In Conversation with Dualist Inquiry

On February 24, Dualism Records founded by Dualist Inquiry aka Sahej Bakshi along with his manager Tej Brar, released the brand new compilation album Subterra. A compilation of eight tracks by eight of some of the most exciting artistes to have emerged on the indie electronic scene in the last couple of years, the album features artistes like Sandunes, Madboy/Mink, Frame/Frame, Your Chin, Dualist Inquiry himself and more. It’s a kicker of an album that lets you in on the best of Indian electronic music that’s sitting somewhere comfortably between traditional techno dance music and a more organic, fresh and experimental space. Here are some excerpts of an interview done with Sahej Bakshi himself where he talks about his curating stint, the challenges of being a record label owner, the ‘scene’ and more.
Don’t forget to give the album a listen here when you’re done reading (or while you are reading). It’s free too. 
This is your first compilation album. What has been the most difficult part about being a curator?
The curation (i.e. the selection) of the music for the album was the easy part – there’s so much great music out there. If anything, the challenge is to make sure that the compilation achieves it’s purpose – to help music lovers discover new music and to help these artists reach out to a wider audience more quickly. Tej Brar (who also manages Dualist Inquiry) runs the label with me, and we’re in the process of getting the music out there right now. I’m glad to say that so far, it’s been going very well.

If you had to peg a sort of mood or feeling to Subterra, what would it be?

It goes from moody and contemplative in the first few songs to lighthearted and groovy in the middle, and it finishes off with a few funky and playful dance tracks.

How did you go about selecting these specific bands and tracks?

The one thing all the artists on this compilation have in common is that they don’t belong neatly within one genre – each of them has created a sound that is uniquely theirs. Musically, I tend to favour traveling the roads in between the ones most travelled, and all of these artists are doing just that.

You’ve released the album for free – again! How does it work when it comes to the economics of managing a record label?
From the start, Dualism Records as an idea has never really been a commercial venture. I’m fortunate enough to be able to make my living as Dualist Inquiry, and the aim with Dualism Records is to help Indian fans discover their next favourite artist, and for the artists to be able to reach a wider audience more quickly.
How do you manage to flit between being an artiste and a record label owner? Is it a struggle, are there any challenges?
Running a label is a completely different ball game from being an artist, and we’re learning a lot as we go along. I wouldn’t call it a struggle, it’s actually more of a personally-driven project that I’m extremely happy to work on. We definitely do face some challenges, though, and they’re mostly to do with taking responsibility for another artist’s music and making sure it gets its due. While I might have been somewhat cavalier and willing to take risks with my own album Doppelganger, we take releasing another artist’s music very seriously and would never want to leave anything to chance.
You’ve collaborated with Harikrishna Panicker for artwork on your debut album as well. Tell us a little about the association and how the two of you met.
Working with Harikrishna has been by far one of my favourite collaborations to date. I was introduced to his work as I was looking for an artist for my album Doppelganger. I saw his work and was completely bowled over by it. When I got in touch with him, we discovered that we’re both fascinated by similar themes and juxtapositions, and that there was definitely a strong creative synergy. All said and done, Hari’s as talented as he is humble and professional, and it’s a pleasure to work with him.
Will Dualism Records step out of electronic music and release music by bands from other genres as well? Would it be comfortable, for example, to release an all out classic rock album?

One of the things that I would like Dualism Records to be defined by is that we love music that does not belong neatly into one genre. So no, we would probably not release an “all out classic rock” album, because that fits too neatly into one category to make an impact in today’s musical environment. Today’s artists must find their niche, their unique ‘sound’ to claim their identity in the broader scheme of things. We look forward to not knowing what our next release is going to sound like.

You’ve from the beginning pushed the envelope when it came to your own music . How do you see your sound evolving over the next couple of years? Are there collaborations happening soon?
Over the next few years, I hope to be busier than ever, with making music, touring, running the label and much more. Yes, there will be collaborations (which haven’t happened yet), there will be lots of new music being released and definitely a few surprises to do with the Dualist Inquiry live show.
How do you think the electronic music scene in India is evolving?
I think it’s growing at an astounding, yet organic and sustainable pace. The ‘scene’ is made up of so many building blocks, such as venues, artists, festivals, music journalists and most importantly, fans and concert-goers. It’s been great to observe some crazy growth in every one of these areas.

What’s next for Dualist Inquiry? Is there an album in the offing?
There’s a lot of new music in the pipeline. Rather than focus on an album which takes up to a year to complete, I decided to go with smaller releases (such as Singles or EPs) this year to keep the flow of music constant, and without any long waits. I have a new music video that premieres next month, as well as a few remixes and definitely a couple of collaborations as well. 
(A hardcore Liverpudlian and a Hiddlestoner, the author works for the New Indian Express as part of her day job and spends the rest of her time on Old Monk, music and movies (a lot of them rubbish; but currently also involving a generous dose of Mohanlal movies which she missed during her childhood on account of being a fraud malayali). This interview is an extended version of the one she did for the newspaper. You can find her on twitter as @therunawaypoet)

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