Despite all of the talk of "unity" and "brotherhood" in the scene, I've encountered a fair share of cool-guying behavior at hardcore shows throughout the years. But then there's Anchit Chhabra.
Based out of Chicago, Anchit is not only one of the busiest musicians in the current hardcore community, he also happens to be one the nicest. I've had the pleasure of recently hanging with him at some festivals, after corresponding for a couple of years via email before that, and it's clear how appreciative he is of getting to play shows all over the country and talking life and music with people all the while.
Currently, Anchit plays in Hold My Own, MH Chaos, and Sector, plus sporadic shows with Shattered Realm and Grounds of Execution, often flying around the country for weekend runs and festival appearances. He's also about to launch a label called Chicagoland Hardcore, which will debut with a cassette release of Hold My Own's new album, In My Way.
With such a crazy schedule juggling several bands at once, I was curious about how he manages to still maintain his family and career commitments. Naturally, I reached out to him to get an interview on the books.
Tell me a bit about your upbringing and being a child of immigrants, something I can definitely relate to!
I was born in Kanpur, India and moved to America with my family when I was 1. We started our lives here in Kansas City, Missouri eventually making our way to Chicago, Illinois. My dad worked for a Coca-Cola factory in India and had the opportunity to get a job in America. He earned everything to get where he is.
We lived in a small apartment when we got here. My brother (Kashish Chhabra from Hold My Own) and I were two young brown kids finding their way in this world. I didn’t fit into anything specific at a young age as I was only familiar with the culture a young Indian boy with immigrant parents would have experienced.
It wasn’t until we moved to Aurora, Illinois and I was at the age of 9-10 where I got introduced to skateboarding and that was the game changer. When I got into skateboarding and got good at it, is when I started to feel comfortable in my own skin and started to own myself as a young Indian kid.
How did you come to discover heavy music (metal, hardcore) and how did your parents react to that? I find many immigrant parents are either too busy trying to survive or very opposed to their kids listening to “evil” music.
I discovered heavy music through my brother and skateboarding. I don’t think skateboarding culture was their favorite thing in the world because we were out skating late at night at spots far from home. We were skateboarding on private property. We were lighting up fires, playing with ammo, destroying property, literally creating our own version of Jackass TV... doing anything you can think up a shithead kid could do.
There was a time when things were kind of crazy that I would leave my house fully expecting to get arrested or get into some serious trouble. I have no idea why that was the vibe but it was. Despite all of this, our parents were still supportive with helping us buy skateboards and taking us to skate parks, etc. If we were listening to crazy music and doing stuff we weren’t supposed to, our parents definitely had no idea about it.
In our heads, my brother and I were the masterminds of not letting our parents know of what’s going on. That’s probably because of the fact you stated after the question... they were probably too busy trying to provide and survive in this world and we were a couple of idiots trying to find ourselves, causing a ruckus, and making things more difficult than they needed to be.
What were some of the hardcore bands in Chicago you saw when you first started going out to local shows?
I started going to shows in my local scene at Doug’s Rockhouse in Aurora, Illinois which was down the way from the house we lived in Aurora. I saw bands like Through the Fire and Oceano at a young age at that venue. Through the Fire was a band that bridged the gap from more metal stuff into straight hardcore for me at the time.
I got introduced to more local hardcore bands through them such as Chances R, Short Handed Goal, Any Given Second, No Zodiac, Silverhammer, and more… all which have members of that I am currently in a band or have been in a band with, which is crazy to think about.
I wanted to be in a band that played shows with those bands. The local hardcore scene and my own friends got me into bands such as Terror, Death Before Dishonor, Cruel Hand, Madball, and The Mongoloids.
Did you find the scene welcoming or did it take a while to make friends?
I found some people were welcoming and some were not. It was a violent scene at the time in terms of mosh style. People moshed hard and beat the shit out of each other. New and young kids such as myself would eat it as well. I had my group of friends but always ended up meeting new people.
Some people were accepting and wanting to extend their hand out, and others couldn’t give a shit less. Those people aren’t around anymore… if you’re reading this and discouraged me in any way back then, who’s laughing now?
Was the first band that you played in Bitter Thoughts?
Bitter Thoughts was definitely one of the early bands I played in. The absolute first band was called Unreckoned. To my surprise at the time, and even now, that band got to play with the likes of The Killer, Xibalba, Harm's Way, First Blood, and a bunch of local bands. I was grateful to play hardcore shows at a young age, both in the suburbs, in the city as well as random areas of the midwest.
At the same time Unreckoned started getting off its feet, I started singing in a power violence band as well. It was essentially a joke band, but I learned of bands like Agnostic Front, Charles Bronson, Weekend Nachos, and others through it. Both bands started playing any and every show we could get on.
So how did that lead to Bitter Thoughts’ run together?
Through these initial bands, I got to know a lot of people in my local hardcore scene. Tyler, TJ, and Beaver from Bitter Thoughts are three people I met through that band. At one point, they were starting a new band together called Real Talk. Unreckoned and Real Talk had shows planned together and played together. They had a song recorded and I think they played a few shows. I ended up joining the band playing bass.
As time went on, Unreckoned fizzled out, the idea of Real Talk was dropping and the idea for Bitter Thoughts came to be. A straight up hardcore band. We got to do a couple west coast tours and open up for a lot of dope bands like Everybody Gets Hurt, Code Orange Kids, and Twitching Tongues.
At one point the band kind of stopped doing things as TJ and Beaver went on to play in Bodybag and I started playing in a band called Mal Intent, which is essentially the precursor to Sector. The three of us would end up linking back up down the road to form MH Chaos.
I just caught MH Chaos at the Cold as Life reunion show in Detroit earlier this month and you guys crushed it. What is the origin story behind the band? What were some of the influences you guys initially talked about when you first started the band and how the sound has evolved as you’ve played together, if at all?
Thank you, brotha. MH Chaos started because a group of us essentially loved bands like Train of Thought, Irate, Billy Club Sandwich, Everybody Gets Hurt, Terror Ave, etc. and wanted to represent Chicago Hardcore to the fullest playing spin kicking mosh music.
I would say we have definitely done that and continue to do it. The band and sound has naturally evolved but the essence will always be the same.
Tell me how Sector came together. By that point, you had been a big part of the Chicago hardcore scene for years. Was it easy to find the right members to complete the lineup?
Sector became a band shortly after MH Chaos formed. I played in a band with Serg and Jon from Sector called Mal Intent, as mentioned before. That band was fizzling out and we wanted to do a straight up hardcore band for Chicago, honoring our fallen brother, Daniel Bond, and Sector was the result. We added my long time friend Judith into the mix and the rest is history. It was very easy to find the right members for the lineup as doing a band like that was something we wanted.
At that point, I was driven to play guitar, write and play as much as possible. I was at a turning point in my life and was ready to go at it. There was a time before MH Chaos and Sector started where I started to lose grip and focus of reality. The beginning of these bands was when I re-found my love for going all in for my bands and I applied this to every aspect of my life.
I don't think I've looked back since then. I don't know why and where down the line I lost that drive, but I definitely took a back seat at one point. I learned to be myself and do the things I want and it's changed my life for the better.
Hold My Own is another band you play in. What I find interesting is that you have Greg Falchetto fronting the group, and he’s based mostly in New Jersey.
We talked for the first time simply through Instagram. MH Chaos was on the From Within Records OSU comp with his band at the time Youth Collapse. I told him I was stoked to be on a comp with his band since my brother and I loved The Mongoloids growing up.
He hit me back up immediately and said we should do some weekends together. A month passed and he said we should start a band. I was standing in my kitchen when I saw the message and I was like, “Damn, that’s pretty crazy.” I sent a few random demos to start and eventually sent what would become our first song: “Deceit."
How hard has it been keeping Hold My Own up and running with the members being so spread out?
Running the band has been the most smooth experience on a logistical level. Somehow we play on the other side of the country every other week and make it work and consistently write and record new music.
All four of us have accepted what we want out of this band and we want to see it grow and represent Chicago/New Jersey Hardcore, and who we are, as much as we humanly possible do that.
It’s also pretty cool that despite the distance, Hold My Own has been playing a ton of festivals and weekenders throughout the country, including Flyover Fest next month in Tulsa.
Never would I have thought Hold My Own would have played the amount of shows that it has. This band has played more shows than any band I have ever been in my life. It’s allowed us to travel places and see hardcore scenes all across the United States and beyond and I am very grateful for that.
I also just saw you play guitar in Shattered Realm. How did you hook up with them and how do you rehearse with the members being spread out in different states/cities?
Joe ["Hardcore" McKay] was and is a big part of MH Chaos. He wasn’t really the manager of the band but he was more like a consigliere… some of the longest phone calls of my life.. love that guy. I ended up booking Shattered Realm on a show in Indiana in 2021 and a few of my bands were playing the show.
Tony O said they needed a guitarist at the time. He hit me up and I said I was down. My first time playing with the band was at the show, we never practiced. I don’t think we had a legit practice as a band until I played about 6-7 shows with the band. Sometimes I fly in early and we practice before a show but it seems to work out. I’ve had some great times playing in that band.
I still haven't seen Grounds of Execution play live yet. Are you guys still playing shows?
It is still somewhat active bro. Nothing serious planned at the moment. we’ve played a few random one-off shows recently.
In the hardcore scene today, there are many musicians that juggle several bands, sometimes playing different instruments in each one. All that said, you have to be one of the busiest musicians in our scene right now. How the hell do you juggle the bands, work, and family commitments?
It helps having a very supportive and understanding wife. It also helps having a job where I can be in a different state if I need to be and still work. It does become a lot playing shows almost every weekend, booking shows here and there, recording, writing new music, maintaining the bands, etc.
But I honestly found that if I’m not doing all of that, I’ll just go crazy so there’s literally no reason for me to go full ape shit 100% of the time everyday… that’s the way I’ve come to see it. I’ve also learned that I can always become better at juggling this life with family and work commitments. Those are equally as important at the end of the day, if not more so, in regards to my wife.
Do you foresee a day when you have to start pairing things down?
I do foresee a day where I won’t be playing an insane amount of shows every single week, but I don’t foresee a day where I slow down my involvement in all of this. Where there is a will there's a way. There are many people who are proof of this.
I remember a conversation I had with you in LA earlier this year about this subject as we awaited our burgers. It doesn’t matter what stage of life we are at, there is always a way to give back.
What do your parents think of your involvement with hardcore all these years later?
My parents are overall very supportive. The music "In My Way" video is proof [laughs]. They recently came to a Hold My Own show at Cobra Lounge and really enjoyed it. That was special. I’ll still get the comments, “Why are you still doing this? You should settle down," but that’s probably just the sound of caring parents and for that I am grateful.
Hold My Own's In My Way album is available on vinyl and CD via DAZE. The cassette version will coming out soon on Chicagoland Hardcore.