Saturday, June 11, 2011

Event/Interview: Dualist Inquiry plays at Bacchus tonight!

Dualist Inquiry's latest EP is a breath of fresh air. Floating between a variety of genres, feel-good funk, lush atmospherics, a hint of disco... there's a lot of substance to it. It isn't formulaic or predictable which has become a trend with producers from India nowadays. More to the point it's dance floor friendly, even though the BPMs aren't obscenely high... It's been on repeat and would recommend you give it a twirl. Been listening to a lot of Aeroplane and Magician mixes, and the tunes from the EP definitely seem like something I would find on there. Quirky, different but still got that hook to keep it infectious.

I first heard about him when he was rated at the Submerge DJ Championship, his set was met with stellar reviews.  And judging by the video from Blue Frog he rocked it. Tonight, he plays at Bacchus and I'm really looking forward to it!

Thought it'd be cool to have a chat with him about his music and his background, since what he's doing is unique in the spectrum of Indian EDM... do have a read!

In an exclusive interview with YHIHF Sahej Bakshi (Dualist Inquiry) talks about his time studying in California, his views on the current state of EDM in India, the latest EP Dualism,  the plethora of equipment he uses to get his sound right and much more!

Who is Dualist Inquiry and what makes him tick?
Rather than who, I would ask what is Dualist Inquiry? It is one person's vehicle for creative expression, born out of a strong personal need for such a thing. It's an open-ended, intensely personal, never ending quest/mission/inquiry into the subjective nature of being alive, a large part of which is being stimulated by sounds, sights and experiences in general. Dualist Inquiry started as my way of chronicling my life experiences when I was just writing music in my dorm room in college. But now its started shaping my life in return, so it’s quite interesting to think about the change of perspective.

What makes me tick? The fact that my Inquiry is far from complete.

In a nutshell, describe the kind of sound you embody as a producer and DJ?
As a producer, I'd like to think of my music as emotionally unambiguous, that is to say that each song tries to nail a particular mood with certainty. I like my songs to be emotive, and cerebral, in the sense that they spur thoughts, emotions and memories. I also need my songs to have a friendly, groovy, percussive beat to them, and a certain degree of the repetitive electronic element.

I never think about genre labels while making music, but often end up looking back at something I made and being like "that's interesting, there's some funk/electro/whatever in there."

Who are your inspirations inside and outside of electronic music?
Inside, the range is really wide. To name a few (no particular order): Propellerheads, Justice, Chemical Brothers, Daft Punk, Ratatat, Moby, Digitalism. On the other hand, I've been a rock fan for far longer than my five years with electronic. My all time favorite band is Rage Against the Machine, and Tom Morello’s Telecaster guitar tone is a major inspiration to my idea of the perfect sound. Other bands I love include Soulwax, Explosions in the Sky, Arctic Monkeys, Death Cab for Cutie and Coldplay.

What kind of equipment do you use during your live sets?
My main guitar is a Fender Telecaster 1952 Reissue. I use the Novation Launchpad to launch clips in Ableton Live, and have one (sometimes two) Korg NanoKontrol MIDI controllers. One of my favorite pieces of gear is the Native Instruments Maschine. Its crazy how much it’s changed my set since it arrived, now it’s like my second instrument, after the guitar. I’ve been loading samples (from acapellas to videogame sounds) onto the Maschine and just letting loose on the pads during live gigs. I also have a separate chain for my guitar effects, for which I recently just bought a Line6 PocketPOD, which is a really small processor I plan to use just for Amp Modeling. I also use the EBow a lot, which gives me infinite sustain on the guitar for wailing, violin noises. And there are other pieces of gear or instruments (like a Glockenspiel) that I take out to gigs sometimes to make things interesting.

What kind of equipment do you use in the studio?
I have a Mac Pro running Logic 9. My whole studio functions around Logic. I’ve been a dedicated Logic user for 5 years now, because I love its interface, workflow, stability and plugins. I also use Genelec 8030a monitors, MOTU Ultralite soundcard, Access Virus Ti Desktop, Novation RemoteZero SL, M-Audio MIDI Keyboard, Boss GT8 Guitar processor and a few other pieces of gear I use regularly in the studio.

You were a runner-up at the MTV Submerge Ultimate Pro DJ Championship 2010 - what was that experience like?
That was a sweet and crazy experience. I was in Berlin wrapping up Berlin Music Week when I got the news that I made it and had to be in Mumbai in 48 hours for the finals. I’d barely been around in India for 7 months, so this was big news for me, and I dashed back taking 4 flights to Mumbai, barely made it for soundcheck, and in the same dazed, jetlagged state, went ahead and played a 30-minute set with a 5 minute setup time, with huge cameras glaring in my face while I played. It was over before I knew it, and when the results were announced, I remember feeling amazingly excited, tired and numb at the same time.

In retrospect, it was a turning point for me, because I no longer felt like a stranger to the Indian scene, to Blue Frog, and to Mumbai in general.

Tell us about the latest EP "Dualism" - what can new listeners expect from it?
With this EP, I've tried to represent myself as truly and fairly as an artist as I possibly can. There's some chillout, there's some midtempo, there's some party music, and there's some concrete spoken thoughts to chew on. I can't imagine why I should ever have to choose or 'commit' to one genre or tempo-range, which was quite a source of confusion to me for a while. This EP is a result of my arrival at the fact that I can produce everything I want at the same time and release it on the same record, if I think it through correctly. Listeners can expect to hear four tracks that are very closely related to each other, yet very distant in some very obvious ways.

What are your views on the EDM scene in India - the current state and how you'd like to see it evolve?
Currently, the Indian EDM scene in India is at a very special juncture, where people in large numbers are beginning to take electronic and other music very seriously, both in a musical and business sense. I believe that the way it is evolving is quite close to how I’d like to see it evolve in the future. Every few months there's news of a new venue or music festival. European and American festivals are looking to India for acts to put on their lineups. Increasingly, Indian music fans are taking a serious look at Indian bands (which are not playing covers anymore) and finding that they quite like what they see. I also think that music journalists and the media they use are crucial elements in bringing a scene to life, and it nice to see so many websites that have emerged in the last 2-3 years, that are dedicated solely to covering news, reviews and stuff related to Indian bands.

Musically, what was life like in California? What kind of gigs and clubs would you regularly frequent? How often did you find yourself shopping at Amoeba on Sunset?
What I liked best about Los Angeles was the diverse range of experiences it had to offer. So one weekend, we'd be at a club watching the Swedish House Mafia and the next would be at a Psychedelic trance gathering in the middle of a forest, desert or beach. There were raves in stadiums, in warehouses, and even on the streets of downtown LA. There was Coachella Music Festival, which me and my friends went to for 4 consecutive years. Coachella has, in itself, formed some of the most vivid memories I have of enjoying live music in its most exuberant form with 100,000 people in a grassy palm tree-filled field. I remember at one point, I scrolled through my entire iTunes library and couldn't find a living name that I wanted to see, and hadn’t already seen live. It was an insane and inspiring place to form my foundation as a musician.

Amoeba on Sunset was a cool place, but the biggest Guitar Center in the US was just a few doors down from there, and it would always win me over, so I never spent quite as much time in there as I did messing with Guitars and Gear next door.

Can you give some on insight on the music program you completed at USC?
It was a Bachelor of Science in Music Technology, from the Thornton School of Music at USC. It was beyond comprehensive. I took basic courses such as ‘Digital Audio and Recording’, ‘Analog Synthesizer Techniques’, and advanced courses like ‘Acoustics and Speaker Design’ , ’64-track Mixing Techniques’, ‘Digital Effects Signal Processing’ and ‘Analog/Digital Mastering’. Each course was 4 months long, and I had to take a total of about 18 of them to graduate. It was a crazy education and I was quite the studious nerd when it came to these courses because of how badly I wanted to know these things.

Having studied (and perhaps developed a certain taste) in the West, did you find you had to reinvent yourself as a musician once you got back to India?
Yes, I actually did have to reinvent something about the way I lived off inspiration from my surroundings in LA. When I moved back here, I was immediately struck by the lack of a healthy learning environment as a music producer. It was the random, intensely technical producer/gear-head chat that I’d have with a random guy ordering coffee on campus from which I’d learn something new everyday. I felt the community of thousands of talented producers from which to learn shrink down to a handful. But I quickly realized that that’s not a problem in any sense, and is just a matter of exposure, which will create the same environment here in the future.

But in the meantime, I decided not to wait to get inspired and further internalized my creative process. It was a slightly bumpy transition, but has worked out well. I now draw inspiration from my experiences and surroundings without the need for direct ‘musical inspiration’, so to speak.

What was it like playing alongside DJ Shadow at the The Great Escape Festival? Does your usual club sound change when you're playing to bigger festival crowds?
I doubt I can accurately explain the feeling. A few weeks before, I randomly checked onto The Great Escape website to see if I’d come up on the lineup, and there I saw that I’d been slotted to open for Beardyman and DJ Shadow. First I thought the Internet was playing tricks on me, then I got extremely nervous, followed by a realization that this is happening. As for sharing a stage with Shadow, let me just say that I felt glad I'd finished up my act and gotten neatly out of the way before Shadow unleashed what he did that night, with his Shadowsphere (Google it, seriously). I felt so dazzled, so outdone (for lack of a better word), that it was super-inspiring.

Three DJs and three producers who have never let you down?
Ratatat – Classic examples of bedroom producers who made it huge. Love ‘em.

Daft Punk – When I heard their latest song Derezzed, I felt so not let down

Fatboy Slim – This man amazes me every time.

What's in the pipeline for Dualist Inquiry?
After getting done with this EP launch tour, I'll be back in the studio and working towards a full length album for release later this year. I'm also going to be remixing some songs by both Indian and foreign artists for a remix EP.

There's a music video in the works, and I also have plans to conduct a series of informal music production workshops for beginners/enthusiasts in Delhi. There will be plenty of gigs in the months to come and a few music festivals as well. All in all, the unpredictability of this job is one of my favorite things about it, so we shall see what else happens!

You are stuck on a deserted island with a life supply of batteries and a boom box, list out 5 life changing must-have albums you’d like to have with you and why?
OK this is a difficult one because I don’t listen to a lot of the music that changed my life years ago, but I’ll state some of my favorite albums to date:

1. Rage Against the Machine – Live at the Grand Olympic Auditorium
This record to me, is the pinnacle of the live energy a band can have. I love their music, but the way their songs come alive when they’re played live coupled with the fact that this was their last concert for another 9 years makes this one of my favorite albums ever.

2. Digitalism – Idealism
One of the ways I got acquainted with electronic music. I’ve been listening to this album recently, which is a crazy experience because when I first heard these songs 3 years ago I barely understood them or how they must’ve been produced. The electro-rock feel so close to home now.

3. Ratatat – Classics
The Ratatat sound – haunting, melancholic, kind of twisted, emotive and so very unique. One of the most original sounding bands I’ve heard to date.

4. RJD2 – Deadringer
One of my recent fixations, spurred my curiosity towards sampling in my live sets. More on that later (at a gig, presumably)

5. Justice – A Cross the Universe (Live album)
Like the RATM album on my list, this live album by Justice features blistering remakes of their hit songs, which is not only a great idea but also takes courage to do. They nailed it with their live renditions, and I can only imagine what that gig must've been like. Too bad Justice played a DJ set when I caught them in LA. It was nothing like this.

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