By Abish Shakya
Photos by Satyan Shrestha
While duos meant Simon and Garfunkel or the Carpenters with two leading members and a backing band in the past, a modern rock duo such as King of the North (AUS), The White Stripes (US) and Royal Blood (UK) take it to a whole new level with a band comprising entirely of only two members. AK47 Music is Nepal’s first duo based in Melbourne which comprises of Amit Pradhan of the Shadows Nepal on bass and drummer Dion Sclarr on drums who toured Nepal this April. WAVE caught up with them to know the deep secrets of how AK47 Music creates explosive sounds like a four-man-band while only being a duo.
“The big secret to form a duo is to split the signal so that you can get both the bass and guitar sound,” reveals Amit Pradhan.
Using the bass guitar as his primary instrument, his bass input goes to the EHX POG (Polyphonic Octave Generator) pedal. The pedal separates the signal with a dry output which goes to his bass amplifier (Fender Bassman 500) and the effect output which goes to the guitar amplifier (Strauss SVT H50 R) which is connected with an array of effect pedals. Pradhan uses a well-organised pedal board which includes everything from a wah-wah, distortion, delay, whammy, muter, and feedback creator and prefers to carry small pedals to keep his pedal kit as light as possible.
As for the drummer, there is no real secret besides practising, having an open mind and knowing each other to a point where it almost seems telepathic and running on the same frequency.
While some duos use a bass guitar, some use a six-stringed guitar. It is possible to use a guitar to create the bass sound the same way a bass guitar can be used to create the guitar sound using the line-splitter. However, a guitar has an option of using a looper pedal to its advantage to create a repetitive rhythm while soloing on top of it.
“When you have an understanding of a few more instruments, it creates depth. I could ask him for the guitar and tell him ‘How about you play this?’ and he could do the same with the drums,” explains Sclarr who, besides being a drummer, is also a composer, producer, beatboxer, and keyboardist. Sclarr adds, “As a two-man band, there are restrictions, but you have to create illusions of wholeness and completeness. The challenge is great, but as an artist, you need to grow.”
While AK47 Music was intended to be an instrumental band, Pradhan realised the fact that vocals play an important part since engaging the audience is a challenge as a duo. For this, they work on many ways to make their sessions interactive, dynamic and work on an exciting performance overall. One of the many exhilarating things about AK47 Music is their thematic entrance with sirens blazing and gunfire. Pradhan recommends, “A thematic intro is something that any band could also incorporate.”
A two-man band gets into plenty of situations which perhaps a normal band wouldn’t get into. Due to the limited presence on stage, any mistake is instantly noticed. On a different kind of challenge faced by a duo’s guitarist, Pradhan expresses, “When you miss a note, you miss two notes.” With two members, ideas might get limited at times and Sclarr admits, “Sometimes, we do feel the need to go away for a bit or practice on our own.”
Having fewer people to split their expenses is a difficulty but on the other hand, touring is less of a hassle, easy to manage and cheaper for both the band and organisers. As every musician knows, getting together as a band can be extremely difficult, but for a duo, communicating and meeting for rehearsals is a lot easier. When songs are being written, they have greater control on the composition, and it is easier to agree or disagree with any decision.
“Things are limited for a duo, but when we’re back, we’re going to find new ways to explore our sound. There is no harm in experimenting,” says Pradhan. As a bassist, he hadn’t felt the need of singing but now knows that he needs to work on his vocals. Some other things the band is going to work on is the length of the songs which are short because of which they’ve had to find various ways such as covering songs and inviting guests to stretch the stage time.
Though forming a duo seems difficult, it certainly isn’t impossible.
“THE BIG SECRET TO FORM A DUO IS TO SPLIT THE SIGNAL SO THAT YOU CAN GET BOTH THE BASS AND GUITAR SOUND.”—AMIT PRADHAN
“IF YOU THINK FORMING A DUO SEEMS LIKE A GOOD IDEA, GO FOR IT. STEP OUT OF THE DOOR AND FIND PEOPLE YOU WANT TO WORK WITH. SOME THINGS ARE GOING TO WORK AND SOME WON’T, BUT THESE EXPERIENCES MAKE SOMEONE A TRUE ARTIST.”— DION SCLARR