Arjun Vagale has had an absolutely stellar year! From launching his new label, Odd Recordings with Ramiro Lopez, to playing Awakenings and being signed to Drumcode and Second State, Arjun has been at forefront of pushing underground electronic music in India for over a decade now. The legend has paved the path for a whole new generation of Indian DJs and producers and he’s played a significant part in putting India on the map for electronic music. The Sherp had an insightful conversation with Arjun just before his set at BUDx in New Delhi.
Q- How did your track, Liquid, end up getting released on Drumcode?
A- Adam (Beyer) has been playing my music for many years now. I was always interested in signing to Drumcode, but I wanted it to happen organically if it was supposed to. This year when I was playing at Awakenings, Adam and I were hanging out backstage. He told me to send him everything that I’d been working on because he wanted to put me on the next Drumcode compilation. For me, that was a very big moment. Firstly, because I was playing at Awakenings and that was freaking huge for me as an artist, and then because Beyer told me he wanted to sign me to his label. When I came back to India, I spent one full day in the studio working on a track that I wanted to send specifically to Adam. I played it out the next day and it worked really well. That’s the track he ended up releasing on the Drumcode compilation.
Q- There are a lot of young music producers here in India who idolize you. A lot of them are still just producing tracks in their bedroom but would like to be signed to the kind of big labels you’ve been signed to. What advice would you give them?
A- Firstly, just work really hard. Hold out for the good things and hold out for what you want. Don’t jump on to something because it’s trending at the moment. If you truly believe in your sound, then work towards it and give it everything you’ve got. If it’s meant to be, it will happen. Don’t be lazy and complacent thinking that something will just happen out of the blue. I believe everything is a work in progress and you have to climb a ladder. You need to learn how to crawl before you can walk, and walk before you can run. I think everything functions that way.
Accessibility and technology have made certain things very easy today. A lot of people think they can make a track or two and then get signed immediately to a big label. I don’t think that’s the right way to do it, I think it is very important to climb that ladder. You learn how to become a better producer and you learn how to become a better human being through the process. A big label is not going to sign you if you don’t have credibility. You need to learn how to work the business. Everyone needs to see value in someone they’re investing in.
I talk to a lot of these kids who send me a track and then send me different versions of the same track. Even today, I make ten or twelve tracks a month. Out of 40 that I make, only about one or two will end up getting released. If I play out a track that I’m working on and I think it’s not having the effect I intended it to have, I’ll go back and change it and repeat the process a few times, but if it still doesn’t work then I move on to the next thing. To someone who is sitting in their bedroom and working on music, my suggestion would be to keep producing tracks. The filter is very important. Anything with a kick drum is not a track. Practice makes perfect so it’s important to keep making music.
Q- What’s the story behind your new label, Odd Recordings? What are your future plans for the label? How do you end up signing artists to the label?
A- I ran another label called Maktub Music for 6 to 7 years, and for its time it served its purpose well. The label was set up purely to release my own music and my music with Jalebee Cartel and I also wanted to push other Indian producers. I signed guys like Praveen Achary and Arnold From Mumbai (AFM) to my label back then. However, when I started the label, it was unique. Now there are like thirty other labels here that are doing the same thing, so it became sort of saturated for me.
The idea for Odd came to Ramiro (Lopez) and me about two years ago because we had been working together a lot. The idea was to set up a proper international label that was doing cutting-edge stuff without any gimmicks. The ethos was to make it very pure, something that only supports good music. Our philosophy for the label is, “less is more”, so we will be doing very few releases a year Each release will only have two tracks and no more. Each track that we want to sign is road-tested for two months and if doesn’t work, we don’t sign it. Even if it’s my own track, I send it to Ramiro first and he tests it for a month, and if that works, I send it to our small family of artists on the label who will test it too. So we are extremely hardcore about the quality of the music and it has to do with the simple fact that there is way too much music being released today. There are 70,000 Techno tracks being released on Beatport each week. That’s a fact. How do you stand out from that? Release high-quality underground music.
Q- You’ve been a significant and integral part of the electronic music movement in India for a very long time now. What are the changes that you would love to see in the Indian Ecosystem?
A- The biggest thing is government support. Somehow, the government really needs to understand that nightlife and dance music culture is a real thing in India and it’s not just some floozy drugs-and-alcohol situation. It’s a real ecosystem and big business. We have some very successful festivals and clubs. We have artists who are doing great things and need support. Unfortunately, they only want to recognize Hindustani classical music and nothing else. Even though I run a music school, they’re not willing to recognize an electronic music academy as a school. Do you know what I mean? I think having the support of the government right now, or in the near future, is paramount for the scene to actually grow. Even in terms of simple things like club timings, like events being forced to end at 1 am. What are people going to do after 1 am? They’re going to go elsewhere, and probably drink and drive after that. But how about keeping the clubs open till 5 am and regulating it properly? Have Ubers and cars that can pick up people and ferry them from clubs and enable them to drink in controlled situations rather than having illegal thekas out there. The more you say no, the more people want to do it.
At ADE in Amsterdam, ecstasy is legal during that time. They have facilities for people to test their drugs so they know what they’re putting into their bodies and know they are not going to take some crappy stuff and end up in the hospital the next day. I’m not saying we have to go that far here in India. The first step is regulating nightclubs and drinking. Allowing venues to be areas where certain things are allowed and where the government knows exactly what is happening. Places where the infrastructure is created to help propel the scene. It’s a business, and it’s one that can generate a lot of money when regulated properly. They don’t realize the kind of money that’s there if they regulate it and make it work.
Q- What sort of impact do you think an event like BUDx is going to have?
A- Budweiser starting this (BUDx) in India is a big thing. The world is starting to notice what’s happening in India. IMS just put out a tweet about it and that’s huge! IMS is an institution to support electronic music around the world. It’s going to put a big spotlight on India and our dance music ecosystem in India and show the world that there’s something substantial happening here. The repercussions of this event in India and all over the world are going to be great.
Check out Arjun’s latest release, Age of Lust, which has already broken into the Beatport Top 10 (Techno).
Follow Arjun Vagale on Facebook here.
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