Prolific guitarist, singer, songwriter, and legend Ayub Bachchu sat down with the Dhaka Tribune to discuss his journey over the decades in what is believed to be his last interview. This story was first published on August 9, 2018
When did you get your first guitar?
Well, back in 1973 or ‘74, I got my first acoustic guitar. It was given to me by my father. It was just an ordinary acoustic guitar, and I started learning on that. I borrowed another guitar from one of my friends. It was a Tisco—which is a very famous brand. I learned on that as well. Finally my friend gave me that guitar for good. I was maybe in class five at that time.
Did you decide right after receiving the guitar to become a musician?
Yeah. I always had one goal and that was to become a musician. I had no other option.
Did you receive any formal training in music?
Not really, as back then we did not have as many schools for music as we do today. We had neither books nor YouTube, to learn how to properly play the guitar. I had a teacher all the way from Burma, who used to live in Chittagong. He used to guide me as to how to pick up the chords, and the family of the chords. He taught me the relations and connections between the chords. That’s how I started learning. He has since passed away.
Initially whose guitar-playing inspired you? Which bands did you follow at the start of your musical journey?
Well, there are thousands of them (bands that inspired me). The first person I had respect for is the god of guitar—Jimmi Hendrix. And then there were: Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Rusty Coolie, and Andy James. You can name any great guitarist and I have heard them all. Since I started learning guitar I wanted to play like them. I wanted to learn from them. Most of all I like Hendrix. He did not make the guitar playing very critical note after note. He played the guitar as per his feelings. I have been trying that.
Whose lyrics inspired you most when it comes to writing songs?
The Eagles’s lyrics inspired me a lot. I love one of their great songs “Witchy Woman.” I also like the words of “Hotel California.” The Beatles is also among my lyrics inspirations. Later there were Hendrix and Deep Purple. There was obviously Iron Maiden. Later on there are so many others who inspired me over the years, that it is hard to name them all. All of them are equally good.
When making music for Bangladeshi listeners, you cannot copy the west. You have to make music in sync with Bangla culture. Band music is frequently ignored with, “this is not our music.” I don’t like hearing that. I would rather hear, “this is also our music.” Thus “Shei Tumi” or “Chole Bodle Jai” or “Ferrari Mon” were successful. The people of Bangladesh love Bangla songs.
I would also add the current generation of Bangladeshi bands are doing their best.
Tell us about your journey with LRB in the Bangladeshi music industry?
I would say the music industry was founded in 1991. We were the first band to release a double album twice. The music industry was not well established when we started. People thought of band music as a passing fad. However things were simpler then. Now, a lot of issues such as royalties, and other bureaucracy, have entered the industry. Now the relationships among musicians are suffering because of that.
What challenges did LRB face while exposing their music style?
When we started almost everyone said, “This kind of music will not go far.” We heard comments like, “you guys are too loud. You guys are noisy.” Now they are finally saying, “Wow, I wish you had made this then.” If you don’t create original music, you won’t survive in this country. This is 2018 and we are still kicking. We are unique, because we provide a different sound. Our phrases are unique. Our music is loud. Maybe it is louder than before, but we are still the same.
Did the LRB line-up change in all these years?
It did a few times. Milton used to be with us. He died in London. Joy is in London. Riyad is in America. Tutul is probably in America. Kazi Hablu used to be a guest performer for us—he used to be the percussionist. Now the line-up has been stable for a few years.
How often do you get together to practice?
We practice twice every week. We start at either 2pm or 3pm and go on till 10pm. If you want to know what we practice, we try millions of phrases. We do not copy. Maybe we try a phrase (plays a tune on his guitar) and see what we can do with it. I try any tune that comes to mind—with everyone. Once we try a phrase 50 times, we move on to a different one. We put all our chosen phrases in a safe. When we make a song, we pick up the phrases and make one from them.
Most of the lyrics are written by you?
Yeah. We had a couple good lyricists working with us. Now they are busy, just as I am.
Do you have anything in the works now?
Yes. We are working on an album currently. Probably the release will take time. We have played some songs from the album and they have been well received. However, there is no market for the audio industry right now. So we don’t know yet how we will bring out the album. I don’t think YouTube is enough for us to get in touch with our crowd.
Are the themes explored by LRB changing over time?
Yeah. Times will change, no matter what you do. The brands will change. Like Ibanez is making this series in this year [he points to his guitar], but next year they might bring out something different. Similarly, themes are changing over time. But Ibanez will be Ibanez and LRB will be LRB.
What new themes are being explored by LRB currently?
Well, we have decided to go back to simpler themes, such as “broken hearts.” Every single person experiences a broken heart differently. They live their lives differently. The heart can be broken by anybody or anything. So we are writing messages such as, “don’t break my heart,” or, “don’t break me, as I am already broken.”
While growing up, we saw that you had a distinct stage persona, in terms of attire and style. How come we do not see that as much?
Well (laughing) I still wear hats. My gear is my guitar and processor. The rest does not matter. I just wear what I feel comfortable in.
Which new Bangladeshi bands do you listen to the most?
I listen to them all. I will not name anyone specifically. They are all doing great. I swear I love all of them. They are brilliant and they are doing their best. We are lucky to have them in Bangladesh. May god bless them and I want them to rock on.
What advice do you have for any group of friends who decide to form a band?
I would just say, “Do it!” Be courageous. Have the dream within you and don’t be afraid to fail. Just jump on stage and make it.
Do you have any advice for bands who are still trying to make their way in the industry?
I would say, don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Ignore the mistakes and extract the best out of them.
Do you have a message for your fans?
Stay away from drugs. Please listen to good music. Listen to music from all around the world – but especially Bangla music – so that your musical spirit is enriched. So that you never go to a concert and say “I have never heard this before.” Before you say, “I don’t like it,” say, “this is different.” There is probably something else in there. You might like somebody from somewhere. So listen to all kinds of music. And of course, take care of your parents.
Do you think listeners of this generation judge new music too soon and too negatively?
Not really. It is really our [musician’s] mistake. We are running out of places where we can all play good music. We need places for the new generation, where they can come and enjoy the music, so that they can see the musicians live. If they do not see you they cannot connect your music to you. If there are good places or pubs where people can hear good music, then the interest will increase.
Do you think musicians have a responsibility to be the voice of people who are protesting against extremism, and other issues that are currently plaguing our country?
I will say big chairs[people in positions of power] are there. They should really talk about it. It shouldn’t just be the musicians. Musicians may only know what to do with the 24 frets. Musicians know how to write songs. Musicians are just polite ordinary people. You cannot just ask them to churn out these kinds of things. There are other people who can look after all this.