With music producers releasing albums much too frequently in the Asian music scene and everyone wanting to jump on the band wagon yet still releasing material that sounds all too familiar, Jr. Dread is no doubt going to go against all odds by releasing a sounds that is both distinctive and fresh. We caught up with him recently to find what he has been up to and what 2011 will be bringing.
Jr Dread! Give everyone a quick lowdown on who you are and your background in music
Without going over the top, in simplicity I’m a DJ and a Producer of music. Having grown up around my uncle playing various vinyl’s on his quite literally insane sound system to stage diving at heavy metal gigs, there’s always been a philosophy of ‘if it has a good beat then I’ll like it’ in my life.
I started DJ’ing a few years ago now even though it seems decades ago which then lead to me wanting to produce music and has resulted in what you see today.
You released your debut album earlier this year, how do you feel the response was to the album?
The first and probably only description I can give the response would be ‘utterly astonishing.’ I never expected much from my first adventure into the insanity that is the music industry as a small fish in the ocean. Yet people from all over the world have been sending messages of enjoyment. It was done with such little promotion as it was meant to just test the waters, it seems rather then testing I dove in…
For an artist who comes across as anything but ‘normal’ wasn’t the album name ‘The Debut’ a little too simple?
Ha! Bizarre isn’t it? You could almost say that had I named the album with a highly complex name, which there were many I had written down, then I would have just followed my stereotype of being anything but ‘normal.’ Alas, it was a label decision to stick to pushing the name Jr Dread, and so the album names I penned had been scrapped. We’ll see if they ever make it out my jumbled mind again.
When you went to work on ‘Jaan Toh Pyaari’, which features the vocals of the late Kaka Bhainawala, were you worried about what the reaction might be to a drum n’ bass track?
Had it been any other of the singers on the album who were on a drum n’ bass/jungle song I wouldn’t have been as voraciously nervous as I was when I decided to go ahead with using Kaka Bhaniawala on the beat. The endless nights of ‘should I?’ within my mind did play its maddening tricks. However, a good mate told me quite simply that Kaka is known for desi beats, yet his vocals are that powerful a whole new generation of music lovers should learn of him.
So with Jaan Toh Pyaari I’ve received more love from the non-desi crowds whilst bringing to them a singer they’ve never heard of and hopefully will go forth and listen to his songs.
Looking back at your album, what track would you say you spent the longest on, or the song the possibly gave you the biggest problems in terms of ‘getting it right’
One stands out like a painful sweet memory and that’s ‘Maye’ ft Sufi. Reason being quite simple, with such a powerful voice and the lyrical content laid how could I keep the music as a compassionate lover rather then an overpowering one. This gave me no ends of problems, in the end I hoped it worked, but it’s something I’ll come back to in the future when I work with Sufi again. You have to get the balance right between a good beat and not hiding the singer’s talent.
There’s been a lot of discussion lately regarding the industry and its perceived lack of creativity; do you think the problem lies with artists, or to audiences who should be demanding more?
It’s a quite a cycle. I cannot blame any of the key elements, the record label, the artist or the crowd simply because without one there isn’t the other. The record label wants music to sell, the artist needs a label to help push the music, and the crowd are the funding for the label. If the crowd buys generic music, the artist will make generic music, the label will sign generic music.
Simple isn’t it. All it takes is the crowd to stop buying generic music, or the label to push something different, maybe even the artist to take a risk, break the cycle and prove it can work. However, our traditional mentalities mean we won’t take risks and are happy as long as the money is flowing, something I could never grasp.
As the industry has evolved over the past decade, the majority of income for artists now comes from shows and live performances; do you think this model is sustainable in the long run?
In this futuristic society where going to your local music shop and buying that fresh new vinyl or cd is dead. Where all it takes is one person to buy your song legally as a download for thousands to then have it free., we artists must survive somehow and that is in where music came from originally, live and in front of crowds.
Maybe it is the way forward and will be sustainable, we’re currently in the eye of the storm with the music industry, once we get out on the other side who knows what will happen…
You’re currently signed to Hi-Tech Music that are having somewhat of a renaissance in the Bhangra scene, do you think the role of bigger labels is diminishing in the age of iTunes and pr teams?
A label will never diminish and I should hope not either! iTunes is wonderful, a quick, easy digital way to receive a new sound and PR teams do work endlessly for the artists they look after but a label is the foundation to me. Without Hi-Tech Music I probably still wouldn’t have released a single song let alone an album. Without them the future projects I have placed along my path would never have been there.
Labels are quite like grumpy old men, they know what they have to do, they have the will and way to do it, they just need a good old kick to get them going though!
When you sit down to work on a song, or a new project, talk us through the process from picking the song to mastering the single.
Firstly its concept, from lucid dreams of what ideas would I like to hear from a song. This then turns to lyrics and picking the perfect singer for this role. Whilst all that is tumbling around my mind, I start a beat with a melody, just to get a feel of atmosphere in the song.
Then once the singer is recorded, their voice is added to the beat, and all sort of insanity occurs as everything gets changed, re-arranged, scrapped or restarted until it all comes together seamlessly. Once this is done it’s sent for mastering as I’m not one to master my own songs as I do believe a fresh pair of ears are needed for such a role.
I hear you’re already busy working on a new album for next year; can you give us any exclusive information on this new album?
My lips, whilst sealed can move slightly enough to enlighten you on the new album. Firstly it’s going to be taking ideas from The Debut and expanding them. So there will be more drum and bass/rock/reggae fused songs, with new sounds that my ears have soothed too including dub step/electro.
Also I’m currently writing up a list of song ideas and singers I wish to feature on the album, and this time there will be more then just Punjabi. I’ll be including Hindi, Urdu, qawwali and others, I won’t name the singers just yet but the roster so far is looking quite monstrous!
Musically, where do you get your ideas and inspirations from?
Any time I get that little twitch in my ear from hearing a new song, that’s my inspiration. I listen to all sorts of music, and currently having a whale sized fondness for blues and 80s music. Ideas for songs come from what I witness with my eyes, a small scene that happens within a dark club becomes quite the concept once you realise that it happens quite often and across the world.
If we delved into your music collection for the ‘most played’ tracks this year, what should we expect to see?
You’re likely to find a few albums constantly cropping up. Currently it is Panjabi Mc’s ‘The Raj’, Mark Ronson ‘Record Collection’ Magnetic Man’s self titled release, AMX ‘Broken Silence’ and various other albums.
Thanks for taking time out for the interview, any final words for the readers of SimplyBhangra.com?
Thank you one and all for the love and the support. To those who bought the album or the single, to those who read this interview without getting bored halfway through and to all the glorious team of SimplyBhangra.com I thank you deeply.
Remember ‘Learn as if you were to live forever, live as if you were to die tomorrow’.