Before Protonica and Starlab take over Blue Frog this Friday we had a word one of India’s top psychedelic trance DJ ‘Starlab”. Being classically trained in the art of music, Bharat aka Starlab found a natural fit in trance. We discuss his journey into music, his opinions about the current psychedelic trance scene and how he established himself as one of the most sought after producer from India.
Q1. Hey Bharat hope you’re well! Before we get started on Starlab, you were part of a band for a very long time. How did that come about and what were you doing back then?
Hi EM, and big hello to all readers.
Music has been an integral part of my life since as long as I can remember. My Mother introduced me to Hindustani Classical Music when I was around 5 years old which back then I really protested and only later realised the importance of it as that was instrumental in developing my ear for music. Growing up, my Father and Brother’s excellent taste in Rock N’ Roll and popular music made me pick up the guitar, which I taught myself how to play, and soon enough I joined the high school Rock band as a Bass Player. We were doing well so we continued playing as a band after school and that carried on for another 10+ years. We wrote a lot of original music, released an album and played countless shows around the country thanks to the booming Rock scene that was prevalent in the early 2000s in India.
Q2. Today you perform as Starlab. How did your journey begin with psychedelic trance and where do you see yourself heading in the scene?
I decided to step out and branch off on my own after I found that my tastes were moving towards something different from what we were playing in the band. I was getting into a lot of Progressive Metal and Shoe Gaze music, which was very psychedelic in nature, and I guess that started to rewire the circuits in my head. During that time I went to an academy for a short music production course and soon enough had a small bedroom set up of my own. It was then when I went to Goa for the first time as a grown up and experienced a Trance party on the beach. That had a profound impact on me and soon enough I started to explore this new wondrous world. In no time I realised that I had a particular fondness for the Progressive style of Psytrance after I came across some labels like Iboga Records, IONO, YSE and such. The musician in me was so curious about how it is made that I began scouring the internet for any and every resource of Psytrance music production (which was very limited back then) and began to put together some arrangements. Then another dilemma came about when I had already started to write complete tracks but had no idea how it is performed! I had no clue about what DJing is and how it is done as I was never exposed to it. Then I began dabbling in Digital Djing and soon enough got a break and played a couple of gigs, which were very well received, and since then I haven’t looked back.
Q3. The psychedelic scene has progressed and changed in the recent past. What is your opinion on the current scene and what do you foresee in the near future?
Since I got heavily into the scene, the outdoor scene had started to dwindle here in India thanks to a lot of recklessness that was going on and parties getting busted left right centre across the country. People were rightfully nervous about attending any outdoor events so a lot of the scene has moved indoors to the clubs. On top of that the strict curfews have not helped hence it’s been a pretty rocky road. Lately there have been signs that things are bouncing back as this season in Parvati Valley has been one of the biggest ever and just the other weekend in Mumbai we had an absolute smasher of an indoor event. A very intelligent and new audience is coming out which is giving the scene a big push. The scene in Goa also looks more positive this year. Outside of the borders, in Europe and Brazil the scene is already exploding with festival attendance of over 20,000 people at times so I foresee only good things coming in future.
Q4. You’re signed to one of the top Psychedelic labels Digital Om. It also happens to be from India. How Is your experience working with them and what are your future plans in terms of releases?
Couple of years back I was introduced to the awesome crew over at Digital Om Productions, they had heard some of my music and instantly they became a massive support system. Being one of the very few organized, serious and globally recognized psychedelic labels in the country I was more than happy to join forces with them first as a label DJ and now recently also as label manager and A&R. I have released my best music with them and working with them has been critical in my growth. All of us at the label have the same goal and that is to continue growing the scene and pushing boundaries by releasing the most cutting edge music and providing a platform for promising Indian producers who we resonate with. Already some of the best artists in the world have released with us and belong to our roster. Next we have a great new website coming together which will serve as a stepping-stone for even bigger things to come.
Q5. You’ve performed all over India and at international venues. Which has been a better experience for you and why?
I can’t really make a comparison but what I can say that the Indian audience is full of surprises. There is a huge intelligent audience out here. Sometimes it comes together and then sometimes it doesn’t but when it does you can see why India is said to be the birthplace of Psytrance. From my experience Internationally, I always speak very highly of the scene in in the United States. I had some great opportunities to play at the California festivals. Some amazing locations in the deserts and forests and even right in the middle of the square in downtown San Francisco. The vibe and culture there is absolutely top notch and second to none.
Q6. You’ve released music which has been featured on Beatport Top 100. What is your studio setup and any tips you can give to aspiring producers.
Recently I have built a brand new studio where I have a 27″ iMac running the latest version of Logic Pro X and software plugins. For monitoring I am using Yamaha HS8 monitors, AKG Q701 headphones. Audio Interface is Focusrite Saffire Pro 24. M-Audio Axiom 49 Keyboard, Access Virus TI Snow Synthesizer. Also I am running some software plugins from Universal Audio Satellite Thunderbolt DSP Accelerator. And the room is acoustically treated. Before that I was working on a 13″ Macbook Pro hooked up to an audio interface an 5 inch monitors.
My biggest tip is that you don’t need a whole lot of gear and software plugins to make good music. Don’t download each and every new plugin that is available out there. Learn how to use a few select quality plugins. Pick up one synth and learn it like the back of your hand. Also, be honest with yourself and your productions. Set high benchmarks for yourself. Compare what you have made to the best stuff out there and don’t be in a rush to finish tracks and send out to labels. It is also important to network so get out of the studio once in a while J
Q7. You’re playing at Blue Frog Pune this week. Have you planned anything special for this gig? Are there are unreleased tracks you might be featuring?
I am really looking forward to playing in Pune for the fist time and that too at a high quality venue such as Blue Frog. There is nothing really special planned but I am looking forward to testing out some new materiel I have been cooking up!
Q8. You’re opening for the duo Protonica this Friday. You both have releases on IONO music. Can we expect a collaboration anytime soon?
I consider Protonica to be one of my greatest inspirations so it is a privilege to support them. As for a collaboration, I have my doubts as they don’t do collaborations!
Starlab performs alongside Protonica this Friday at Blue Frog Pune. For more info visit Mainstream Alien Present ANONYMOUS feat. PROTONICA | STARLAB | ZAVION.