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Progressive Rock Interviews


Interviewed by Gary Hill

Interview with Prateek Rajagopal aka HOIA from 2019


Can you catch the readers up on the history of your involvement in music – sort of a "highlight reel?"

Like most kids born in the 90s, watching Metallica’s S&M DVD at the age of 13 changed my life, and watching Hetfield downpick his way through "Master of Puppets" caused a switch in me. I then got my first electric guitar and haven’t looked back since.


With time, I realized that more than a guitarist, I associate myself as a music composer and producer, and the guitar is only my instrument of choice to bring out ideas. I further began recording my own music and demos and took up production side-by-side (because I couldn’t afford to have other people mix my music) and learned  mixing along the way - something I thoroughly enjoy till this day, too. As a composer, I’ve written death metal albums, prog metal albums, prog rock/experimental music, and am currently heavily into western classical music and synthesis for film scoring, since that’s something I thoroughly enjoy and see myself doing long term as a viable career as a composer. All in all, I’m a soul searching, hungry little guy from India who is just immensely passionate about using my emotions to bring out sound waves into this planet using modern tools and tricks, yet retaining an analogue nature through everything I do.

MSJ: If you weren't involved in music what do you think you'd be doing?
I’d probably be a full-time yogi, delving deep into spiritual practices and trying to make sense of everything using ancient Vedic culture and traveling the world. I do meditate everyday and am deeply passionate about the Vedas, Upanishads and Sutras (ancient Hindu texts). With time, I’ve been extremely curious and passionate about the mysteries of the life force and a profound universal consciousness, and ancient Indian culture cracked and figured out stuff about our human minds and body that are actually very logical and simple to understand. It’s just all lost in translation in 2019, and our egos are very magnified, so I can understand if people think I’m speaking like a hippie - but I’m not, because I was a pretty left-brained guy myself and eventually let myself free (through meditation) and then naturally a whole new existence opened up.
MSJ: How did the name of the project originate, and since this is a solo project why not just go with your name?
My name isn’t the easiest to understand/pronounce. It isn’t short/simple, and it just doesn’t sound captivating or intriguing, so I went with a moniker instead. HOIA is based off a forest in Romania called Hoia Baciu that’s known for supernatural activity. At the time I looked up the name, I was finding my ground with regards to darker and weirder music, so it all made sense thematically too - hence HOIA.
MSJ: Who would you see as your musical influences?
I’ve realized that my musical influences keep switching with time, and I’m not a very heavy consumer of too much information and music at once. I love very few artists, but I really go very deep into their discographies and try to understand them (through interviews, etcetera).  There’s always been patches where few artists come in, change my outlook towards certain styles and ideas, and then I listen to them and a few related artists for a few years until the next gem dawns upon me, until the pattern repeats.

I’d say my most impactful influences at various points in my life have been Megadeth, Opeth, Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails.

MSJ: What's the best thing that's ever been said about your music?

I’m not sure I can remember, but anybody who is appreciative of my music in the way I intend for it to be perceived is a win-win for me, and plenty of people along the way have graced me with love and support for what I do. One thing is for sure though, the "best thing that’s ever been said" is yet to come!

MSJ: What's ahead for you?
I plan on moving out of India to continue working harder in an environment that aligns with my musical interests since India is dominated by Bollywood music and regional industries that crushes independent music. So I’m just preparing for that, and the first step is to study film-scoring professionally in the United States!
MSJ: I know many artists hate to have their music pigeonholed or labeled, but how would you describe your music?
I’d prefer if my music isn’t pigeonholed because with every album, my goal is to constantly innovate and re-innovate. That can mean that the next HOIA album might be a fully acoustic album, and the one after that might be something with more avant-garde orchestra. I’d say my music is just an expression and representation of my current musical and emotional mindset, so just come along with me on my endless journey of emotions, ideas and experiments.
MSJ: Are there musicians with whom you would like to play in the future?
I have plenty on my bucket-list, but it solely depends on the project in hand and what I envision as an artist at that point in time. Currently, I’d like to have Pat Mastelotto on drums because I love his work with King Crimson and Grace For Drowning by Steven Wilson.
MSJ: Do you think that illegal downloading or streaming of music is a help or hindrance to the careers of musicians?
I fully believe in the idea of evolution because the very essence of nature and existence is change. So, while there might be a massive number of disadvantages to illegal downloading or streaming, I’d like to see the positives of it and the creativity involved in trying to survive as an artist. Yes, some artists have been hit terribly, but some have launched massive careers because of it - so balance of nature, as always. It’s important to be aware of change and move with the dynamics of the environment. My emotional side plays with me a lot because I wonder what it might have been like if people valued music more, like they did before the internet, but I know that I want to make a career out of this, so I need to look at the positives in order to survive. Positivity is greater than negativity, always.
MSJ: In a related question, how do you feel about fans recording shows and trading them or posting them online?
It is what it is, and there’s not much that can be done anymore about it. Information over the internet snowballs within seconds, and there’s zero control over that. So, I think it’s something we need to embrace eventually. Again, the advantages would be that people who can’t afford to go to shows or have no reach to their favourite artists get to bask in them. I think it’s okay, and it is what it is.
MSJ: If you were a superhero, what music person would be your arch nemesis and why?
Definitely a bunch of Bollywood playback singers and composers (Pritam, maybe), because they not only rip off other peoples’ music, but they won’t even do it with integrity and will have a team of about 15 other people rip it off for them. It’s like a money-making factory that's ruined half of current Indian cinema and the music industry. Apart from that, I think I’m at peace with the fact that everyone has a voice and can express in however way they like. Even if that’s something I might dislike or can't relate with musically or conceptually, there’s a place for everyone in the universe.
MSJ: If you were to put together your ultimate band (a band you'd like to hear or catch live), who would be in it and why?
I'd say a band with Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross, Tyler Bates, Ben Weinman, Dan Lilker and Joey Jordison. I love chaotic genres and live shows and extreme music. So combining extreme genres like industrial, grindcore and heavy metal would be heavy as hell and a spectacle for sure!
MSJ: If you were in charge of assembling a music festival and wanted it to be the ultimate one from your point of view who would be playing?
Just a one day festival but this would be the lineup:

Morning - Foo Fighters, The Smashing Pumpkins, Queens of the Stone Age

Noon - Karnivool, Riverside, Steven Wilson

Evening - Opeth, King Crimson, Radiohead

Night - Ministry, Marilyn Manson, Nine Inch Nails, Dying Fetus, Misery Index, Hate Eternal, Brutal Truth and Leng Tche

MSJ: What was the last CD you bought and/or what have you been listening to lately?
I've been listening to Devin Townsend's new record called "Empath," and it's stupendously gorgeous and quite nuts! I've also been listening to two pop artists - Maggie Rogers and St. Vincent - and a film score soundtrack of There Will Be Blood by Jonny Greenwood.
MSJ: Have you read any good books lately?
Unfortunately I'm not an avid reader because I keep telling myself I'd rather spend that time watching movies, tutorial and gear videos or gathering knowledge about audio tech or orchestration. That being said, I've been reading an e-book titled "Adler's Study of Orchestration" which is about 600 pages of broken-down knowledge and study of western classical instruments.
MSJ: What about the last concert you attended for your enjoyment?
Aqua Dominatrix, a synth-pop and dark techno artist from Mumbai. I used to be the typical metalhead who'd stand with my hands folded and go to only metal shows, but now I couldn't care less and I enjoy going crazy and dancing away at (good) dance gigs too. As long as it's good and intelligent music, I think I'll have a good time!
MSJ: Do you remember the first concert you attended?
The first legit concert I attended was when I was 10. This Indian cover band called "Parikrama" came and performed in Muscat. I couldn't understand anything they were playing despite them playing simple rock covers like AC/DC, etcetera. It's funny how the universe is because just three years later my entire life ahead of me would be influenced by rock music.
MSJ: Have you come across any new gear recently that you love?
I've been eyeing plenty of synthesizers and I intend on building a eurorack rig very soon. However, I've also realized with time that I equally like being minimal with my set up, so I'm consciously making decisions to sell stuff I don't use and keep only what's strictly required. Same with buying stuff - I'm only going to buy stuff I absolutely need, and building a modular rack is on the cards.
MSJ: Do you have a musical “guilty pleasure?”
Lately, and for some weird reason and after resenting pop music all my life, I've suddenly found myself listening to select songs by select artists. I really respect John Mayer for his taste in artists, guitar technique, writing abilities and his personality. I think through him I ended up catching onto a few artists - one of them being Maggie Rogers. She sings about typical stuff, and her melodies are like a teenage girl band, but there's something about her passion and performance that I really connected with on John Mayer's show Current Mood. So yeah, this girl's music is definitely a guilty pleasure, even though on the surface and musically it isn't very different from the clutter. People's personalities and their passion can definitely break such barriers, though, evidently.
MSJ: Are there any closing thoughts you would like to get out there?

I'd like to say "stay positive, stay focused, exercise often and eat your veggies." Also let your mind run free and live a clean lifestyle, it'll help you achieve your goals with ease and with fewer barriers. Oh and water -  drink lots of water!

MSJ: This interview is available in book (paperback and hardcover) in Music Street Journal: 2019  Volume 3. More information and purchase links can be found at:
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