Mumbai alterno-rockers Split had a huge 2010. After staying off the radar for a while, the band came roaring back last year with appearances at every major festival as well as a meaty six-city tour. They’ve also put out an EP, P is for Pig,
and are slated to release a full-length album in the second half of 2011. We spoke to Aviv Pereira, one half of Split’s twin guitar attack, about Les Paul love and why life was easier when everyone only knew three chords. Hi Aviv, what’s your journey as a guitar player been so far?
I come from a family of musicians. I learned to play from my dad and mum. My dad was the first real guitar player to influence my playing. He’d play at parties and everyone would just shut up and watch him play. I really started playing the guitar around 15. The first time I heard “Sweet Child O’ Mine” I knew I wanted to play guitar. Back then, in 1996, the Internet wasn’t easily accessible so magazines showed me who Slash was. And Slash showed me the Les Paul! Wow! I knew I had to get me one of those! I got my first band together that year and we covered “Sweet Child O’Mine.” My guitar was my dad’s 1971 handcrafted Peter Pereira whose pickup had died. I stuck an acoustic one on with cello tape. No distortion pedals, just clean guitar, a tambourine and a drum kit. That was our first performance. I began teaching in 1997 to support the cost of strings. Since then I’ve played countless free shows, recorded guitar for a Bollywood movie, done Hindi and English albums, played with an Indian classical ensemble and whatnot to keep my music alive. I joined Split in 2006 and never looked back. It’s been an eventful journey… You’re a passionate Les Paul fan. What is it about the iconic LP that checks all your boxes and makes it your guitar of choice?
Box 1: Is it the most gorgeous sounding
electric guitar ever? Check. Box 2: Is it the most gorgeous looking
electric guitar ever? Check. Box 3: Is it the godfather of guitar tone? Check. Box 4: Is it the only guitar in the universe to have all the three above-mentioned points and more and still rule? Check. Basically to me, The Les Paul is the benchmark for the electric guitar. Give it to the worst player in the world and it still sounds like a dream. In the hands of the right player, with the correct amount of gain and overdrive, it starts to connect with the molecules of the air around the amp speaker, then the venue, then the universe… She’s demanding and hard to please and I love that about her. Besides being a professional musician, you also teach guitar. Tell us about your institute, Guitar.Inc, and your teaching methods.
Guitar.Inc is the cumulative result of my years of belief that music is powerful and can make dreams come true. I started teaching in 1997. I’ve always wanted to study at MI [The Musicians Institute in Hollywood, California], but it was just too expensive. By 2007 I’d had enough, so I quit my day job and started Guitar.Inc. The idea was to replicate what I would’ve experienced at MI. My students have access to all my gear, music and videos. In 2009, I added a recording studio to the school set-up and a few months later I tied up with Furtados Mumbai to start Thane’s first ever Jam Room. Students now can learn, jam and record (if they have original material). Our courses aren’t stereotypical and are based on the learning aptitude of individual students. The courses focus on building originality. They can practice with back-up tracks and watch concerts, play drums and use any of the gear we have. Since I got my LP, many of my students have got the chance to see and play one for real! Their smiles are awesome! About exciting young students – Kirtana Krishnan (Kitu) is one of my first Guitar.Inc students and a brilliant guitar player and songwriter. She’s already performed at the Blue Frog and is working on some awesome material for future shows. Which bands are you currently part of and what are your plans for the future?
I’m part of Split and have recently formed my own band called Clear Blue Sky. With both bands we’re working on putting out albums this year. As a guitar player, who are your influences?
The Beatles have been the most consistent influence on my playing. Their writing and casting of their instruments in their songs constantly inspire me to push the guitar melodically and harmonically. The solo in “Something” was the first time I felt the underlying sexuality that a guitar solo can communicate. John [Lennon] and George [Harrison] are the first electric players I took notice of as a player (besides, Slash of course!). Then came Santana! Wow, the man makes you feel your soul with his music. Steve Vai’s “For the Love of God” was another song that moved me to tears and goose bumps. Eric Johnson, Gary Moore, and Jimmy Page – the list is endless. As someone who grew up around the same time that Indian indie was finding its voice, which would you say are your top three classic Indian rock bands?
Number one, Indus Creed – songs like “Pretty Child” and “Fly” blew my mind. Number two, Parikrama. Their guitar player used to play the first Les Paul I’d ever seen for real in India. Number three, Pentagram. Wow! The first time I saw those guys I was blown the [expletive] away! They made it cool to play original music and I’ll always love and respect them for that! Randy’s [Randolph Correia, Pentagram guitarist] guitar tone was like nothing I’d ever heard in my life. Their album We’re Not Listening
still is still one of my favorite Indian albums. What would you say is your go-to technique as a guitarist?
I love my feedback. I love the blues and all that the masters passed down to us. You can play a blues lick in any context and at the right time with the right amount of feedback you can create magic. These days’ twin guitar attacks in bands are a dwindling phenomenon. How do Melroy D’mello, Split’s other guitarist, and you work together?
Agreed! Twin guitar attacks are a thing of the past! I remember when I first worked out the solo for “Hotel California”; I went “OK, this doesn’t sound right…how the hell does his guitar sound so sweet?” Then I found out about harmonizing! Back then no one wanted to work it out with me because everyone else was busy [expletive] off to Kurt’s guitar playing. [Sighs]
The ’90s were a tough time for a melodic guitar player. With Split we’re trying to revisit the good old twin attack. Mel often underestimates himself as a guitar player and most of the time he’ll be like “I can’t do that”. But of late we’ve been writing traditional twin solos. Like in our new song “Counting Perfume” there’s a break down that starts with a harmonized solo! And another song we’re writing now also has solo harmonizing. What’s it like being a professional musician in India today? How different is it from when you started out in the late ’90s?
Wow, today it’s much harder. When I started back in the ’90s, all you needed to know was how to play Nirvana. Three chords, a really distorted amp and lots of booze! Back then no one wanted to listen to Gary Moore or The Beatles or the blues. All that aside, the most fundamental
difference between now and the ’90s is the fact that now you can’t just be a cover band! I love that! Finally it seems the Indian rock scene has a voice. Photo credits: Monisha Ajgaonkar, Split