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Kenz Desai, producer extraordinaire, on phone from North Carolina. YES! - the man hails from United States! Here is another commercially released artist who joins the ranks of Karsh Kale, Cheb i Sabbah and the likes. Enjoy the read.
AV: How did you get into doing musical production and working with music?
KD: I started playing the organ and bongos when I was five years old, living in Zambia. At six or seven I had already begun performing on stage - so being on stage was not an issue for me. After this I got into sound design and sound effects - obviously I was very much influenced by Bollywood so I wanted to work on film scoring and composing. So as time progressed I got into the business for myself as a music composer, producer, sound designer & DJ and started taking on some of the larger projects. Did work on some bollywood albums and some main stream work such as Bollywood Flashback 2, Dub Of Asia, Dil Hai Hindustani, Hera Pheri etc.
AV: Oh, so besides just Bootlegged, you have done a bunch of different projects with Bally Sagoo then?
KD: Yea quite a few. It was a very productive seven months, when I was working with him out in UK. I worked on movies and the albums, a couple of radio spots on BBC radio. I was also on Bollywood Flashback 2, which we did for Sony India. That went triple platinum - it was very well received. He also worked with me on Bootlegged - which was very groundbreaking in terms of the kind of mainstream, hard dance floor material with a South Asian touch to it.
AV: How did you end up meeting Bally Sagoo?
KD: That actually happens to be a very long story. I happened to hear one of his tapes - bollywood flashback 2 at a friend's party and since it was a copy I had no idea who produced it. The beats were great and all the songs fit a particular genre. But, it took me about five years to meet him.
AV: Five Years?
KD: Yea, he finally set up a website! So, I managed to get in touch with his agents. When I finally met him, I made a formal presentation for him in a meeting with his crew, his manager and everybody working with him. Presented to him with who I am, what I have done, what I can do for him and we saw eye to eye on a lot of things musically including a lot of his own tracks. So he asked me to come work with him in the U.K. Initially, I went over there for a couple of weeks and started working as an in-house producer under a small contract. After that he asked me to come work with him full time permanently. But, I didn't want to relocate completely to a different country (again!) so we settled on a seven month long time span during which I worked on Bootlegged and the other projects.
AV: So why the switch now from Ishq Records to Ziba Music - where you are working now?
KD: A couple of reasons - first of all its always nice to work with a company that is domestic and close to home, I mean we talk in the same rate, money wise (laughs). Also, there is no five-hour U.K & U.S. time difference to deal with. Ziba music has a good strong base in the US - it has a skilled, strong network of people with good personalities. I've seen a lot of negativity in this business - it's part of the reason I stay in N.C. I like the peace and quiet and I like to be around people who appreciate that - Ziba provides me with that. Sanjay Sabarwarwal in particular, owner of ZIBAMUSIC, has been just fantastic to work with.
AV: Any plans to license Club Karma to any other record labels?
KD: Actually yea, the paper work is already in progress to release under the Audio Rec label - they are a UK based company that have released over 200 titles. They have been around a long time - and they will be releasing it in Europe probably by the end of this year.
AV: Talking about Club Karma, it is built around this movie called Yogita - how did you end up working on that film?
KD: AR Rehman had released a new cd and I had posted a compliment on his website - and my signature at the bottom had my contact information. Rohit Batra, the write/director of Yogita co-incidentally saw my info and immediately got in touch with me and said that I am only three hours from you in NC and would like to speak to you about a project I am working on. So after we met up all I could think was - man this guy is a genius - I could just see the clarity and cohesiveness in his vision. Being that I, as anyone else, like to work with people who are passionate, we started working on Yogita. The film was purely for a film festival but, it gave me some very serious exposure for film scoring. The thing was that as much as I wanted a score that I could use as part of a film - I also wanted to be able to use it as cd you could throw into your CD player at home and be entertained by it. That was a hard balance to achieve. But, it turned out fine; the album is selling well now and I have gotten a whole lot of good feedback on it from fans and peers.
AV: So the main reason there was such a big switch between the genres on Bootlegged and Club Karma was Yogita?
KD: Well see speaking of genres, what I think is that, if you make a track with r&b in mind, keep it as an r&b track, if you are doing trance then make it sound like trance but put something new in it to make it unique but keep it as part of one genre. That way you meet people half-way where they hear something they recognize but are still thinking "hey that sounds interesting." On the other hand if you completely try to reinvent the genre every time you compose a track - then you end up losing touch with every genre - typical in Bollywood film tracks. So yea Yogita was the primary reason, but at the same time, I had this desire to do an album that was complete in the chillout genre. Yogita itself is a drama and it's not a fast paced drama - most of it is very slow. Mainly it relies of good dialogue, good acting, good editing and directing - the music had to reflect that in terms of emotion. It didn't have to be aggressive by any means - it had to be powerful but not fast paced. So that's what I tried to bring out from the soundtrack. It became a challenge for me to do this album as I had to do full orchestral arrangements - most electronic composers don't even touch that - I just wanted to master that art and Yogita gave me a conduit for that.
AV: On the album are you playing any of the instruments yourself?
KD: That is the production work. I play practically all the instruments on there - because they are produced electronically. A producer usually has a handle on at least one of the instruments and for me it's the keyboards; you can do so much with them. But I also have fantastic trained instrumentalists on there like Ben Shaw, the flugelhorn player.
AV: Actually talking about the other people on your album - one woman Sandhya Sanjana - I have seen her name appear in different places - how did you end up connecting with her?
KD: First of all, let me say this, she is an excellent human being and it was a great pleasure to meet her when I was last in NYC. She is actually someone that Rohit Batra had sought out as talent that would be appropriate for the kind of musical textures we were looking for. She is heavily classically trained in both hindustani and Carnatic schools. At the same time she has the talent to do music that comes off as r&b - for example the track 'Party At Ten' & 'Yogita.' she comes off sounding very americanized and possibly even Black.
AV: So anyone besides her for the able that sang for you?
KD: Well we auditioned quite a few people both from Rohit's contacts and mine. We basically accepted whatever sounded right and we thought fit well in the soundtrack. You know actually, my voice is even in there.
AV: Talking about the different tracks - in the last track you worked with the guys from TS Soundz. How did you connect up with them?
KD: Well it's only one guy from TS Soundz named Sunny. I have known him for several years now. I got in touch with him back when I was trying to find a distributor for my Desi Keys album. I sent it to him as a demo and he was blown away by it. He wanted to contribute a track to the album and so Sanjay Sabrawal at Ziba Music made it happen.
AV: All right, so what's coming up new with you?
KD: Actually a lot of projects going on. I am working on the score for Alchera, Rohit Karn Batra's new indie film as well as my new album. My album, set for release under the Audio Rec label (UK) - most likely the end of this year or beginning of next year, is untitled at this time.
AV: Is it along the lines of bootlegged or club karma?
KD: You know I get a lot of that from people these days. But, it's going to be a mix of original material plus some covers running the gamut from R&B to trance/house tracks such as on Bootlegged. Something definitly for the DJ's and of course the casual listener driving in a car. Besides that, I am also working on Arya - a film by a brilliant writer Manand Katahora. It's got a fantastic script . I'm also the music supervisor - not composer - for another movie called Fillum Star - which is a comedy by Rehana Mirza - she is actually the fiancée of the Gitesh Pandya - who was one of the producers of American Desi. Along with all this there are a couple of artist/singers whose albums I may produce but I can't say much more on that at this time. If it comes through you would be the first one to know!
AV: Well thanks a lot man. All right, that's all I had planned is there anything else you wanted to share?
KD: Just that the AV listeners/readers should check out kenzdesai.com for more information about me - and, give me feedback as much as possible. I live for feedback! Also, to you man - thank you for the work that you do promoting artists. You are very very good at it & I'm proud of you!