We hit it up with Bups Saggu to see what Hera Pheriyan he’s been upto, getting the lowdown on the new single and his recent musical releases as well as his opinion on the Asian music scene!
You’re gearing up for the release of your 2nd solo album, Global; do you think expectations from the public are different now?
I hope so– the public make or break your career and knowing that people have expectations of you gives you even more motivation to deliver a product that hopefully exceeds these expectations. I also think the public want something different now; the first three tracks I released from this upcoming album (“Punjabi Hurrr”, “Milky” and “Drama Queen”) have been very well received by fans but what’s to come is much more experimental.
As an artist I feel it’s my duty to keep things exciting and entertaining. Plus, I don’t want to be seen as a one trick pony!
How does this album differ from your debut, Redefined?
Well, I’d like to say that I’m no longer redefining myself (laughs). This album isn’t bhangra-centric. Of course it has dancefloor bhangra hits, but it also has a different sound. I’ve let loose and gone somewhat experimental with the music, composition, lyrical content, singers, videos and even my promotional campaigns. Redefined was my introduction to the industry as an artist while Global is my chance to show my fans something different and give them a taste of the varied musical genres that are influencing me at the moment.
You’re currently signed to VIP Records in the UK, but what are you plans for promoting yourself in Punjab? And do you think it’s harder for UK acts to break over there these days?
I am blessed to have Vanjhali Records as my label in India. They give me ample support and push my music throughout Punjab. It’s not easy to break into the industry in Punjab, or India as a whole. You might have a great product but if the distribution is lacking, you won’t get far. India is a very competitive market and having a label that not only promotes you but provides you with the opportunity to create quality videos, takes you a step closer to being successful.
Do you approach vocalists you’d like to work with or vice versa?
In the early stages of producing a song, I already have an idea of the tone and style I want the singer to provide. A song shouldn’t be created like a kichari with all these random ingredients thrown in with the hope of it being palatable. Because of this approach, I tend to have a certain vocalist in mind beforehand and will reach out to them. Sometimes I am approached by vocalists, if I think they’re talented and I like their style of singing, I consider creating a track that would suit their vocals.
I like to work on a song by considering how the different elements, such as melody, lyrics, hook line, vocals and general composition, fit together and compliment one another. I work on the recipe of a song to create a swaad daal!
We see a lot of attention to detail on your single artwork; tell us a bit about how those are put together…
I give the same importance and consideration to the artwork and accompanying aspects of promotion as I do to creating music. I’m a creative guy and any chance I get to use this creativity, I take it. I like the artwork to be fresh and fit the track so I’ll come up with a few concepts, pass them around to my trusted team, make adjustments based on feedback and there you have it: an eye-catching, slightly quirky, stylistic and oozing with swagger (in my humble opinion!) ‘piece of art’ to accompany a release.
There seems to be a lot of negativity on the UK bhangra scene at the moment, what’s your take on that?
There will always be negativity to some extent in any industry but there’s also a lot of positivity which seems to get ignored. The competition should force serious artists to step up their game, which I take as a positive but others see the increase in artists and material out there as a negative. Not all the material that’s released is great or quality work which reflects badly on the industry, but it’s also a good thing because those artists who do produce quality work shine that much brighter.
Negativity within the industry also extends to how those within the industry act: there are artists who take a positive stance on how they interact with fellow industry members but at the same time there will always be those who turn every situation into a negative one. If you stick to your gut and morals, stand behind your talent and work had, I believe you can keep doing your thing and achieve some level of success.
You’d toured worldwide playing dhol with established acts in the past and of course more recently DJing professionally; what’s been your most memorable gig?
I get asked this question a lot… One of the most memorable and recent gigs was the Speedy Singhs (aka Breakaway) premier at the Toronto International Film Festival. We had a whole procession on Yonge Street and I got the chance to work alongside Akshay Kumar, Russell Peters, Ghuggi, Rob Lowe and many others.
People often mention the Rhythm Shakers album as a ground breaking & innovative release even though it was only moderately successful, why do you think that was?
Honestly, I think we were ahead of our time with that project. ‘Beats’ seem to be the “in thing” now; however when we did it, it wasn’t as acceptable, leading to us being only slightly successful. The three of us also had our own projects going on and various other commitments so we gave the project what we could at the time. I must say though that working with Superjones and Sunny was a great experience and something I’ll never forget. The three of us brought something special to the table and it was an exciting experience bouncing ideas off each other and I hope that’s reflected in the album we put out together.
Which Asian music track from the last 3 years do you secretly wish you’d produced?
“Gabru” by Yo Yo Honey Singh featuring J-Star; it’s the perfect track to get any party started.
Do you think Punjabi music will ever crack the UK national charts again? What kind of track would it have to be to make that crossover?
First and foremost it would have to be an exceptionally good track! But on a serious note, if we look at Panjabi MC’s “Mundian To Bach Ke”, that track crossed over because it wasn’t a novelty or token Punjabi track. It’s a strong and catchy track that was combined with something familiar, the Knight Rider riff, and mixed with Desi elements, creating something fresh for the mainstream. In my opinion, in order for a Punjabi track to crossover the lyrics can’t be the focus because you will need to communicate with the mainstream through the music.
“Punjabi Hurrr”, which featured Nirmal Sidhu on vocals, became one of the biggest tracks of 2012; did you have an idea it would be that big before it was released?
“Punjabi Hurrr” was a massive track and I’m very proud to be able to say that. Did I know it would be this big? No friggin’ way!!
When I was working on the track I knew there was energy and power in it and I couldn’t wait to play it for the public. I personally loved the track but when it was released and it topped the official Asian Download Chart and also peaked at 56 on the mainstream charts, I was completely blown away! Sometimes you love a track you’ve produced but it doesn’t do the greatest with fans or the public, and other times you hit the mark and something you love translates and connects with people around the world.
Which of your releases are you most proud of and why?
Wow, that’s not a nice question! I love ALL my tracks (laughs). For the purpose of answering though, I’m going to go with “Drama Queen”. This is one track that I’m proud of because of how creative we got with the whole project and how everything came together perfectly in the end.
The video was shot as a stage play, the song included the narrator setting up the next scene, and the video shoot incredibly finished five hours ahead of schedule. This track makes me proud because my vision came together so well, from the production and lyrics of the track to the acting and editing for the video. I guess being a drama queen (or king!) helps you get your way…
So have you ever been accused of being a ‘drama queen’? If yes, who by and why?
How dare Chakdey.com ask me such a question?! Erm… me a drama queen? (laughs). Well, unfortunately, I have been accused of it many times! If you want things done in a particular way you go to great lengths to achieve it, sometimes this comes across as annoying and a bit dramatic. I usually hear it from friends and my team but you’ll have to ask them…
What’s the most rock ‘n’ roll thing Bups Saggu has ever done?
Completing a trek through the Sahara desert then driving 10 hours to airport in Marrakesh in order to catch a flight to Vancouver to play a gig just hours after I landed. That was one crazy mission… Is that rock ‘n’ roll enough?
What has having a successful roadshow taught you most?
The Bups Saggu Roadshow and Groove Asia are both successful roadshows and this has taught me to approach the industry, and my position as an artist within this industry, in a highly professional and responsible manner and definitely not take things, people and opportunities for granted. Performing week in and week out is such an enjoyable experience and it’s made me realise that I want to continue working within the music industry because this is what I love doing.
Having success with the roadshows I hope means that audiences like what we do and how we perform for them. It’s not just a case of churning out tracks and getting shows; from making songs and videos to performing on stage, my team and I give it 100% each time. We ensure we nail every performance because whether you’re performing at a club or a wedding, the goal is to have guests leaving an event thinking “that performance was brilliant”. Leaving an impression is key and I guess we’re doing something right…
Do you think music can be traditional yet modern & innovative at the same time?
Music can be ANYTHING it wants to be. I believe you can marry the two successfully, if it’s done right. When making a traditional song you need to include those specific requirements that give it that traditional feel. Creating an innovative sound means creating a new sound or redeveloping an existing one. “Punjabi Hurrr”, “Milky” and “Matha Tekhiya” are all examples of traditional Bhangra dance floor bangers. I feel they all had something innovative about them, whether it was the hook, melody, music or whatever. I believe that being innovative is not only an artist’s job but his or her responsibility. Why blend in with the masses when you can be a trendsetter instead?
If you could star in a remake of a famous Bollywood film? What film and role would it be?
Mr. India— that is my favourite Bollywood movie of all time; and guess who I would play? Mogambo! Not really, obviously I’d have to be no less than Mr. India himself!
How important do you think presentation is over natural talent (like a strong voice, for example) and do you think one can work without the other in this day and age?
I think both presentation and ability are very important; however it depends on the track, what it needs and what you are trying to achieve. Sometimes strong presentation wouldn’t make a difference to a product if it doesn’t require it. Sometimes it sounds good as it is because it is the recipe the song requires- going back to my daal analogy!
Are Bollywood soundtracks a goal most UK Asian producers should strive towards and why?
I don’t think that is a goal for all UK producers as some producers are happy where they are and do well in that space. Others wish to work within the mainstream; while some I know of even know want to make commercials and broadcast material which is different and a great goal to have. I would say always set your goals high- you may not necessarily reach them immediately but it’s a direction to work towards. As long as you are climbing and evolving, you are going the right way.
How involved are you in the promotion of your work once it’s in the hands of the record labels?
Absolutely all the way. When you produce a track it’s only going to be released once and how well it’s launched depends on your efforts just as much as the label’s. We have a few great PR teams that work endlessly to execute the release as well as my personal team. I would say it’s definitely a collective effort on all parts though.
Is the fame game a blessing or a curse?
It’s a blessing 99% of the time and that’s down to the support and love of family, friends and of course fans. The other 1% is the negativity that comes with being in the public eye. Sometimes you need to be cautious, aware of your surroundings and be mindful of what you say and do. I would still not say it’s a curse; for me it’s a blessing that I’m getting to do what I love and being given the opportunity to connect with the public the way I do.
“Bhangra was better in the old days” – what would you say to someone who thinks that?
I think bhangra music was great back in the day, but times have changed and there is a lot of very good bhangra out there now too. Yes, the market has grown massively with more artists/singers/musicians/producers but this doesn’t mean it’s taken a downturn, it’s just turned a new corner– one that demands a new set of credentials.
Who is, in your opinion, the most under-rated bhangra/Punjabi singer out there at the moment?
Jati Cheed, who vocaled “Milky”; he’s a very close friend of mine so you might think I’m biased but he has an amazing voice and is really underrated in the industry. He has a great vocal range and can portray such a variety of emotions through singing. He’s releasing his album soon and it will give the public a chance to really listen to what he has to offer. Nachhatar Gill said it himself, “Jati di awaaz sureeli ya”, meaning his voice is ‘sweet and clean’.
If there was one non-Asian artist you could collaborate with, who would that be?
I could get carried away answering such a question. There are literally heaps of artists I would love to work with and these probably increase day by day. If I had to pick just one, it would be Justin Timberlake. Do I really need to explain why? He is a versatile artist and has an amazing vocal talent.
Some people believe DJs can never be taken seriously as artists; what’s your opinion on that?
As a DJ and artist, I think it’s ridiculous to base someone’s artistic skill on whether they were a DJ before becoming a recording artist. I have been a DJ for years because I love music.
The only reason an artist shouldn’t be taken seriously is if they don’t work at their craft. Being a DJ gives you such a different perspective of how certain tracks work and with which audiences; in my opinion that only helps make you a better artist.
Is there something you’d go back and do differently in your career if you could?
I’ve faced obstacles and setbacks, there have been decisions made in haste and others that I’ve put a lot of thought into. Each step I’ve taken has taught me something about myself, the industry and music as a whole. Though I might sometimes consider certain situations or decisions as regrets, I would never wish to go back and do them differently. I am where I am and who I am because of the journey my career has taken me on. Take as much charge of your career and life as you can, but let the rest unfold and make the best of each situation.
Bups Saggu‘s latest single “Hera Pheriyan“, featuring Benny Dhaliwal, is out now on VIP Records. The album Global is due out soon.