Chakdey.Com drop one of their biggest interviews with Kaos Productions, the duo behind many a hit in the UK and Global Panjabi music industry. We go indepth on everything from Mighty Manak, Social Media, Back 2 Basics, Gurbhej Brar, Tru-Skool to what the future lies! Check out their first online exclusive interview right here!
How would you describe your sound in one sentence?
The Kaos sound is ever evolving and developing to show flexibility and versatility, providing a tailored sound to the requirement of the vocalist/song we are producing music for.
Mighty Manak has developed cult status over the years and many consider it to be the blueprint of Bhangra remixes. Could you briefly discuss the making of that album and the reaction it received?
The album was made using hired and borrowed entry level equipment in a basement whilst we were living in Toronto in 1994. We only had one speaker with a ripped cone during production! We had no computer and we were recording straight to multi-track cassette. The aim of Mighty Manak was to bring Panjabi folk music to the attention of the younger audience who had no interest in it at that time. We wanted to make something unique so decided that part of the album should have a live feel but with modern instruments and influences from Jungle music to hip hop should be used. Manak Ji had not been heard like that previously.
We shielded ourselves from the reaction as not to allow any egotistical tendencies to develop. The feedback we received was from family and friends mostly, and to this day we are genuinely surprised and overwhelmed that so many people have so many growing up memories attached to a product we actually made ourselves!
After Mighty Manak, how did your career progress to producing albums for artists like Gurbhej Brar and Kulvinder Johal?
Post Mighty Manak and Case of Bass 1-3, we returned to the UK however personal circumstances dictated that we focus on resettling and did not have any view to entering the music scene here. It was many years later when a close friend, Sukhjit Singh Olk (Tru-Skool) dropped the bomb that was the album ‘Word Is Born’ and put Derby on the map musically that we started to take notice of the scene again.
Tru-Skool basically dragged us back into music as he wanted more people from Derby to be part of the scene and knew all about Mighty Manak and our abilities as musicians and composers. He even featured the Mighty Manak cassette in the Word is born video. By giving us the opportunity to work with the likes of K S Johal and Gurbhej Brar, Tru-Skool gave birth to Kaos Productions.
Out of your recently released singles which track do you think embodies your sound the best?
Although we have not fully presented the full ‘Kaos’ sound yet, the closest track would have be ‘Mundra’ with Saini Surinder. The ragga/reggae vibe mixed with Folk Instruments is integral to the sound we want to be representative of our music. Those genres have been with us from the 90’s during The Dhol Company remix days.
Panjabi Touch was one of the finest releases of 2012. Do you feel it achieved the critical and commercial acclaim that it deserved?
The product had the potential to go a lot further and had it received a global release, it may have reached its full potential. We would like to give credit to BritAsia TV, who even now play ‘Gidhe Vich” on a regular basis. They really supported this album. Panjabi touch was created with the global Panjabi music scene in mind and we will strive to do the same with Gurbhej Brar’s next album.
In hindsight what would you say to the critics who doubted you when they were informed of you working on KS Johal and Gurbhej Brar’s albums?
Critics who have something constructive and educated to say are always welcome to share their views. They may have valid opinions which can result in a better product. When we re-entered the scene, we made a conscious decision not to shout from rooftops and hog videos to obtain unwarranted exposure. We decided to build our foundations and make them solid, giving us time to build a catalogue that would do the talking for us. The best tool in selling your product is your own reputation and it takes time to build one, good or bad.
We continue to take this approach and although this will inevitably attract doubters and critics, we feel this approach will win people over long term. We are not here to establish a brand and sell a name, the music is our passion and we are personal with it.
With Kulvinder Johal and Gurbhej Brar, both artists that you’ve worked extensively with, leaving VIP Records for Moviebox, where does this leave Kaos productions?
Kaos Productions have been, and always will be independent and free to work with any artist releasing on any label. We have projects in production with multiple labels and have great relationships with all of them. It can only benefit the industry to try and work together.
You stated recently “In my opinion Gurbhej Brar is the best singer in the UK at the moment for powerful raw folk Panjabi songs”. What do you think sets him apart?
Gurbhej has a very rare ability in a folk vocalist which is the ability to sing both up beat Bhangra songs and slower ballad type tracks equally effectively. His tone is very unique and he has developed his own expression and style unique to himself. Gurbhej has massive potential and natural ability and has a voice which can be picked out in a crowd. We are huge fans of Gurbhej Brar’s singing.
What comes first with a Kaos Productions track: the vocal or the music and why?
To date we have always started with the vocals, and then added the music. The song is always decided on first, and then we work to add music around the vocal. This is more of a music director approach. On our own project we are also working the other way. Make a groove and vibe, and then add a composition before sourcing the appropriate vocalist for the track. This is more a producer type approach.
As a duo, are there any disagreements between the two of you during the production of a track?
All the time! We actually like having totally opposing views in certain things as the onus is then on one person to convince the other that they are right. It never gets serious though.
You are slated to work on the forthcoming Jaz Dhami album with a whole host of big names. What can we expect in terms of music style for it? What do you make of his collaboration with French Montana?
We are in the process with Jaz Dhami of sourcing the track that will suit him with our music the best. The style of music really depends on what kind of track we agree upon. Collaborations are always interesting as they have the potential to bring a totally new sound to the market.
Having worked with Manak E, T-Minder, Nirmal Sidhu and Saini Surinder, which vocalists can we expect to see working with you in the next few months?
As you mentioned we are looking to work with Jaz Dhami as well as Sidhu Tajpuri, Jelly and also new material with Saini Surinder, T-Minder, Dippa Satrang, Gurbhej Brar and K S Johal. We also have two new vocalists we are providing music for who will be entering the scene.
How do you feel about constant comparisons (in sound/production etc) to Tru-Skool?
It is inevitable that those comparisons will be made, especially when we work together on projects. Tru-Skool is in his own league. We both have a different approach to making our music. Whereas he has a unique signature style, we are trying to be flexible and work across a wider scope of styles and genres. Tru-Skool is on the top of his game and we are making progress to improve and better ourselves with every release.
Leading onto our next question, do you have plans to release a solo album under the Kaos Productions name?
Yes there definitely will be a Kaos Productions album which will represent what we are and our brand of music. Work will start on this album this year.
Amo’s Twitter background (Chakdey.Com pays attention to minute details!) is a collage of classic Punjabi Folk album covers. Do you draw more inspiration from Punjabi Folk or the UK Bhangra bands of the 80s and 90s?
That twitter background is courtesy of Tru-skool and his extensive vinyl collection! Whist Back 2 Basics was in production, we were chilling at Tru-skool’s studio with Diljit Dosanjh. Diljit and we decided it would be cool to take photographs of one or two vinyl covers. We all got carried away and it resulted in that banner!
We definitely have an equal split between inspirations from folk and UK Bhangra. I (Amo) am a huge fan of the band era especially DCS, The Sahotas and Heera. It was a unique and monumental time for Panjabi music in the UK. Panjabi Folk has always been the backbone of the music industry.
Back to basics, did you expect it to be so immense?
It was easy to be optimistic about a product that bought one of the biggest Panjabi artists in Diljit Dosanjh, and one of the most talented producers in Tru-skool. This album was always going to be a hit in our eyes and the only question for us was how big it would be. In all honesty, we did not expect ITunes number 1 in so many countries by pre-order alone, or getting into the top 30 mainstream charts. It will be interesting to see if this unprecedented success is recognised in the various awards shows this year.
What did it feel like having credits on possibly the best album of the last couple of years?
To be honest, having our names on the album really has no personal attachment for us. We would not go around pointing it out to anyone! The real feeling of honour and achievement is witnessing and being part of such a huge album, from the day it was conceived, to the day the mastering was complete. Holding the master CD, there was a feeling of relief but also knowing you already had a piece of future Panjabi music history in your hand.
Has the album created more opportunities for you and Tru-skool to work with Punjab based vocalists?
With regards to the album opening new doors for Tru-skool, then we think it definitely has done so. As far as Kaos Productions go, yes we have had some contact with Punjab based artists but we think the reasons behind that are the fact that more and more people in Punjab are getting access to YouTube and Facebook.
A few years ago, we were looking to Punjab for musical inspiration as genius music directors such as Atul Sharma and Charanjit Ahuja were creating a golden era for Panjabi music. There now seems to be a shift where the new breed of Punjab producer is looking to the UK for inspiration to get the western sound with big Dhols and heavy bassline that so many Panjabi singers want nowadays. Vocalists with the financial freedom are therefore coming here for music.
A question that people rarely ask; what are your favourite music albums: both Punjabi and non-Punjabi?
This can’t be answered by one album only, there are so many but here are a few highlights:-
Amo – DCS (doin’it), The Safri Boys (Bomb the Tumbi), Jazzy B (Folk n Funky), Specialist n Truskool (Word is born), Dr. Zeus (Under the influence), Manmohan Waris (Nachiye Majajane), Harjit Harmann (Hoor), Sardool & Noorie (Gidhabeat), Buju Banton (‘Til Shiloh), Damian Marley (Welcome to jamrock), Dr Dre (the Chronic, 2001) Nas (Illmatic)
Laki – John Legend (Get Lifted), Various (Ragga in the Jungle), A Tribe Called Quest (The Low End Theory), Nitin Sawhney (Human), Kuldip Manak (Adol Khalsa), Bob Marley (Natural Mystic), Diljit Dosanjh and Truskool (Back 2 Basics), The Fugees (The Score)
Bhangra seems to go through cycles where it becomes watered down and then there’s a folk renaissance. It happened in the 90s when Sukshinder Shinda brought back the folk with the likes of Jazzy B and Bhinda Jatt. And it happened again about 10 years ago when Specialist ‘n’ Tru-Skool dropped Word is Born. What do you think of this theory?
Folk Panjabi music will always be core to the Panjabi Music industry as so many artists draw their influences from Legends such as Kuldeep Manak Ji, Surinder Shinda, Gurdas Mann and Amar Singh Chamkila. Those songs will be evergreen so will be bought back in different variations time and time again. The industry will continue to evolve influenced by technology and consumerism however Folk music will always come back and have its say.
How has social media such as Twitter and Facebook helped you as an artist? How has it made life difficult for you as an artist?
Social media is definitely a tool required to get your music out to the world. Its gives people a point of contact to get any information on the activities of an artist. The only difficulty is keeping up with all the tweeting and status updates – you can basically have you face in your phone all day and make no music!
“You can’t please everyone when making music – so it’s probably best just to please yourself. If you develop a fan base – bonus.” This quote sounds like it came from the Chakdey.Com guide to Asian Music, yet it were your words. Do you think you have developed an established fan base?
We have not taken the easy route and over exposed ourselves to the public. We are making headway into developing a fan base but we feel it’s in its infancy yet and has a lot of growing to do. We are very happy that we have some people who show passionate interest in what we do. If we continue to improve then this can only help us to grow as artists. We have made a point of not chasing people to follow us as they may only do it for the sake of it. We would rather have a few genuine supporters than many fake ones.
What do you dislike more, a ”vocalist” who cannot sing or a DJ that pretends to have produced his own music?
A poor vocalist cannot cheat the public. Even if autotune software is used, most people work out why it was used when they see the artist struggling on stage. The DJ using Ghost production and pretending to be a producer. However, is trying to mislead and fool the public. This is not something we endorse or facilitate. The producer should get full credits.
What do you make of new singers who crop up with next to no classical training and get “public approval” from producers/singers who have had no training themselves?
Understandably, a new act needs attention and new methods will be explored to gain it. As an example, we personally would NOT buy a hip hop or Ragga album because Jay Z or Buju Banton says it’s good. We buy what sounds good to us. God blessed all the listeners out there with a pair of ears and a brain in the middle. Hopefully they can use their own senses to make up their mind if a singer is worthy. A credible artist will not need to rely on endorsements – the music will talk.
Many artists have begun to remake and remix original folk classics, do you agree or disagree with this approach?
This is nothing new. From the days of the bands the cover version has been a part of this industry. Sardara Gill with his Gurdas Mann covers, DCS with Karra Vajda, Putt Jattan De, Akhian ch tu vasdda and many more. Safri boys with Miss Kamli, Paar laghade, Jatt het Jandoray de and Pardesi with Balbeero Bhabi – its an extensive list with so many more examples.
This approach is good, only if you are either exceeding the original (which is rare) or presenting it with a different flavour – as we did with remixing the Panjabi film song Long da lishkara. We changed the groove and tempo to make it into a House track therefore presenting it with a new vibe. Classics should be treated with the respect they deserve, not seen as cash cows.
Has the camp considered releasing a Part 2 to In Tha House to demonstrate how it should really be done?
In Tha House 2 is not a project that will be considered. Most sequels are made to cash in on the original and that’s not something that interests us.
“Bhangra was much better in the old days” – what would you say to people who think that?
We had a Music shop in Derby selling cassettes back in the old days so are in a good position to answer this. Bhangra back then also had many average and below average releases. We have just forgotten about them because they were so insignificant. The main difference now is as Bhangra has become a visual game, we are bombarded with poor quality songs on TV and social media so end up being exposed to it more.
In the old days you would leave the poor albums on the shop counter, walk out and that would be it. They now enter your home via the internet and TV; hence we see a lot more we don’t like. There is also an element of making music just to get live bookings – this is affecting the music. This approach is because any investment requires a return. The sales have dropped to a fraction of what they were so music is being tailor made for one specific purpose – the dance floor. Expression and creativity will inevitably suffer as a result.
Finally, is there anything you’d like to get off your chest that we haven’t covered already?
Kaos Productions would like to close by saying a lot of effort goes into producing music. We scrap songs many times over to improve the sound and the listening experience. We work long hours, practicing instruments daily and sitting with vocalists for hours on end to bring the listener a good track. We can only continue if we have the support of genuine people who have the conscience and morals to buy legally.
We will continue to try and improve and work harder and appreciate the support we have received across the board. Our passion for making music gives us faith, hope and focus for the future. If you want, you can find out information on what we are up to, our current music and any latest news here:
Thank you for taking time out to answer our questions and we wish you the best of luck on your forthcoming releases!