This interview is published in the Bulgarian webzine Rawk'n'Roll. I put here its English version in order this way it to reach more people and also the band to use it however they want to.
In the nineties, during the era of the grunge, the brit-pop and growingly faceless songs at the music channels, it is almost unimaginable for a psychedelic rock band, deeply inspired of India, to conquer the charts. The music of Kula Shaker bears at the same time the fiery energy of the youth and the wisdom of the musical culture of past epochs; contemporary, yet reflecting the spirit of the music of the 60’s; wonderfully combining the vivid picturesque pageant of the soundtracks of “Hair” and “Jesus Christ Superstar” with the psychedelia of the later Beatles. And in 2010 it abandoned all this musical whirlwind to release one of the purest, tender and beautiful rock albums. Kula Shaker closer, presented by Alonza Bevan.
RR: First of all – congratulations for “Pilgrims Progress” , though it’s been half an year since it came out! It is among the most beautiful albums ever released. Can you tell us shortly about the album, the label issue in 2008, the songs and the recording sessions?
AB: Well, the album grew out of circumstance we had just got out of some dodgy dealings with the dark side (moneymen, accountants and lawyers) which left the band in a rather poor financial position. We knew we had some good songs and so with some great help from our friends and local musicians we started recording Pilgrims Progress here in the countryside of southern Belgium.
RR: The first thing that is obvious while listening the CD is the fact that you have taken off the colorful garment that was so typical for your previous releases and “Pilgrims Progress” is a stripped down to naked melodies and pure emotions record. Was that transmission natural or you made it by purpose?
AB: The production idea for the album was to capture some of the magic and freedom of the song demos which so often gets lost in the recording process. I mentioned how circumstance created this record and it definitely affected the production choices. I finally got to use all the peculiar instruments lying around my studio, the organ from the local church got used and more than anything the medieval surroundings and forests gave their fairy tale magic.
RR: Is the song “Peter Pan R.I.P.” only about the end of the childhood, the end of the fairy-tale period of the life or it also treats the moving away of the band from the vivid explosion in the sound of its earlier records?
AB: I thought it was about the death of innocence in the 20th century but apparently not, you'll have to ask Crispian.
RR: I can tell that in “Winter’s Call” there is a load of Roger Waters-like drama, especially at the end of the song. Is it true or it’s just my mind and imagination?
AB: No it's not your imagination, It is a fully certified prog epic.
RR: The first two albums where echoing of the burst of the psychedelic rock and the hippie movement from the 60’s and the 70’s. “Pilgrims Progress” also bears the spirit of past decades but it seems as if it’s more opened to the folk rock and even rockabilly and evergreen era. Am I right?
AB: It wasn't something we really thought about, I've always loved the sound of the 60's folk revival, I guess this album offered the opportunity to draw on these influences.
RR: The album is very acoustic. Is that connected to the fact that the studio you have recorded it is in the woods, closer to the nature and closer to the roots? Because overall it is calm and beautiful with a peaceful aura, if I can say so.
AB: Absolutely, we thought we were going to make another rock'n'roll album but those bloody fairies and wood spirits had their way.
RR: What kind of music do you listen to and does it influence the songs of Kula Shaker?
AB: I've just been listening to The Cramps... I don't think they had much influence on the last album but as a rule most bands are shaped by their record collection.
RR: When you released “K” back in 1996 and it quickly gained popularity with singles like “Govinda” and “Hey, dude”, did you expect it or were you surprised? And do you think the success back then is due to the spirit of these years or it’s a complex of factors that brought Kula Shaker to the top?
AB: It seems strange looking back, at the time we thought that's what happens when you get signed by a major record company but we were one of the "lucky" ones. I think we were signed by accident because guitars were back in fashion. I don't think they banked on the Sanskrit Prayers or Vedic perspective which probably contributed to our commercial success.
RR: “Peasants, Pigs and Astronauts” is like an explosion of music, one of the most picturesque and splendid rock and roll albums. What have you listened back then and what have you taken while making the songs? :P
AB: I seem to remember lots of "Jesus Christ Super Star" being played, we felt we could do what we wanted and so we did. As usual we were under the influence of a lot of tea.
RR: What led to the split of the band in 1999?
AB: It stopped being fun.
RR: And what made you reform the band in 2004?
AB: We thought it might be fun again.
RR: “Strangefolk” was released without much of a media noise or advertisement, even though the fans were in furor. Why you did not pay that much of attention to the promotion of the CD?
AB: I guess we were a little apprehensive from our previous experience. We also wanted to work for ourselves at our own pace.
RR: The release of “Pilgrims Progress” also went aside of the wide attention and without much of a loud PR. Don’t you think that if you push a bit more the media it would lead to greater commercial success?
AB: Of course, it just costs a lot of money.
RR: It’s the same with the live appearances. I read everywhere that all of the concerts were really successful. Even so you seem not to care that much to provide us with live reports, videos and articles in the media. Is it by purpose or you just don’t want to pay that much of attention to this side of the business – it is obvious that fans love you anyways?
AB: I'm starting to feel guilty now.
RR: Talking on promotion, don’t you think about a live album or a DVD release?
AB: Why not?
RR: How did four guys who are aspired by the Eastern culture gather together in a band more than 15 years ago?
AB: Karmic destiny and the search for the Grail.
RR: Were you all vegetarians before Kula Shaker or this came with the band and its heritage?
AB: I became vegetarian at the age of 17, I think it came from youthful idealism and now meat eating seems very odd.
RR: Isn’t it controversial being a vegetarian and being in a rock band? And while skipping meat do you also restrain the alcohol and the drugs?
AB: I don't think it's controversial anymore, there are so many veggies, the world is changing. To answer the second part of your question, I became vegetarian for the health of animals not my own.
RR: While touring, is Kula Shaker a party band or a group of calm and devoted people?
AB: We are one of the most un rock'n'roll bands in the business... most of the time.
RR: What is your favorite tea?
AB: PG, nothing fancy just a good honest cuppa.
RR: While Crispian is dedicated to the film he works on, what is everybody else in th band doing? And are all the other guys okay with this situation?
AB: I've been working on the studio here in Belgium the film has allowed me to pick up on some old projects so I'm happy.
RR: What does the future of Kula Shaker hold? Crispian has mentioned that he would like to eventually keep the band involved in the soundtrack of the film.
AB: No plans but things are more exciting that way!
RR: At least Kula Shaker released a Christmas single in December, so it seems everything is alright! Wish you guys all the best and happiness from all our team!
AB: Yes it is! Sorry it took so long to get this back to you! I hope you have a good year too!!!
Lots of Love
The photographs, used in this material, are taken from www.kulashaker.co.uk and www.facebook.com/kulashaker.