Hello Dimm, Greetings from Euphoric, It’s a pleasure having you with us here. Your label, High Chai Recordings is doing really well, congratulations! How has it been, working on it from scratch?
– It’s been a great journey! DK aka Filmi started the label in 1998’s Hell’s Kitchen (NYC) with a debut vinyl release Make Love Make War: High Chai 12” (2000 – with Linton Qwesi Johnson, State of Bengal), a celebrated 1000+ attended event in Manhattan, and was the first US media vehicle for AIDS awareness for South Asia. Co-hosts for the event were actor Waris Ahluwalia and dj/voxist DK presenting the album release & AIDS benefit with a stellar who’s who line up of NYC underground heavies including A Guy Called Gerald, MING & FS, Graham Haynes & Sussan Deyhim along with media partners TRACE, XLR8R and Vice. A silent auction showcased art contributions curated by James Fuentes and included pieces from ESPO & Ryan McGinness. Early High Chai label collabs with MING & FS via Madhattan Studios resulted in staple 12” dnb releases with tracks like OmZone‘s “Tantra” & “Numb” featured by URB’s Raymond Roker (Altered States of Drum & Bass) and garnered 4+ stars in electronic magazines XLR8R and MIXER.
In 2008 HCR re-formed to continue its bass music epic with genre-bending breaks and dubstep releases. After many years of forging artist relationships via ethnotechno.com I came on board to compile a slew of chart-topping compilations showcasing an unprecedented combination of global talents such as FS, Asian Dub Foundation, Liquid Stranger, Jahcoozi, Swami, David Starfire, The Nasha Experience and True Tiger alongside breaking new artists from the UK, India and the US. All three major compilations (Revolution Rising: ethnotechno.com vol.1, Nu asian soundZ and Sub Continental Bass) were picked up by music industry juggernaut Universal Music for the Indian, UK and Middle East territories.
What is the current trend in the Dubstep genre that has caught your interest? Do you think Dubstep is really dying? What’s your personal opinion about Moombah?
While 2009’s Nu asian soundZ was the first major compilation to witness the merging of dubstep and Asian sounds, by the time of release in Jan of 2010 the tides were already shifting towards a “post-dubstep” era where club sounds would take over and genre would become more mainstream. This actually helped “bass music” in my opinion (what it really is – no doubt a bloke in South London wouldn’t call today’s Beatport Top 10 Dubstep “dubstep”), so no dubstep isn’t dying – who said it was? The media loves to proclaim a genre’s death the day after it’s named just to spark readership. “Dubstep” (bass music) is alive and well in all its various forms and will be around for a very long time, because it maintains no real BPM, and is an open architecture. That simple rule of the genre means it can morph and develop and absorb aspects of almost any other genre… you now have subgenres like DrumStep, TranceStep, BreakStep, Midtempo and Moombah (slowed down Dutch House) that you’ll hear all at once at any big house bass gig (perhaps to the South London bloke’s chagrin).
You are an amazing Illustrator/Artist, DJ known for your flawless mixing as well as a producer. How do you manage all of this along with managing a label?
It’s a lot of work! Luckily it all ties into one another and is only getting bigger… Along with the label releasing music from bigger artists like bass legend FreQ Nasty I’m soon launching my new branding entity TRYGA (TheReasonYouGotA.com) – I’ll no doubt need to get some interns very soon!
In this money minded world, what is your solution to strike a perfect balance between being creative in one’s own way and being commercially viable (Art/Business)?
That’s a tough one, because it all comes down to taste. You may not like one of our releases because you think it’s too commercial sounding, but that release will be the most viable in ROI (Return on Investment). A producer who is doing very eclectic work probably won’t find much financial success unless they strike a balance with knowing the rules and how to break them. (now I sound like one of my college art teachers…)
How do you see underground music in India? Where do you think we stand in terms of A. Originality B. Creativity and C. Aesthetics?
I was always excited about music in India… people often wonder why there’s so much “fusion” between East and West, and the answer finally struck me: no other country/culture boasts the same number of unique instruments as India (and surrounding parts of ancient India) do. Try and find the same kinds and variations of hand drums and stringed instruments elsewhere besides Europe. That’s why there is so much fusion. The instruments and rich history lends itself to that. From that there was a wealth of originality and creativity for millennia. But over the last 100 years as India has strived to become more modern all they seem interested in is imitating the West. The media is saturated with tunes and visuals that are note-for-note rip off’s of material originating from all over the world. It’s so prevalent that I’m convinced there’s a strain of inherent laziness in Indian culture… But slowly I’m seeing proof otherwise! On High Chai we’ve sought out new talent in India and found future heavyweights like B.R.E.E.D, Nucleya, Sound Avtar all presenting bass music in new ways and pushing the sound in new directions. I’m sure we’re just scratching the surface of a glorious new era for underground original bass music in India.
Cutting edge technique or simple, yet elegant/aesthetic musical phrases with minimal technique? How would you strike a perfect balance between these two completely different aspects of production?
Carefully and experientially. Both are integral to great music. Technique arises from experience. It’s very rare to find a producer/artist who doesn’t over-do their first round of work. Only after years of experience do they trim the baby fat and deliver something truly inspiring on all levels…
What do you think about symmetry in art? A lot of your artwork is based on perfect symmetry.
While I do like symmetry, I find myself fascinated with asymmetry, or order in chaos… perhaps it’s my subconscious need to counter those perfect mirror halves and get more abstract. Usually it’s the abstract that’s much more interesting…
A lot of your art has a saturated communist style red 1940 flavor to it. Not to mention the subtle soviet style font in “Revolutions Rising vol 1” (Which is a great compilation btw!). What has been your source of inspiration? Is there something you are trying to subtly project here?
Haha no – but Universal India had the same questions! (Simply because Communism is so popular in India). We love old Commie art here in the West – the colors and vibe are super, it’s why Shepard Fairey (OBEY) follows the same, if not more pure, aesthetic.
Where do you stand on the spiritual front? Being an Indian brought up in New York and having played a major role in documenting the Asian Electronica scene for quite some time now, how do you differentiate Eastern with Western thought?
I’m kinda spiritual I guess, but firmly irreligious. On the question of philosophy, simply put – they are two sides of the same coin. It’s easy to boil down the West as consumerist and the East as Contemplative but that’s romanticizing the issue.
What fascinates you about Chai? 😀
The name High Chai was created to take back the British Raj’s term of “High Tea” that was being served by white-gloved darkies. All hail the Bass Dravidians! Plus it tastes great 😉