Archive for the 'DonkeyBox' Category

Becoming More Like Music

A few weeks ago I head this quote floating around the men’s self development and dating community..


The music doesn’t care if anyone is listening to it,
it’s just gonna keep pumping,
it’s just gonna keep putting itself out there even if there’s nobody on the dance floor.

Later, when the dance floor is filled with people and everyone is moving, the music still doesen’t care.

It’s just doing what it has always been doing, and loving every moment of it.
The music affects the dancers but the dancers aren’t affecting the music.

I found this quote really inspirational and it is becoming the way I want to perform music myself..for me this quote can now mean.


My music doesn’t care if anyone is listening to it,
I’m just going to keep singing,
I’ll keep singing if there is no one listening, I’ll sing at small places, big places, empty rooms, full rooms, I’ll sing in my room, I’ll sing if I can’t find other musicians  to play besides me.

I’ll keep putting my music out there.

Later, when the place is filled with people and everyone is moving, my music still doesen’t care, I will do what I’ve always done, and play the music.

And I will love every minute of it.


The First Song I Ever Wrote – 10 Years Ago

I sat in the piano room with my acoustic guitar and tape recorder trying to come up with a vocal melody and idea for a song. I was really, really determined to write and launch the first song my band DonkeyBox was going to perform. We weren’t sure how the song was going to go down and were cautious in our enthusiasm for it. It was after all far easier to play songs by other bands that got great reception. We had done this for over a year, and it really was time for me to step up to the plate and deliver something new and original.

On 6 June 2003, on a hot and dark Imperial College Union venue, which was practically empty, I finally performed an original piece of music that me and the band wrote. To finally perform an original creation was a phenomenal feeling!

Our current lead guitarist Matt had sent a demo to the band which was purely instrumental. This had to be converted into a full song. I liked the guitar riff Matt had and thought hard on what this could mean as a song but nothing came to me. And one evening while trying to go to sleep late at night in my student flat, I heard some chatter from the kitchen. The chatter made me angry and bought feelings of frustration forward. The next morning I was able to write lyrics to the dark, somewhat twisted and angst filled song The Score. I had used a Guns ‘N Roses song for inspiration of course 🙂

As a band I have now performed that song for 10 years, and it remains our most powerful song, which comes right at the end of our set as grand finale, there’s no other place for it really. At the time I wrote and performed it, I could not have dreamt it would last this long and that people would connect to it in the way that they have done.

In 2005 we modified the song and we compressed it in length and sharpened its structure (video link above), but at the heart of it, the score remains The Score.

How Do I Find My Drive As a Singer?

I found this amazing quote that has been floating around the musician community for the last week or so on Facebook, and it struck a chord with me. I also played a gig last weekend and I am in a nice buzz so this is perfect time to write about this.

Singers and Musicians are some of the most driven, courageous people on the face of the earth. They deal with more day-to-day rejection in one year than most people do in a lifetime. Every day, they face the financial challenge of living a freelance lifestyle, the disrespect of people who think they should get real jobs, and their own fear that they’ll never work again. Every day, they have to ignore the possibility that the vision they have dedicated their lives to is a pipe dream. With every note, they stretch themselves, emotionally and physically, risking criticism and judgment. With every passing year, many of them watch as the other people their age achieve the predictable milestones of normal life – the car, the family, the house, the nest egg. Why? Because musicians and singers are willing to give their entire lives to a moment – to that melody, that lyric, that chord, or that interpretation that will stir the audience’s soul. Singers and Musicians are beings who have tasted life’s nectar in that crystal moment when they poured out their creative spirit and touched another’s heart. In that instant, they were as close to magic, God, and perfection as anyone could ever be. And in their own hearts, they know that to dedicate oneself to that moment is worth a thousand lifetimes.

– David Ackert, LA Times

Although not all musicians are motivated by these things, and believe me I have met a lot of musicians and each has their own reason for being a musician, ranging from “I got a guitar once” hobby to others who’ve left their jobs and tour round the world in run down vans with barely any petrol and food money.

As a singer a lot of these things in that quote really struck out to me, perhaps most so was the fact that you put your most vulnerable self out there. There is a lot of rejection as well during the process and so much uncertainty and a sense of being in an unreal world.

However, what makes it truly worth it is self expression and giving a glimpse of that magic moment to others, I believe it is this magic moment of pure emotion that connects people to songs, and I for one am really glad I found singing and expressing myself via music.

How I Started My Band DonkeyBox 10 years ago

I had finally done it. It was October 2000 and I fulfilled the dream of my life by being in a band. The band was called Melodion and I was singer and rhythm guitarist. In March 2001 I played my first gig on stage. I was a nervous wreck for most of it, but I loved every moment of finally being able to play and sing on stage.

Atul playing guitar in 2000

Me playing guitar in 2000. Well before I’d been in any bands.

By early 2002 however, the band I was recruited to had now split up as the drummer had moved out of the country and the manager/lead guitarist was moving to Ireland soon. These sort of scenarios were to play out several times again, little did I know at the time.

So me and the bassist of the time seeked out a lead guitarist and a drummer. We got a reply from a duo who seemed to fit in exactly what we wanted musically and personnel wise. We weren’t dissapointed. We met up at the Imperial College rehearsal room on 9 March 2002.

Boom! DonkeyBox was formed.

After joining the band it turned out that I was actually running the band too. And that involved a whole myriad of things, which is an experience in itself to write about for another bunch of blog posts.

Running and being in DonkeyBox has been such an incredible experience, it has been one of the biggest constants in my life and one of the major driving and motivating forces to me. I have had some tough times and it has been there to rescue me from dark moments. And I’ve had some awesome times from it, in fact I love every gig as I blogged earlier.

So here’s to the next 10 years.

Entering the T-shirt Business

I had no idea how difficult it was going to set myself up as a t-shirt salesman, it turned out to be quite a project. So much so it is worthy of it’s own blog post under the “DonkeyBox” category 🙂

I have been asked for DonkeyBox t-shirts a lot! And in 2009 I found a designer who was designing flyers for us. She designed us a cool new logo, which gave us a newer edgy identity, which I think was necessary as Crap Day and DonkeyBox were giving us too much of a goofy, jokey identity. Without changing the name she made something edgier and more in sync with our music.

So in 2009 I had promised a t-shirt was coming to fans and now I couldn’t find anyone to print them at a good price. Time went on and by 2010 I tried an online t-shirt company that could print and deliver one off t-shirts. Bingo! this surely had to be the solution right? Not quite, with the logo and just one graphic the t-shirt came out to be £17 including delivery. This was way too much already and I really couldn’t sell t-shirts even at this price (where I would make 0 profit) to fans. The company didn’t do bulk orders either.

Donkey Box t-shirt

The most expensive t-shirt I ever bought 🙂

I was now stuck and the t-shirt idea was dead and buried, just way too expensive. Luckily on the way to the gym where I live there is a t-shirt printer and I walked in and start chatting to the guy. As the band’s first gig in 2011 (after a 9 month hiatus) was coming there really was no better time to get these t-shirts to print.

But there was another hitch, although the unit price to print each t-shirt was easily sub £10 there was a set up cost that added to the total cost. I was skint by this stage as it was September and I hadn’t tutored for 2 months, I really was on a big low in terms of money. With no guarantee of return I wasn’t going to find any investors so I took some money out of my savings account and went for the advance order!

I told the t-shirt printer guy that I simply couldn’t afford a print run of 20 t-shirts. He kindly reduced the print cost per t-shirt but couldn’t reduce the set-up fee. At this point I hit another hitch. The t-shirt had been designed about 2 years ago but our designer was now totally awol, she had dissapeared off the earth man! And I needed a vectorised form of the design. I certainly hadn’t got a clue how to do this on my own. So I scrambled an appeal on Facebook and Twitter and one of my friends found a friend who is a professional graphic designer. However, this vectorisation cost me money that I didn’t plan for 😦

But I went ahead anyway! I paid everyone out of my savings and got some t-shirts printed eventually just in time for the gig. I just about managed to keep the costs low enough to make a tiny bit of profit from selling the t-shirts. What was important to me that the t-shirts don’t cost more than £10 to fans.

I am glad to say I have sold some t-shirts already, and even sent one to Japan. So there you go, whoever thought it would be so difficult to get a bunch of band t-shirts printed at good value? And now that the print has been made there will never be a set up or vectorisation cost again. The t-shirt printer can use the print mould he made earlier and each repeat order is cheaper as now there is no set up cost and I don’t have to pay a designer!

Despite the many setbacks, I knew t-shirts is something loads of our fans would enjoy and I am proud to be now a t-shirt salesman as well. While I could’ve given free CDs to friends all over the world (at a personal loss of £1 per CD plus whatever postage and packaging I paid extra) I’ve had to be very disciplined by not giving away t-shirts free (despite the temptation). Being skint taught me a valuable lesson in cutting costs, sticking to your guns, haggling with suppliers and going for it solo when it comes to band investments like this.

Snippets – April 2011

Record Tutoring Away from London

Gosh it has been a crazy busy April this year. I have been away from home for most of the month travelling up and down the country. I have been busier this Easter tutoring than any other before, ever. And mostly away from London tutoring at different families. When I went up on my travels North I packed up clothing for 3 weeks and for all seasons as you really don’t know what you are going to get! Luckily I never needed my jumpers as the weather has been phenomenal.

And some of my tutoring views have been utterly specatacular, from the beach house in Soctland to the Dales in North Yorkshire and the country house in Leicestershire, I have seen some great places in great weather. Check out the beach house videoblog.

This much tutoring has taken it’s toll though and being away for so long has been quite tiring, so I will be cutting back on residential work for next year and focusing more on London again.

Royal Wedding and DonkeyBox

There’s such a great air of excitement in London today, which is of course the big Royal Wedding between William and Catherine Middleton. It is a national holiday in a run up to a long bank holiday. It is good to see a happy spirit and a sense of patriotism in the country as a whole. It is rare to have national holidays and patriotic celebrations here. There should be more of these really. Well, me and the family joined in by heading to Buckingham Palace! In all the other countries I lived at there are more regular national celebrations every year, and it definitely makes quite a difference to the overall mood of the country. We are a bit more solemn here for some reason.

With Family on Royal Wedding Day

One of the things being away from London for so long has been the toll it has taken on DonkeyBox. We were on such a great roll when I left towards the end of March and that roll has been broken. It’s not what I wanted and I am slightly disappointed but my commitment to my students is something I value so the band has taken a slight hit for a little while. We still haven’t recruited a bass player and haven’t gigged live since December 2010. I miss performing with the band and I miss the stage as well. I will do my best to get us back as soon as possible now that I am in London again.

Social Media and The Box

Check out @donkeybox – perfect example of a forward-thinking band that embraces social media and uses it to build up a tight-knit fan base

I saw this on the band tweet and was well glad to see this, so at least I am doing something right 🙂

So on this blog I occasionally write things from my point of view on behalf of my band DonkeyBox and this is one of those posts. It’s pretty hard work doing all the social media stuff for the band and in fact a lot of musicians find this aspect overwhelming. Also on the surface it does not seem to produce any results. As far as I can see there aren’t many new people turning up to every gig and sales of our songs on iTunes haven’t actually increased.

Did I just say sales? Actually although I can’t prove it as such, sales of our EP Backstage Pass must be in large part to our good online presence combined with great gigs and engagement. Even in these hard days of selling music, we’ve done it.

We have met odd people through social media as well, a few have even turned up to gigs or rehearsals. And these people don’t even live in London or indeed even in the UK! They visited us while on holiday here and that is pretty cool.

Here’s to making more new friends and fans. And I am so looking forward to meeting people for real who love the band’s music and support DonkeyBox. Exciting stuff and that’s what keeps me going with the social media effort.