Tough on Tobacco is singer/songwriter Sid Coutto’s talent packed, genre bending, convention defying, wildly funny band with Sidd Coutto on vocals/ rhythm guitars, Johan Pais on bass guitar, Jai Row Kavi on drums, Gaurav Gupta on the acoustic guitar and Pozy Dhar on the electric guitar. The music is a mix of pop, rock and reggae. The band advocates not to start smoking because it’s hard to quit once you start and it’s just not worth it. Surprisingly, WTS was greeted with a puff of smoke at the doorstep as we entered the room to get the band from Mumbai talking about The Happy Goat and a lot more…
WTS: Tough on Tobacco is a 5-piece progressive disco dance metal Bhojpuri act from Outer Mongolia. We hope the interview is going to be as wacky as this description.
Sidd: No, no we’re extremely serious, we’re very serious. We’re very shy.
Gaurav: We’re serious with the media. (laughs)
Sidd: I’m so conscious, so conscious! (laughs)
Jai: Johan stay out man!
Gaurav: Ask the housekeeping to stay out dude! (laughs)
WTS: Let’s start with a little background information about the band. How did the band come to be?
Sidd: It was a two piece band. ToT was actually two people (Hansu and I) making music for the sake of making music. Two years later there was an album ready and the band formed to play the songs in the album, most of them played in the album as well, so we just started playing as a band. We’ve all played together in different bands. Johan and I were in Helga’s Fun Castle together, Pozy and Gaurav played in Zero. So we just kind of put them together.
WTS: How has the band transformed in terms of band members?
Sidd: It’s just one guy who’s not there anymore. He used to play the violin and saxophone. We didn’t want a violinist, we were just happy with the sound that we had!
Gaurav: We thought that it would be a unique element.
Sidd: You thought so I didn’t think so. There are a lot of bands who have them right now. I guess we figured we sound better without it and we were right.
WTS: Back in 2008, you came out with your first album The Happy Goat. What made you call it that?
Jai: Cow. (loud laughter)
Sidd: The thing about the happy goat is you should be a happy goat, life is tough you’re going to die you’re going to get eaten. The album cover is this goat, a happy goat and this was about a month before Id I guess, before somebody’s mutton biryani. You gotta be a happy goat! You just have to be happy because life is short and you’re going to die soon.
WTS: And you spent two years on it, what took you so long?
Sidd: Life. Life got in the way. I didn’t work on it for some time. In the mean time I wrote new songs. We started writing together as a band between January and March. We had already started writing new songs before its release. We had enough material for a new album by the time we launched the last album and now we’re releasing a double album because we have enough material for one more album as well.
WTS: We heard you had a lot of fun during the filming of ‘The Taxi Song’. We’d like to hear more about that.
Sidd: I think the taxi driver, the camera person and the director had the most fun. We didnât even watch the video! We did just the Bollywood scene and just showed up for that. We were just there for our sequences.
Gaurav: The video was to portray a story and not just show the band playing.
Pozy: We didn’t know what happened! (laughs)
WTS: Could you briefly describe your music-making process?
Jai: I think we never formally sit down and discuss things.
Gaurav: We’ve probably done it twice!
Sidd: We’re all very busy, we don’t have much time to get together and spend a lot of time. So whenever we get to sit down in the jam room, somebody says something and everybody just catches on.
Pozy: It needs some quick perception.
Sidd: A lot of the songs we did on terraces. We’ve written 5 or 6 at least on terraces with an acoustic guitar!
WTS: What come first the lyrics or the melody?
Sidd: It depends, but mostly the melodies come first.
Gaurav: With this band, the melodies came first.
WTS: What are your rehearsals generally like?
Gaurav: Just before gigs.
Sidd: If we’re doing a gig in Bombay we generally add about 5 new songs so then we have like 2-3 rehearsals before the gig. Otherwise we all know these songs. We’re not retarded. No man, you know the song. We get together and play to get the vibe again. But he (points to Johan) has a little memory issue. (laughs)
WTS: A lot of people say that reggae sounds simple but we hear that playing reggae is a lot more difficult than it sounds. What do you have to say about that?
Jai: For the drummer.
Sidd: For everybody man I remember when these guys started off they couldn’t play reggae at all.
Jai: I still can’t play reggae (laughs)
Sidd: No, no you’ve learned, you’re much better than before. They are still thinking about it too technically, there’s nothing technical about it. Helga’s Fun Castle was heavily reggae. I think I just got a lot of my reggae inspiration just from being in Helga’s Fun Castle. Johan for some reason has always been into metal.
Johan: I got into reggae just because of that! (laughs)
Sidd: We play pop/rock/reggae. The songs are essentially pop songs, with elements of rock and reggae. I guess every third song is reggae. But the reggae’s kind of cut down a bit. The first album had a lot more reggae than what we’ve come up with now.
WTS: Sidd, tell us more about your experiences with Zero and Helga’s Fun Castle.
Sidd: Different points of life. Zero was a rock band, when we were in college we were doing that whole “So let’s rock, yeahhhhh”. Things were going well and we were playing gigs but it wasn’t the same band as it started off because Warren had left by then. It was not the same things we had other guitarists and we were just playing gigs. We were essentially a Zero cover band by the end.
Jai: And Helga’s most definitely a more serious band, not cutting out the fun aspect but yeah.
Johan: Times were different then. Helga was what, five years ago? 2004!
Sidd: When somebody leaves the band it’s not the same. The equation of the band is just lost with people. With the second album, it wasn’t Helga’s Fun Castle, it was Helga’s Serious Castle. It was a completely different band, different genre.
WTS: Do you believe that being in a band is equivalent to being in a relationship or do you think it is okay for band members to play with other bands once in a while?
Johan: We’re in a relationship and I think he’s sleeping around! (points to Jai)
Jai: All of us are involved in different things. I’ve played for other bands as well like Indus Creed and Bhayanak Maut. All of us do! But we really like this band.
Sidd: For me, I’d call Tough on Tobacco as my main band.
WTS: What do u think sets you apart from the other bands in the country?
Johan: Jai can’t grow a beard! (laughter)
Jai: There are some 4 bands like that man where the drummer can’t grow a beard!
Sidd: Yeah, like Indus Creed, Bhayanak Maut… (loud laughter, applause)
Sidd: What sets us apart… When Tough on Tobacco started off, we did so with no aim for listenership and just to make the music we wanted to hear. Since the band’s become a 5 piece unit, we just write and play together. Everybody can play whatever they want in that nobody’s given any fixed thing, just enjoy yourself. It’s just who we are. If you come for our gig, it will be entertaining, it will be fun.
Jai: We love taking requests!
Gaurav: No, no no! We DO NOT like that! Just for the record!