Monster hitmaker, superstar DJ, roadshow boss and all round nice guy, DJ Vix takes the hot seat for his Chakdey.com interview!
Some people say DJs can’t be music producers; what’s your take on that?
Wow, what an opening question! I believe many of the DJs are not ‘hands on’ producers; they have ideas/concepts and pick the vocal of their choice and then work alongside an engineer to complete the project. I started on that same route myself but I then learnt and absorbed how to produce. I was lucky enough to have great music people around me– the likes of Sukshinder Shinda and Kam Frantic whom I have learnt everything from and I’m still learning. I now have my own recording studio, DnB Studio, where I cook up my music.
Manjit Pappu is a highly respected vocalist who has in the past been associated with yourself, Shinda and more recently Rupin Kahlon; do you think there is a risk these days in doing a whole album with just one singer?
I’d say his biggest hit in the UK was “Pranda”, which was the opening track on my Identical 2 None album in 2007; also his last and only full album in the UK was Living Loud with Sukshinder Shinda. Manjit was in the UK in 2010 for a wedding and we met again through Shinda. We all started jamming & talking about music and new song lyrics we’d like to do. I thought he was on fire: he had great lyrics & compositions. At that point Shinda suggested that we should get together and do a “Manjit Pappu” artist album. The very next day the project was started and has been complete for a while. There was a BIG delay in getting it out but Moviebox have just released it so people can get to hear it finally!
You’ve always been proud of your East London roots, would you say East London has a cohesive Asian music scene now or in the past?
Defo proud of my East London roots and been representing the music scene now for 18 years. Recently there are other peeps that are coming through from East London. Having said that, it doesn’t matter where you are from, it’s about representing and serving the music scene overall and trying to keep it at the highest quality. Keep the listeners, especially the younger crowd, interested in the scene so they can learn and be proud of their mother tongue.
If you were releasing material aimed solely at the Indian market, what would you change soundwise?
Depends on which part of India we are talking about; the cosmopolitan big cities like Mumbai & Delhi, the approach is more commercial with not too hardcore Punjabi lyrics and the music will generally have a western approach to it. If we’re looking at North India, for the Punjab market you can definitely take the lyrics more heavy as their understanding of the language is deeper and they can absorb it. You can also definitely have a few slow (duki) tracks too as they like sad love songs. Music I feel works both ways there– western influenced & Desi.
Can a track be a hit without a music video?
I think it would be very difficult for a track to be a hit without a music video. As the industry has become very visual with all the various music channels we have. I think it would be hard for a track to get properly noticed without its promotional video.
How important is image to the DJ Vix persona?
Yes, image is important to an extent. Being in the media eye it’s important for any brand to have image criteria as to what they represent. Being a wedding DJ, it’s important to have correct attire too; you can’t attend a wedding and perform in a tracksuit and trainers…
Your last few singles featured very established singers; do you have any plans to release a single with a new or unknown vocalist?
In my earlier albums I worked with new singers, for example I launched Bhinda Aujla in 2004 with my opening single “Yaar Kure” from the album Vix It Up. Like anyone, when you start out in an industry there are goals you want to achieve. I wanted to work with the likes of Bhinda Jatt, Shin DCS & Malkit Singh. These are artists I grew up watching and listening too and now had an opportunity to be part of their amazing careers becoming milestones in my own career. I have plans to work with other great A-list artists in the future too. However, I am currently looking to work with a new singer that I can develop and nurture as an artist under my own banner. So if you think you got what it takes, HIT ME UP!
Who do you most admire in the industry and why?
I have always said the same one name in all my interviews, and still say it today: Mr. Sukshinder Shinda. He has given so many hits to our industry and this was even before he became a solo singer. Not only that, he has performed percussion on so many hits that the general public are probably not even aware of. He is also genuinely a great guy and the best music man I have had the pleasure to meet; I have so much respect for him. I have been able to pick up the phone and call him any time for music advice and he has always made time for me; this is one guy that has not changed with the fame & success of his career. Upmost respect for the BIG bro…
You’ve just been asked to produce an overtly commercial track for a Bollywood film; would you do it? What would be the motivator?
Yes I would. My main motivator would be getting my music to a much wider audience. It’s all about the music I believe in but other factors, such as profile and money, are of course a bonus!
What’s your favourite track of the last 2 years?
“Puth Jattan De”, from the recent Jatt Boys film, because I think Tru-Skool has done a fantastic job on the music. He’s made it sound so authentic the way the instrumentation has been recorded and played but with modern recording techniques. This is one track I can hear and it just makes me move. It also gets a great reception on the dancefloor for Desi crowds every time I play it.
Another track would be “Animals” by Swedish DJ producer Martin Garrix. I love the beat on that and the production quality is amazing.
What would we find DJ Vix doing on a Sunday afternoon?
95% of the time I would be at a banquet/hotel doing a wedding reception & eating kebabs (laughs)
So we’re walking around East London lost and hungry, where’s the best place to eat?
The best place In East London where I eat regularly after my visit to the gym is a place called Serene in Gants Hill. They do the best grilled chicken in town. They also do great fish & chips which I have on my ‘cheat day’! If you fancy some authentic Punjabi food, go to Abshar restaurant for their great finger lickin’ dishes…
What does it take to not lose money on an album release?
In my case such logistics are handled by my record label Moviebox and they allocate budgets for production and marketing costs etc– my job is to deliver a hit. So this question is probably best asked to a record company owner, I’ll let you know what Moviebox’s Kamraan advises! (laughs)
You often say you grew up listening to some of the bhangra legends; who were your personal favourites and why?
DCS, because the band was always so tight and sounded just like the CD when performing live and, of course, Shin’s legendary vocals, need I say any more?! He is a true professional and I’m very honoured to have worked with such a great vocalist on “Ah Chak Bottel Daru Di”. And of course Malkit Singh— what a true entertainer; I always have memories of him rocking the crowd and he never ever fails to deliver. He has a big list of hits under his belt that is appreciated by both young and old. Again I feel very blessed to have had the opportunity to work with this living legend on the lead single, “Desi Beat” which was released at the end of last Summer, off my forthcoming artist album Chapter V.
What are the two tracks you’re most proud of?
It’s difficult to pick just 2 tracks, as they are all special to me. If I had to though then I would say my first ever release “Chit Karda” featuring Harbajan Talwar released in 2002, which I started my music production career with. The single “Desi Beat” was an obvious milestone in my career because I got to work with Malkit Singh. It was a great experience and we both worked extremely hard on this song to get it exactly where we wanted it! In India, it was actually only released a week ago at the recent PTC Music Awards 2014 and the response has been fantastic so far.
Is there such a thing as an Asian event and/or club scene in London anymore?
There is a scene yes but no way as big as it was around 5 years ago unfortunately.
In recent times, we’ve seen some of the older Asian radio stations in the UK struggling to stay afloat; why do you think that is?
I feel one of the reasons could be due to the ease of internet access, and things such as YouTube, because now you can pick and choose music of your choice when and wherever you like.
How involved are you with the promotion of your material once it’s in the hands of your record label?
I keep my self very involved with my own projects from start to finish but working closely with Moviebox as I have been with them for a while now. As we all know, it’s a world of social media and I try to do my best to make time to keep active across these various mediums. It’s important to move with the times and use technology to its fullest potential. So, yes, I do promote my material to my followers online and Moviebox do their part also with my PR etc.
You run a very successful roadshow, Dhol ‘n’ Bass; what’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned running a business like that?
First thing first, you need a great team… this is absolutely essential. The Asian roadshow business is not a one-man-job. I have been very lucky over the years to have had such a great, loyal and dedicated team. And, finally, always treat your team with RESPECT.
We’ve seen more and more Indian Punjabi acts break into the Asian Download Chart here; why do you think that is?
There is good music coming out of Punjab, and I think a lot of the music from the UK is sounding very similar. The material coming from India is hitting the charts because it’s sounding different to the UK vibes. I’m not saying every UK artist is releasing run of the mill stuff of course, there is some very decent music coming from selected producers here. I think the acts that are getting their music ghost produced are the ones creating that repeat sound.
How do you decide which vocalists to work with?
In some cases I have songs written by a songwriter and sometimes you can hear a certain vocalist singing that song in your head so I just approach the singer and the rest is history.
You produced Manjit Pappu’s album which is out now but have your own artist album out later in the year; how are these two releases different?
My next DJ Vix release is the second single from my forthcoming album Chapter V and will feature Hunterz. The content on Chapter V is a lot more diverse both lyrically and musically with urban to Bollywood to Desi vibes. Manjit Pappu’s album, on the other hand, was very much lyrically & musically Desi but this is what both the singer and the label wanted from me.
What’s your view on Bollywood today? And Punjabi cinema?
I watch Bollywood & Punjabi movies and I personally think both are great. To see Punjabi cinema go from strength to strength in recent years is a plus, most definitely.
Is the UK bhangra scene too political?
I do not really get involved with political issues– I keep well away. For me, it’s all about the music and making a living out of what I love, which is making & playing music. If you get too sucked into the politics in any field it breaks your focus and takes you away from your true objectives, and along come negatives instead. Which is why I say “NO” to it! It’s all about positive energy in the DnB & DJ Vix team. Hence, I believe, why we are still going strong after 18 years in this game.
Who is your closest friend in the industry?
Everyone I have worked with to date are all friends of mine and you become close with anyone you are working with and who you spend a lot of time with on the phone, in the studio and generally working on projects etc. I have been very fortunate to make so many great friends from the industry in this musical journey of mine.
You touched on this earlier, but how important is an online reputation (e.g. on Twitter, Facebook) to an artist?
This is essential in the current world of promotion. Everyone is on it, and it’s a great tool to keep your followers up to date with what’s going on with you and your activities, releases etc.
Where do you think Asian music will go in the next 12 months?
I think a lot more music from Punjab will influence the UK Market especially with the launch of the PTC UK channel last year which of course plays many artists from Punjab, alongside some UK ones. I really hope it goes in one direction only and that is up!
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Manjit Pappu’s My Turn album, including the current hits “Lakk Tera” & “Churian”, is out now on Moviebox. Click here to find out where to buy it