With releases on Parquet, Steyoyoke and Traum, New Delhi based SHFT has become one of India’s top electronic music talents. We had a chance to catch up with him as he celebrates a new EP on Praveen Achary’s Juicebox Music.
Hi Vipul, thanks for joining us today, tell us a bit about yourself, where are you living and how long have you been producing music and DJing?
I live in New Delhi (The capital of India). I have been Djing and producing since the last 10 years. I am a Computer Science engineer by degree and always felt music gave me the perfect space to express myself and my emotions. I never took any formal training in music, simply followed my gut and have been pursuing music since.
How did you discover electronic music and what led you down the path of wanting to be a DJ and producer? Where do your early influences lie?
Chemical Brothers – Star Guitar was the first track that saw got me curious about electronic music. Randomly watched it on television and I was hooked. Later, I came across Paul Van Dyk’s Politics of Dancing 1 & 2 and that hit the nail on the head. Since then, I just kept digging deeper and before I knew it, I was into it professionally.
How did growing up in India shape your path and sound as an artist?
I think that growing up in India has definitely made me more versatile as a DJ. The music scene here is growing but is not as big as in Europe or other electronic music active countries, so we have to play in different situations and sound systems, with unique challenges and expectations. Also, it gives us a big playground for experimentation as the audiences don’t have any preconceived notions. They are willing and open to new things, making it all the more interesting for me as an artist to build a desirable output.
And when producing music, I try to make sounds and music that I can play in clubs and festivals so that has definitely inspired my sound.
You recorded for years under the moniker of Vipul but recently adopted the SHFT alias, tell us why.
I used to make Deep House under the Vipul alias but used to play across many genres of house and techno. Sometimes I felt that there was a disconnect between what I used to make and play. And then my sound also greatly evolved with time, the quintessential factor for growth. So, I realised that I needed a fresh start with newer influences and techniques that were pulling the right chords with me, it all happened very naturally and before I knew it, SHFT was born.
You’ve got a new a new EP out this week on Praveen Achary’s Juicebox Music, tell us about the inspiration behind the project and how they ended up on the label.
Praveen and I have been friends since a very long time and have been fond of each other’s music style and influences. Personally, I have been wanting to release on Juicebox Music for a while now, under SHFT, since I like what they do. Even though this EP is not exactly Juicebox’s style and sound, Praveen felt a connection with it the very first time he heard it and everything escalated from there to now.
I have been taking piano lessons since last two years which kind of led me to explore this sound. The core inspiration behind the EP has been a lot of Classical and Jazz music and artists, influences that have touched my music deeply.
Walk us through the production process on ‘Memoir’, which is quite a unique track, you’ve collaborated with two other musicians on this one correct?
Yes, I have worked with Prabir Sekhri and Rushil Gupta for this track. Prabir is a Jazz pianist and my teacher. As for Rushil, he’s a guitarist and we stay together as well, so have a different kind of bonding when it comes to music.
I started the track Memoir with just a groove and wanted to go more organic with this one. I was exploring some Kontakt libraries which I used in this track along with some analog synths. Once I made the groove along with some melodic lines, I sent the track to Prabir to improvise on top. He did a couple of jam sessions and sent the midi back. I selected portions that I really loved and built a story around it. Later, I got Rushil on board to do what he does best. Once I had all I needed, it was easy for me to build an arrangement that would sound musical but also work on the floor for creating impactful moments. Before releasing the track with Juicebox, I played the tracks at my gigs for about 8 months, for testing purposes. Only when I was completely happy with the result, I sent it to Praveen.
Juicebox Music would have to be considered India’s premiere progressive house imprint and are also held in very high regard globally, tell us what makes it so great about working with them.
I find them very professional. Everything is on point and they deliver every little thing on time whether it is the artwork, contracts, info, etc. They have an eye for detail and give everyone involved a very comfortable work atmosphere. Also, they are very consistent with their releases and release quality music every time.
How much of an influence is music outside the electronic world on your own productions?
Since I started with the piano, the influence has been bigger than ever. I get very inspired by Classical music and Jazz.
Tell us a bit about your studio, what are some of your go to pieces of gear or software?
I have a small and cosy home studio. I use Genelec M040 as my main monitors with a MOTU soundcard and I check my mixes on Beyerdynamic DT 880 pro. I have 3 analog synthesizers – Arturia Minibrute, MS 20 Mini and Elektron Analog Keys. Also a Roland Digital Piano, APC40 MK2 and Maschine Mikro. Besides this I am now building my own modular Eurorack system which should be up and running soon.
When it comes to softwares, I like Native Instruments Kontakt for organic sounds, also some soft synths such as Spectrasonics Omnisphere 2, Synapse Dune 2 and u-He Diva. I use any of them depending on what I need in the track and the kind of sound required.
You also co-own the Qilla Records imprint with fellow countryman Kohra, tell us about the ethos of the label and what advice you have for artists hoping to have a release with you.
I don’t co-own Qilla but consider it like my own because I work very closely with Kohra who started the label. I actually work as an A&R for the label. For Qilla, it’s about the sound that defines us. It does not matter if the track is made by a big producer or a new comer. If its good and we connect with it, it is good to go and we help push it as much as possible.
My advice for an artist wanting to work with us would be to first understand what we are trying to do here. Understand the sound and see what we are playing. A track might be great but there is a chance that it still might not work for us because of style and approach differences. So if you think you have a strong track then send it to our demo email- email@example.com. Also make sure it is a full streamable track and not a snippet.
Who are some up and coming Indian artists to look out for?
I think there is a lot of talent in India but my current pick would be Jay Pei. I loved his track “Mexican Standoff” and have been playing it a lot in my gigs.
What five tracks are you currently loving the most at the moment?
In no particular order.
Marc DePulse – The Swarm
HOSH – 417
Jerome Isma-Ae & Alastor – Timelapse
Jamie Stevens – At The Still Point
Eitan Reiter – All That I Know (Guy J Remix)
Tell us what’s next, what does 2018 hold for you?
Hopefully, a lot more music along with some exciting surprises.
‘Memoir / Second Sight’ is out now on Juicebox Music, you can purchase the release: here