If you were not doing what you are doing now, what would you be doing?
I would still be involved in the music business somehow, I do not know how, but somehow.
Your music is a blend of traditional and fusion, why have you chosen this style.
I think my style of music is different from what people are used to hearing. The Canadian music scene is very different from the UK, and even the Vancouver music scene is very different from Toronto. I believe my music represents the types of music I have grown up listening to and have been influenced by. I have mostly always listened to Punjabi music from the UK and India but I also listen to top 40 for my English fix. Vancouver’s Punjabi music scene is very desi and I think that has been reflected in my music.
You got into music at the age of 15 as a DJ for one of the biggest music companies in North America, would you say it took away something from your childhood?
I do not think it took away from my childhood. It actually helped because I think it helped me realise what I wanted to do when I grow up. It also paid my college tuition!
Who are your role models or mentors? Why?
I have always liked DCS, Sahotas, Safri Boys, Kuldip Manak, Chamkila, and the list goes on. There is no way I can point out one person that has been a role model to me musically. I believe it always changes with what your own goals are.
My mentor is Shashi Lata Virk ji. She is a vocal teacher and has taught me so much in so little time. Not just about music and vocals but about attitude, etc. I had approached her to teach me because there are loads of fake instructors out here, but she is classically trained and has worked for Delhi Radio, grading singers.
You have worked with acts like DCS, Safri Boys (many more). Tell us about how it was to work with great musicians like these.
Yeah, I have worked with many top artists at live events and in the studio, with singers and musicians as well. How many people can actually say they have worked with people they look up to? You learn a lot from just speaking to experienced artists, but you learn more when you work with them.
Going back to 1996, to your first production album titled "One and Only Kuldip Manak Remixes". How do you think you have progressed since, Strengths and weaknesses?
At that point, I and my brother Paul kind of jumped into that project. We had a record company paying for everything, (the good old days). We used samples, everything from Sahotas to Depeche Mode. We had full creative control, almost. We had to work with an engineer so that influences your end product as well.
Since then I have progressed by gaining knowledge on music theory, went to college for my audio engineering diploma, and took harmonium lessons and vocal lessons. I think technology has played a major part in my progression because now it is easier to gain access to tools to create music. As for weakness, I would think my biggest weakness would be that I am a total control freak.
If you had the opportunity to repeat the last five years, what might you do differently and why?
The biggest change I would make is the way I deal with people in the industry. I have been naïve and always give everyone a chance and believe they are sincere.
Who is and has been an inspiration to you and helped the most at your career?
My family and friends have motivated me throughout, even when I did not want to carry on with it. They have all helped me with the career. Through production, Rayman Bhuller helped me enough, bouncing off ideas and getting couple of recordings done for me in India. We sorted started the recording process together in my basement, learning as we went along. Amar Jindowalia has also been a big help, introducing me to some excellent vocalists.
"Illicit Substance Productions", tell us more about this, why the name and what made you want to start working on your own project?
To me music is my Nasha. It is what I do on weekends instead of going out and all that now. I wanted to work on my own project so I could have full creative control over the project without anyone telling me what the track should sound like. It was great working with all the artists on the album because they just laid down their vocals and trusted me to do whatever I wanted. I have had positive feedback from all the artists; I did not release the tracks without the artist first hearing their track.
For the so many aspiring individuals wishing to enter the industry, any messages for them?
Just do your thing and stick to it.
So what you working now? Any new albums, gigs coming up for you?
Loads on the go at the moment. We will be shooting the video for the “Lummi” track, just finalising the crew. In the studio I’ve been working on Hollywood Harv’s album, Harpreet Randhawa’s album, Madan & Miraz’s album (Almost done), and another various artist album with all the songs written by Amar Jindowalia. This album will feature Meet Malkit, Gurbax Shounki, Angrez Ali, myself and many new talented artists will be making their debut on it. I have just recorded a new single that we will be shooting a video to this summer. In addition, the Sweet Amerika soundtrack should be coming out in this winter featuring myself, Battle.K.A.T.T. and Madan & Miraz. During the summer we are busy with weddings and melas and trying to squeeze in as many hours in the studio as possible to get all this done. Keep it locked at ‘SimplyBhangra’ for all this and more.
A final message to all the readers of SimplyBhangra?
Just want to thank everyone for the support, if you do not have a copy you can get one from the website. Check simplybhangra.com or illicitsubstance.com for exclusives and news. Thank you.