Interview : Vish Khanna

12 Mar

While Canadian media fixture Vish Khanna is best known for his work on Exclaim Magazine, CBC Radio 3 and The Mich Vish Interracial Morning Show, the Guelph-based writer also boasts an impressive musical background, having played in bands throughout his life and recently teaming up with Wax Mannequin and The Burning Hell to play drums on their highly-anticipated Hear Some Evil Tour.

“I’ve played drums since I was 15 and played in a bunch of bands over the years,” Khanna began.  “And this particular tour [began when] Mathias [Kom] from The Burning Hell – who didn’t know I played drums until last year – and I played at Thriftstock in Guelph.  So one of my old bands, the Neutron Stars, reunited and Mathias was like, ‘what the hell – I had no idea you could play drums!”

The development continued after Khanna briefly mentioned his drumming experience to Chris Adeney after the Wax Mannequin front man expressed his frustration at being unable to find a drummer.

“I was talking to Chris and I was like, ‘Hey, I play drums.  If you need help, maybe I can help sometime’,” he continued.  “I was just making casual conversation, and the next day he emailed me and I was like, ‘I’m kind of busy, I don’t know when I’ll be able to do it’, and then  he was just really persistent and I was like, ‘Yeah, okay – let’s try and do it’, and he asked if I could go on tour.”
Travelling by car, the tour will see Khanna broadcasting for CBC 3 throughout their 25 stops, and while the idea of an extensive western Canadian tour may seem daunting to some, Khanna remains enthused and optimistic.

“Wax Mannequin’s kind of an underground phenomenon [and] he’s really something else,” he shared.  “He often plays by himself.  He’s started to play more ‘out’ with the power trio formation, so we’re going to join Wax and see what we come up with.  And The Burning Hell are doing pretty well these days, too.  It’s going to be fun, and I’m really looking forward to it.”

“I’m a little apprehensive because it’s a 1992 Honda Accord – for 25 shows,” he added.  “But we’re going to go for it and it’s going to be fun.  . . . I have lots of friends to see across this country because we’re going to Vancouver Island and back. It’s not ideal, but we’re not ideal people.”

While Khanna has established himself as an independent arts authority, despite his current musical endeavours he maintains that he doesn’t intend to pursue a career as a full-time musician.

“I don’t ever really think about [pursuing music professionally] – I kind of know what my skill set is,” he established.  “I’m pretty self aware of what I’m capable of and what I’m not.  And I’ve dabbled and wanted to make it something I do more of, but when my last band, Nathan Coles Outfit started to dissolve and my writing was starting to pick up more.  I was doing more of it and [it] just took over, and I get as much satisfaction from that on some levels.  But at the same time, I really like playing drums and writing songs.  This is going to be a perfect balance of everything I do, and I’m looking forward to that, but I don’t really value one over the other anymore.”

Following work on local publications and after completing a BA and Masters in English at the University of Guelph, a career in music journalism was a natural progression for someone with a penchant for writing and a profound affinity for the art.

“I read a lot about music as a kid – and still do – and would read rock magazines all the time because I just loved music so much,” Khanna explained.  “So I think reading so much about it eventually made me want to express myself, and in late high school and early university I started trying to write about music and that’s how it started.  [And with my involvement in bands] they just seemed like natural extensions of each other.”

In addition to his work in print, Khanna has also embarked on a successful radio career, hosting a morning show alongside his wife for Guelph’s CFRU FM, as well as The Breakfast Club and other programs for CBC Radio 3.  He maintains that being given the opportunity to do what he loves has made him incredibly fortunate.

“I have a lot of freedom in all the things I do right now, and that’s very important,” he shared.  “I’ve heard too many horror stories about people who are immersed in independent music and get to these kinds of places [to] find their own creativity or ideas are stifled.  Whereas the whole point of this kind of music and this kind of community is to be the opposite of that. It doesn’t make any sense for the actual milieu that you’re writing about which is originally supposed to be completely free.”

“I can’t go completely nuts at anywhere I work, but because I do a show with my wife, I have that outlet still where we can do whatever we want,” he added.  “And I feel pretty lucky right now.  I can try to create things for Exclaim! and Radio 3, and if they don’t go for them necessarily or if they have different visions of how they can work, I can just do them on my college radio show and maybe ten people will hear it, but at least I’ve done it.  So I’ve been pretty lucky about that.”

The Hear Some Evil Tour launched in Hamilton on March 10, and will make stops in Peterborough (without Khanna), Sudbury and Thunder Bay before heading out West until early April.  You can visit Vish Khanna’s website for further information and links to his work at

Posted by : Anne T Donahue


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