Comments (0)
Interviews |  03 Aug 2017 20:41 |  By Mallika Deb

Music is cyclic and the old sounds are becoming popular again: Tuhin Mehta on completing 25 years

MUMBAI: The most intriguing individuals are those, who have such insights about sound and music. Tuhin Mehta is one of those rare species, who has resonated across the country together with his deep diverse techno tunes. Known as one of the techno monsters in India, Tuhin Mehta is a veteran DJ and producer, who for the past nine years has run the electronic music festival Go: Madras. For him, techno is not only music, it is a belief. It’s been 25 years now, the Chennai-based DJ/producer has been building and pushing sounds that bring listeners to other dimensions, as he fuses the functionality of techno along with the quirky melodies, tweak of tribal tunes, heavy drummage, and enticing synth lines through hard-hitting percussive frames. His friends call it ‘Energy Tech’, as whenever he is behind the turntable, you can expect mayhem.

In short, being a wild life photography enthusiast, a karate black belt, also a junior national champion in shooting, (He represented Tamil Nadu back in College), the music bug bit Mehta when he was not even over his teens. He started DJing when he was just 12 years old, however, his dad and younger brother played the drums during their time in college, but it was never professional. Tuhin shared that he treasured music always as he used to play from his dad’s records whenever they had a gathering at home. “Dad used to ask me to play music or change the music as no one was there to change the tracks, also, I knew what everyone liked. It was not really mixing; it was more like choosing the right song, at the right time and play it for people. I realised that music is one powerful tool that can change people’s state of mind in no time," he continues.

Discussing his musical approach and evolution he narrates, “Dad actually thought it was a passing phase all the time, Mom was always supportive and encouraging," he laughs. "From 1992 to 2017, it has been a long journey. For me, music is cyclic and the old sounds are becoming popular again. At some point in time, you don’t enjoy something as much as you used to and it is different in different phases in your life. I have played all kinds of music, and it has been there in my soul. I have never played anything that I have never enjoyed; I would not dance to. This is the number one rule as a DJ that you do not play music that you yourself would not dance to.”

"Dad actually thought it was a passing phase all the time, Mom was always supportive and encouraging," 

Starlight from the shoulder, he believes that just because one particular track is on the charts, one doesn’t have to play it as long as he/she doesn’t enjoy it. “I am not one of those DJs, for me, if I like it, I will play it, if I don’t like it I don’t play it. I just play what I love. That defines me as a DJ. As a DJ whatever you play, that’s your brand. Why would you play or produce something that doesn’t represent who you are? When you listen to it either you like it or you don’t like it. There is no grey area."

As Tuhin plays mostly Techno, all his tunes boast melody, acid, funky, tribal elements and he doesn't restrict himself to a certain way. We spoke about his significant tone 'Energy Tech', something his friends call it. As the tech, techno and energy have been playing major roles whatever he is playing and producing for over 25 years, the name ‘Energy Tech’ comes from that essence. "It is a bit like cooking, you have a bunch of ingredients and you keep experimenting, a few will go with some particular track and, some will not go as well. You have to constantly experiment with your product. Nothing good happens overnight; it takes years and years. The more you know the music that you are playing, the better you understand the elements, the better your ability grow to blend things altogether." 

"This is the number one rule as a DJ that you do not play music that you yourself would not dance to.”

Tuhin not only has a sharp understanding of the equipment, technical aspects behind the sound production, he possesses massive experience from the various clubs that he has played in over the years. To the known and unknown, Tuhin has been an international brand ambassador for the Berkley College of Music (2003-2004), where he did a couple of courses before.  Right after college, he went to SAE Chennai in 2000 where he studied audio engineering. Taking a trip down the memory lane, talking about Brute Force, Mehta said, when he was teaching in SAE Chennai, one-half of the duo, Shane Mendonsa was studying there. Though, he met him at the event later on. Together, they've launched Brutal By Birth, which was the first independent house record label to promote their matchless hard-hitting, acid burdened, bass bursting tracks. "We were on the same page, our music resembles, and we started working together. All the same, we were playing and producing progressive trance, tech trance pieces but everyone assumed we were trance producers (laughs). We made Kill the Bass way back in 2006, but by 2010 individually we have moved on from that particular sound. As change is the constant thing, both of us moved on to our solo projects." he adds up.

While putting today's sound side by side to the 90s, also describing the form techno, he stated that techno from the 90s is not what we get to hear today.  Having said that, he always preferred the edgier sound of dance music, harder and cutting edge sounds. Moving towards the approach of techno in India, he said with a pinch of sarcasm that it has become a 'cool genre' (typical Tuhin Mehta spirit) that everybody is getting into it. "Definitely it has grown in last five-six years, I am not complaining. Mostly kids are listening to one particular type of EDM, once they grow out of EDM, and then they notice that there is also a genre as Techno. These days’ people are listening to many genres, as the internet made it easy for everyone." 

"Mostly kids are listening to one particular type of EDM, once they grow out of EDM, and then they notice that there is also a genre as Techno."

Tuhin was appointed Pioneer Pro DJ for India since 2007 as a brand ambassador. Talking about it, he states, “Pioneer happened just like an accident. There were two people from Japan from Pioneer and they were meeting several DJs in India. I met them and interacted with them, a year later I heard back from them when they approached me to represent Pioneer for the new gears to promote and be the official DJ from India. I was like ‘Why the hell not and that that was that’,” he goes on. “I am a product specialist and I deal with the pro equipment, what most of the touring and club DJs bring into play. I do master classes, workshops when there is a new product, educate people about what is going on what’s new on the new players and whatever music comes with it,” he sums up.  

Being a wildlife enthusiast, Tuhin says that he has always liked photography and around four-five years ago he got hooked to wildlife by an ‘accident’. He also revealed that Go: MADras again, started by accident as he, along with two of his friends wanted to bring the party life culture back in Chennai. “I didn’t plan anything, it just comes together. When we started it was just for a single day, and now it has grown to two days along with finest national and international artists. Go: MADras has become a kind of benchmark for techno, tech house, deep house and we are happy about it. Most people think that Chennai has nothing to do with music, but, musically Chennai is a light years ahead of the rest of the country,” he speaks with full of pride.  

Discussing the hitches about getting into DJing, he said, the most important part is listening. Whoever is learning or getting into DJing, he/she should start with playing on vinyl, as that teaches many things that today’s DJs do not know. Rather than looking for the numbers during initial days, it is important to know how to build the set, how to actually mix by listening, how to control your EQ, how to label the sound and that’s where vinyl plays a major role. “I have always recommended people who are serious about DJing that learn on vinyl. I also love playing on vinyl, however, it is difficult proposition now as most of the clubs do not have good turntables, large DJ booth, also they are pretty hard to set up.”

Considered as one of the pioneers of techno, playing over at several clubs in India, also abroad, Tuhin prefers keeping his life low key when he is not touring and travelling. After completing 25 years in the ‘scene’, he believes that performing in the smaller cities is more fun as those places don’t have much happening often, and as a result, people are enthusiastic purely. Places like Cloud Nine (Shilong), Terra Maya (Guwahati), Speed (Chennai, it was an iconic venue), Club Fuga (Bengaluru), Euriska (Pune) have been his favourites. “It is great to play for 1000-20000 people, but those parties where you are playing for 50-60 people; they turn out to be more fun, as you can actually connect with them personally. That’s what music did for me.” 

“I have always recommended people who are serious about DJing that learn on vinyl."

Being a Go-karting champion on the national circuit, he used to play paintball for the country as well. Did you know that? Coming back to his signature sound, collaborations and experiences, he told us, the more experience one has, the easier it gets. “I always feel nervous, even if I’m playing in a familiar place. It’s good to feel nervous, as it keeps you focused. If you are not nervous you take things for granted and things can do down very fast. On that note, I get happy when someone comes to my gigs and tell me that my music has changed their conscience, the feeling is priceless and I value that more than anything else, he declares. Speaking about collaborations, he told us that, collaborations are good and can be influential, as one can identify, learn about what other people are doing and pick things accordingly. Having said that he also added it is easy to collaborate nowadays, but it is easier said than done to have a ‘good’ collaboration. “Both the people should be on the same page. Be on the same page musically, vividly, otherwise, it is going to be a mishmash.  I will be over the moon if I get to work with Josh Wink and Jeff Mills,” he signs off with that signature smirk.

On that note, as the Go: MADras festival is back with its ninth edition this year, the two-days affair will take place in Chennai at Confluence Banquets and Resort from 16-17 September 2017. Stay tuned for more!