The Sherp had a lengthy chat with India’s finest electronica outfit, the MIDIval Punditz, as they shared their experience as mentors of the ‘The Step Up’ program, tips for upcoming artists, and the special tribute they’ve icluded in their latest album – Light.
1. How would you describe your experience on The Step Up by Johnnie Walker?
The Step Up by Johnnie Walker is an interesting concept, and we were happy to share our experiences and our knowledge with the aspirants. As it is digital in nature, it’s is a new and refreshing concept that we are truly excited to be a part of the ‘webisodes’ as mentors.
When Diageo approached us to do an interesting digital mentorship program called The Step Up by Johnnie Walker, we thought was really nice opportunity and interesting to be a part of.
We got to work with some of the upcoming, budding talent from India and got to understand the minds of the younger ones. The Step Up is also a platform for new talent to shine through and make a name for themselves. Here we try and mentor 3 producers and help them understand the art of making electronic music. We give them certain tasks that help us understand what they need to learn in order to progress as producers. The Grand Finale of The Step Up was recently held at Blue Frog, Mumbai and needless to say, was exciting. We were confident that all three mentees would have proved themselves worthy of it.
2. Your eagerly awaited project ‘Light’ is slated to deliver an audio-visual experience to audiences. How important a role does art play in packaging the music you make in the studio?
Tapan: Right at the early stages of making this record, we felt that we wanted to deliver a bigger experience than just new music. The new album was always envisaged as an audio-visual experience. We worked with a talented duo from Delhi (Naasha Mehta and Santana Issar ) to create custom videos for each track of the album and the artwork for the album cover came from the video of the song Baanwarey.
In today’s internet and iTunes ecosystem, the album artwork has become less relevant since the music buyers don’t really get to hold a vinyl or a CD when they buy a new record. Instead they see a small thumbnail of the album artwork on the digital store and then they buy the tracks. We still feel that the artwork is very important and we insist on getting high quality packaging done for all the physical copies of the album.
3. You’ve worked with a number of musicians on ‘Light’ and there have got to be moments when the creative sync is a tad bit off. Young producers would love to know some thumb rules (if any) to follow if they’re working on a collaboration.
Tapan: For us, music making has always been a collaborative effort whether it’s between the two of us or between us and other musicians, vocalists. With experience we have been able to identify the collaborators for each song pretty accurately. For us it’s a lot to do with a general vibe of the collaborator towards our music. We work with people not only for their talent but also how comfortable we both feel with their attitude towards us and our music.
4. Your music is a splendid fusion between electronic and Indian elements. Apart from being industrious and hard-working in the studio, how important is it to find a signature sound to cement your place in the music industry?
Tapan: Finding a signature sound is probably the most important part in any musician’s journey. If one does not find that, they end up becoming a part of the crowd and it becomes very difficult for the audience to differentiate between you and the rest. When this happens, the audience stays disconnected with you and never really becomes a fan.
5. Gaurav, tell us more about how it felt like to lend your voice to the album? And why does the track ‘Don’t Let Go’ have a special place in your heart?
Gaurav: Well, singing the chorus for this track was an amazing experience for me and it really helped me understand the intricacies of song writing from a singer point of view…
Don’t Let Go is a track dedicated to a very dear friend of ours who passed away not so long ago. The news came to us in the middle of our album sessions and left us in compete shock. We wanted to honour her life and her amazing personality by writing something positive and happy. We went ahead and wrote the main chorus on a positive note. We then chose Todd to write this song with us. He wrote beautiful lyrics to a strong drum n bass track.
6. Six years in the making, your fans have been anxiously waiting for this album…. What else does the ‘Light’ have in store for us? What can the fans expect?
Tapan: We feel that the album has a ‘bigger and more epic’ feel than our previous work. At the same time it carries our signature sound and brings forth some of the best folk music from India’s awesome musical heritage.We have collaborated with very talented artists from across India to showcase various folk styles such as Carnatic, Rajasthani and UP, namely Malini Awasthi, Papon, Kutle Khan, flautist Pandit Ajay Prasanna, Baiju Dharmajan among others.
Gaurav adds: This album was conceived as a live show, something like The Wall, It’s important that this album is played in its entirety.
Tapan: It took us close to one-and-a-half years to write the album, the tracks were all written one after the other because we wanted a single string of thought to tie-in the album. The focus this time was purely on creating a record that we can perform live with a full band, as it’s been produced in the studio. That’s how we conceptualised it while weaving in various styles of Indian folk music within our signature style of electronic.
Gaurav adds: Most of these tracks are so cinematic and have so much to say and so many moods they’re going through, it takes at least 5 or 6 minutes to tell the story.
Our music is always inspired by our experiences, our travels, our lives and is a narration of these experiences…. During that time we were playing a lot of music festivals, and were inspired by the sheer theatrics of the festivals. That led us to conceptualise the album as a show, a full-fledged show, where the tracks were dramatic enough to create a lot of dynamics within a live performance. The entire album is like one full show, performed live. We realized that today, the lighting – where it’s used on stage, on visuals or in the music itself -is really important… Even in music, darkness and light relate to moods…Light was very important to the conceptualization of this album. The entire album goes through degrees of brightness or darkness and that pretty much the reason why we called it light. It encapsulated the entire essence of the album.
Here are a few fun festival related questions we’d like you to answer
1. If you had to get married at a festival, which one would it be and why?
Would never get married at a festival…it’s too personal an event to be held in front of strangers.
2. Who/what is your favorite festival buddy? Tell us why.
We love going to festival with our close friends like Karsh Kale, Randolph, Monica Dogra, Manish Arora. They are fun people to hang around with and are not shy of becoming fans even though they themselves have a huge following.
3. A festival you would consider being sober at?
Mahashivratri festival at Sadhguru’s Coimbatore Ashram
4. If you could take only 3 things to a festival, what would they be and why?
Wallet, Phone, Festival Ticket
5. Name a festival you would consider attending alone. Tell us why.
Burning Man….its a place where you express yourself individually and going with a bunch of friends or your spouse could take away from the experience.
You can get yourself a copy of their latest album ‘Light‘ HERE.
Their 4-city tour kicked off in Pune this past Friday, and you can still catch them in the following cities:
17 April – Summerhouse Cafe, Delhi
18 April – Air Lounge, Hyderabad