A World Gone Mad

A World Gone Mad

It’s taken Bangalore’s longstanding rock band Thermal and a Quarter longer than usual to put out a record, but their eighth album A World Gone Mad remains as chillingly relevant as ever, given that it takes on fake news, political propaganda, humanity, alienation and identity. Guitarist and vocalist Bruce Lee Mani tells Apple Music, “I remember thinking, ‘Are these songs going to be irrelevant by the time they’re out?’ But that was never a problem. It just kept getting worse and worse.” Bassist and co-producer Leslie Charles adds, “They became more relevant.” A World Gone Mad represents an emotional zenith in TAAQ’s 24-year career. The overarching mood is “coldly furious,” according to Mani. There are buoyant takes such as “Leaders of Men” and meditative, personal musings like “Stone Circle”. But for the most part, the band—completed by drummer Rajeev Rajagopal and guitarist Tony Das—are steadfast with the pen and playfully distinctive with their instruments. There are odd time signatures (“Where Do We Gotta Go Now”), excursions into chaos and noise (“Unbelong”) and punky fun (“N.F.A (Neoliberal Fascist Autarky)”), all of them loaded with lyrical takedowns. Here, Thermal and A Quarter explain track-by-track how the words and sonics of A World Gone Mad came together. “Where Do We Gotta Go Now” “It’s the only song on the album that was written about 17 years ago,” says Mani. “For whatever reason, it just stayed as words and became a ditty we used to sing around. In terms of the music, I had that riff that started it.” Charles adds, “There’s an overload of information and social media. Nobody knows what the hell they want. People are looking for answers to questions they don’t know. The song really encapsulated all of that.” “Believe It All” “100 years ago, if you grew up in a certain community or certain culture, you didn’t really know about anything else,” Mani says. “Now it’s possible for one person to have information about everything and when the information starts getting polluted like it is now, you don’t know what is true, what is fake, what is real and what is not, where do you go? Do you believe in everything? Or in nothing? It’s a thought experiment.” Charles adds: “Kind of like Bach meeting The Clash or something like that. It has some chunkier bass parts on it.” “Distance” “It’s one of the more positive songs on the album,” says Mani. “Lyrically it talks about the whole ‘zoom in, zoom out’ thing humans are capable of. We have all these differences, but when you get really close to someone, there’s not that much difference—we all bleed, we cry, it’s the same stuff. Humanity is not that different. Musically that was also the idea, to have these unusual intervals—some very close and some very far. You go from one chord to the next and it’s not even the same family or the same key.” “Lopsided” Mani says, “It’s the most abstract song on the album. There are things about loneliness. When you live in a bustling city, there are so many things you hear or see every single day. For some reason, some things stay in your mind or some people leave a mark and a few years later, it triggers something else. ‘Lopsided’ is just a collection of images. The fact that everything seems upside down, even though you’re connected. You feel something’s not in balance, not at peace.” “Unbelong” “I think I really connected with the song. Bruce gave me the lyrics and these two chords got stuck in my head,” says Charles. “It starts pleasant and then completely shifts. Even the keys don’t match. The second chord doesn’t belong in the first key. That also, there’s something thematically there. It’s very soft, it’s almost pampering but it takes you to another place. It’s a very slow song, almost doomy.” Rajagopal adds, “This was a tough song for me, at least in terms of understanding what we’re trying to make. When the heavy part, the second idea came in, it took a while for it to sit in my head until then. Now it’s one of my favourites to play.” “Stone Circle” Mani: “It’s the most delicate song on the album. It’s dedicated to family and people around you— your loved ones that keep you sane when there’s all kinds of shit going on. It perhaps might as well be one of the most emotional tracks we’ve written. It’s very tender. I guess that’s the word to use for it. It’s personal in many ways. The music also, the idea was to have a circular motif that comes about—the four-note [sequence] that Tony plays in the beginning and then reappears. It morphs a little bit but it stays there throughout.” “Leaders of Men” “This is a bit of a new zone we take listeners to,” says Mani. “Even though it’s bouncy and groovy, the subject matter is still fairly serious. The intention I had when I wrote the words was that I didn’t want it to be a heat-of-the-moment kind of angry song. It’s cold and detached but it’s fucking furious. This is not the shit that should be happening. That’s why it’s delivered that way in the singing too—it’s detached, but there’s a simmering thing there. All is not well.” “N.F.A” Mani: “It’s a really greasy, slick but messed up song. The notes he’s playing are not typically played for that kind of bassline.” Charles adds, “I was just listening to some Nine Inch Nails, man. The more recent albums. I just wanted to get some of the darker-sounding basslines. It’s a little funky, groovy but also dark at the same time. It’s got this slimy vibe to it.” Rajagopal says, “There’s a bit of an Indian context there as well, about how we invented zero and the stone-age airplane.” “A World Gone Mad” “It came together pretty quickly, because the lyrics were there and we were talking at the time,” Mani says. “I tried it in E-flat, because it’s the dark key. It’s all about texture and mood, so if you’re not in it, you can’t pull it off live.” Charles adds: “The ending, especially, just has a sea of textures.” “Saved by a Laugh” “It actually starts out quite negative, with the thought that everything dies,” says Mani. “Things fall apart, love fades, peace ends. Everything is transient at the end of the day. But as humans, my personal thing is that one of the biggest things that makes us human is our sense of humour. The fact that we can laugh at things and at ourselves, I think that’s our only redemption.”

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