This article is about an awesome group of musicians, who go by the name Madlock, and like to play post-90s grunge rock primarily, and are actually quite the sweethearts. In this article, I talk to Mehroze Gillani, Awais Jaffery and their manager Hassan Qazi, about how Madlock came into being, their journey to Pepsi’s Battle of the Bands, and about their experience as musicians in general.
Awais, who’s in his 4th year at LSE and plays bass for Madlock, says his musical passage began, when a friend introduced him to Judas Priest. From there he experienced many twists and turns, going from growling to singing, to finally becoming the bassist for Madlock.
“I was in the fifth grade when my friend Faiz made me listen to the song Painkiller, by Judas Priest, and it was that song that changed my life. That was when I knew I wanted to do what they were doing, and I wanted to be a musician. I kept listening to a lot of metal, and then I started to growl. Then in school, I met Mehroze, and we bonded over the band Megadeth, and that really shaped us as musicians. Eventually, the roles started to switch, I picked up the bass and learnt that. I have really weird flexible fingers, so that helped a lot with the bass[laughs]. It’s been 2-3 years since I’ve been playing bass, and once the band was formed, meri jagga as a bassist hee fix ho gai.” he said.
For Mehroze, the vocalist, who’s a sophomore in BNU, his journey was slightly different. He started out by playing the guitar, and midway discovered that he had an actual medical condition that affected his vocal chords, after which he finally assumed his post as the vocalist.
He says “When I was in the sixth grade, my sister brought home a guitar, and like all such things, it just sat in a corner gathering dust. So then I decided that I’d try to learn it, and I did. It was just an impulsive decision I made. This was around the time when I discovered that I had a vocal condition, called puberphonia, or mutational falsetto, where you can’t speak in your normal modal voice. So one day I was randomly googling my symptoms, as you do, and I found a doctor in India, who treated people through the internet, with these really bizarre exercises like blowing air into a football, and pushing your larynx down. So before I was actually treated, I obviously couldn’t sing, so I really focused on my guitar playing. And because of that, once I was cured, I was able to play really complex rhythms on the guitar while singing. So it was really a blessing in disguise.”
They decided, early on in the bands’ history, to shift from metal to a softer, more melodious grunge sound.
“Once we got a little serious about our future, we thought it was time to tone down the metal a little bit, and explore other genres and not be so narrow-minded. And Awais and I actually really loved 90’s grunge already. We were a little skeptical at first, because thrash metal suntay hain hum sab, yaar. But then you realize thats it really just two guitars, a drum and a guy screaming in the mic. It’s just the melodic sound that changes, and becomes less aggressive.” says Mehroze.
Awais adds “Basically, over the course of time, our inclination towards grunge rock became more evident, so we decided that this is the kind of music we wanted to play. We still experiment obviously, as you’re gonna see when we release our new stuff. But primarily, we’re a band that plays straight up rock and roll.
Madlock is primarily influenced by 90s grunge rock bands, but they have some rather surprising influences also, especially when it comes to ideals.
“I think everyone knows we’re hugely influenced by 90s grunge rock bands, but I’m just gonna name some bands that people might not expect from us. From the newer bands, Kings of Leon is a huge one, Coldplay for their atmospheric music, Porcupine Tree, Steven Wilson, The Pretty Reckless, Rival Sons, Puddle of Mudd, Caesar. And people are gonna hate me for this, but we really like Nickelback too.” says Mehroze.
When asked what helped them along their journey, they credited both chemistry between the band members, and also playing a lot of shitty gigs.
“Oh, playing lots and lots of bad gigs.” says Mehroze. “Yes, exactly. When you play a really bad show, with an equally bad and unresponsive audience in front of you, you learn how to play music that appeals to everyone, and it motivates you to get a better response from the audience next time. Doosra, band ki chemistry hamesha se bohat achi thi. We’ve all been best friends since forever, so that made things a lot easier.” adds Awais.
They stressed on the importance of playing music for the sake of creative output and pleasure, as opposed to something fixed and measured. Sometimes though, it can be the audience that becomes problematic too.
Mehroze says “I think the biggest issue with societies in schools nowadays is that there’s this hierarchy system going on. The seniors act as figureheads of some sort, and sort of dictate who deserves to be here and who doesn’t.”
“Also,” adds Awais, “in a lot of schools, and I say this for LSE obviously, when we used to have jams where everyone could come and watch, the response from the audience was very insulting. I’m not saying respect the musician BECAUSE he’s a musician, but at least respect the art? And appreciate the fact that someone is working hard to play something for you in front you. So at least have the decency to not talk during a set.”
The boys recalled the time they opened for Ali Azmat as their favorite gig so far…
“It was one of my favorite gigs, because not only did we open for Ali Azmat, but he also complimented us backstage. He really liked Mehroze’s Megadeth sticker, cause he’s into that kinda music also. And then once he started playing, he played a few riffs from Motorhead, and then he kind of winked at me also, and it was just very cool.” says Awais.
…and for their least favorite/worst gig yet, they had two hilarious stories involving wires, and surprisingly enough, Awais’ hair.
Mehroze starts “I remember, we were opening for Call in LUMS, and we were playing Nishaan by Noori. Now I do this thing on stage where I play the chord in a very flamboyant and edgy way and take a step back. So I do that, but I don’t notice that Awais has his foot on my guitar’s chord. And as soon as I take a step back- BOOM. The wire detaches, and there’s a barrage of sound onstage, all while we were in the middle of a song.”
For Awais, it was a little different. He recalls “This was during Pepsi Battle of the Bands, and we were playing Kahaan Hai Tu. So Mehroze and I, for this song, had decided to do this really cool synchronized head banging. And as I began doing that, my hair got stuck in Mehroze’s guitars’ headstock…and we were live!!!”
For Pepsi Battle of the Bands, there was a lot of convincing that Awais and Hassan had to do before Mehroze finally agreed to go for it.
“So initially, I wasn’t very inclined to do Pepsi. I was really worried about being judged by people as a band. Also I had this fear that we might get rejected straight away at the auditions. In retrospect though, I’m very glad that we took this step, for obvious reasons.” said Mehroze. “Initially, I was on Mehroze’s side, because I understood his very valid fear of rejection. Because he worried about getting rejected and the negative image it would leave for the band. But then Awais convinced me and we talked to Mehroze about it” added Hassan.
“The thing about Mehroze is, he’s super insanely talented, but he often really doubts himself. I think most musicians tend to doubt themselves a lot of times. I met so many amazing musicians through Pepsi, who are so incredibly humble, so I think its a musician thing. It took Hassan and I 3 meetings to simply convince him to consider participating.” Awais said. “So I told him that we aren’t half as bad as he fears us to be, and that we should really try out for it. And I’m so happy that we did”.
They went through quite a major setback right before the audition, when one of their guitarists had to drop out, and they had to go from a four-piece band to a three-piece one.
“I think the biggest hurdle for us was when one of our guitarists couldn’t make it for the audition, and had to stay back. So we went and auditioned without him. But then we found out that he wouldn’t be coming with us at all, so that was quite an obstacle for us. It was just Mehroze, the drummer and I, and I remember that Mehroze and I wrote the lyrics of our audition song literally on the flight to Karachi. It was crazy.” recalled Awais.
They learnt quite a lot of valuable knowledge from their time at Pepsi Battle of the Bands, and elsewhere also.
“The most important lesson we learnt was probably to not rely on others, and always make sure you check and take care of all your equipment and your set-up yourself also. And secondly, you should always have Plan B, always. Even if you don’t have a plan B, you should be very flexible in case you need to switch up the plan and try something new. What can go wrong will go wrong, you know.” said Mehroze, sagaciously.
Here’s the advice they have for all future musicians who want to start a band of their own:
Mehroze starts “If you’re making a band, the most important thing in order to function well as one, is that you need guys who are able to communicate well with each other, and have a lot of chemistry. Now I’m no Chris Cornell, and Awais isn’t Victor Wooten, but the thing is, when we play, we make the dynamic work for us. And this is true for every band ever. Bands ke liye ye zaruri hai ke the collective creative output has to be in sync, it should be original and it HAS to be kick ass.”
When asked what we can expect from Madlock in the future, the guys told us to watch out for an entirely different side of Madlock.
“We’re obviously working on an album, but I think more importantly, there’s going to a whole new side of Madlock that people haven’t seen before. They’ve seen our hard-rock side, but now we’ve got something different also, so that’s exciting.” says Mehroze.
How do you guys feel about Madlock? Do you also want to start a band now? Let us know in the comments below!