He was born and brought up in Oman — and today is one of India’s leading and talented musicians. At a young age, he has under his belt several accolades including the creation and production of a music used in a commercial for one of the automobile giants in the world.
Asked how he would describe himself, Prateek Rajagopal is a rockstar of many slashes. A music composer, producer, guitarist, SFX designer & mix engineer for bands, TV commercials/ad films, shorts, one of his aspirations is to create his full-length feature in the future.
He was referred to as one of the most versatile songwriters amongst various sub-genres in Heavy Metal in India. Highly considering Oman as his second home, he has the dream to someday play at the country’s prestigious Royal Opera House Muscat.
After moving to India for his education, in 2013 Prateek joined a death metal band called Reptilian Deathhich which was the brainchild of Sahil Makhija (Headbanger’s Kitchen). Soon after, he joined Gutslit as the guitarist. They then began touring abroad and in India, all this while, chalking out his own material for a potential progressive metal outfit, all in a bedroom studio.
Everybody enjoys music. But what piqued your interest enough to become who you are today? Who are some of the people you look up to?
My real interest in music began when I discovered Metallica, much like many metal musicians of today’s generation. I was in 8th grade, and that’s when I bothered my dad to get me an electric guitar. He initially insisted that I should start with an acoustic guitar instead, but with some convincing and help from my brother, he finally succumbed and got me my first electric guitar. That very day changed my life!
The people I look up to keep changing depending on the kind of music I’m into at a certain point in time. It began with metal performers and writers like Dave Mustaine (Megadeth), Mikael Akerfeldt (Opeth), Misha Mansoor (Periphery), etc. As I began exploring other genres, artists like Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree/Solo), Thom Yorke (Radiohead), Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails) etc quickly became very important to me. I’m currently inspired by film music and composers like Jonny Greenwood, John Williams, Danny Elfman, Trent Reznor, Tyler Bates, Junkie XL, etc.
What was it like growing up in Oman and how did that influence your music?
I don’t go a single day without thanking my stars for what Oman has made me. Growing up in Oman was seamless — the natural beauty, people, and the most loving locals meant I was relaxed in general. The lack of an international entertainment market also meant that there was less competition, so I was quickly motivated to do my best in what I love and stand out/be unique. Because of this, I believe subconsciously I was able to work hard in an environment that didn’t make me feel overwhelmed from day one.
Because of this, I had a clear mindset from the very beginning and practised music without worrying about other factors that would hinder my growth. So when I arrived in India, I had an upper hand in the sense that I wasn’t a part of any Indian music scene trend and primarily followed and looked up to international artists, making my ‘dreams’ and goals even bigger than what was happening here. And because I had time to practice the guitar properly until I was 18, I arrived with an above average skill-set as a metal guitarist too.
Musically, the more I learn, the more I realise truly how universal music is — because of the exposure we all had to it at some point to Arabic and Omani music (on the radio, in gatherings, on the streets, etc), it definitely seems ‘very familiar’ whenever I stumble across it. Because of that, as a composer of many styles, if I have Omani musicians/instrumentalists with me I’m sure I’d be able to direct an Omani song. And since I was lucky enough to be exposed to many sorts of traditional Omani music, lots of Western music and Indian music; I feel that my worldview of musical palettes has grown manifold.
The bands you’re in, play fairly different music, what’s that like?
I have 3 bands, primarily - GUTSLIT (Death Metal), The Minerva Conduct (Progressive Metal), HOIA (Progressive Rock/Industrial/Avant-garde). My focus currently is on my solo outfit HOIA. I released 2 EPs with HOIA last year, and I just wrapped up the full-length debut with some fantastic collaborations with a Polish drummer and a British bassist.
With Gutslit, we play a niche genre of underground extreme metal called ‘Death Grind’, and it’s a crossover between brutal death metal and grindcore (an extreme form of punk music).
For both Gutslit and The Minerva Conduct, the albums made it to ‘album of the year’ lists by esteemed magazines like Rolling Stone (India), Metal Injection, Decibel Magazine, etc.
I love switching between different hats and playing/composing different music all the time — I can never see myself doing one thing forever. Being versatile and unique every time is what keeps me going, otherwise, I get bored really quickly. I’d say that’s the reason I’m currently in love with film music so much, it’s because you ought to be different with every score since every film and script is different (more or less) — so it’s always challenging, experimental, and exploratory.
In Oman, up until recently, the music scene can be considered as pretty dead but with the advent of more live music events, it won’t be long before more artists and talents like yourself come up. Any word of advice for those hoping to get into the music scene soon?
For those who want to become musicians, either target a place that’s well suited for your style and camp there or invest in a musical education, or use opportunities over the internet! There are many platforms for uploading, interacting, and marketing your music and with the way technology has improved tremendously, you can not only write great quality music from a home studio/budget set-up but also mix quality records.
Times have definitely changed, so it’s all about how invested you are in what you want to achieve. I do believe it’s also the best time to be a musician, so people shouldn’t think twice if they want to be one.
What are you currently working on? Future goals?
I actually returned a week ago from Chennai and did a crash course on reading sheet music and transcribing midi scores into staff notations. I also wrapped up some ad projects for brands like Britannia and Avon, and an indie band mix project. I’m out for vacations for the next two months for a much needed break where I’ll continue working on transcribing some of my orchestrated (midi) scores to staff, write a Gutslit song or two, and continue the back and forth work for acquiring and releasing assets for HOIA’s album this year.
My next big goal is to score movies and films!