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Metal hand in a velvet glove

Aabhas Sharma  |  New Delhi 

Catch up with manager and metalhead Devraj Sanyal, CEO and co-founder of the reputed Indian metal band Brahma.
CEO by day and mad guy by night" is how Devraj Sanyal, CEO of Percept D'Mark, an advertising and PR agency, describes himself. "I wear a suit during the daytime, and come night I am into cut sleeves, unkempt hair and all the works that go with it."
Question: What kind of a CEO dresses like a rock star?
A CEO who is a rock star. Sanyal, 32, is the front man and lead guitarist of a heavy metal band called Brahma. How did this chief executive get into music? "Well, it all started about 15 years back when four of us teamed up to form a band, and then, to use the old cliche, the rest is history."
This band has actually made history. Brahma is one of the oldest surviving bands after the better-known Parikrama. It has cut a couple of albums, and also has several distinctions to its name. It was one of the first Indian bands ever to play at an international festival, when it played at the Hard Rock Cafe in Paris.
Brahma was also the opening act for legendary guitarist Joe Satriani when he performed in Kolkata in 2005, and a fitting opening it was too.
While Sanyal says that he was doing "something in events" when Brahma was formed, one of his fellow band members at the time also had a corporate connection "" as a Godrej sales executive.
Brahma's two albums are The World Beyond of 1998 and Reborn of 2003. The first was done with Virgo Music and the next with Sony, with whom the band has a three-year deal as well.
Both albums did extremely well, with The World Beyond selling about 70,000 units, Sanyal claims. "Cutting an album at that time with an established record label was a big deal and something which all of us are extremely proud of." The figure of 70,000 might sound a tad small but, considering the niche genre, it is definitely a good number.
Sanyal says he has been interested in music for as long as he can remember. He started strumming the guitar in college, and has not looked back since. He counts Metallica, Megadeth and Iron Maiden among his favourite bands, while retro music like that of the Bee Gees is also at the top of his list. Jazz is another genre which he tunes in to from time to time.
But how does he juggle work and music? He admits that, barring his job and music, there is not much time for anything else "" but he is content. "My day starts at six in the morning and goes on till, at times, 1:00 am or 2:00 am the following day, and I totally love it."
Sanyal uses his CEO skills to the fullest for his band. Take product endorsement: all products used by the band belong to brands which they endorse. For instance, Sanyal endorses the Kramer guitar which he uses, and the other members endorse Mapex drums and Zidijian cymbals.
The band does regular gigs and performs at various events, with the most recent being the concert organised by Greenpeace in Mumbai in June this year. Playing at gigs is the ultimate high, says Sanyal, and he still loves doing it.
Sanyal feels that the contemporary rock scene in India is far better then when Brahma started out. "There are so many options and avenues for the new bands to capitalise on, and some of the bands look promising."
Metal, as a genre, at the time when Brahma originated, had barely any adherents among Indian bands. To have been around for so long and still be going strong is, according to Sanyal, clearly "a testament to our music and passion."
Like all bands, Brahma has had its share of ego problems; nevertheless, the majority of them have stuck together. "All of us have busy jobs and yet it is the love of music which still holds us together, and we intend to continue for a long time."
Sanyal and Co are currently working on a new album which should soon hit the market. Music, according to Sanyal, is the best stress-buster.
He claims that two or three hours of jamming burns more calories than the same amount of time spent in the gym! So far, it looks as if Sanyal has struck the right chords, both as a CEO and as a guitarist.

First Published: Sun, August 05 2007. 00:00 IST