Interview: Kumail On Downtempo Music & His Next LP
Bombay-based Kumail is a 21-year-old music producer who’s been pushing atmospheric beats and future electronic sounds actively for four years now.
For the sake of simplicity, let’s say his music falls into the ambiguous realm of ‘electronic music’, but it’s probably the sheer range of sub-genres that he’s experimented with within that vast label that sets his work apart. This is someone who has as much appreciation for the quietest sounds in nature to the most badass bass drop on the dancefloor, and this kind of versatility is hard to come by.
We talk to him about his early days of rap, the influence travel has on his music and what’s in store next with his new LP, out in Jan, 2016.
1. Tell us a little bit about how you got into production.
I actually started off with a lot of hip-hop music, and I tried rapping for a while. I’d listen to Skepta and Professor Green… I went to New Zealand for two months, and when I came back, my direction had changed. I started working with chillstep, and got some pretty positive response from my friends and the people around me. I think it was at this time that I heard Cloudlight by Eskmo, and that is really what got me into sound manipulation and exploring different sounds in the more ambient, downtempo space — which is what I’m currently in, I guess.
2. Would you say you’re a self-taught producer?
I started making chillstep about 4 years ago and yeah, most of it is self-taught. I did a 3 month course in London, in Logic Pro. I was supposed to be there for 2 years but while I was there, they lost their license to sponsor international students. Transferring to another institute was a whole other story, so I decided to come back and make music from here instead.
3. Some of your biggest musical and non-musical inspirations?
Shlohmo, Shigeto, Taylor and Bobby McFerrin. I’ve also been listening to a lot of Nina Simone.. just a mixture of different sounds.
I feel like travelling really, really changes things a lot. Every time I come back from somewhere, I feel like my music is different. Even the LP I’m working on right now is based on connections — not just with people, but with objects and space as well… Different things inspire different tracks.
I travelled to Sri Lanka with a couple of friends recently, and we went to this place called White Monkey, which is in the mountains. That was possibly one of my favourite places, I recorded a bunch of sounds from there; I carried my equipment and was working on them there. So there’s a track on my next LP that constitutes of only those sounds, I haven’t used any synthesisers or anything, and it’s all organic. So yeah, that was something that was born out of a connection with a space.
4. What was the process behind conceptualising your EP ‘Shift’?
I went to Goa with a friend for a month, to make music and didn’t really end up making any. I just went to beaches and recorded sounds and stuff, but when I came back to Bombay, I started working on it. I call it ‘Shift’ because it seemed like a shift in consciousness for me personally, and that’s why it opens with Alan Watts saying what he’s saying — his words best describe what I realised during my trip.
5. Do you feel like downtempo music is under-represented/underrated in ‘the scene’?
To a certain extent but things are changing, and it’s definitely picking up. Krunk recently signed Profound, and Echofloat and I are going to continue working with them — and we’re all downtempo artists. Even Wild City promotes so much downtempo, the lineup for Magnetic Fields is looking incredible. There’s Sid Vashi, there’s _RHL…there’s a lot of exciting sounds coming out of India in that realm.
If you’d asked me this question one year ago, though, the answer then would’ve made me very sad. (laughs)
6. Other genres that you’d like to see more of, in India?
I’d like to see more jazz, honestly. I’d also love to see some quality fusion — you know, like Indian classical mixed with electronic or any other genre. I’d like to see people experiment more with music.
7. You have another LP coming up in Jan, what was the experience of working on that like? What are you like when you’re producing music?
I have about 11 tracks ready, and I’d like to add a couple more collaborations. I’m working with Sandunes and with OX7GEN, and Zoya Khan from Krunk is singing over a track for me. Also planning out how Echofloat and I can work together in the future.
Last year has been a lot of travelling — I’ve been to Rajasthan, Sri Lanka, Pondicherry, Goa, a couple of times. A lot of the sounds I’ve recorded are from there. I’m trying a lot of new things, especially with instruments — guitar, harmonica, my own vocals — so I’ve been working with a lot of raw, organic sounds as opposed to electronic sounds. I’ve been working on it for 8 months now.
I love being at home, I don’t get out too much. I’m generally working when I’m home, and I really like my space. I like my room, and my silence.
8. How do you ‘read’ the crowd during gigs?
Depends a lot on the venue. If I’m performing at Blue Frog, where people come out to watch the artist perform, then I’d play a live set. If I’m playing at Bonobo, where people are just looking to dance, then I tend to play a DJ set. A lot of times, I have a set prepared but also have my bank of sets so there’ve been times when I’ve ended up taking a look at the crowd and switching to one that I think would work better, at the last minute.
9. If you had to choose a film genre/director that best reflected your music, what would it be?
I think… Gaspar Noé, who directed Enter the Void. It’s a trippy, atmospheric movie. And then there’s Wes Anderson; I’m getting into a lot of soundscape stuff now and I feel like it would work.
Making music for movies is something I definitely have in mind.
10. One track that’s on the loop?
11. Dream artist — dead or alive — to collaborate with?
Shigeto. He’s the master of working with textures, layers and soundwork, which is something I’m really into.
12. An instrument/tool that you keep coming back to?
I think it would be the guitar. I don’t really know how to play it (laughs).but I’ll play a note or two and record it and loop it, and incorporate it into my music.