When Priya Panda decided to start a band, she got her closest buddies together and tried to make it work. But just like living with your best friend, being in a band with them isn’t all slumber parties and feathery pillow fights either. Within the last four years, things (and people) have changed, she says, but she’s definitely found her rock n’ roll family with Diemonds bandmates C.C. Diemond, Cuzo, Yeti, and Al Biddle.
This month’s Bitchin’ Babe – True Dirty Rocker – Priya Panda, talks to Bitchin’ Lifestyle about fronting her band, Diemonds, gives us the lowdown on her musical influences (some of which we’ve never heard of), and of course, rants about her insane obsession with food.
Bitchin’ Lifestyle: Your Twitter page describes Diemonds as ‘True Dirty Rock n’ Roll’. What does that even mean – where do you fit in, musically?
Priya Panda: Diemonds is definitely influenced by classic rock, punk and metal all the way, man! We don’t really fit into the music world in a way that can be categorized. All of us will agree to disagree on some bands, but there is no denying you’ll hear our influences from bands like AC/DC, Guns n’ Roses, Aerosmith and Black Sabbath. We’re a dirty rock band cause we really don’t care about mainstream “success”– we play music because we have to. We’d go literally insane without rock n’ roll and tours. It’s what I wake up in the morning thinking about and the last thing that crosses my mind before I pass out at night.
BL: What would you say is your biggest musical influences – how have they shaped you?
PP: Personally, I love Paul McCartney. Although our music doesn’t really sound anything like the Beatles his songwriting is freakin’ tops! Other than that, I’ve taken cues from everyone from W.A.S.P. to The Plasmatics to RATT. I’m all over the map, but electric guitars drive me wild!
BL: Your latest video is on rotation on Much Music and Much Loud. What can you tell us about the first time you saw your video on TV?
PP: I was beyond excited!!! It was an amazing experience to have our hard work pay off. It was extra cool because our guitar player C.C. almost died while filming the video so the fact that he came back from a coma on life support to finish the video, play in the band and live life holds special meaning for me.
BL: In your bio it says you and your band toured in India and were the first-female fronted rock band to play there. That’s pretty Bitchin’ in our book. Can you tell us about the experience?
PP: We’re the first female-fronted act to ever play in Shillong, India – the self-proclaimed rock capital of India. The whole trip to India was unlike anything we’ve been used to on tours. Armed guards took us around town, crowds formed when we were trying to buy a Chai in the markets and we played a massive stage with huge crowds.
When I decided to dive into the pit, I was terrified after an AK-47 slammed into my back. I’m pretty sure that would never happen in Canada. Most females there asked me if I was married or had children – because for the most part, the culture and conditioning that goes on leads women to believe that is the only thing that they are meant to do in life. And who knows…maybe they’re right, but it ain’t right for me for now.
I’m glad we went and showed them how we do it! It was extra cool for me, because my parents are from India and it felt good to connect that way.
BL: If you weren’t in a rock band, what line of work would you see yourself in?
PP: If I weren’t a musician I’d definitely still be in a creative position. I have a degree in Journalism. I am currently trying to write a screenplay for a movie. Writing, making movies, documentaries, or writing a cookbooks is something I can see myself doing. The list is endless; there are a lot of things I want to do before I die.
BL: What would you say has been the biggest reality check for you?
PP: I think the biggest thing has been time and money. It takes years to get on the radar of music fans and promoters and other bands. And once opportunities arise, you kind of have to have dough to make the next move. It’s tough but I don’t really think I’d want to spend my time or money doing anything else.
BL: Answer truthfully: Musically who is the biggest poser and who is the real deal?
PP: I’m usually not one to make judgment calls like this, but someone like Lady Gaga is just… lame. Lady Gaga is disguised as an actual artist that has created this persona and music for herself. Ok yeah, she can play piano and maybe write songs, but she has been svengalied by record labels and handlers to the point where whatever you see is so far removed from the ideas in her own head. I call bullshit.
Any band that just tours, and tours and still plays the same types of bars that we do is the real deal. It’s not about anything but the music. It’s wild seeing bands whose album you have on vinyl playing at the same venues as the small club bands that are still starting out. I’ve seen amazing bands like Blue Cheer (on their 40th anniversary tour for god’s sake!) and LA Guns in small venues and it blows my mind every time.
BL: We know that you are a big fan of Bitchin’ Kitchen. In fact, you’ve admitted to, and I quote, “PVRing Bitchin’ Kitchen like a fiend.” Do you have a favorite episode or recipe?
BL: Is there an episode theme or dish you’d love to see Nadia G cover?
PP: YES! Something vegetarian or vegan. I really love how Nadia focuses on quality ingredients and local, fresh produce. Either that, or a “staycation” episode about making foods from different countries without actually ever leaving your kitchen.
BL: If you had to write a song about Bitchin’ Kitchen or the host, Nadia G, what would you call it?
PP: I’d write a song called Edesia. She was the Roman Goddess of food!
BL: Is there a traditional dish that’s been passed on in your family that you can safely say cannot be replicate elsewhere?
PP: My parents are from Bombay and I absolutely LOVE Bombay style street food. There are some dishes that have become available in some parts of Toronto and its ‘burbs over the years. One of them is Bhel, which is almost like a savoury “cereal” made with puffed rice crisps, various chutneys and some fresh cut onions and tomatoes.
Pani Poori is great too, it’s fried mini one-bite cups stuffed with potato, chickpea, and chutneys. One they haven’t caught onto yet – that only my grandma does just right is Ragada Patties, which are AMAZING! They are spiced and pan fried potato patties served with yellow peas cooked to perfection and topped with raw onion and chutney. Awesome!
BL: All that talk about food has gotten us hungry, but I have to ask: do you have any upcoming projects/gigs?
PP: We’re currently recording our second album, which I think makes Diemonds bigger, badder and louder than ever before! Once that’s done we have a full US tour in the works and a European tour being booked for next spring. I’ve been waiting my whole life to tour those two places. Other than that, keep your eyes peeled. We wanna party on the road with you! Stay wild!
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