Original Link :
“We chase vibes.” Those three words were ringing in my ears long after DJ and music producer Aneesh Gera thanked me for the interview and we went our separate ways. What a succinct and superb way to sum up what his life is about.
But it’s not just DJing where he’s succeeded at carving a niche for himself. The now two-year old label Ultraviolet Music that he started with partner Paul Thomas, just got picked up by Dutch label Black Hole Recordings founded by Tiesto.
Again, put very humbly, Gera explains, “Somehow, we’ve been successful selling music in a world full of piracy.”
Currently looking forward to the release of a remix package of his track Greyskull, he is very vocal about his passion for the creation of new sound and support of new talent, which is what Ultraviolet sets out to do by signing on new artists regularly. Frigid Armadillo, A South African artist they just signed did a Chill Out remix of Greyskull that features in this package alongside remixes from David Bernardi (Tech-House) and Grammy-nominated Eddie Amador. (#winning)
Gera is India’s first dance music producer to hit the US Billboard Dance Chart and has shared the stage with artists like Swedish House Mafia, Paul Van Dyk, Pete Tong, BT, Above and Beyond, Mark Knight, and many more. And now see-sawing between the UK and Goa, he says that he’s excited to be back in Goa because by his own admission, he’s a “Goan boy through and through”, and very proud of where he comes from. “Everything about it shaped the great music culture, the people, the food, the ocean. There’s a reason why people keep coming back…” And so, we then hit rewind…”
Let’s start at the very beginning (It’s a very good place to start). How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and cool career?
Aneesh Gera: As a kid I had two main interests, one was music and the other was the sea. But very early on I had a setback with my back and had to give up sports completely – no swimming, no diving, no basketball, nothing. And as a 15-year-old to be told that you had to go from competing nationally to not doing anything except physiotherapy, was a bit hard to take.
The only other thing that interested me was music, which my mum pushed me into, not realising that I would have a career as a DJ because of all the taboos attached to it at that time.
In 2001, if you were a DJ, it was because you were a drop-out drug addict or an alcoholic. So, I had to deal with all of that. But I had my first residency at this small club in Panjim, Goa called Club Xtreme. I used to open the venue at 4 pm to practice, and I’d call my mates over to listen, and we’d get free strawberry milkshakes (we were 17 at the time) from the next door cafe because the manager would come listen to me as well. I would play till 8, go back home, change and come right back to work. But I loved it! Just playing records out, I’ve not lost my passion for it. Every gig, you have to literally peel me off the deck.
–How have you and your music evolved over the years?
“Well for me at the moment my career is 80% focused on making music and the 20% is on DJing, I LOVE DJing and wanna do it till I’m in my 60s 🙂 There is no greater thrill then playing your own music when you are DJing. As for my gigs, its more about the quality of the gigs rather than the quantity, I am lucky enough to be in space now where I can more or less cherry pick my gigs, Because, I mean for how long can you be touring all over the place and sometimes have only 200 people turn up?”
-What’s your take on Wannabe DJs? How has the degree from SAE (School of Audio Engineering , UK) helped you?
“It changed my life! The degree has helped me a lot.” We asked him to elaborate, “Well let’s first break ice on this misconception, Audio Engineering has nothing to do with DJing, its like saying ‘I work for Mercedes Benz and I’m an engine expert but I used to pump air in tyres. They’re not connected in anyway but it so happens that it all fits into a car. (We were just as pure shocked and awed by this amazing metaphor that he made up on the go and then we got the rights to use that metaphor :P) “Audio engineering is the science behind sound/audio. In the first month at school, we covered the human ear and how we perceive sound, its pretty in-depth but the making music aspect is similar for example if you write a song on an acoustic guitar, record it and then put it onto a CD and sell it that would sound horrible. So you would take it to an Engineer who would first used record techniques, the right gear, knowing how to use your equipment is key! Treat the audio, balance it, master it, compress it and do all sorts of bits and bobs which would make it international music standard, ready for release. Not very often in the industry, would you find someone who can do both. One perfect example of someone who can do both is Dean (D.Ramirez)”.
From Djing to music production
AG: Very early on into my DJing career, I realised that there’s got to be a lot more to this, because DJing isn’t all that complicated once you get the hang of it. The actual art is Djing on vinyl. No buttons–it’s scratching with your hands and that’s something I started to do right away.
But then, I got to thinking what next, because it’s a very short lived career–being a DJ. You move from that to becoming an artist and developing your style and your sound. For me, I knew I wanted something more. I didn’t like how people looked at me when I was introduced as a DJ then. And I decided that I wanted to study audio engineering–best move I ever made.
I loved the magic of my own interpretation of the sound or a piece of music. Before I got into audio engineering, I had a fear that I might lose the magic once I start breaking it down and listening to it critically. But that didn’t happen; in fact it got even more interesting for me. After I understood how music was engineered and made, I was even more intrigued to find out the process behind it. I wanted to peel back the layers.
Moving to the UK
AG: As far as my career was concerned I felt like I had stagnated in India. The usual progression is that you start playing in your city, and then through the circuit you go play in other cities, and then you move to the international circuit. But as with most things with me, I do things backwards.
From Goa, I started playing in Dubai, Bangkok, Singapore, etc in 2004. Then I started doing the Indian circuit because there were a few good things that were happening here. Sunburn had just started, Blue Frog opened in Mumbai… but that was it. No one was really producing much, I wasn’t producing much either and Goa was just saturated with big commercial clubs at the time.
So, everything plateaued and then one thing led to another and I moved to the UK. This was a really good move for me because it meant that I took the foot off the gas when it came to gigging and started focussing on producing music. And I would do eight-hour studio sessions just teaching myself.
So when I got to the UK, I met up with Jimmy Kennedy who was the resident at Gatecrashers where I used to gig a lot and we started making music together. And all of a sudden we started getting attention everywhere, getting played on the radio. Things just took off from there. We got signed to Pacha and did a deep house rework of Soul II Soul’s Back to Life, which was great for me.
The remix vs. the original
AG: When you’re approaching a remix, the best way I can describe is to think of it as a painting – you’ve got the outline, the structure, the colouring, and the techniques. It’s the exact same principle that applies to a remix where you’ll be breaking a piece of music apart to a vocal (if there is one), the main hook, and the genre the track is based in–the overall structure of the song. It’s like reverse engineering or deconstructing it.
Paul Johnson’s Get Get Down, 132 BPM, up-tempo, signature piano, and huge baseline – those are your key elements. How I approach it is that I don’t want the remix to sound anything like the original, because what’s the point of doing something that sounds the same. My logic is let me give you two pieces that are different and you enjoy both.
As a DJ, you play the original at peak time, but a remix during the warm- up or in a different genre from what the original belongs to. You want to have enough elements of the original so you know where a remix is from, but other than that, it should be as far away from the original as possible.
I tell all the artists on my label, we don’t copy a track, we chase vibes, we chase feelings, we chase emotion, that’s what we do. Because we’re all DJ’s first and then producers.
Paul (Thomas) and I were DJs first who then started out as music producers and co-owners of a record label, and this progression gave us an invaluable insight into writing music. Because you’re a DJ and you’ve gone through that resident DJ experience, you understand warming up, you understand a crescendo, the build-up. There’s a journey, you take somebody somewhere.
AG: Fatboy Slim telling me that they got my track and that they loved it, and were going to play it was way better than a paycheck for me! That, and meeting Faithless. I do not remember if I spoke at all the first time, but I DJed with her twice, which was amazing.
AG: I can’t go past Michael Jackson. I’m a huge fan, so I’ve really looked into and studied his work and this is a guy who has studied Mozart, Beethoven, Bach, and he was so passionate about every single aspect of his music.
In 1983, he wanted to spend a million dollars on a music video and his label said no. So he put in his own money; fast forward to 2017 and we’re still talking about Thriller. In my opinion, it’s the most iconic track and video.
AG: People in India are excited about music, and I feel it’s our job to educate them. There are a few people on the scene who are on same wavelength who are doing just this. Like Nikhil Chinapa’s Wonderwall, for example. Currently there is lots of exposure, but no one researches.
Roger Sanchez played at Wonderwall and he’s one of the biggest DJs in the world, but he’s not current because he’s not had a Top 10 hit. So kids today don’t know him, which is why it’s up to us to bring these sounds to the people. And I firmly believe that more DJs should do this, instead of sticking to the Top 10 hits.
It all comes down to the venue and programming heads; I have lost gigs because I don’t have enough Facebook fans. But the difference is that they are all genuine. And that’s all I can ask for.