PAVING A NEW PATH WITH RAJAN SHRESTHA A.K.A PHATCOWLEE
Within the circle of music enthusiasts we have a new name that has been gathering popularity with his amazing skills. We may know him by the name Rajan Shrestha who has been a part of underground bands like Elysium, Cadenza, Atomic Bush and Jindabaad. But now he has changed his genre to what he refers to as Post-Adhunik Electronic music. Here, you may get to know him as Phatcowlee as he goes by that moniker. He is also a part of the amazing Fuzz Factory series called Fuzzscape in which he creates music. The experience he has had in the music scene is praiseworthy and this talent is equally exemplary. We had a talk with Rajan Shrestha and got to know more about his past and what he plans for the future.
YOU’VE BEEN A PART OF POPULAR BANDS FOR A FEW YEARS NOW? AND NOW YOU HAVE BEEN DOING SOME PROJECTS ON YOUR OWN AS WELL. HOW DID IT ALL PAN OUT?
I was always interested in music and have been playing the guitar when I was in my school days. It started out as a hobby but got more serious when I knew that music was what I wanted to do. I got into small band competitions and then worked my way to joining some big underground bands like Atomic Bush and Jindabaad. I did try to get into other creative fields as well but somehow I did associate more with music more than anything else. That is how I started with Phatcowlee which is my solo project which is a mix of my own self-expression mixed with some post contemporary Nepali music from some of the artists I admire.
YOU HAVE WORKED FOR BANDS AND ALSO INDIVIDUALLY. HOW IS IT DIFFERENT WORKING IN A GROUP THAN WORKING INDIVIDUALLY?
Well, as you said the difference is in the question itself because a group includes more people which results in more people making decisions and it also takes lots of commitment to stay together and have that mindset of making music that satisfies everyone. Yes, it is a lot of people and we make amazing memories and some amazing ideas come through when working together but yes we have to compromise from time to time as well. It has its highs and its lows like everything, after all it was a relationship with whom you were with most of the time. However, working individually leaves a larger room for doing what I want to do and in my own time and it is more about personal expression.
HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THE NAME PHATCOWLEE?
It was completely random, I hadn’t decided on a name for myself. It actually is a literal mix of the vegetable cauliflower and a cow and I randomly added ‘Phat’ infront of it to make it sound better. The story is that my mom was holding up the said vegetable and in a field nearby was a cow. And I saw both the things at the same time. It is a weird and funny story but it made me come up with this name. That is a good example of ‘Inspiration can come from anywhere, you just have to look’.
HOW DID YOU DECIDE TO MAKE THE TYPE OF MUSIC YOU ARE MAKING AS PHATCOWLEE?
Well, it was all on a trial basis. Listening to music from old Nepali movies is what inspired me. I was listening to a few songs and it was nostalgic and great, and I decided to add my beats to just see how it would turn out. I sampled a few song and tried to put my own spin on it. I wasn’t sure how it would turn out initially but it was the start of my project. And these are the songs that are still relatable to people, so people who grew up listening to these songs recognize it in their own ways and people into electronic music can resonate to it as well.
WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR INSPIRATION FROM?
My inspiration comes from various places, one being my own personal feelings. Apart from that, Nepal is this huge melting pot of cultures. I have travelled and some of my work do reflect the authentic culture of some place, recently such project was the third episode of Fuzzscape where we went to Birjung and got close and personal with the music and the instruments they play there.
We had an amazing experience and the result that came out did reflect what Nepal is outside of Kathmandu. I also take inspiration from Old Nepali movies and music maestros like Narayan Gopal Guruwacharya and Gopal Yonzon to name a few. It brings out nostalgia of what we are as a community and what it comprises of.
WHAT IS YOUR CREATIVE PROCESS?
There is no such standard process I go through. It can come to me when I’m just in my house or maybe even someplace else with friends. If I have an idea in my head I use my computer to bring it to life. ANY HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE SOUND? It is a form of electronic music that’s a bit dark. As a person I am quite talkative and easy going around people but my music reflects the darker, or maybe a weirder side of me.
HOW HAS THE RESPONSE BEEN?
Well, I didn’t have any expectations as such, I kind of did it for myself but the response I received was great. And I was happy about it and I was motivated to do it more. So, the positive response was the cherry on top. It is a niche market because this genre is quite new because it is abstract in some ways but the people interested are the people I cater to including myself. I hope to keep doing what I want and people who listen to my music like it and that’s all it is actually.
LASTLY, A GENERAL QUESTION, WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE OVERALL NEPALI MUSIC INDUSTRY?
Music is something that is always a good thing, people who understand music technically or not. That is the beauty of it. Music makes people imagine and get connected to their own selves or with other people as well. However, people have turned around and left their passions for something else because there is not much money and that is the sad part of it. Parents still get skeptical about their children’s earning if they pursue music professionally.
This is proof that this industry is not be appreciated. Whatever, we have seen or heard commercially in Nepal in terms of music is just a fragment of what is there to explore. If you get out of the valley and explore the places still not appreciated by the public, there is a creative gold mine for artists like us. Then, we can see the richness in our culture, the way of living that can be reflected by it, it is very beautiful. So, we couldn’t have gotten a better place to make music other than here in Nepal but unfortunately, the resources and the conditions might make it harder to showcase all that. That being said, we do have a huge scope which may even put us on the global map.
WHAT DO YOU THINK MUST BE DONE IN ORDER TO CHANGE THE PRESENT SCENARIO?
It is a gradual process but for that some contributions must be made, collaborations would be a great idea to start off. People coming together from different creative fields and putting their best possible effort into bringing the result on screen. And some appreciation by the public of course.
WORDS:SHREYA SANGROULA | PHOTO:PRITAM CHHETRI