Interview: Joy Basu

Dan McAvinchey: Joy, how did you get started with the guitar, and which bands and guitarists influenced your development?

Joy Basu: I always loved music. Even before I started to play, I was so into it. The first type of music I was really into was disco. In fifth grade I found out that there was such a thing as hard rock and it was for me. My buddy and I used to jump around with our tennis rackets doing the air guitar thing to AC-DC, Kiss, Journey, Styx, Foreigner & bunch of other hard rock stuff. Once I heard Van Halen I knew that's all I wanted to do. At 12 I started playing guitar and I was obsessed with it. My initial major influences were Eddie Van Halen, Neal Schon and Randy Rhoads. I quickly joined a band and started doing gigs at age 13. This was a total metal band. During that time of my life I was influenced more by metal bands rather than just guitar players. Soon after, I went through different phases of guitar players that I would learn from. There was a Jake E. Lee phase followed by Yngwie, Vai, Jeff Beck, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jason Becker.

Throughout this entire time I always preferred ballsy sounding bands, whether they had an awesome guitar player or not. Even most of the guitar players I liked sounded really ballsy/aggressive. As long as they could bring out the emotions they were trying to create, I liked it. The shred aspect of playing never mattered to me as much as the feel of it. After turning 18, I started to get influenced by other types of music. Now I listen to everything from Toni Braxton to Marilyn Manson. I think everyone can learn from listening to and appreciating different types of music.

Dan McAvinchey: Tell us a little bit about your guitars, effects and other recording equipment.

Joy Basu: I have several ESP custom guitars. The ESP Strat is great for blues and R&B stuff. The one I used the most on my first CD is similar to a Maverick. That is definitely my so-called shred guitar. The Eclipse is their version of a Les Paul. That one has a lot of balls--it's very easy to sound aggressive with it. I have an old modified Randall, a Lee Jackson head and the Rocktron Chameleon. I use Rocktron gear for just about everything I am currently recording. That goes for my second CD, as well as sessions around town. It's so easy to go into a studio, plug a piece of rack gear directly to the board and have it sound great.

My second CD is much heavier, more industrial sounding than the first one. For that I really need heavy, crunchy guitar sounds, which are being delivered by the Rocktron Chameleon. As far as pickups go I use Seymour Duncans. I have used Duncans since I stared playing. In the ESP Strat I have a JB Junior in the bridge position and Vintage Rails in the middle and neck position. Every time I take that guitar into a session, engineers freak on how much like a Strat the Vintage Rails sound, without all the hiss. For my other guitars I prefer the
Hot Rails for the neck position with JBs and Custom Custom for bridge position.

For effects I use Rocktron stuff as well. For normal guitar sounds I use a small amount of reverb and sometimes a little ping-pong delay. I do not like the 80's 'washed-out-by-reverb-delay-and-chorus' sound. I would much rather be able to tell what someone is actually playing then wondering what they are trying to hide under all those effects. However, for industrial sounds, I use effects to create cool new noises. I will take a couple of licks, put them on a repeat hold and run it through a stereo chorus or a good flange. I love experimenting and coming up with new tricks and sounds like that.

Dan McAvinchey: What are you hoping to achieve musically?

Joy Basu: I want to stay in a good state of mind. I want to always have fun with it and feel everything I am playing. If I am playing a heavy tune, I want to feel as aggressive as possible, whereas a ballad should depress me while playing it. I want to be able to always feel the excitement and different emotions. I want to have other people feel the emotions I meant to create. I also want to stay enthusiastic about music as much as when I first started to play. I guess I just want to rock out and have as much fun as possible at all times.

Dan McAvinchey: What musical projects are you currently working on?

Joy Basu: Currently I am working on my second instrumental CD, which is a cross between NIN and shred guitar. I recently did some leads on the hard rock band, Legacy's CD. I am also in the process of putting together a heavy industrial vocal project.

Dan McAvinchey: How do you write your music?

Joy Basu: Most of the stuff just comes from doodling around. I don't really have one particular way of writing. Sometimes the groove/rhythm guitar part comes first and sometimes the melody line comes first. Once in a great while I will be messing
around with a drum loop and actually come up with guitar parts that will fit the groove and take it from there. The only consistency I have as far as creating songs is that I will always record a rough version of the tune that is being written. These rough versions are very sloppy and I would not play them for anyone but those musicians I am working with. However, these quickly recorded versions help me see if the melody lines, transitions and other elements of the song are working.

Dan McAvinchey: How much of your recording is done at home versus in a full-blown studio?

Joy Basu: Instrumental stuff I can do at home. I personally very rarely rent studio time, however when I am playing on other people's material it is usually in the studio of their choice.

Dan McAvinchey: What went into your decision to release an independent record after you had already secured distribution in Japan?

Joy Basu: The CD seemed to be doing well in Japan on Bandai Music but I was not getting the type of deal I wanted in the US. I was getting a lot of mail from people wanting to purchase the CD outside of Japan. There were a lot of requests for it in Europe during some of my clinics. That led me to just go ahead and do it independently. I figured this would help me land more licensing deals overseas. Meanwhile I could sell them during shows, clinics, through the Internet as well as consignment and distribution deals.

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Dan McAvinchey: What do you find to be the advantages of being an independent musician?

Joy Basu: The real advantage would come from getting different licensing and distribution deals. Advances and sales from each deal could add up. That is what my management and I am currently working on. There are a lot of possibilities for success out there, as there would be with starting any business. I think it's
kinda cool to learn more about the business end of all this. As with anything, jumping in and doing it seems to be the best way to learn.

Dan McAvinchey: How important are marketing and promotion for musicians about to release their first independent record?

Joy Basu: Be prepared do a lot of work promoting and marketing. I strongly suggest people make a plan detailing how they will be selling and marketing their record. Rather than trying to
sell one CD at a time, shop it for licensing and other types of deals, since ultimately, that is where a large number of sales will come from.

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Born in Calcutta, India, guitarist Joy Basu has since passionately pursued the life of a world-traveling musician. His recently released, eponymous debut CD is an all-instrumental affair featuring music ranging from bluesy riffs and melodies to nasty D-tuned industrial headaches. The record also showcases Basu's ability to shred with the best of them, as he highlights each track with some incredible solo work. Basu describes his first CD as, "A kind of sampler of what's to come." With that in mind, Basu has already begun work on his second record, which seems certain to expand his already rapidly growing audience.

Dan McAvinchey contacted Basu in order to get the Hollywood-based musician's words on his start in the music industry and where he hopes to ultimately take his music.