Tag Archives: Bruce Lee Mani

Thermal and a Quarter’s ‘A World Gone Mad’


Introducing our first ever review from the WTS PolyNation Music Exchange Project!
Music reviews BY artists FOR artists.

Rob Richmond from The Vailix (Charlottesville, VA, USA) reviews ‘A World Gone Mad‘ by Thermal and a Quarter (Bangalore, India.)

Thermal And A Quarter (TAAQ) is India’s most prolific rock band, with 8 released albums, multiple international tours / awards – and a never-say-die D-I-Y approach to everything. TAAQ’s 8th studio album “digs deep into this (mis)information age.”

Released March 20, 2020

Guitars/Vocals/Synths: Bruce Lee Mani
Bass/Additional Synths: Leslie Charles
Guitars: Tony Das
Drums: Rajeev Rajagopal
Backing vocals on ‘Stone Circle’: Swikrity Singh

Drums recorded at Stained Class Productions, Bangalore, by Leslie Charles.
Guitars, Vocals, and other instruments recorded at Taaqademy Studios by Bruce Lee Mani.
Mixed by Leslie Charles.
Mastered by Kimberly Rosen at Knack Mastering, USA.


The Scene by Thermal and a Quarter


Whenever a popular rock band has reached a certain point in a lengthy career, they will typically take one of two paths: they either shift their style to stay relevant and suit the ever evolving tastes of new listeners (and risk accusations of being sell-outs), or they stick to their sound, rehashing the same songs again and again until they’re pumping out vapid, uninspired releases seemingly on auto-pilot. Within a few decades, a band will begin to show signs of gravitating towards one or the other, and for fans of these decaying rock bands, either fate is difficult to watch. While Bangalore based band Thermal and a Quarter don’t quite yet have enough years to fit the “aging rocker” stereotype, they have certainly lasted longer than most rock bands can hope for with almost a twenty-year career under their belts. With their newest record, The Scene, they don’t yet show many signs of falling into this dichotomy. Instead, they remain true to their sound while simultaneously invigorating it with a refreshing look at today’s music culture.

TAAQ have built a name for themselves during their tenure in India’s independent music scene; extensive international touring and a GIMA award for their previous album, 3 Wheels 9 Lives, grace the band’s list of accomplishments. This is all the more impressive considering that since the band’s formation in 1996, they have kept themselves firmly rooted in a distinctly 90’s rock/funk/jazz sound. Honestly, with Thermal’s affinity for funky bass grooves, chicken scratch guitar, and kitsch lyrics, The Scene would fit right in had it been released twenty years ago. That’s not, however, to say it’s bad. Yes, it’s unbearably cheesy at times, but Thermal and a Quarter play and sing with such a warm charisma that they somehow get away with it.

The entire concept of The Scene is something of a mixed bag at first listen. On one hand, it’s brilliant; I applaud Thermal’s spot-on illustrations of many of the movements in today’s indie music scene. On the other hand, they do so with such embarrassingly goofy lyrics that it becomes hard to take anything they say seriously. But maybe that’s the point– most of the songs deal with different issues in our music culture, and they caricature and lampoon those who perpetuate them. Frontman and guitarist Bruce Lee Mani pokes fun at well funded bands that no longer have to take artistic risks in ‘I’m Endorsed Are You’, singing, “You got a free guitar? Oh that’s really cool/ Let me show you my collection, It’ll make you drool”, and eventually concluding “’Cause I, I’m endorsed, I don’t have to play”. From the arrogant-yet-infallible rock stars and those who follow them, from the ultra-trendy hipsters and their underground indie bands, TAAQ takes jabs at everyone. These guys are snarky, and they’re not afraid to show it. It’s all very tongue-in-cheek, but sometimes the band’s cheesiness is too much. Such is ‘Dig the Chicks’, a song about the increased presence of females at rock shows. It contains what is easily the most embarrassing lyric on the album: Mani sings, “Don’t you be no ape when you pitch your woo/ She can tell her Dylan from her Fighters Foo”. Seriously, that one made me cringe.

Though Thermal can be cheesy, don’t be fooled into thinking they’re not saying anything meaningful. On many occasions the band manages to be poignant by recognizing the frustration of trying to get by in the music industry. They wrestle with topics ranging from venues and funding on ‘The Sponsors Backed Out’ to being disregarded on stage by the audience (and suffering the bane of loathsome ‘gig-talkers’) on the title track, where Mani sings, “It’s getting cold here in this spotlight/ While you rattle your cutlery/ Don’t let me play a hole in your conversation/ All I know is that this joke’s on me”. It’s points like these where Thermal’s conception on The Scene really succeeds, and even when their lyrics can be unseemly, the band manages to still be cheeky and endearing due to their commitment to it (as well as Mani’s emotive delivery). What is unique about all this is that for band that’s playing with a sound that had its heyday years ago, Thermal and a Quarter are astonishingly aware of not only today’s movements in the music scene but also their place in it. This is a band that refuses to change who they are, and whether that’s good or bad largely depends on your immediate feelings on the rock/funk/jazz sound.

On a technical level, the band plays tightly together. Leslie Charles’ effervescent bass lines play counterpoint to frontman Bruce Lee Mani’s angular guitar riffs, while the drums (courtesy of Rajeev Rajagopal), keep pushing the songs forward with just the right amount of flourish to keep things engaging. Blending hard-hitting rock riffs, jazz chords, and prog song structures is something that the band specializes in. The result is complex; funk polyrhythms and tonal oddities abound, and yet it’s never overwhelming. TAAQ strike a balance of creating intricate melodies that grant an affable sense of smoothness.  One such example that must be praised are their guitar solos, such as those in ‘Like Me’ and ‘Flok Rock’. While more straightforward, hot-headed rock bands can have a tendency to try and impetuously fling off notes as fast as possible during guitar solos, Thermal’s jazz solos in contrast are even and measured– they might not be as fast or technically impressive, but they actually make musical sense and are appropriate for the song.

Sonically, it’s genuinely impressive that the trio is able to layer so many sounds and parts together at certain points. The Scene obviously has your standard fare of guitars, bass, and drums, but it also features synths, horns, keyboards, and even accordion, all of which were recorded live. The instrumentation has a decent amount of textual variation between songs that keeps the album from growing overly stale. The saw synth under the main rock riff on ‘GodRocker‘ adds a subtle touch of colour to the song, while the accordion passage on the otherwise simple titular track grabs your attention as it waltzes along. However, these points of instrumental experimentation are so sparse that it feels like there is a lot of wasted potential– which is a shame especially because these are some of the best parts on the album. I enjoy the song ‘MEDs‘ as it lampoons today’s laptop-toting DJ’s (“Nothing grooves as sick as a MacBook Pro”), and with its disco beat leading some quick funk strumming, but it’s the final minute that makes it truly memorable. With vocoder voice effects and guitar picking soaked in delay, it’s like they’re channeling Daft Punk, but it’s over before it ever gets going. It may be a great climax, but the rest of the song just seems dull by comparison. The jazzy solo Rhodes piano intro to ‘Going to Abroad’ is likewise a highpoint, but it too is criminally short when it leads into a low-key smooth jazz chords and Mani’s gentle falsetto singing. While these songs certainly aren’t spoiled by these out of the ordinary sounds, it would feel more solid if they were implemented more comprehensibly and in a way that broke the mold for that prog/jazz/funk sound we’ve all heard before.

Another issue with The Scene is its some-what bland dynamics and production. While the band clearly has the technical skill to play with finesse, this effort’s production tends to make it feel… flat. Though the album is rife with overlapping harmonies and instruments, they sometimes sound as if they’ve all been pressed together. The horns throughout the album, for example, sound oddly unexpressive and lack the richness one hopes to find in brass instruments. While the band states they were recorded live, you would be forgiven for thinking that they’re just old second-hand Yamaha keyboard horn sounds that were laid on top of the guitars and drums. On songs such as ‘Like Me’ and ‘Dig the Chicks’, the drums seem too low in the mix, and I wish they had sounded just a bit punchier to pierce through the guitars. ‘Like Me’ in particular has an odd moment in the second half of the song where the band starts playing softly into a crescendo. Though the band tries to pick up the music by adding on parts and voices, it never really goes anywhere– it just goes from quiet to slightly less quiet. To be fair though, the album’s production is completely functional, but it does lack just a bit of depth and dynamism that would have really pushed it ahead. While all these seem like minor gripes (and admittedly, they are), they do hold The Scene back from being an even better record.

Ultimately, how you feel about The Scene is determined by how you felt about Thermal and a Quarter twenty years ago. I can’t help but feel like the sounds on this record are dated, but then again, TAAQ clearly aren’t ones to let the new trends sway their thoughts on what they want to play. The band themselves admit it, singing, “Our story’s been the same Since 1996”. If you like their sound, their latest effort is sure to please you. If not, then go ahead and give it a listen anyway; they have a lot of good things to say, and if the music doesn’t draw you in, then with any luck their smirking commentary of our music scenes will.

Stephen Perez

Stephen Perez is a busy university student that spends an excessive amount of time listening to music and attending music-related activities. He is passionate about art and culture and anxiously awaits the day that he can travel the world. Stephen also enjoys theology, veg food, and reverb.


Taaqademy to open new centre in Whitefield


Taaqademy is all set to open it’s second centre in Bangalore, this time in Whitefield. The new centre is slightly bigger than the existing one in Koramangala with more classroom spaces, bigger jam rooms, and it seems like the founders Bruce Lee Mani and Rajiv Rajagopal have, quite literally, dived headfirst into “making space for music.” Watch this!


WFW/DFD: First Day First show with TAAQ at The BFlat Bar, Bangalore


Thermal and a Quarter have never been ones to rest on their laurels. They were the first in India to release a concept album, they released an album on a custom user-license modeled on Creative Commons and then not-so-long-ago launched their most ambitious effort yet – a triple album. They then decided to raise the bar higher. TAAQ played the Edinburgh Fringe Festival – the world’s largest arts festival, in 2013. If playing 26 nights back-to-back wasn’t impressive enough, they also won the Spirit of The Fringe award.

“Maybe someday, we’ll find plan B in a hit movie” – This is it, TAAQ (2008)

It was indeed serendipitous when frontman Bruce Lee Mani sang these lines just before the screening of their ‘hit movie’ – TAAQ had filmed their experiences at The Fringe and subsequently the Edinburgh Mela Festival and made a movie that they chose to call ‘WFW/DFD’. They premiered it at BFlat last Saturday as friends and fans congregated to witness TAAQ’s latest experiment. TAAQ also held a unique gig to accompany the premiere of the 40-minute movie where they paid homage to some of the eclectic acts that have influenced them over the years.

“Don’t worry, Bruce. It’s just a movie,” came a voice from the crowd when frontman Bruce Lee Mani, expressed his nervousness about the screening. Perhaps that’s what most of us expected – a clichéd documentary about the band. Thermal and a Quarter caught us off guard once again. From the moment images from the movie flickered on the screen, through the next 40 minutes, right until the band got on stage again and took a bow, most of us just sat there transfixed, too moved to even stand up and applaud. Not only are they pretty darn good at making music, they are pretty darn good at almost everything they do!

Quite evidently, TAAQ has poured their heart into the making of WFW/DFD and this is probably as intimate a fan can possibly get with his/her local heroes. In 40 minutes, TAAQ answered all questions about who they are, what they do, what it has taken to get where they are and what it takes to continue doing what they do. Without giving out the juicy details, let’s just say that the best thing about the movie is how it is not just about the band, but also about us and every known/obscure artist in the world who is on a constant quest to perfect his/her art.

WFW/DFD is the perfect reality check, not for a dreamer but for all the corporate smugs in ‘secure’ jobs who are living under the false impression that they’re doing something worthwhile with their lives. A special mention to Rajeev Rajagopal for the brilliant script and of course Bruce Lee Mani for breathing life into every word of it. D.I.Y or Die.

While we reeled from the after-effects of the movie, TAAQ continued the proceedings with the killer setlist they had planned for the evening. Featuring guest Ramanan Chandramouli on guitar, they started off with a Blood, Sweat and Tears cover called ‘Nuclear Blues’ followed by a slightly obscure Sting song called ‘Love is Stronger Than Justice’. The choice of non-popular songs of famous artists was intentional. If anything, listening to these songs gave the audience, a blueprint of Thermal’s influences over the past two decades. Some of these tracks might even fit right into the TAAQ canon. What followed was an Indian indie (specifically Bangalorean) fans’ wet dream. TAAQ launched into their homage to Lounge Piranha‘s ‘The Gun Song’. While the song stayed true to the original, right down to the e-bow that was used for the wailing solo, one could see Bruce use his trademark spider-y chords to give the song the signature TAAQ style. Taaq also covered their contemporaries and alma-mater (IIRC) Zebediah Plush‘s ‘Journey to Gondolin’. Sidenote: If you haven’t already done so, do check out ZP’s ‘Afterlaughs’ – an Indian indie classic in our opinion!

They closed out the gig with a Gilbert O’ Sullivan ditty, John Scofield’s jazzy ‘Green Tea’ and Steely Dan’s ‘Jack of Speed’. They’d also managed to sneak in a few of their originals (‘Wishing for Magic’, ‘For The Cat’, ‘Hot Day’, ‘Mighty Strange’, ‘This is It’) into their extended set which was possible thanks to the new 1 am deadline (Hallelujah!) for pubs in Bangalore. What was fascinating was that the songs, especially the older ones still sounded fresh after so many years. Its the attention to their craft that really is the secret to TAAQ’s longevity and there is no doubt that they will continue to make great music and raise the bar even higher in the years to come.

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Sohan Maheshwar

Jack of all tirades, total shirk-off. Follow Sohan on twitter! @soganmageshwar


Thermal and A Quarter makes a movie!


Bangalore’s favourite rockers Thermal and a Quarter are screening a film for the first time ever, and playing a special gig alongside. The band describes it as “A movie about artists, musicians and other mad people. It’s about us, them and you. It’s about triumph and tragedy and rebirth and resilience. It’s a story, it’s a song, it’s a statement.” The band claims that this gig will feature some “absolutely killer music” that fans have probably never heard.

Titled ‘WFW / DFD,’ the movie is about 40 minutes long, and it apparently took over six months to make. When asked to divulge more details about the movie, the band says “Broadly speaking WFW / DFD is about musicians, artists and performers, with some focus on TAAQ’s journey, thoughts and ideas. With a total running time of about 40 minutes, the film is entirely in Black & White, and features some new music written by us specifically for the film. There is some profanity used – so it’s also (PG) rated!” Understandably so, the band warns us in advance that this movie is not for kids!

A lot seems to have gone into the making of this movie, speaking about it the band says “It feels like our first-ever gig – the first time we played our own songs to an audience! After many years of doing that, premiering a new song is now no problem at all – we know we can pull it off and how. But a film – well, that’s entirely fresh ground for us… something we never thought we would make. We accumulated a lot of footage during our hectic tours last year, so there was some idea of putting all of it together, but we didn’t really anticipate it would take this form, eventually. We tossed around some script ideas for a while and sometime in December last year it started taking real shape. We’ve since been writing, editing, cutting, agonizing… and here we are now, about to release our first film! Lots of butterflies in the belly, for sure!

It’s quite amazing how TAAQ keeps reinventing itself and surprising fans. When asked what’s in store for us this time, the band remains elusive “Come watch. Listen. The film is no ‘action-thriller-romance-drama’ thing, so don’t come expecting edge-of-the-seat stuff, but we believe it’ll grab you.

The setlist sounds quite interesting and it’s not going to be a regular TAAQ gig by the looks of it. In line with some of the ideas discussed in the film, they’re playing a bunch of obscure songs by famous bands, some obscure songs by obscure bands, and even a couple of tracks from defunct Bangalore bands such as Lounge Piranha and Zebediah Plush. The gig will also feature Ramanan Chandramouli on guitar.There are a couple of tunes from the TAAQ catalogue that pre-date their first album and thermalandaquarter.com, which was released in 2000! “It’s unbelievable how much we used to shred back then. Compositions designed to win competitions, perhaps we took part in a lot of those. It’s been real fun putting this set together, and nice to have Ramanan filling in on guitar,” they say excitedly. When asked if there’s more exciting stuff lined up for 2014, they say “Well, there’s definitely a new album in the works. This will be the first one with Leslie on bass, and we’re quite excited about the direction it’s taking.

Tickets for this show are available here and also at the venue. Gates open at 8 pm and seating first come, first served! In TAAQ’s words “You simply cannot miss this one – there’s never been one like it!”


Thermal and A Quarter on their ‘Bangalore Rock’ Tour Experience


Almost 3 years after Thermal and A Quarter formally announced that their genre is called ‘Bangalore Rock’ (apparently we were the first media/website to hear from the band directly about this. Read full interview here), Bruce Lee Mani and Rajeev Rajagopal talk in detail about the highlights of ‘Bangalore Rock’ tour!

Watch them speak about the most memorable moments at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and the overall experience – from winning the Pick of The Fringe award to busking on the streets and meeting the number one fan of Roger Binny!

Interviewed by: Priyanka Shetty

Camera and Editing: Vipul Vaibhav


TAAQ wins the Mervyn Stutter ‘Spirit Of The Fringe’ Award


Bangalore Rockers Thermal and a Quarter win the Mervyn Stutter ‘Spirit of the Fringe’ award, and will play a showcase gig on Sunday, 25th Aug for the grand finale of Mervyn’s show at the Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh.

Mervyn’s Spirit of the Fringe Award is one of the longest-running awards at the Edinburgh Festival, given out every year since 1992 and ‘Pick of the Fringe’ showcases 90 minutes of the top acts from the Fringe festival with the best of theatre, dance, music and more.

Thermal and A Quarter are currently in the middle of their Bangalore Rock tour that goes on all the way till mid-September, when they will finish their marathon run of over 35 concerts!


The TAAQ Tour!


Thermal and a Quarter talk about their much-awaited Bangalore Rock Tour that will be the largest tour ever by an Indian English rock band. With a 26-gig run at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society, TAAQ will be performing a completely different set each night of the week, with no repeated songs, drawing from a shortlist of 60 songs. Watch them talk to us in detail about their preparations for the tour and what’s in store!


Point of View, Bumblefoot at Hard Rock Cafe, Bangalore

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Justin Jaideep Xavier

Justin Jaideep Xavier is an Automotive Design Engineer, Metal Head, Bullet, Beer & Old Monk Enthusiast, Dog Lover and Photographer. When he's not frequenting the regular watering holes over weekends he can be found shooting gigs and concerts in and around namma Bengaluru! You can check out more of his work on his website: www.JustinJaideep.in