We catch up with industry veteran producer Superjones on his take on the music scene & his own musical projects!
You’ve actively been behind the scenes for some time now, how did your journey into music begin?
Dad owned a music shop in the late 80s early 90s and so that played a huge part. Getting new releases a day or two before they were out certainly brought popularity amongst your peers when you rolled to school with the new Safri Boyz, PMC or Bally Saggu album before anyone else. I also listened to a ‘hell of a lot’ of radio, skipping from one pirate station to another, from FM to Am and from one genre to the next.
Other than that both my neighbour and close friend were also into music and so we all began experimenting with it around the same time (Atari ST and Amiga baby!). Also around this time I began working for Jasmine Café, which was then and still is now one of the biggest and busiest P.A. companies on the scene.
Some people may not know, but you were a part of the group ‘Rhythm Shakers’ alongside a well known name ‘Bups Saggu’ – How did this group start and end?
I was the sound engineer at a recording studio owned by Realtone Records at the time when this young, energetic guy who was full of confidence began showing up. Bups at that point had just returned from London after attending a music production course. Though his journey into production was just about to begin, he had already toured extensively as a Dhol player and DJ and so had a good understanding of music.
Bups Deejayed a wide variety of genres and therefore appreciated the kind of music I was producing. The prospect of doing something together was exciting for him at the time I think, and for me - a somewhat ‘four wall’ loving introvert - it was perfect as there was now someone who was at ease with being in videos, doing interviews and performing live. There was of course a third member, Sunny, who also engineered sessions at the studio and was also producing.
We managed to release one album after which we parted ways for a number of reasons. Firstly, I was becoming increasingly disheartened with the industry, music as a whole and the business side of things, and so took what turned out to be a four year break. Secondly, Bups’s energy and enthusiasm far outweighed mine (Sunny was also at this point realising that he preferred being behind the scenes), and therefore it made no sense for Bups to hang around. I went on to unlearn everything I knew in order to learn a whole load of stuff I didn’t know. Sunny went on to become one of the main live sound engineers for DCS, Sukshinder Shinda, Lehmber Hassainpuri and many others. Bups, well we all know what he went on to do.
The musical outlook of ‘Rhythm Shakers’ was very different to what was out during Bhangra at the time – Is this a vision you’ve tried to continue as a solo artist?
I have to partly credit Realtone Records for my return to music. Although I had fully detoxed and was considering selling my soul again (joke), they rang me a few times asking whether I would produce them something. They felt that I could produce the kind of music “Honey Singh” and the young “Bollywood boys” were now producing (as what I was producing four years earlier, in their eyes, was not far off). But when we got down to the details it was never going to work - our visions were too far apart. And so I set up my own label to do what I want, how I want, when I want and with who I want.
How do you view the infrastructure of Asian music here in the UK?
F**ked. There was a time when the music producers, labels and consumers from India had a powerful telescope which was directed right here at the sound that was coming out of the UK. Now however, they’ve binned that telescope as they have no real need to look any further from where they are (with the odd exception of course). During that peak I was recording at Super Track Studios (which was one of the most up to date, modern studios at the time) in Ludiana, India. The owner, Atul, would question me about how we achieved certain harmonics, final mixes and masters. India’s probing paid off, as it wasn’t long after that both north and south India began kicking ass with their tracks.
Other than that, this fake producer nonsense sucks no doubt! These half hearted attempts at singing suck no doubt! These Teletubbies prancing around in their videos suck no doubt! These older singers wearing bling, loud t-shirts and caps whilst dancing around young woman suck no doubt! The non existing filter system (which has been replaced with the “Bhaji Bhaji/I have the most money” system) sucks no doubt! The fact that we are failing young people by being unable to retain their interest in this market sucks no doubt!
Up until now, have you consciously decided to keep a low profile?
Yes. I got into this just before the producer-led trend began. My biggest idol at the time was Bhota Jagpal and the work he was producing for Safri. It was easy then, you focused on the music and let the singer get on with all the other crap.
You look at any real studio producer from any genre...they are not built that way...you know...the shades, the videos, the interviews etc. There are of course more and more exceptions as time goes on, but on the whole the real bad boys always rock it behind the scenes. Even now, I’m out of my comfort zone but, I only want it to be temporary and want my tracks to eventually speak louder than ‘I’.
You’re described as “The Bhangra industry’s secret weapon” – How did this name come about and is it true?
Is it f**k! Lets be real here, it’s just one of those Sun newspaper headlines which are designed to grab your attention. But having said that, I would love for there to be more unity amongst UK producers and would love for us to raise our game in order to take on the India boys again, and if you want to call it a War, well then I would most definitely drop a bomb or two, for sure! And please don’t get me wrong, I say what I say out of love for the producers in India...they ‘are’ kicking ass and I respect them fully! But we were born with western sounds in our blood and have a good enough understanding of our roots therefore we should be on fire right now - regardless of the lyrics being Hindi, Punjabi or full on English.
You came back this year with the single ‘Girls Clap’ which was available as a free download – what are your views on giving fans music for free?
Number one, you have very little choice when your an independent artist, for various reasons. Number two, ‘free’ is and has always been one of the biggest cultural movements of the internet, along with ‘truth’ and a few others. And I’m not that different to those that want stuff for free - I’ve done my fair share of battering that bandwidth. Ideally I would love it to go back to how it was (as I missed out on earning from those £10.99 albums). But it’s not going to happen, in fact it’s going to get worse when streaming takes off full blown! But when I do sell my tunes, I will still upload free downloads - its just the way it is. Free love baby!
From when you first started in 1993 to now (20 years!) – what’s the biggest change you’ve seen in your fellow artists?
Obviously because I’m ‘creating’ again, I spent some time looking at what everyones been doing...all I can say is they’re dancing around a lot more, holding up fingers in pictures, and wearing bigger sunglasses. But seriously, there are those that are continuously trying to progress and those that just conform...you get that in all areas of life.
As an artist who doesn’t do things by the norm, do you think there’s enough support for creatively expressive artists from the media?
The ‘majority’ of Asian media in the UK have not thus far responded to my material/press packs. Put it this way, India (and I mean Delhi and Mumbai) is more progressive than the UK with respect to what I’m doing. Rhythm Shakers was accepted there more than here. More people have downloaded “Straight Ruffneck” from India than the UK. There are more people contacting me with enquiries from India than here in the UK. Now whats that all about?
Tell us about the song & video for ‘Straight Ruffneck’ – It’s quite different for an Asian artist isn’t it?
The fact that you have to ask me that question in ‘2013’ says to me ‘something is wrong!’ It shouldn’t be “quite different”, and we shouldn’t be seen as “‘Asian’ artists”. But it shows you the lack of progress that has been made, in my opinion.
Anyhow, I spent sometime in Romania last year and let me tell ya...you want to experience what it means to be ‘gangster’...catch a flight to Romania (not to say they’re all like that, of course). The guys I interacted with did not for one moment show a ‘human side‘...you know...whereby you could glimpse an ounce of weakness or compassion. But then love, compassion, hate and anger lay in everyone of us...it just depends where your energy is channeled. And so the song and video was just me playing with that whole experience/notion.
Originally I wanted the video to come out of Romania...the problem there is if you look mean chances are you are mean - too mean to be in a music video. Turkey however did the video proud. The whole project was a beautiful coming together of many different cultures: Indian, Jamaican, Afghani and Turkish - only ‘music’ can do that!
Are you ever worried as an artist what people on the internet will think of your music?
Human nature is such that you want everyone to like you. I was weary to begin with, for sure. But now I pretty much see it like this: if its born out of realness and you believe in your movement (however little it may be) I can’t see how it could bother you. You must have created it because you believed in it (unless its purely for fame or financial reasons). If someone has constructive feedback, I welcome it. Censorship is not cool. You’ve got to be insane to believe everyones going to/or should like your stuff. As a ‘creative’ its also important to hold a certain amount of detachment from your work.
What else can we expect from you going into 2013?
I’ll be doing a side project with a DJ from Delhi called Sanit. Project will go by the name of “Sanit & Jones”. It will be primary focusing on Hindi remixes to begin with. Sanit’s cool, his Deejayed alongside Dj Suketu, DJ Akbar Sami, Dj Nyk and DJ Harsh etc and has sound knowledge of the scene over in Delhi and Mumbai. So yeah we’ll see how that goes.
I’m also currently doing a song with a cool, young Bollywood playback singer, Anirudh Bhola (Kites, Ishq Holiday and currently Krrish 3). He loves the raw Dubstep vibe and so the results should be interesting. Other than that, there will be a great music video by a young Romanian director to look forward to and a short film which I’m going to co-write, direct and film.
Any final words for the worldwide readers of SimplyBhangra.com
These are consumer-led times and so rate, hate, love, curse...just continue doing what you do, you make the site what it is! Peace.