INTERVIEW WITH ARJUN VAGALE
Arjun Vagale is one of India’s most coveted DJs, part of an exclusive new breed of cutting edge producers who are making a massive globe impact. As one of the country’s leading electronic music exports, he plays incessantly back home and tours regularly in Europe, the USA and Asia. A man with a true passion for the underground, a sound he relentlessly plays, produces and promotes, it’s no surprise that Arjun has received numerous awards for his DJing and production skills, and currently reigns at the top of the DJ Mag India poll in 2013. He is known for his “intense, driven and atmospheric” techno sound. Enjoy our interview with Arjun Vagale.
Hello Arjun thanks for taking the time for this interview with Viva la Electronica. We’ve been tracking your career since you stablished in Europe, but tell us a little bit of your background in India and the scene over there.
Thanks! Well I’ve been a DJ now for about 18 years. Back when I started, India did not really have a scene and I think a bunch of us, the first generation of DJ/Producers, built the underground into what it is today…. although now it has been overtaken by big money and the pop kind of dance music (I think they call it EDM haha). Having said that, we do have a small but thriving underground scene back home, thanks to some absolutely talented artists.
You will play very soon in Essen at the Viva la Electronica Techno Edition meets Yes We Can night. What do you expect from the Night and whats your connection to Yes We Can?
I’m super excited to be playing in Essen again — I played there about 2 years ago. Broombeck and me are good friends, I really like his music, and we are in the process of doing some tracks for his new label Yes We Can.
What does 2015 hold for you and your musical pursuits? Are there any big plans like an album or is it business as usual?
I recently moved to NYC so the big plan is to push further in the US. The scene here is amazing, and the clubs have this electric atmosphere. It’s very different to Europe, but it’s exciting nonetheless. I have a bunch of music coming out as well next year – most of which I’m not supposed to disclose just yet, but I’m excited about my collaborations with Ramiro Lopez that’s coming on Terminal M, and with Victor Calderone on Octopus Recordings.
Since when are you involved in electronic music and when was the point of breakthrough which let you become professional?
I’ve been a DJ since I was 15-16 years old. In India we didn’t really have a big dance music culture – back then it was a lot of Bollywood & Pop (I guess its still around), but it’s grown and changed immensely over the years. I’ve been a resident DJ at many clubs in the past, during my early years, and that led to creating a live act with some friends. It was very successful back home and really propelled us to the headline space. But once it was done, I wanted to go back to my underground roots and play only techno.
I guess the big break was when my productions started getting airplay from guys like Hawtin & Carl Cox, suddenly everyone took notice of this guy from India making techno.
When did you first play in Europe and where? What was your impression and what experience do you take with you from this?
I first played in Paris & Lille with my live act, Jalebee Cartel in 2006. Of course it was a complete change from India, but in the end, its all about making people dance. Our first German gig was at the C/O Pop festival in Cologne 2008, and that’s when I fell in love with the German audience. I’ve played in Germany every year since.
Whats the reason why you moved to New York and not to Europe like other Dj´s?
To be honest, it’s not easy moving anywhere with an Indian passport! I visited NYC last year and spent a few months here and loved the scene and vibe, I think it’s the best city in the world. It’s at that time that I did some research and discovered that I was eligible for an artist visa. My wife studied here in New York so it was also another reason, why we chose to move here and not Europe. But you never know where life takes you 😉
Do you have a residency Club you play regular in New York?
I think the days of residency are over for me. I mostly travel and play in different places every weekend.
You release on famous labels like SCI+TEC, Tronic and Bedrock. How is your relationship to the label owner´s? Is your relationship rather based on a business level or do you also have personal contact to the other artists?
With every label or label owner the relationship is naturally different. With Dubfire, for example, we’ve become friends. I’ve played for a few label showcases so that brings you closer and a natural bond develops.
With Christian, we have become good friends and we talk a lot. I’ve played with him on numerous occasions and it’s nice to hang out as well, when we are not playing – like at the BPM festival or Sonar. But it’s difficult to connect often, when you don’t even live on the same continent!
You’ve done a compilation with CR2 called Space Ibiza 2014. How did that come about?
Actually it’s a track that Ramiro & me did together that made it to the compilation. Carl Cox has been a big supporter of our music, and he’s been playing that track ‘Bomber7’ for a long time, so it was nice to see that they licensed it for his mix.
What’s your favorite producing tool and do you also use hardware for your productions?
Right now Ableton is my main tool, as I’m running on a super small studio setup here in New York. But I’m a gear freak so I’m always looking for new pieces of kit. I recently got a MiniBrute and just found this amazing Neve Portico Tape Saturator. I use a mixture of hardware and software for my productions.
Do current, contemporary sounds and styles influence you in the studio? Or would you describe it as a timeless working environment?
I’m honestly not really in-tune with the contemporary styles of music, coz I’m just too obsessed with what I want to hear. But I do have a lot of different influences thanks to my wife, who is also a music aficionado. She listens to everything from Jazz to old skool hip hop to African music, so I guess that’s a big influence.
How do you spend your time between your gigs when you Travel?
Eating and discovering interesting cuisines. I’ve also started cooking … a bit.
Do you have a particular gig in the upcoming winter season you are looking forward to?
I do indeed. I’m playing for Pig & Dan’s party at ADE, followed by Essen, Frankfurt & Berlin. Then I’m back in the US with gigs in NYC, LA, Toronto and then it’s time to head home for a few weeks for the Indian festival season. Then in Jan 2015, I’ll be playing at BPM festival, which I’m so looking forward too.
What’s your favorite tune from the last months you constantly play in your DJ sets?
My favourite actually change every week, and right now I’m digging new EP’s from Richie Santana, Mark Broom & The Junkies.