But they were up for it, armed with dreams of one day playing on an international stage and appearing on the cover of Rolling Stone Magazine! And as Anil put it, they felt they could "take on the world."
Their first big gig was an unplugged performance for a Mind Adventures production called 'Slag.' They decided to use this gig to get their music out there, and made a few hundred tapes of the upcoming CD Bring Back The Sun. To their surprise, it sold out.
A glorious time
"It was a glorious time, we all had different tastes in music and came from different musical backgrounds but when we got on stage we truly became one. Later on in the year we had heard that TNL Radio was putting together a competition called Onstage. We decided to enter, and we won. We were the only rock band in the competition so it was a bit of a personal victory for us. I remember being in school and going to see
local rock bands such as Venom and Rattlesnake; they were all we had and we loved it. After seeing those dudes play back then it was great to finally do it ourselves," says Anil.
Then came 2001, which saw the departure of Ajith, Dinesh and Shehan. This took its toll on both OP and Anil because not only did they share huge amounts of chemistry onstage, they had also become quite close.
"It was hard to let them go but it was beyond our control. After their departure OP and I set out on the unenviable task of replacing three key members of our band. Sunil, Niroshan and Malinda were the guys we found. We took some time off to get things tight between the new line-up. And when they played our first gig with the new line up, it was apparent that the magic was still very much alive. 2002 saw the release of
our second studio album Five & A Half."
It was another huge success, spawning the radio hits Cummonover, A Morning After, Demons Within and Windows & Doors. The last year has seen them take a break to follow personal commitments, but they are already in the process of writing songs for their third album that should be out early next year.
Talking about his solo career Anil says he's grown in to it. "It's great to work with so many different musicians. On this album I've worked with people like Ranil (HollowPoint Halo), Chamath (HollowPoint Halo), Azlan (Deadline 21) and Oshan (Brass Monkey Band)."
Jamming with the guys and churning out music with Indie is a great experience but like most things in life it's good to try something different, it just helps you learn more as a person and broaden your horizons."
And on the local music industry he doesn't feel there is a huge struggle in getting your music heard for any band these days. "Both radio and TV are very accommodating when it comes to helping musicians getting there music out there. If there is anything that's lacking, it would have to be the absence of any sort of recording infrastructure when it comes to original English music, regardless of its genre."
Anil has performed in so many gigs that it's hard to keep count, but the last few are fresh in his memory. He was involved in a series of unplugged shows at Zanziba.
"I love playing loud but sometimes it's great just chill and really connect with my audience on an intimate level. The Zanziba shows were fab and were filled with some great moments. The second Rock Company album launch was also special because it was the first time I ever played the new materiel out of the studio."
Anil has been involved with organising a number of gigs in the recent past. The last being a series of gigs at GLOW titled 'Naked.'
He also has two shows coming up - one on October 28 where he'll be taking to the stage with HollowPoint Halo and Deadline 21 at the newly opened H2O. The second is his album launch concert which is scheduled for November. The first single off the album is titled Songs Of What I Know. "It basically deals with the regret of things left behind." The video can currently be seen on ETV.
And what musical influences has he taken after in being a musician? This is what he had to say "I'm an 80's child but am also hugely influenced by 90's rock, but not a huge fan of the 2000's. Don Henly, The Police, Iron Maiden, New Order, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, The counting Crows, Bob Dylan, The Afghan Wigs, The Gin Blossoms, Franz Ferdinad, The white Stripes, Coldplay and more recently Damian Rice have influenced
me a great deal."
Speaking to Anil on local musicians today, and TNL Onstage, he says that as a member of the organising committee now, he sees it gets better with each passing year. "I truly believe that TNL onstage is the one true stage when it comes to providing a platform for up and coming musicians."
Anil also hosts his pride and joy, Spinning Unrest, every Sunday on 101.7 TNL. "In all honesty, it's the only show of its kind on radio," says Anil.
Bring Back The Sun - Independent Square (1999)
Five & A Half - Independent Square (2002)
The Last Few Pieces Of April - Anil Balasuriya (November 2005)
Set your soul free...
Another blitzing Rock Saturday
The Sri Lankan music industry is now on a positive climb, with the Rock Company's contribution in supporting and nurturing a myriad of bands and artistes in their quest for originality.
Identifying a long felt need that was lacking in our country, Rock Company spearheaded a move to provide an opportunity for these talented musicians to be discovered and their compositions exposed so that their songs are heard by the public.
The primary objective of the Rock Company has been to support development of music that we can call our own so that our talented bands could reach the international music arena. Rock Company has set in motion a trend for emerging musicians to seek a path in originality rather than merely resort to copying others compositions.
Rock Saturday is the forum provided by the Rock Company for these bands to expose their original compositions at a monthly concert. Since its formation in 2003 Rock Company has held Rock Saturday events on the last Saturday of the month on a regular basis.
Rock Saturday has become an event that has reached cult proportions and draws a die hard audience for each event. The event has become hugely popular because of the sheer talent that is there to savored, the quality of the music amidst an ambiance of camaraderie reminiscent of sixties love and peace era.
Rock Saturday for the month of October will be held on October 29 at Women's International Hall Colombo 7. The event will showcase some of the best talent in the country from the raw metallic sounds of Tantrum, to the dark, brutal sounds of Siblings of Hatred the night looks very promising indeed.
Add an insane touch of melodic mayhem in the form of Insanity, the acoustic genius Dylan Jayakody with another acoustic spot by Lien and the Classic Rock inspired Spit Fire and the stream of versatility is bound to flow in abundance.
No night however would be complete without the masters of the smooth hard rock groove; Paranoid Earthling from Kandy, Shri rock specialists Whirlwind and the architects of chaos Stigmata adding their energy to the already fantastic mix of talent.
This Rock Saturday promises to be a rocking event featuring bands that are at the helm of the revolution in originality that is taking Sri Lanka by storm. So make a trip to a musical phenomenon on October 29 at the Women's International Hall, Colombo 7. Get there by 8 p.m. Let there be rock and set your soul free!
Simply Red returns
By Dr. Thushara Senanayake
Simply Red, one of the most successful British acts in the latter part of the eighties and in the nineties is back with a single entitled Perfect Love.
Mick Hucknall, the redhead singer from Manchester, England, formed his first band, the Frantic Elevators in 1979 when he was an art student. Realising that the Elevators are not his kind, he leftthe bandin 1984 andformed Simply Red. Although there was never a stable line-up in the band, Mick Hucknall survived as a single force to become one of the most consistent hit makers in the UK and USA.
Simply Red first made it into the charts with the acclaimed debut album Picture Book. Although this album featured some excellent covers of Talking Heads' Heaven andthe Valentine Brothers' Money's Too Tight (To Mention), it was the track Holding Back The Years that gave the album its momentum.
Holding Back The Years when released as a single shot to the pole position of the US charts and the album became a top 10 hit. In 1987, Simply Red had its next outing with Men And Women. Although this matchedits predecessor sales-wise, Hucknall'sstateside popularity declined. The album spawned Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye, a Cole Porter songandthe funkyThe Right Thing.
Simply Red scored its second US number one in 1989 with the Harold Melvin and the Bluenotes cover If You Don't Know Me By Now. This became the highlight of their next album A New Flame (1989).
This album became one of the biggest albums in the 80s and this feat put them in the league of eighties giants such as Culture Club, Alison Moyet, Nik Kershaw, Howard Jones, Duran Duran, Erasure, DepecheMode andthe Communards.
Simply Red broke into the ninetieswithStars (1991). This album featured five UK hits, Something Got Me Started, Stars, For Your Babies, Thrill Me and Your Mirror, and the worldwide sales of this album exceeded the nine million mark.
In addition, this album was Hucknall'sfirst album of Simply Red originals and thus overcame the 'cover band' stigma. In 1995, Mick came out with the album Life and the single Fairground broke into a new field, the club culture.
A year later he performed for the rulers of Dubai to the tune of Sterling 150,000 pounds and wrote We're In This Together, the official theme for the Euro 1996 soccer tournament.
In the same year, 1996, he released hisGreatest Hits and this featured a cover of Aretha Franklin's Angel,in collaboration with the Fugees. A year later he collaborated again, this time with Sly and Robbie for the Gregory Isaac's reggae classic, Night Nurse.
Hucknall later founded the Blood & Fire label to rescue his beloved vintage reggae from becoming obscure. In 1998, Simply Redreleased Blue and the beautiful taster for this, Say You Love Me.
Live for the moment
Have you ever heard the expression 'The grass is always greener on the other side?' It's a very common saying, maybe because it's so true. Everyone always seems to find a reason to envy another, no matter how lucky they themselves are. It seems we are never satisfied with what we have! Why is this I wonder?
What is it that always keeps us wanting more? No matter how comfortably we live, we always wish we could have a larger house / room / garden. Or else all that's missing is a state of the art TV, DVD player and so on. No matter how many clothes we have, there's always something that we really need that's missing.
When we see homeless people on the streets, they wish that they could have a home, a job, and food on the table. Yet we, who have everything we need at the present time, always find something to worry about. Perhaps we simply enjoy having complications in our lives!
This doesn't just apply to material possessions. When you're still in school, you can't wait to get out. You envision freedom, no rules, no schoolwork! Then when you graduate all the people who were so looking forward to partying constantly are thinking back on and missing their schooldays.. Even the things they once found irritating are not so bad now!
When you're a kid, you long for the time you turn 18 and everyone treats you like an adult (or at least, that's the theory!). Yet when these kids turn 18 and 19, suddenly they're all wishing they were younger and didn't have so much responsibility. Why is it, I wonder, that these people's thinking has so changed? After all, weren't they longing for independence? And of course if you want to be independent you'd have to be
able to take care of yourself.
As everyone looks back on the past, they tend to do it with rose coloured glasses. They look back on their childhood thinking that although they didn't know it, those were the best days of their lives.
Childhood pranks and scrapes are fondly remembered, and problems which at one point seemed insurmountable can now be dismissed or laughed at. Funny how most people suffer memory loss about the things they used to grumble about!
Also, people never seem to be happy with their jobs. There's always something missing. a few more zeroes on your salary cheque, more interesting work, more responsibility. But once you're working a high-powered job, you wish for more time off, a little less stress, a lighter workload.
It seems to be a vicious circle, at least to me! Perhaps people would be better off, if they accepted they can't have everything. We should be grateful for the little comfort we have, because we'll miss it when it's gone!
We could all live fuller, happier lives if we simply lived for the moment. Maybe we can't have everything, but we do have certain advantages which many other, less fortunate people don't. So maybe you should remember that next time you get ready to grumble about something!