Lord of the Strings

Mumbai-based star guitarist Warren Mendonsa talks about his solo project Blackstratblues,an upcoming album and why Zero won’t reunite.

Written by Somya Lakhani | Published: May 16, 2013 12:21:43 am

Mumbai-based star guitarist Warren Mendonsa talks about his solo project Blackstratblues,an upcoming album and why Zero won’t reunite.

In the late ’90s when people still refrained from using their real names online and used handles instead,Mumbai-based guitarist Warren Mendonsa called himself “Blackstratblues”. A classic Black Stratocaster guitar was his companion and that’s how the name came about. Blackstratblues is one of Mendonsa’s most popular projects. And he is all set to release an 8-track instrumental album under that project,tentatively titled The Universe Has a Strange Sense of Humour,by July. Mendonsa’s forte,apart from some mindblowing guitar riffs,is fusing genres together into a single track. “I would have released it last year but I got caught up with other projects and performances,” says the 33-year-old.

Those who have kept track of the indie music scene in the country will be more than familiar with Mendonsa. After all,he was the star guitarist of popular Mumbai band Zero,till 2004 when he moved to New Zealand. “I am an introvert and it took me a while to meet new people in New Zealand but I had a lot of ideas,so I began a solo project and put it online. People seemed to like it in India and New Zealand,” he says. Since it was not a live project,Menonsa was surprised when in 2009 a Mumbai college asked him to perform at their fest. “I did a few more gigs in the country during that visit and realised that it was a viable option to bring Blackstratblues to India. There were more venues and college kids now have disposable pocket money,” he says.

The Universe Has a Strange Sense of Humour is the first Blackstratblues album that has been recorded in India as Mendonsa released his earlier two albums — Nights in Shining Karma and The New Album — in New Zealand. The latest album has him collaborating with singer Nikhil D’souza and Karsh Kale. Folkish Tree,a song on the album is a rather experimental track that sees Mendonsa’s guitar riffs blend with the sound of the dhol played by Iqbal Azad. “I grew up in Dadar,Mumbai and every year during Ganpati celebrations,there used to be this sound,the dhol sound. It’s embedded in me and now in the song too,” he says.

Apart from a forthcoming album,Mendonsa will also be performing a 90-minute set at the Escape Festival of Arts and Music on May 26 at Naukuchiatal. “It will be a mix of old songs from my project,a few new ones and our own Blackstratblues version of a classic song,maybe a Beatles number,” he says. Then there is also the third season of MTV@Coke Studio where Mendonsa will be seen in the Salim-Suleiman and Clinton Cerejo episode.

No conversation with Mendonsa is complete without an FAQ: Will we see Zero reuniting? The band defined a generation of music lovers with their rock ‘n’ roll sound and original compositions and the band’s break-up in 2004-05 was quite a shock. “Rajeev Talwar,our vocalist,lives in London; my main focus is Blackstratblues; Sidd Coutto,our drummer,is busy with his own band Tough on Tobacco. So,I don’t see us reuniting for good in the immediate future. We do perform together sometimes,at NH7 Weekender,for instance. There’s no love lost between us boys,” he says.

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