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Interviews |  22 May 2017 21:24 |  By Mallika Deb

I always end up with something different from what I set out to make: DJ Su Real

MUMBAI: After releasing his last album Twerkistan on 26 September 2016, New Delhi native artist Su Real now kicks off his brand new monthly column for Red Bull Music representing the ‘Desi Bass’ scene worldwide.

As the dance music is evolving rapidly in India; Su Real, who represents this new breed of Indian music, is at the forefront of that dance music riot. Radioandmusic.com spoke to Suhrid aka Su Real, who has been working tirelessly to push the limits of India’s dance music. In this interview, he spoke about his musical identity, earlier days, how he changed direction towards dance music over the years, the evolution of dance music in India and more.

Su Real, 36-years-old now, in his late teens to early 20's was obsessed with experimental music and all forms of unconventional art. During that time, he was musically influenced by bands like Sonic Youth, Soundgarden, as well as Public Enemy, Wu-Tang Clan who were renowned for their experimentalism at that time. “Over the years, I veered more and more towards dance music and pop culture. Now, even when I try to write a pop song or create a conventional beat, I always end up with something different from what I set out to make. At the same time, these days there is a strong pressure for artists to innovate and keep bringing new, fresh sounds and styles to the scene. So I guess it's fortunate because my appreciation for and experience with underground and obscure music gives me an edge,” shared he.

Radioandmusic.com asked him about his stage name ‘Su Real’ and what does Su Real stand for. Responding to that, he said, “Su Real is a play-of-words on my given name, Suhrid. It's also an homage to old school hip-hop and ‘keeping it real’ as they say. Finally, when I coined the moniker, around 2010, I had to pick one that could be used as an ID on social media.”

“A lot of celebrities were naming their accounts as ‘the real so & so’ because other people had already taken their actual names for fan accounts, or just fakes. There were a few other DJ's and MC's who had taken the name Su Real, so it was a bit of a joke to say that I'm the real Su Real,” added he.

While describing his sound, Su Real shared that he thinks smart producers who want to be ‘future-proof’ can no longer stick to just one particular genre today. “For me, the composition begins with a concept and the song has to be about something or have some over-arching theme. You have to be able to operate in a number of genres, yet always leave your distinctive mark. Skrillex is no longer just dubstep, and Daft Punk is no longer just house music. Indeed many hit dance tracks today are actually hybrids. That's why for example on Twerkistan there are numerous genres -- trap, twerk, dancehall, moombahton, etc. There is new unreleased music I'm working on that to me is pure pop. But, hopefully, I too will leave my indelible mark on these tracks and whoever listens to it will be able to recognise, that it sounds like Su Real,” he told us.

While explaining his creative process he said, “Usually in the game, as the raider starts running out of breath, he's chanting faster and faster. Take my track ‘Kabaddi’ for example - it's built around the chant of ‘ka - ba - di, ka - ba - di, etc.’ that the ‘raiding’ player chants under his breath. I thought of reassembling the build-ups associated with dubstep, trap and EDM today - so that became the main concept of the track.” Su Real’s creations are an outcome of quick moods once he has the initial concept. He said he takes a lot of time trying out different sounds and arrangements; also he makes multiple versions of a track. “Over time, the best version starts to stand out and then that's the one I refine into a final version,” added he.

The music producer agreed on the fact that dance music in India has been evolving rapidly. He also said that for a long time most promoters and clubs just did not believe there was a market for anything they were not familiar with. “What's more - most of the music that was underground just a few years ago, like the trap, dubstep and moombahton have now become the format of chart-toppers and Grammy winners. So, the clubs and promoters have had no choice but to open their minds and let us play what the people want to hear,” stated Su Real.

Radioandmusic.com wanted to know as Bollywood mainstream music takes the biggest piece of the pie, how difficult does it become for a music producer who incorporates sound for his originals. According to Su Real, Bollywood is not a genre of music; it is a ‘marketing mechanism’. “If you pump 10 crores into promoting and marketing for your music, of course, it's going to be popular. You can make whatever kind of music you want, but if you want it to be as popular as Bollywood, then you better find someone to pump some money into pushing it. That's the reality.”

Su Real accepts as true that these days it is not essential for a composer to have an advanced understanding of numerous instruments, as digital audio workstations such as Ableton make things easier. However, he believes that younger artists need to learn the piano as that is the basis for all Western music with regards to the melody. “I started learning classical Western piano from the young age of four, and it definitely changed my life. Further, it's widely acknowledged that it's a lot easier to pick up other instruments after having learnt the piano first. After spending eight years learning piano, as a teen as my interests veered into rock, hip-hop and other genres, it was so much easier for me to learn guitar, drums and DJ'ing because of my piano background,” he shared.

Su Real strongly said anyone interested in a career in music should not confine themselves to a single genre. If someone is specialising in one genre, he/she might get recognised for that, but eventually one has to evolve. “I am honestly disturbed by how narrow-minded and short-sighted most young musicians that I have met are. Do you seriously think Trap music will even be a thing five years or ten years from now? I'm not even sure EDM will survive - at least not in its current form. Expand your reach in all directions: dig deeper into the roots (funk, soul, jazz, blues), expand your horizons in every direction (Latin music, African music, classical music, etc.), and then try to divine the future with your own unique voice,” he explained.

There is a combination of factors that leads to a great event - the crowd, the line-up, the occasion, the visuals, etc. He has a lot of love and respect for the bigger/growing franchises like Social/antiSOCIAL, Summerhouse and Raasta because they have supported underground music and emerging talent from the very beginning. “I don't like big crowds so I'm often uncomfortable at festivals and clubs unless I'm on stage or backstage. Some of my best shows have been at Kitty Su, Delhi, once opening for Borgore and then opening for NGHTMRE. At the same time, I also have a very special place in my heart for independent venues like Humming Tree (Bangalore) and High Spirits (Pune). But definitely, if I had to pick the one place that I have played the most number of times and that I am guaranteed a large turn-out of my genuine fans and most earnest supporters, it would have to be High Spirits,” he shared while talking about his favourite venue.

Apart from gigging all over India, Su Real is working on lots and lots of new music, collaborations, and music videos. “I aim to be as prolific as possible, even though it can take me a long time to finish one tune; I'm always working on at least ten tracks/projects simultaneously, juggling between them all,” he signs off.

Lastly, in his spare time, Su Real likes to read sci-fi novels and every few months he travels to a new destination. Also, if he was abandoned on a desert island, he would be pretty ok with it!

Check out his most recent album 'Twerkistan'