I wanted to be a rockstar: Interview with Eddie Prithviraj, director of Chennai’s Unwind Center & Exodus I wanted to be a rockstar: Interview with Eddie Prithviraj, director of Chennai’s Unwind Center & Exodus
Eddie Prithviraj is currently the mastermind and driving force behind many of the most happening live music events and festivals across India. As managing... I wanted to be a rockstar: Interview with Eddie Prithviraj, director of Chennai’s Unwind Center & Exodus

Eddie Prithviraj is currently the mastermind and driving force behind many of the most happening live music events and festivals across India.

As managing director of the iconic music venue Unwind Center and founder of the popular event and artist management company Exodus in Chennai, the 43-year-old plays a key role in offering a unique platform for many national as well as international artists to showcase their talent.

An artist himself, Eddie entered the music industry through his death metal band Bone Saw in the 90s. His powerful vocal performances and passion to promote metal music soon won him the moniker of ‘Godfather of Metal in the South’.

Now as managing trustee of Unwind Center (which shot to fame through the success of its Live 101 weekend gigs and June Rock Out music festival in the early 2000s), Eddie is currently as much a businessman and humanitarian as he is a musician.

Under Exodus, he currently hosts the Global ISAI festival which features around 20 artists from different countries every year. The festival which has been described as a global music festival with a local heart is inspired by the music festivals of Europe that are hosted by smaller villages.

Through Care for Culture, an initiative that works hand in hand with the Global ISAI festival, Eddie ensures that besides live performances, the musicians also conduct workshops at various institutions and connect with people who benefit from the power of music. Over the past few years, this initiative has included performances at the Children’s Cancer Hospital, Puzhal Jail, and School for the Blind in Chennai.

Here are excerpts of our interview with Eddie:

Hi Eddie, what inspired you to start Exodus?

Honestly, I wanted to be a rockstar! So, initially it was just two factors: money and fame. That’s what got me to start Exodus in December 1994. In my heart I also knew I wanted to be a businessman. But my studies were failing. So, I pushed very hard to achieve this dream of becoming a rockstar.

Exodus was mainly created to run a discotheque. I wanted to get quick fame and money in the entertainment industry. But the journey for me was very rough. I was an entertainer and not a businessman. I ended up making a lot of bad financial decisions without consulting any professionals. I was also carried over by the frills of the entertainment industry.

But by the end of 1999, I lost everything. I realised all I knew back then was to earn and party. I’m not discouraging anyone from partying but I believe that it’s important to party in a healthy way. That’s because getting mixed up in the wrong company can have nasty consequences. Eventually I did earn a good amount of money. But I ended up splurging all of it. That’s when I shut down Exodus and began working for Unwind Center.

Tell us about your emotional journey from being an employee at Unwind Center to becoming the managing director of the venue.

When I was an employee with Unwind Center, it was all about service. I never focused on the fact that the salary was very low. I admit it was very tough for me emotionally and financially, because my father and mother were both unwell at the time. But regardless of how much I had to deal with, I enjoyed my job. I also had a great boss and he was doing things in the industry that were very new and exciting.

Through Unwind Center, I also got an opportunity to help many upcoming artists showcase their talent on a public platform. Most of them have become really big in the country as well as abroad right now.

I was with Unwind Center till 2007. After that, I re-launched Exodus and began organising corporate events and festivals all by myself. In 2015, I got a call from my former boss—the founder of Unwind Center—asking me to meet up for a cup of coffee. During that meeting, he asked me if I wanted to take over the Unwind Center brand. I was overwhelmed by his offer.

That’s because all my life I had dreamt of running a concert space where artists could perform and feel free to express themselves musically. I also loved the way Unwind Center functioned, especially its culture of promoting a clean environment—one free of drugs and alcohol. I also dreamt of having a place where even kids could get exposed to great music.

I never thought I’d become the director of Unwind Center itself. But that meeting with my former boss changed my life forever. I believe that God has given me this opportunity and has helped me fulfil my dreams. I currently have a great team at Unwind Center where we have concerts every weekend. We also host four big festivals every year.

The journey so far has been a very bumpy ride in every way. It has been emotionally, mentally, and physically taxing—but completely worth it!  

How has your experience of being an artist yourself helped you to manage the emotions of the artists you work with currently?

Artists ride on emotions and without it they cannot deliver. But it doesn’t mean that all artists are the same. Some are very nasty, very cocky and some are not like that at all. But thanks to my experience, I have been able to identify the reason why certain artists talk or approach me in the way they do. That being said, I definitely don’t believe in stereotypes and definitely don’t make assumptions when it comes to dealing with any artist.

What was the reason behind starting Care for Culture?

Over the years, we have seen how music heals, spreads joy, raises hopes and builds dreams. We wanted to spread love through music. This motivated us to start Care for Culture. Through it, we reach out to people with music. It is a cause we believe in.

Every year, artists from India and abroad, collaborate with us to perform for those in need of care. Besides live performances, they conduct workshops at various institutions and connect with people who can benefit from the power of music. We hope to bring about a change in this way.

Do you believe that the success of people largely depends on how well they can manage their emotions?

Yes, definitely. I’m an emotionally driven guy and get excited when a new project comes in. At one point in time, I used to take up a lot of work and contracts that were not suitable for us. But then I realised that we were not being paid enough for the service and it was not worth our time and effort. One client in particular also gave us a picture of growing together on a big scale. I was carried over by their promises but the deal they made eventually was insignificant.

We had even dedicated ourselves towards this project. This mistake allowed this client to utilise all our resources and energy in that one year. They even took advantage of getting to know my staff directly and poaching some of them to their company. I realised that I had made an emotionally bad decision by trusting a client blindly. So, I’ve learnt that anyone who wants to be successful should definitely be able to manage their emotions.

Through your experience in the music industry over the years, what according to you separates the successful artists from the rest?

Successful artists have their head on their shoulders. The attitude of a person will always determine their altitude. I’ve seen that successful artists are very aware and focused. They understand the business aspect of what they do. They respect organisers and don’t think only about themselves. If artists are creating music for themselves, they don’t have to bother about anyone else. But if they are coming into the market, they need to have business ethics.

Successful artists are also good business people. They co-operate with the organisers and also understand the environment and the expectations of the audience. When it comes to unsuccessful artists, they believe it’s all about them. For example, they may feel they are entitled to get their money even if they show up drunk to a show. It’s a sad thing because irrespective of their talent, no one would want to work with them because of their attitude. Successful artists understand the value of the audience and the organisers. They respect the fact that they are being paid money for their performance!

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