Motherjane turns 20

Published Jan 30, 2016, 5:44 am IST
Updated Jan 30, 2016, 5:46 am IST
John Thomas of Motherjane remembers the old days when playing rock in Kerala was difficult, to the times they got accepted.
From left: Nithin Vijayanath, Clyde Rozario, Vivek Thomas, John Thomas
 From left: Nithin Vijayanath, Clyde Rozario, Vivek Thomas, John Thomas

If you could dissect nostalgia, you’ll find a curious mix of pain and joy — the pain of a lost time and the joy of having had those days. With John Thomas, drummer of Motherjane, is a collection of old tickets and posters —a memorabilia of the band he raised with friends 20 years ago.

The first of those tickets has a subtext: Come at your own risk. That had been an underground concert at Fine Arts Hall, Kochi — their second after the show at St Albert’s College on January 24, 1996. John counted, he has been counting, and last Sunday, quietly picked up the calls and messages wishing the band a happy 20.


“All our old members called,” he says. That word —old — brings a tinge of sorrow for diehard fans. The line-up had changed many times, and they keep hearing about ‘those good old days’.

“But that’s the natural course of most bands.” What’s important is that the band stayed on, for many years in Kerala, where playing rock had not been easy once upon a time.

That Fine Arts Hall concert had to be an underground one, with tickets sourced through friends because there was little acceptance, and the audience could turn hostile.


“Even musicians had asked if we couldn’t play good music when we did covers of Metallica. Playing your original music was out of the question.”

At first it was a grunge band. With John was Clyde Rozario on the bass who’s still there, guitarist Mithun Raju who’s now with Thaikkudam Bridge.

Things changed when Baiju Dharmajan joined with his Carnatic riffs on the guitar. Suraj Mani walked in with new voice and lyrics and Rex Vijayan with his perfectionist ways on the guitar. In 2002, they had their first album Insane Biography.


Then Rex left, Deepu Sasidharan took his place. They had their second album Maktub with music videos of their faces half covered in Kathakali makeup. Suraj Mani had said in an interview, this was a message that we are half flesh and half spirit. Fans wore the same makeup for live shows. Both albums were among the most influential listed by Rock Street Journal.

Fields of Sound, Mindstreet and Broken continue to be among the most requested songs (all from Maktub), but the band had to split ways again.

Baiju and Suraj left, it is now Nithin Vijayanath on the guitars and Vivek Thomas on the vocals. Their newest song Clayplay is growing just as popular.