Dualist Inquiry, a rock-influenced electronica solo project, is the brainchild of Sahej Bakshi that was founded in February, 2010. The graduate from the Thornton Music School at USC in Los Angeles, CA, Sahej has grown to be considered as one of the leading live performers of electronic music in India. His sound is broadly categorized as a fresh mix of live electronica and guitar-based rock, and has been steadily winning applause from the audience across the country. His debut release, Dualism EP (2011), and series of bootleg remixes that followed, received widespread critical acclaim and cemented his sound as one that is instantly recognizable and unique. Dualist Inquiry is currently in the process of releasing Doppelganger, a widely-anticipated, first full-length album. He has been the preferred supporting act for an impressive list of international producers and DJs touring India, including David Guetta, Fatboy Slim, Basement Jaxx, KOAN Sound and Hexstatic. In addition, he has performed internationally at the Berlin Music Week (2010), and the Great Escape Festival (2011) where he opened for Beardyman and the legendary DJ Shadow. A seasoned performer of the music festival and club circuit in India, Dualist Inquiry has performed in over 150+ shows over the last 2 years. His festival appearances include the NH7 Weekender, Sunburn, Invasion Festival, Sulafest, BASS Camp Festival and India Bike Week. College festivals include headlining slots at Saraang Festival (IIT Chennai) and Sympulse Festival (Symbiosis, Pune). He has performed regularly at the nation’s top clubs including blueFROG, CounterCulture, High Spirits and The Living Room.
Here is our interview with Sahej –
What equipment and software do you use?
“I work on Macs. I use Logic Pro as well. Everything is done from scratch in the studio. So far I haven’t been a fan of samples. I use a lot of different VST’s and other hardware. The needle instrument VSTs are all amazing: contact, massive, reactor. Reactor is one of my favorite. There is this new thing called Razer now which is responsible for all my new base lines. In addition to that I have been picking Nisense over the couple of years: Bernard, Virus and few other gifted sounds.”
As an independent artist, how did you start promoting your music?
“I think that when you are kind of trying to promote your art, whether it is film or music, there is only much you can do. You can only push it out so hard. Beyond that it’s up to the music or film to speak for itself. I’m not much of a marketing genius. I don’t know how I would go on promoting something. All I know is that when I came here I was just desperate to play music. I went to every person I knew who had anything to do with the music industry saying ‘Here’s my music, here’s my music’.
Most people were like ‘Why are you giving us your music?’ and I was like ‘I don’t know, just take my music and listen to it’. Beyond that I was just really fortunate, it was a lot of word of mouth. That’s how it was in the beginning and it just went off on its own.”
In electronic music, how important is it to perform?
“It’s everything to me. I can’t relate to DJs or performers who go into a shell on stage. I can understand that some people are introvert but I think a really important part of being on stage is to actually give a performance, play something live, have a connection with the audience, look them in the eyes, kind of form a bond during a performance which happens when you are performing outwards for everybody as opposed to just for yourself.”
We are going through an electronic music revolution, what are your views?
“Aside from the first 10 producers in the world who were the first to reach any of the mainstream genres, everyone else is screwed. Because they are late to the party. One of my thumb rules is to ignore the trends. Whatever was happening yesterday it was EDM, Dubstep at the same time and now its Trap. Next it’s going to be footwork. The point is that behind each movement that goes mainstream there are actually people working 5-10 years in the background being legit. They are in the underground, Trap was an underground thing, Dubstep was an underground thing. Skrillex, Banga and Bassnector from Dubstep killed it. There are millions of DJs who follow them only to realize that they reached the party late and the food is over.”
Here in India, the quality of sound is mostly neglected. How do you think that mindset can be changed?
“I think that a lot of it depends on the kind of knowledge and resources that exist in your community. I was in LA from 2005 to 2010, it was before electronic music came to India, but electronic music was already there. I didn’t decide ‘Oh! I should take up electronic music.’ It just happened because everyone around me was doing it. So similar things are happening over here, where it starts off from a place of complete ignorance where nobody knows anything. That’s where I also started from, I thought electronic music was for nerd musicians. As people start to hear more and more music, they hear something they really like, something they hate. They are like ‘What’s the difference between the two songs?’ and then they realize there was a very good producer in one there was a really bad producer in the other one. The difference becomes apparent. I think it’s really about exposure. We’re getting used to it and we are reaching there fast.”
Why do you think that Bollywood is not involving electronic music and sticking with the same old formula?
“These guys aren’t the early doctors of new trends and technologies. There are actually movies showing signs of early adoption like the movie Byomkesh Bakshi. I have 6 friends who did the music in that movie. It was a movie which was released with the soundtrack of only independent artists. Similarly, like Amit Trivedi is a different guy who is doing different kinds of music. Small steps that they taking are going to take it to a larger scale. On the whole, I am not personally waiting for Bollywood to wake up and come knocking. It’s going to take 5 years, maybe 10. We have something great going on in terms of festivals, concerts and general electronic music lovers and I think we are going to get there eventually. That might be spoiled honestly if Bollywood starts releasing music for us. I am really not looking forward to it.”
With electronic music, the performers and artists have suddenly disappeared. Instead of learning to play a piano or guitar, everyone wants to buy a Mac and start producing. Isn’t it just sound rather than music?
“That is true. Instruments now are not what they used to be. But that is the nature of our life, nothing remains the same, everything changes. Music is no exception. I think that your sound as a musician is bit like your handwriting. Every person has one. You really don’t know how you got it, it just happened. If you try a different handwriting, it’s weird and its really untidy. So it’s the same, if somewhere in Delhi, Bangalore, Indore, Bareilly I don’t care wherever the kid is, if he loves Himesh Reshammiya or Honey Singh that kid is legit. He will legitimately grow up to become one of those guys but if there is a kid sitting somewhere saying ‘I want to do the music that will make me most money and most fans in the least time and so let me do Honey Singh’. That is not legit, it’s like pretending to have a different handwriting. There are all kinds of handwritings and if you stick with your own handwriting that’s good.”
What is your advice for the emerging artists?
“First thing I would say is don’t ignore your original handwriting. Whatever your sound is, whatever you grew up listening to, whatever you love or you hate, that will determine your sound. The fact is that this is what you are, who you are. If you are not honest and put out that music, it’s amazing how people can sniff that from a mile away. You can tell when someone who acts in a movie is not supposed to be an actor. You can tell when some musician is making music with no soul in it. There is no story, there is no personality. You won’t listen to it again.”
Performers are not motivated to stick to their own genres. They tend to divert due to popular view. What is your take?
“You have to make music for yourself first. You have to make the music that makes you happy. It is only then when everyone else will jump on. Before I became known as Dualist Inquiry, I found it easier to make music because there was no expectation. I knew nobody was going to listen to it. I showed it to my mother and sister and that was it. It was easy because I wasn’t thinking ‘Will it do well?, how many retweets, what will the reviewer say, what if nobody likes it and then would they say I suck?’. All these things made it more difficult. Hence I think it’s best to make music for yourself and make what you like. Hopefully everyone else will see that you are being genuine.
(Interviewed by Sudeep Sinha. Compiled by Srishtee Rawat)