to it . Like when i did the Youtube videos with Hungarian drummer Gergo Borlai, he just had a track and i had some ideas and we just fused it up and decided to make a space which featured him and me and he plays keyboard and has a better knowledge of Harmonic theories and i can talk to him if i want to make chord changes and stuff.
In India we have seen that when it comes to performing arts , girls are normally barred from doing it or taking it up but then again many young girls are making a mark in the scene . So how should they approach it in spite of family pressures and stuff and go ahead with it ?
When you are really really young its hard to take a personal step just like that , like moving out or something especially when you are 16 or so but after you become an adult you can start making a few decisions for yourself of what you like and want to do . Parents have brought you up so that you can do what you like for yourself and them and if you are not happy you can’t make anyone happy . I would say follow your heart and do what makes you happy , challenge yourself in whatever field you are but yes it comes with a lot of sleepless nights and you have to work your ass off ( laughs ).
Tell us a bit about you gears. Are you a technical person ?
No i am not a technical person ( laughs ) . I like gears but don’t normally use them to that extent . Right from when i started i never used much of it . Internet came and i was like it is very cool but Dad didn’t want me to get spoon fed by it and kept me grounded and later on introduced me to it. Its a big world after you are exposed to it and i was addicted to it in a good way.
Then i got introduced to this guy called Michael Mandring who was using this very cool Flanger Vibrato pedal and i wasn’t sure where the effect was coming from as i was sure it wasn’t coming from the bass because anything i used to hear i would try it on the bass . And when i saw him playing these stuff with the pedal i asked my dad about it and he told me what it was and infact he had all of them but never showed it to me ( laughs ) but later showed me how to use it and my dad brought me some stuff but i never got into it .To be very honest i am very lazy ( laughs ) and its too much for me to connect all the pedals and stuff . I love the sound of the wood but if things demand it i use the gears. Even for the Guthrie tour i just used a small reverb pedal for my solos . I am not a gear crazy person but i do like them .
Do you think the independent music scene here in the country is getting better ?
Oh yes , its getting way better. I am so proud of India . When i was growing up there was nothing but now , specially for the past 2 to 3 years there has been a drastic change with all the new comers and talented musicians coming up and also because international musicians are coming here , shifting here and collaborating with our musicians and our musicians going abroad and i think India will turn into a foreign country and the west will get more Indian ( Laughs ) . But its all good and as long as it makes you happy and you are fusing up the two worlds in a good way , its great.
Having toured places and meeting and seeing people and places and art forms and cultures , what does that do to a musician , how important that is for a musician ?
I don’t know how important that is but it is important to be loved ( laughs ) . As long you are being loved and not hated its all good. I love my fans though i am not a very socializing person. I don’t go to parties and all , movies or stuff . I am not a person who likes to be around a lot of people but yes when i meet my fans i am happy and i care for them because they love my music , follow me and i have to give the respect back to them as we are here because of them and we are a family but i move on very quickly and don’t think about it much .
One musician you really want to work with ?
I would love to work with Victor Wooten and in fact i will very soon be working with him . We are like a family now . We talk every week and in fact i went to his bass camp and did a work shop there at Nashville. Steve Berry , Victor , Anthony Wellington and 40 other great bass players were there and we hung out there and shared our life experiences and Victor asked me to sign his bass which was just so out of this world cause i have grown up listening to him and all that i do comes from Victor and just to hang out with him was really great.
What is the best compliment you have received till now ?
When i was working with AR Rahman ,Guitarist Prasanna Ramaswamy was there with him and later when i did the Coke Studio sessions with him he heard my playing , my potential and my technical ability he was very impressed and asked me if there was something i couldn’t do in front of AR. They were thinking of Tal Wilkenfeld for the Coke Studio sessions but he heard and saw me playing he wanted me and that was amazing as i love Tal’s playing too.
Where do you see yourself in the next 10 years or so as a musician ?
I never demand anything and it all just happened and i hope it continues and i hope i am blessed like i have been . I just want to be happy and nothing in particular that i look forward to . I just hope good work keeps on coming and i will just give my best. I am thinking of going to USA for a period as i have a lot of work there and then coming back home as my family lives in India and i can’t leave my Pa and Ma.
Would you ever work on Assamese music or with Assamese musicians here ?
Yeah i would love to . I love the food of Assam , the climate and the people there . Every time i went there i have had a great time .
Thank you Mohini for your time . Leave a message for your fans .
I love all my fans and all the readers here on the site . Just stay blessed and keep blessing me . Don’t hatre anyone . Just love and have Peace !!!
Interviewed by : Ashiqur Rohman