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Challenging the government in court over PPE as an NHS doctor and perfecting deconstructionist activities on Indian cricket television, singing bassist Nishant Joshi continues to defy easy categorisation. ‘Buddhist Monk’ was released by his band, Kill, The Icon! Have you heard it? I did, and thus the interview on all of the above is here for those who prefer their musicians with something to say and do offstage that is genuinely effective. 

What are the surprising benefits you’ve discovered in writing for Kill, The Icon!, as opposed to The Palpitations?

Nishant: Any time you write a different set of arrangements, there’s bound to be a musical evolution. You reach the same destination, but the journey is different. I think that’s given me a different frame of reference which will help me move forward.

Any intriguing insights for a particular songwriting session? Perhaps there’s one relevant to ‘Buddhist Monk’?

Nishant: We’re lucky that Florin’s studio is technically available 24/7, with the issue that during boiling summer days, it really does get unbearable sometimes – though he now has a much-appreciated air conditioner. So I often went by myself in the middle of the night, kept the lights off, and cranked it up in complete darkness. No distractions.

So it was a case of you writing the pieces alone, no committee?

Nishant: I am the committee.

‘If you have a passion, you will find a way. If you don’t have a passion, you will find an excuse.’ When did you engage with that hypothesis, and do you ever regret realizing its truth?

Nishant: People get so burned out by medicine that they get tunnel vision. They only see the inside and outside of the hospital, and they don’t get a chance to decompress. For a doctor to be sustainable under huge pressure, you have to find the right balance between work and play. Lots of my NHS colleagues have given up on their side-hustles and hobbies because of their job. If you really want it, you will make it happen. You have one life, and it’s fragile. To have any other mentality would be a great disservice to your privilege.

You talk of colleagues giving up side hustles and hobbies. Fair to say a few cases may be down to the idea of associating such fare with being young, single, or both. Your thoughts, if you please!

Nishant: It all boils down to is aligning your goals and expectations. Before I had my own family, my responsibilities were fewer, and my stresses were fewer. If you plan well, you will be fulfilled, even if you haven’t managed to achieve all of your stretch goals. Lots of people view family and responsibility as obstacles to progress. I’ve found that it just requires an evolution in one’s perspective.

Interesting. Can you pinpoint a specific occasion when the penny dropped for you in learning that lesson?

Nishant: When I graduated from medical school, I went straight into a job as a TV presenter for some reason. A month later, I was climbing Mount Kilimanjaro for charity. For me, I could find time to do everything because I was so passionate and desperate. Once you can tap into that, you recognise what works, and you keep going.

You’ve certainly lived many lives. What were you presenting on TV? Are there YouTube clips that you’d rather not revisit? Ha!

Nishant: There are lots of YouTube clips that have gathered dust! I was a host for a cricket TV show which aired in India. At the time, it was pretty ground-breaking. I slipped through the cracks and rose through the ranks really quickly. I was really influenced by shows like Brasseye, and I’ve always been super-cynical, so I turned my cricket coverage into something entirely satirical. Happily, it became wildly popular and hugely controversial in India, where it was one of the most popular sports shows. I even managed to shoehorn in a deconstruction of modern religion into a live match report, which was the one thing that didn’t get me death threats. I used to get death threats almost every day. There’s even a Daily Mail article about how my Twitter account (with 100,000 followers) was banned because I got reported by thousands of angry cricket fans. I flew too close to the sun.

And into the arms of music seemingly, and even then, you’re not playing it safe. Any particular interest in writing songs that chronicle your political activism? Will you be singing about taking Matt Hancock to court?

Nishant: With my songwriting, I’m generally trying to reflect on my own learnings. I have no desire to write a song about a guy who wasn’t sacked for his involvement – or lack thereof, because officially, he denied he was responsible for us – in over 1,000 healthcare worker deaths. I want to write about icons and iconoclasts. Matt Hancock is just an overpromoted middle manager who doesn’t deserve to be remembered.

This brings us back to your single. For anyone who missed out on earlier interviews, care to tell us about the subject of Kill, The Icon!’s single ‘Buddhist Monk.’

Nishant: ‘Buddhist Monk’ is about Thich Quang Duch, who burned himself alive to protest against an oppressive Vietnamese regime in 1963. An incredibly violent yet peaceful act.

You’ve previously stated that you could ‘write a book about ‘Buddhist Monk’ and still would have only scratched the surface. Care to share a paragraph of that book with us?

Nishant: The lyrics to the song should serve as the foreword to the book! The Buddhist monk set himself alight because there was an oppressive Roman Catholic regime that sought to diminish the standing of the Buddhists – using tremendous violence on them for any celebration of their religion. Our protagonist set himself on fire at a busy crossroad in the middle of the day. It was terrifying. And it was replicated by many other monks over the coming months.

A compelling story for those who’ve heard it via here or long ago, I’m sure. My final question would be this: Is there a danger of tokenising this account? Are there any do’s and don’ts when making this subject matter the basis for a song or the same such expression, especially given that it’s also a commodity?

Nishant: If you treat the subject matter with respect and dignity, and if you’ve done your very best to educate yourself so that you can inform others, I think that’s all that can be asked.

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